« ZurückWeiter »
But while we contend for a popular constitution of Church Councils, we concur with those who consider the mode of election of the rulers of the Church liable to grave objection.
There is an historical precedent, and a precedent never to be forgotten. William the Third, often abroad, absorbed in foreign affairs, committed the government, in his absence, to his Queen j and he gave her, for the selection of bishops, a council composed of the most eminent men in the realm. We suggest that a council should be named by the act of both Houses of Parliament, and that this (not one individual) should present to the Crown the name of the Bishop to be elected. We should then have none of those scandals which have lately shocked the public.
There are other topics which, in a complete scheme of Church reform, must engage attention: a large increase of bishops, the lowering of their incomes, the removal of most of them from their place in the House of Lords. Confined to a limited sphere, endowed with a limited income, the bishops will become what they ought to be—the friends of their clergy, and the fathers of their dioceses.*
Reform in our cathedrals is, we hope, imminent. It was long since suggested and pressed on the then Premier, Lord Russell. Turn the dean into a bishop, the cathedral his episcopal church, the deanery his residence. You thus utilize a place, a post, and an income;, you divide the diocese. Archdeacons may then receive adequate incomes; and, if that be desirable, rural deans. The defence of canonries is idle. They are not the rewards of learning or of service. They have been, and they always will be, jobbed by Ecclesiastics or by Ministers of the Crown. The only remedy is to extinguish them, and to annex their incomes to useful offices.
One topic more, on which we may not dwell,—but it is essential. Church patronage must be checked by the veto of the parish council. The anomalies of unrestricted patronage are indefensible. If we were not accustomed to them, no man would argue for them. When we see a bishop or lay patron sending a careless drone into a parish where a faithful man has worked for years,—where a pastor loved and honoured is succeeded by a priestly formalist,— where the gentle and winning voice of persuasion is followed by the hard dogmas of priestcraft and the follies of Ritualism,—these things tear up the heartstrings of a people, and turn them against their Church. These things cannot stand, if our Church remains.
But our space is exhausted, and, we doubt not, the reader's patience; yet the subject is only touched in its outlines.
* The extent to which tho subdivisions of Bishoprics can be safely carried is left as an open question.
THE CHURCH AND THE FRENCH REVOLUTION.*
In the last Number of the Christian Observer we traced the fortunes of the Gallican Church from the outbreak of the Revolution in 1789 to the period of her greatest depression. It now remains to notice her gradual resuscitation and restoration to something of her former condition—a restoration which involved, among other things, the renewal of her old political status, and, unhappily for herself, of her Papal connection.
The conp-d'etat of the 18th Brumaire (9th November 1799), by which the government of France passed into the hands of Bonaparte, put a final termination to all legal repression of Christianity in France. Since the close of the Reign of Terror, the Christian religion, notwithstanding the restraints to which it was still subjected, notwithstanding the transportation of many priests, constitutional as well as non-juring, and the necessity of sharing the places of worship with the professors of theophilanthropism, that last contemptible form of religion to which the Revolution gave birth, had recovered strength day by day. The Constitutional Church, being under less severe legal enactments than that of the non-jurors, showed the greater signs of vitality. As early as the month of August 1797, a Council of this Church was held at Paris, at which fifty bishops were present. The character of the constitutional clergy and Church cannot be better estimated than by a reference to the measures adopted by this Council. For a sketch of those measures, we will refer to M. de Pressensd's own words, as rendered by his translator :—
"The first act of the Council was to make a solemn profession of the Catholic faith, then to write to the Pope to entreat him to hasten the work of pacification in the Church of Prance. A letter was at the same time sent to the non-jurors, to beg of them, with not less solicitation, to lend themselves to a union so desirable for religion. The Council gave proof of the large-heartedness which animated it in the decree of pacification which it passed. Without renouncing the essential principles of the Church which it represented, it declared that all the pastors and priests who had remained faithful to their vocation, were called, without distinction, to the exercise of the ministry, whatever might have been their opinion on the questions -which had divided the Church of France. The decree contained the following clause, which pnshed concession as far as it was possible:—' If there is only a single bishop for one and the same diocese, or a single priest for one and the same parish, he shall be acknowledged by all. If a Church has two bishops, the one appointed and ordained before 1791, the other chosen and ordained 6ince that period, the more ancient shall be acknowledged; the other shall succeed him with full right; this arrangement applies also to the parish priests.' Thus the constitutional clergy showed their readiness to sacrifice themselves to pacification, for this clause rejected from the sees and cures the majority of their members. The Council was occupied with regulating the nomination to the vacant sees, and the order of the religious services in which it wished to introduce the vulgar tongue for the prayers of [or, at] the sermon (pour leg prieres du prone). It passed a decree, imbued with the strictest morality, on the reform of the manners of the faithful and ecclesiastics; the love of country and obedience to the laws were strongly recommended. It passed also a special decree on the instruction and education of cliildren, and urged the founding of numerous Christian schools. In fine, an express request was made to the Holy Father to convoke an (Ecumenical Council, which should decide the grave questions that were pending."
