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Joho G. Chapman, Port Tobacco Parish, Charles county.
A petition from Grace Church, Somerset county, asking leave to form a new Parish under the title of Wicomico Parish, was received, and referred to the Committee on New Congregations.
At 10 o'clock the order of the day was called up, viz: the following report of the Committee on the Revision of the Canons.
The committee who were appointed at the last annual Convention of the Diocese of Maryland, to revise the diocesan canons, respectfully report, that they have performed that duty. They have thought it expedient to change the arrangement of the canons, and in many cases to alter the phraseology, sometimes considerably, in other cases very little, though in most cases no change has been made. But the ideas of the canons, with the exception of those of the twenty-first and twenty-second canons of the old code, have generally been retained. Sometimes new ideas have been introduced, derived either from known usage, or from principles of obvious justice and propriety. The subject of proceedings against clergymen, accused of offences against the discipline of the Church, has particularly attracted their attention. They soon found that the provisions of the old canons upon this subject were very defective; and they therefore with great care prepared a code upon that subject, founded in a great degree upon the old canons, but containing, what they regard, as very important improvements upon their provisions. The twenty-first canon of the former code has been entirely omitted for reasons which will presently appear; and the twenty-second, which, besides graver objections, was complicated and confused, in consequence of the number and variety of the subjects introduced into it, has been divided into several. The eleventh has been incorporated into one of these new canons. The fourth and sixth of the former canons having a natural connexion, and falling properly under one title,
have been joined into one. The result of all these changes is, that the twenty-two canons of the old code, for the twenty-third was repealed in 1842, have, notwithstanding the omission of the twenty-first, been, multiplied into thirty, including a repealing canon.
It has appeared to the Committee, that the provisions of the former twenty-first and twenty-second canons were so defective, as to require alterations of very considerable importance. The whole subject, they are painfully aware, is one of great difficulty. Objections, theoretical and practical, exist to every form in which they have been able to present it, and what they have now to offer, can only be considered as the result of an attempt to do the best in their power in a situation surrounded with dificulties. Through the kindness of an eminent presbyter of the diocese, their attention has been directed to the canon of the diocese of Pennsylvania ; but although they have been able to derive from it some valuable hints, they regret to say that it is founded, to some extent, upon dangerous principles, which having been formerly recognised in this diocese, have long since been abandoned. The particular objections will incidentally appear hereafter,
The subjects, to which the attention of the Committee have been more particularly drawn in this connexion, are in number four,
I. The enumeration or definition of the offences for wbich a clergyman may be brought to trial.
II. The initiative proceedings.
I. On the first of these subjects it is obvious that the proper line lies between vagueness on the one hand and too strict definitions on the other. It is not as possible to enumerate all the offences for which a clergyman ought to be subjected to ecclesiastical censures, as it is to enumerate crimes against civil society. The same strictness of construction which is requisite in one case, is therefore unadvisable in the other, and must be supplied by the more benign and paternal character of the authority by which the rules are to be enforced. The language of our present twenty-second canon has the appearance of great vagueness. It has therefore been thought expedient to substitute for it an enumeration of offences, taken partly from the thirtyseventh canon of the General Convention of 1832, and partly from the seventeenth canon, of the old Maryland code, which defines the offences for which a layman is liable to trial.
II. The second subject is the initiative process. The great object to be attained here is a course of proceeding which shall protect the clergy
against frivolous and vexatious accusations. The mode which has been adopted in the common law for that purpose, is the submission of every accusation to a grand jury, a public body convened for that purpose at stated intervals. In ecclesiastical matters it would be difficult to adopt this process exactly, and the committee think that the attempts at imitating it in several of the dioceses, including Pennsylvania, and in our own old capons, have not been happy.
One mode has been to substitute the Convention for the grand jury. But a body like the Convention of Maryland, in which about two hundred persons are entitled to seats, and more than one hundred are usually present, most of whom are anxious to return to their homes, and all occupied with other business, public and private, is certainly not well adapted to the discharge of such a delicate function. But this is by no means the greatest objection to such a course. A presentment by the Convention would most probably insure the conviction of an accused clergyman, who must be tried before judges, selected by, and from among, those who had presented him. If it did not, the stain of such a presentment would be equal to that of an ordinary conviction. The history of ecclesiastical councils, does not encourage us to hope that the exercise of such a power would be always free from abuse; and it might even occur that, in the heat of theological controversy, it might be used as a means of destroying the prominent members of a minority. The Committee cannot recommend to the Convention to trust itself with the use of such a dangerous power.
