WHAT IS THE CATHOLIC CHURCH ?
[To the Editor of the SPECTATOR.] Sia,—The opinion of such a competent Church historian as the Dean of Winchester on this thorny subject must be received with great deference, when, with that clarity and beauty of style characteristic of all his writings, he has just put it before your readers. An article by Canon Storr on the same subject appears in the Church of England Newspaper of April 26th.
Both these writers agree that there must be a visible Church.
Dr. Hutton holds that " in idea, not in detail of organization," it must have come from " the mind of the Divine Founder of the Catholic Religion," that it must be Episcopal in form, and implies that only the Church of Rome, the Churches of the East, and the Churches of the Anglican Communion fulfil the necessary conditions. Canon Stoic refers back to the same Divine authority—" Must we not take the mind of Christ as our standard ? " And he finds that Christ left nothing more to the Church than " the principle of a ministry," and recom- mends to his readers to study the allegory of the Good Shep- herd, which pictures the Christian society under the figure of a flock, but in different folds. Thus both the Dean and the Canon refer back to Christ, although arriving apparently at different issues.
Now, if we study the mind and the character of Christ, is it
conceivable that He would approve of the denial, or, what to my mind is just as bad, the grudging and reluctant admis- sion, on the part of a section of His professed followers, of any other section of His followers, to belong, in their organizationi to His flock ? And while " back to the Apostolic age " is very important, " back to Christ " is infinitely more so, for the early Church made many mistakes, as, e.g., when she thought that her form should be that of communism (Acts iv. 34, 35).
The Nonconformist Churches are " irregular " ? Then, if one may say it with reverence, the Holy Spirit must be rather fond of irregularity, for His influence, power, and guidance in those Churches are manifest all the world over, in missionary zeal, spirituality of doctrine and life and in vast contributions to theological and devotional literature.—I am, Sir, &c., J. C. TROTTER, Canon.
Glenkary, Ram eltcn, Co. Donegal.