22 JULY 1882, Page 7


FROM the moment that Mr. Justice Chitty gave judgment in the Prestbury Ritual case, there could be no doubt that the defendant would appeal. What the Ritualists want, before all things, is to gain time. Some day or other, the Royal Commission on the Ecclesiastical Courts will present its Report. We know beforehand what the nature of this Report will be. It will set out that the present constitution of these Courts has created much dissatisfaction, and recommend that in order to remove this dissatisfaction the present consti- tution be retained as regards the particulars objected to, but modified in others, about which nobody cares. There will also, in all probability, be two Minority Reports,— one going in for keeping the Courts exactly as they are, the other proposing radical and impracticable changes. The Government of the day will then take time to con- sider whether they shall found a Bill upon the Report of the Commission. In the end, of course, they will think it wise not to touch so very thorny a subject, but they will not announce their decision publicly. They will merely say, when the Bill has been expected for several Sessions, that they understood that the Episcopal Bench, to whom the initiative in these matters properly belongs, had a measure in prepara- tion. Acting upon this hint, the Archbishop of Canterbury will, a year or two later, ask Parliament to legislate in the direction indicated by the Majority Report. Everybody who feels injured by the existing constitution of the Ecclesiastical Courts will at once say that legislation of this kind, in- stead of removing their grievances, will force them to begin a new agitation ; but in spite of these representations, the Bill will be described as a healing measure, and passed in that character. An interval will then be arranged for, to give the Ritualists an opportunity to submit. By-and-by, it will be seen that they are no nearer submission than they were after the passing of the Public Worship Regulation Act, and the authorities in Church and State will then have to consider what moral they shall draw from this discovery. All through

this period, it is conceivable that there will be a general indis- position to push matters to extremes in the way of instituting new suits ; and provided that Mr. De la Bere can escape immediate deprivation, he may fairly hope that somewhere in the chapter of accidents he will find something to his advan- tage. In this respect, fortune has been unusually kind to him. Such a point as the Ecclesiastical character of Committee-room E is exactly suited to his needs. He can fight it without doing violence to his scruples, and it belongs to a class of questions in which lawyers take great delight, There is always a possibility that some new evidence may turn up in support of Mr. De la Bere's contention, or that the Courts may differ upon the weight to be attached to the evid- ence already offered. Who, for example, will venture to say beforehand what view the Master of the Rolls will take upon so much of the case as he permits to be stated ? If the de- cision of the Court of Appeal is unfavourable to Mr. De la Bere, he will still be able to thank God he has a House of Lords ; and even if in this, the absolutely last, stage of the business judgment should go against him, the proceedings are not likely to be indecently hurried. When we speak of the -appeal to the House of Lords as the absolutely last stage of the 'business, we mean, of course, the absolutely last stage of Tart One. If this should end in the deprivation of Mr. De la Bere, Part Two will remain to be gone through. The patron of the living at that date will either be Mr. De in Bere's father or Mr. De la Bere himself, and in either case Mr. De la Bere may again be presented. The Bishop must then either insti- tute the presentee, or refuse to institute him. In the former case, Mr. De la Bere's deprivation will go for nothing, unless the Church Association applies to have the institution prohi- bited or set aside. In the latter case, Mr. De Ia Bore can take proceedings against the Bishop to compel him to institute. Either way, if Mr. De Ia Bere only lives long enough, the twentieth century is likely to see something of the Prestbury Ritual case.

Other cases may, of course, arise in which the process of deprivation will be carried through in something less than this number of years. In Mr. Green's case, for instance, it is supposed by the Lord Chancellor—who ought to know some- thing about the working of a measure designed to stamp out the Ritualism he so cordially detests—that deprivation will take effect next month ; and, at all events, if the Church Association choose either to use the experience they and Lord Penzance have by this time gained in the working of the Public Worship Regulation Act, or to fall back upon the Church Discipline Act, they can certainly, while the law remains what it is, deprive as many persistent Ritualists as they may choose to proceed against. In view of this pro- spect, it is interesting to find that the English Church Union have at length begun to consider what will have to be done, if it should some day be realised. In the address delivered by Mr. Charles Wood, at the annual meeting last month, there occurs this passage :—" Let it be said at once, with all possible distinctness, that we' shall, if need be, resist deprivation by the Secular Courts, just as we have resisted suspension. . . . . . It is a less serious danger to the -Church at large that the Clergy should suffer the chance of bonds and imprisonment, than that through the intervention of the Civil Power, backed though it might be by the con- nivance of some few of the Bishops, intruding priests should be sent into the parishes of the lawful and loyal Clergy. No doubt, the ministration of such intruding Clergy would be rejected by the laity in England, just as the ministra- tions of the Clergy who took the oath imposed by the National Assembly were rejected by the laity in Prance, at the beginning of the French Revolution. Never- theless, a schism would have been begun ; and a schism once begun, who shall say where it would end ?" We shall not attempt to defend Mr. Wood's consistency. How he recon- ciles this announcement with the historical conditions of the Established Church of England, we do not profess to under- stand. If the theory of an Established Church means any- thing, it means that the State has a right to regulate the terms on which it grants to the Church the rights and privi- leges associated with exclusive, or special State recognition. Whether these terms be laid down by the Legislature, or by the Courts which interpret the utterances of the Legislature, seems to us to make no difference. In either case, it is for the Church, supposing that she cannot acquiesce in these terms, to obtain either a modification of them from the Legislature, or to resign the advantages of an Establishment. If, on the other hand, the Church does acquiesce in these terms,—and that the Church of England has acquiesced in the legislation and in the Courts against which the Ritualists protest, there can, to our minds, be little doubt—it is for the protesting minority to consider how far this acquiescence on the part of the Church has worked a forfeiture of her claim on their submission. If it has done so, their business is to leave her ; if it has not done so, their business is to obey the law which she has accepted. We say this, to prevent any possibility of mistake as to our own opinion in this matter. Our object, however, is not . to convict the Ritualists of incon- sequence, but to warn those who are neither Ritualists nor anti-Ritualists of the consequences likely to follow, if the legal toleration which—in spite of an injudicious sentence in Mr. Wood's address—we believe is all that the Ritualists ask for, is still denied them. If, in the long-run, the only alternative to this legal toleration is legal deprive- tion, and if Mr. Wood speaks with authority, then, if the Ritualist Clergy are deprived, a schism will certainly follow, then the fate of the Establishment is not hard to fore- see. It is true, it takes two to make a schism ; but if the authorities in Church and State are prepared to be one of the pair, there is no reason to doubt that the Ritualists will be ready to be the other. The Ritualists are now, accord- ing to Mr. Wood, resolved to reject the ministrations of intruding Clergy ; and from this it will be an easy step to rejecting the authority, first, of the Bishops who institute the intruding Clergy, and then of the Bishops who remain in com- munion with them. Those to whom we are speaking may dislike Mr. Wood as much as they please, but no amount of such dislike can in the least lessen the truth or the pertinence of his remark that "the existing connection between Church and State would not survive the confusion and irritation which such a state of things would produce." That is a warning addressed to politicians, and it is one which, what- ever they may think of the quarter from which it comes, they will do well not to disregard.