20 MAY 1882, Page 9


TitBishops have at last realised that serene indifference what is going on among the sheep is hardly a decorous attitude for a chief shepherd. They have brought in a Bill to deal with the case of Mr. Green. We had fondly thought that we were proof against all temptation to feel surprised at anything that the Episcopate might do, but in this instance the Bishops' action has once more filled us with amazement. We did not think it possible that they should go so far as to take the question in hand, and yet handle it in a way which falls so entirely short of what needs to be done. Mr. Green's im- prisonment is but the fringe of the Ritual difficulty ; the sub- stance of it is that a considerable section of the Established Church is threatened with expulsion. There are those who say, with the Church Association, that the sooner the Ritualists are got rid of, the better for the Church of England. That is a consistent and logical view, which can be met and debated on its merits. But the Bishops, with perhaps two or three exceptions, are not of this opinion ; at all events, they do not admit that they are. They want, or are supposed to want, to keep the Ritualists in the Church of England. If they want this, they must be pre- pared to take some steps to bring about the end they desire. As things stand, the expulsion of the Ritualists can be only a question of time. The law, as expounded by the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, must eventually drive them out. The ceremonial with which they are identified has been condemned, and if that condemnation is allowed to stand, the Church Association will be able, by degrees, to apply it to every clergyman who persists in disregarding it. The prose- cutors will not again make the mistake of sending a clergyman to prison. They have only to wait three years, and their purpose will be answered in a far more effectual way. In three years from the date of the original inhibition, the clergyman who disregards it is ipso facto deprived of his benefice ; so that all that the Church Association need do is to multiply inhibitions, and then leave them to ripen. The first example of this process will shortly be seen in Mr. Green's own case. He was inhibited from performing divine service on the 16th August, 1879, and, as the Lord Chancellor reminded the House of Lords, " the three years will expire on the 16th August, 1882." The deprivation of two other incumbents is also pending. We do not quarrel with Lord Selbome for purring a little over this prospect. He looks at the matter with the eye of a Sunday-school superintendent who has given notice to a refractory teacher, and counts the days till the notice has expired. But the Bishops are professedly opposed to a settlement of the Ritualist difficulty on the basis of turning out the Ritualists ; and it is extraordinary that men can take this line, and not see that the Ritualists must in the long-run be turned out, if nothing is done to keep them in. The decree of banishment has been pronounced, and all that remains is to apply it successively to each individual Ritualist. In three months from this time, Mr. Green, if the law does not interfere, will have suffered a penalty far more injurious to the existence of Ritualism in the Church of Eng- land than a lifetime spent in Lancaster Gaol. He will have been deprived of his benefice. It is true that hundreds of Ritualist 'clergymen will go on practising the same ceremonial, to the edification of hundreds of Ritualist congregations. But their days will be numbered. It will be impossible to prevent the Church Association from prosecuting a man for break- ing the law, when they have once deprived a man for breaking the law. The Bishops may think that, in the exercise of their discretion, they may refuse to allow any more suits to be instituted. If they hope to do anything of the kind, they are greatly mistaken. The scandal of a Bishop's resolutely refusing to allow men to be brought to trial who have notoriously been guilty of offences for which other men have suffered the severest of eeclesiastical penalties would be too flagrant to be borne, and to do the Bishops justice, resolute persistence in defying public opinion is the last fault which they are likely to commit.

This, we say, is the state of things which the Bishops have to deal with, and in the Imprisonment for Contumacy Bill we see the method by which they propose to deal with it. If the Bill were meant as a serious contribution to the settlement of the Ritualist difficulty, it would be fairly open to Lord Salis- bury's criticisms ; but considering that there are at most two cases of contumacy to which it can apply, and very probably only one, its provisions are not worth discussion. The one thing it does is to enable, for the next three years, the Privy Council,

or the Judge of the Ecclesiastical Courts in which the proceed- ings have arisen, upon the representation of the Archbishop of the province, to release a clergyman imprisoned for contumacy. There is a very good reason for making this provision special and temporary, in the fact that a Royal Commission is sitting to inquire into the jurisdiction of the Ecclesiastical Courts, and that it is unjust to keep a man in prison for doing what, by legislation arising out of the recommendations of this Commission, may hereafter be expressly tolerated. But if there is good ground for taking Mr. Green out of prison, while the whole question of Ritualism is under consideration, there is far better ground for leaving him in possession of his benefice while the whole question of Ritualism is under con- sideration. What the Church of England most needs at this moment is a suspension of hostilities, during which the heads of a lasting peace may be arranged. Such a suspension of hostilities might easily be imposed by a Bill suspending for three years all proceedings undertaken to enforce a decree in any suit about Ritual, and forbidding for the same period the institution of any new suits. It will certainly not be brought about by a measure which allows decrees in Ritual cases to be enforced just as before, and merely guards against the indefinite infliction of a particular punishment.

We have said that the action of the Bishops has surprised us. We had thought that they were becoming alive to the fact that the rent in the Established Church is growing serious, and that much as they may wish it to be composed entirely of eminent prelates on the lines of the Archbishop of York, and distinguished laymen of the type of the Lord Chancellor, that bright vision can only be realised at the risk of disrup- tion. The event has shown that we were mistaken. The Bishops, by an extraordinary effort of unanimity, give birth to a Bill ; and the Bill, when examined, proves to allow of Ritual prosecutions going on as briskly as before. But the recent proceedings in Convocation disclosed a greater marvel still. When the provisions of this preposterous Bill were communicated to the Lower House, the Clergy fell at once upon their knees, and returned humble and hearty thanks for the great mercy vouchsafed to them by the Upper House. This disposition to be thankful for microscopic blessings was not confined to the moderate clergy, who are somewhat apt, perhaps, to be upset by any stray exhibition of Episcopal con- descension ; it was equally visible in Archdeacon. Denison, who, if we are not mistaken, is himself a Ritualist, and in Canon Gregory, who is at least a defender of Ritualism. How these dignitaries can have failed to see that the pinch of the situa- tion lies in the ipso facto deprivation, which, if the law remains unaltered, will, in the end, find out every Ritualist incumbent, or how, seeing this, they can have thought that the Episcopal Bill was worth debating, much less accepting, is altogether past our understanding.