« PoprzedniaDalej »
date who asks for a dispensation in the matter of languages is obliged to produce a strongly worded certificate attesting, not his piety, nor yet his zeal, but his possession of exceptional strength of understanding, a peculiar aptitude for teaching, and a large measure of practical good sense and prudencerestrictions which would have made wild work with most of the literates ordained during the last twenty years in the northern province of this Church. The unfortunate experience of parishes mismanaged by mere boy-incumbents, promoted through private interest almost at the close of their diaconate, and also by worn-out college dons, who, with no previous pastoral experience, have accepted livings at an age when it is impossible for them to adapt themselves to the totally altered conditions of their lives, suggests the expediency of a Canon requiring a certain term of pastoral work as a pre-requisite for the cure of souls; and, considering the responsibilities which rest upon a parish priest, it would not be too much to exact a competent acquaintance with Church law, so far at least as his own duties and those of his churchwardens are concerned, before granting him institution; a hint which might be acted upon without any Canon by our Theological Colleges, and which is, we believe, in one instance already. Yet again, some broad and practical scheme of patronage needs to be devised, which, while making the present scandalous traffic in livings impossible for the future, shall yet retain that most valuable system of private lay nomination which so healthily promotes variety and freedom in the Church of England. No plan is so bad for filling up vacant cures as popular election, which is nearly certain always to secure the worst candidate, and to lower the average tone of all candidates. Neither can we extend our approval to the new Irish scheme of diocesan and parochial nominators, deriving their own authority from an irresponsible body of elected vestrymen, who need not be really members of the Church, nor contribute a penny to its funds, but who are sure to include representatives of the lowest current type of popular religionism, and practically to exclude from preferment every clergyman who is too learned, too able, or too honest for conformity to their opinions. Nor is experience in favour of largely extending the sphere of episcopal patronage, since, even when nepotism cannot be alleged, as it too often may be, a system which gives the Bishop the power of putting strong indirect pressure on the clergy of his diocese to acquiesce in his views, does not promote manly independence of cha
racter. On all grounds, private patronage should be encouraged, and might very readily be guarded from abuse by certain restrictions on the choice of a nominee, and by requiring a declaration from the patron, rather than from the clerk, that he will derive no pecuniary advantage whatever from the exercise of his right; and, above all, by ruling, not only that the sale of next presentations shall be void, but that the next presentation to livings should never vest in the possessor of an advowson who has acquired it otherwise than in one of these three ways-endowment, inheritance from the preceding owner, or bona fide purchase, for permanent ownership, of any manor to which an advowson attaches. This would effectually prevent corrupt purchase, especially by clergymen intending to present themselves, and by putting the appointment to all other newly acquired next presentations in the hands of some persons above suspicion, such as the reformed diocesan chapter, collusion would be made impossible.
Another salutary provision might also be profitably borrowed from the American Church, in the discipline it exercises over clergymen unattached. With us the ecclesiastic who is neither beneficed nor licensed, neither Fellow nor schoolmaster, is under no kind of control whatever, except that in the case of conspicuous laxity of conduct he might find it difficult to obtain the necessary testimonials, should he desire fresh clerical employment. Nevertheless, it is obvious that, if not checked by this consideration, his conduct may very readily be such as to give rise to scandal which will affect the collective character of the body to which he at least technically belongs. The American Church requires every clergyman who desires to continue on the roll of the ministry to report himself at certain intervals to his Bishop; and if he should be charged with discontinuing all exercise of the ministerial office without lawful cause, or should absent himself for five years from the diocese to which he belongs, without giving satisfactory explanation to the Bishop, he is liable to admonition, suspension, or degradation, according to the measure of his offence.
Clergymen ordained by Bishops of the Anglican Communion, but not of the local Church of England, require a Canon fixing their status and prescribing the conditions under which they may officiate in this country. There are some regulations practically acted on, it is true, but they are parliamentary and not synodical. There are few more curious facts regarding the Canons of 1603 than that not a
single one of them deals chiefly and principally with the Episcopate. In a few instances, such as those already mentioned, touching candidates for Holy Orders, the Bishop is enjoined to do, or to refrain from doing, certain things; but of a general survey of his duties, powers, and privileges there is no trace visible, far less any rules laid down to secure his canonical election, confirmation, consecration, and enthronement; while absolutely no provision whatever exists for calling him to account and securing his trial in the not impossible event of his offending against the laws of the Church-a particular on which the American Canons go into much detail. Such measures of injunction as require the Bishop to hold his visitation at stated intervals, and in a certain manner, and to convene his Chapter for the consideration of all grave matters affecting his diocese; such restrictions as forbidding him to interfere in the diocese of another Bishop, or to reside outside his own diocese; such privileges as his right of presiding over all synods held within his jurisdiction, and of session and vote in those of the province; such questions as the extent and mode of his exercise of patronage and mission, and his relations to his Metropolitan-all need to be, as they are not now, canonically defined. The administration of vacant dioceses, and the putting metropolitan functions into commission during the vacancy of an Archiepiscopal See, are also matters which need synodical handling. There are of course customary usages here in these matters, taken for granted by the Code of 1603 as still valid and in ure-a proof, by-the-by, of the legal principle laid down at the beginning of this paper-and familiar enough to ecclesiastical lawyers, but they are not so explicitly laid down as to be free from ambiguity, or to be readily accessible to an ordinary inquirer who wishes to ascertain the facts.
