18 DECEMBER 1880, Page 7


HOWEVER Mr. Dale's personal friends may regret the decision of the Court of Queen's Bench, it is difficult to see that any public advantage could have been derived from

a contrary result. Technical objections do not really advance the solution of the controversies to which they relate. As we pointed out last week, if Mr. Dale had been released, it must have been either because Lord Penzance does not possess the power of imprisoning clergymen who disobey his moni- tions, or because in this particular instance some of the for- malities with which the exercise of that power ought to be attended had been overlooked. If the latter ground had been the one taken by the Court, another prosecution would certainly have been more successful, and the Church Association would have shown itself singularly poor-spirited if it had not at once taken the necessary steps to institute it. Indeed,

the Churchwardens of St. Vedast's would probably have given the Church Association no choice in the matter. It seems to be necessary to the self-respect of these valiant officials, that Mr. Dale should remain in prison until he either submits or is deprived. If the power of imprisonment had been altogether denied to Lord Penzance, Mr. Dale might, in the absence of further legislation, have gone on disregarding the monition till three years from the time of its issue. But when, the three years were at an end, deprivation would have inevitably come upon him. The Ritual controversy is not a bit less ready for settlement now than it will be three years hence ; and it is more likely, on the whole, to be settled in the only rational manner if the question is forced upon public notice by the imprisonment of the Ritualist Clergy than if it is merely suggested by their depriva- tion. It will be said, perhaps, that this is a very easy line for laymen to take up, inasmuch as they cannot be sent to prison ; but much as we regret that two respectable clergymen should now be in gaol for doing what they consider to be their duty, we cannot quite forget that the estimate they take of their duty can be justified neither by history nor logic, and is in the eyes of a great majority of their fellow-countrymen utterly inconsistent with their position as ministers of the Established Church. We wish them well out of prison, because we wish to see the law which has sent them there altered. But, inasmuch as the law is, on the whole, more likely to be altered if they are kept in prison than if they are set free, and eventually deprived, we should have been sorry if they had come out by the intervention of the Court of Queen's Bench, and we regret that Mr. Dale's friends should have thought fit to appeal against the decision.

The view commonly taken by non-Ritualists of Mr. Dale's imprisonment is that though the particular punishment is an inappropriate one, yet inasmuch as he is plainly an offender against the law of the Established Church, there is no help for it but to imprison him. If he cannot obey the law, he should either leave the Chnxch or resign his benefice. If he cannot take the former course without incuridng she guilt of schism, it is, at all events, quite open to him to take the latter. We are not prepared to contest the theoretical correctness of this view of the situation ; it is a sufficient objection to it that it is an utterly unfruitful one. Let it be granted that the law of the Established Church is dead against the Ritualist Clergy, and that under that law there is nothing before them but present imprisonment and future deprivation, the question still remains whether this is a wise law. The position of the Ritualists is somewhat analogous to that of the Irish tenantry. Under the law as it stands in Ireland, tenants can be evicted from their farms, and imprisoned if they offer forcible resistance. Under the law as it stands in the Church of England, clergymen can be deprived of their benefices by-and-by, and imprisoned in the meantime if they disregard Lord Penzance's monition in the interval. It is generally felt., however, that the state of Ireland requires something more than a mere vindication of the right of eviction ; and the question we wish to put to reasonable people is whether the state of the Church of Eng- land does not require something more than a mere vindication of the right of deprivation. The existing law seems to us a thoroughly unwise one, and to those who hold this opinion, it is no comfort to be told that it is the law,—which we have never denied ; or that, so long as it remains the law, it ought to be obeyed,—which we are equally far from disputing. No amount of agreement on these two points will help to dispose of the third. It is open, of course, to any one to contend that the thing to be aimed at in the Established Church is entire uniformity of Ritual ; and that no divergence from the declared meaning of a rubric should be tolerated, no matter how distasteful to a con- gregation its strict observance may have become. Even then, it is plain that the law as it stands is bad, by reason of the gross inequality of its administration. If nothing is to be interpolated into the Communion Service, it must be as wrong to sing a hymn before the sermon as to sing the Agsus Dei after the consecration. If surplices are your only wear, the black gown is as much out of place in the pulpit as the chasuble is at the altar. According to the principle laid down by the Judicial Committee, every rubric has a significance which is capable of being ascer- tained, and which, when ascertained, must be obeyed and enforced. No candid Low Churchman will assert that his rubrical practice is in all points in accordance with the direc- tions given in 1662. If excesses are to be curbed by im- prisonment, defects should not escape scot-free. Justice de- mands that every congregation shall be made to accept some change to which it objects ; that if one is allowed less ritual than it wishes, another shall be made to take more than it likes ; and that the solitary pleasure which may be enjoyed by all equally shall be the pleasure of spiting their neighbours. This is what maintaining the law as it is will mean, and it is hard to believe that a people in the main just and reasonable will desire to keep such a law in force. No doubt, there is an alternative to changing it, and that is to allow it to be administered unequally,—to curtail excesses because they are unpopular, while condoning shortcomings because they are popular. We should be sorry to believe that any one who is not a member of the Church Asso- ciation really wishes to see the question settled in this way ; and even if the sense of fair-play had completely died out under the influence of theological partisanship, it is well to remember that there is no certainty that some irritated Ritualist, with money in his pocket, may not institute pro- ceedings against some Evangelical clergyman who has dis- obeyed a rubric, without stopping to take counsel with the leaders of his party. Retaliation, once begun, might prove a pleasanter game than it had been thought. There is some- thing, after all, in the reflection that your adversary groans under the same bondage as that which he has imposed upon you.

Of course, if the nation makes up its mind shat rubrical uniformity is what it wants, it is perfectly easy to

get it. The Ritualist might he easily dealt with .by an amendment of the Public Worship Regulation Act, making deprivation follow upon disobedience at a very much shorter interval. The new procedure might be borrowed from the Divorce Court, and a decree nisi might be pronounced in every case of proved disobedience, under which deprivation

would follow, say in a month, or a week, from the date of, the monition, unless the offending clerk came and made his sub- mission. It is to be hoped that the Church Association will bring forward a proposal of this kind in the Session that is about to open. It is clearly the right thing to do, if Ritualism is to be put down ; while, if Ritualism is not to be put dots n,

the farce of sending clergymen to prison for practising it cannot be too soon withdrawn. There is not the least need to prove by experiment that Ritualism can be put down. It can be put down without any difficulty, if people are only willing to face the consequences that may follow. The really important thing at this moment is that Englishmen should take in that the choice lies between tolerating Ritualism, and putting it down decisively. Either of these alternatives is intelligible and consistent. If the English people are agreed that they will not have an Established Church in which high Ritual is tolerated, they have both the right and the power to drive the Ritualists out. If they are pre- pared to tolerate Ritualism rather than run the risk of precipi- tating Disestablishment—and the deprivation of any consider- able number of clergymen might do a good deal to precipitate it —it is high time to invest toleration with the safeguards that are required to prevent Ritualism from being forced upon un- willing congregations, or denied to congregations which desire it.