The Vestries have been also used as presenting bodies. But to them also there are serious objections. The facility with which the leading men of a parish can get rid of a minister whom they dislike is so great, that unless in the cases of the very grossest violations of the laws of common morality, or of personal offence given to themselves, it is not probable that a vestry would be brought to move.-Beside this, there is a risk that in some cases which were proper subjects for judicial examination, the vestrymen might participate in the views of the rector, or even in his actual misdemeanor.
A third course is that of requiring the presentment to be made by a certain number of presbyters or communicants. But here the principle of the grand jury is entirely abandoned. These presbyters or communicants are not a public body, assembled by public authority, to perform a public doty. They are persons respectable, no doubt, but selected by the accusers, because of a known or supposed willingness to make the present
The whole effect of such a course of proceeding is to give an ap
parent sanction to the accusation to the prejudice of the accused, without affording him any defence against the real accusers, who in fact shelter themselves behind these nominal or semi-official ones. In the existing English law an accusation is submitted to a commission of presbyters, selected by the Bishop, who are to report on the propriety of commencing proceedings. This seems to the committee far less objectionable than the other modes to which they have adverted. But it is better adapted to the distance which exists between an English Bishop and his presbyters, than to our state of society. An American Bishop would be liable to be suspected of, and perhaps to feel, a disposition in favor of the accuser or aecused; under these circumstances this course would seem to throw the matter too much into his own hands.
The only other alternative which has occurred to the Committee is that of vesting this power in the Standing Committee. To this there are two objections. One, that the Standing Committee is, like the Convention, to formidable an antagonist for the accused. The other, that by the law and practice of this diocese they have always been the tribunal to try the case. Our existing canon combines with this position, another which is not es. actly that of a presenting body, but which has some analogy to it. The Standing Committee are not called on to exbibit charges, but merely to take such action as shall permit some other person to do it. Your com. mittee understand that some well judging persons consider this check great security to the accused; while on a recent occasion it was publicly objected to, as a prejudging of the case which disqualified the Committee from acting as a Court. This objection was overruled, because the course objected to was the very one pointed out by the canon. But in framing i canon it is impossible to deny that the objection has weight. But it seems to your Committee that the only course open to us is to continue this matter of the initiative nearly upon its present footing, which obviates one
of the objections to the intervention of the Standing Committee, and to provide some other tribunal for the trial of the charges. This will afford to the accused the protection so much valued, without affecting the impartiality of those who are ultimately to decide the case.
III. The third point to which the Committee have directed their attentioa relates to the person or persons who are to conduct the proceedings. In some dioceses this duty is devolved on the presenting body, in others on the accusers, who are sometimes allowed the aid of counsel. To the devolving this duty upon the presenting body there is the obvious objection that they are not the originators of the oceeding, have no pe onal interest in it
and ought not to be burdened with an office painful in itself, in addition to the one, also painful, which they have already performed. The great danger is that of arraying the prosecuting body against the accused in an antagonistic position, whereas their true position is that of a tribunal inquiriog into the propriety of a trial. In some cases the foreseen necessity of conducting the trial, might operate on the minds of the members of the presenting body, so as to prevent them from presenting when they ought 50 to do ; when they did present, the effect of their being called upon to sustain the presentment, which both they and the public at large would be apt to consider equivalent to defending their own conduct, would be to give them a kind of personal interest in the conviction of the accused. This the advocate of the Church ought not to have. The objections to giving this daty to the accuser are equally obvious. An accuser, who becomes such from a sense of duty, ought not to be compelled to act in that capacity, and one who acts from personal feeling ought not to be permitted. The Church ought to be represented, agreeably to the practice of our own diocese, by one of her sons who is acting from a sense of duty to her. The intervention of feed counsel in the maintenance of her discipline, is a thing which ought not to be permitted on her part. The only alteration which your Committee would suggest in this part of the subject is that of requiring the appointment of a Church Advocate in every case.
IV. The next question which presents itself is that of the Constitution of the Court which is to try the case. It may be laid down, as a necessary principle, that the court must be constituted by the diocesan authority. But at the next step the question is presented; Is it to be a standing organization, or a Court selected for a particular occasion ? The practice of the diocese of Maryland always has been that the Standing Committee shall be the Court; the practice of most other dioceses has been that of an occasional Court. It would seem to be proper, as the Standing Committee is the initiative body, and an manation from the Convention, of course reflecting to a great degree the opinions of that body, that the Court should be one pot deriving its appointment from the same source at the same time, and consequently imbued with the same opinions. The Court must be one of occasional selection. It must of course be selected by some of the diocesan authorities, but the accused ought, as is the case in all occasional tribunals, to have some power of rejection, or as it is called in the common law, challenge. The only permanent authorities in the diocese are the Bishop, the Convention, and the Standing Committee.-The last having already acted in the very proceeding, cannot be used to constitute the