The whole question of criminous bishops and clerks, whether their fault be a civil or an ecclesiastical offence, needs consideration. As regards the former kind of misdemeanor, it would perhaps be enough to enact a Canon prescribing that conviction in a temporal court of any criminal or disgraceful act should make it incumbent on the ecclesiastical authority within whose jurisdiction the offender might be to issue at once, in due form, a sentence of suspension or deprivation, according to the gravity of the offence the Bishop proceeding thus against any priest or deacon in his diocese, the Metropolitan against his Suffragan,
and the comprovincial Bishops in synod against the Metropolitan, should he be the offender; in each and all of these cases a reasonable space of time being conceded for showing cause against the issue of such sentence, on the ground that the finding of the temporal court had been against the evidence.
No great difficulty, of course, would arise in respect of offences against the doctrine and discipline of the Church committed by persons holding its commission, while beyond the jurisdiction of their own Ordinaries. But several recent examples have shown that a clergyman may commit with impunity very serious breaches of ecclesiastical law when he is outside the jurisdiction of the authorities of his own Church. The ministrations of English clergymen in the so-called English Episcopal chapels in Scotland, and a yet more indefensible act of schismatic communion committed in succession by the successive incumbents of a very high dignity, in the first case at Berlin, and in the second at New York, and the most inexcusable conduct of all, Archbishop Thomson's participation in Scotch Presbyterian services, point very clearly to a serious gap which needs to be made good, and may further suggest an additional provision by which a clergyman, sojourning for any time out of his own diocese, might be required to bring testimonials of character, and, if possible, a certificate from the Bishop of the diocese where he has last or longest sojourned, before being permitted to resume his former position and functions within the jurisdiction of his own Ordinary. Two other points, falling under this category, require definition and adjustment. On the one hand, for the protection of the laity, some plan is needed for dealing with unsatisfactory incumbents, midway between the too ready means of extrusion which the American vestry system provides, and the practical indefeasibility of tenure which exists in England. On the other, there should be canonical limitations set to the now almost unrestricted episcopal powers of revocation of curates' licences and inhibition of extra-diocesan clerics. A Canon obliging the Bishop to do these acts in open court or in full Chapter, and to assign adequate reasons for his conduct, would prevent much probable injustice.
A wider question, perhaps, than almost any that has yet been handled in this paper still remains for consideration, and must inevitably come up whenever the time arrives for enacting a new code of Canons. This is as to the constitution of
ecclesiastical Courts of Judicature. The qualifications and powers of those who preside in them; the nature of the causes which may be heard there; the qualifications of such as are entitled to be plaintiffs in such courts, so as to insure that no person who is not himself clear of all ecclesiastical offence may stir up vexatious litigation; the method of procedure; the nature of sentences; and the circumstances of appeals, would all need precise regulation; while, as regards the relation of such courts to the temporal power, provision should be made that only temporal accidents affected by ecclesiastical sentences could be brought before the cognisance of the civil authorities so that, for example, no plaintiff or defendant in an ecclesiastical suit should be permitted, under pain of forfeiture of Church privileges, to bring an action in the civil courts for anything said or done in the ecclesiastical courts, save only for false witness; and, further, that the temporal authorities themselves should have their interference carefully regulated: for instance, that they might be appealed to in the event of a person condemned in an ecclesiastical court being able to show reasonable grounds for belief that such condemnation had been unjustly or illegally compassed (as in the case of the packed tribunal which Archbishop Sumner employed to condemn Archdeacon Denison at Bath in 1856), when the State, invoked by appel comme d'abus, should be empowered to compel the re-hearing of the cause in such public fashion, and before a court so unimpeachably constituted, that no reasonable suspicion could lie against its finding; and, should even this fail to secure substantial justice, that the civil courts should then have the power of awarding pecuniary damages to the extent of the temporal loss sustained, the question of reinstating the accused clerk in any benefice, ministerial office, or parsonage, from which he had been ejected by the sentence of the ecclesiastical court, having to be separately considered.
It may be well to add that recent experiences have shown that a system which grew up almost inevitably in the Church of England during the abeyance of its synodical and diocesan action-that of intrusting great ecclesiastical functions to Societies organised on the basis of money subscriptions only, with which at the present moment rests nearly the whole management of home and foreign missionary work, of Church schools, and of religious literature— has peculiar dangers of its own, making it liable to become the instrument of sectarian partisanship, inimical to the true spiritual interests of the Church at large. So long as such