* 1. L'Egliso et In Revolution Francaise: Histoire des Relations de l'Eglise ctde l'Etat do 1789 a 1802. Par Edmond de Pressense. Paris, 1864.
2. The Church and the French Revolution: A History of the Relations of Church and State from 1789 to 1802. By E. de PressensC-, D.D. Translated from tho Fronch by John Stroyan. London: Hodder and Stoughton. 1809.
Vol. 6:S._No. 3S4. 6 Y
After the establishment of the Consulate, the prospects of religion began even more perceptibly to brighten, and in June 1801 a second Council of the Constitutional Church was held; but after sitting for little more than six weeks, it dissolved itself upon receiving information of the signing of the Concordat.
In reviewing the revolutionary period for the Church in France, which was brought to a close by the event which we have last mentioned, we cannot but be struck with the immense benefit which, humanly speaking, was conferred on the cause of religion by the existence of the Constitutional Church. It appears to us quite a mistake to suppose that the disastrous conflict between religion and the civil administration, which disfigured the period of the Revolution in France, was in any but the most trifling degree due to the decree for the civil constitution of the clergy. Had that measure never been passed, had the confiscation of the property of the Church taken place without any counterbalancing provision for the maintenance of the clergy by the State, and had the Revolutionary Government abjured all nominal connection with the Church from the moment when it ceased to consult the interests or respect the principles of Christianity, the opposition of the clergy to the new regime would have been not less decided, and the hostility of the rulers of Revolutionary France to religion would have become not less bitter. That the opposition of the clergy to the Revolution was not unanimous, and that there was a phase of the national religion for the suppression of which the Government could allege no political plea, was due to the formation of the Constitutional Church. Its clergy were allowed to continue unmolested in the performance of religious rites, when all ministrations by the non-jurors were, owing to the reactionary intrigues of many of their number, looked upon with suspicion. When Christianity itself became the subject of attack, the Constitutional clergy exhibited the indisputable spectacle of martyrs suffering for the cause of religion alone, while in the persecution of the refractory priests there was always mixed up in semblance, if not in reality, more or less of just retribution for political disaffection. And lastly, when the storm against religion began to abate, it was the Constitutional Church which first raised its head, and which was in a fair way of re-establishing a complete ecclesiastical organisation in the country, when its efforts were abruptly interfered with by the Concordat of 1801. True, as M. de Pressense is careful to remind us, the revival of the Church took place after its complete separation from the State by the abolition of the State payment of its clergy, and no such revival was possible to a Church enthralled by a connection with such a Government as France possessed during the periods of the Convention and the Directory; but how can an inference, adverse to the general principle of Church and State, be legitimately drawn from that fact? Whatever real weight, in reference to the question of establishments of religion, is to be attached to the circumstance in question, is far more than counterbalanced by the consideration of the advantage which religion derived from the connection of a portion of the Church with the civil administration, before the latter became absolutely hostile to Christianity.
The Concordat of 1801 terminated the schism in the Church of France. After providing for the free exercise of the Roman Catholic religion in France, and for the publicity of its worship conformably with the police regulations which the Government should judge necessary for the public tranquillity, it decreed that there should be made by the Holy See, in concert with the Government, a new circumscription of the French dioceses, and declared that if the French bishops refused to submit to the new arrangements—arrangements which might, in the case of some of them, involve the entire loss of their sees—the Pope would, notwithstanding their refusal, supersede them by the appointment of new bishops. It ordained that the appointment of bishops for the future should be made by the First Consul, and that they should receive canonical institution at the hands of the Pope.* The bishops, before entering upon * This provision was a return to the old Concordat of 1616.
their duties, were to take an oath of allegiance to the Government. The same oath was to be taken by the inferior clergy, the nomination of whom to cures and benefices was vested in the bishops.
The Concordat was speedily supplemented by the organic laws of Germinal, year X (April 1802). So far as these laws secured perfect toleration, and abolished every trace of ecclesiastical jurisdiction in civil matters, M. de Pressense, as might be expected, commends them, but he is loud in his condemnation of their other provisions. Among these we find a renewal of the old supervision of the State over all communications between the Pope and the French clergy, and a requirement that all Papal legates in France should obtain authority to act from the Government. The permission of the State was to be given before any national or metropolitan council, diocesan synod, or other ecclesiastical assembly could be held, and before any new church, or even private chapel, could be opened. A licence from the Government was likewise rendered necessary before a bishop could leave his diocese. Provisions were added which subjected French Protestantism to governmental control of a similar character. M. de Pressense looks upon the imposition of these various restrictions as a grievous act of oppression of religion on the part of the State, and doubtless it was so. But while he is disposed to hold the principle of Church and State answerable for them all, they appear to us to be accounted for, on the one hand, by the general character of the Napoleonic regime, which did not confine its despotism to ecclesiastical matters, and on the other, by the peculiar features of the dominant religion in France, which, from its recognition of an allegiance due to a foreign spiritual head, required for that religion special restraints on the part of the civil administration. Nor was it possible, when policy required the religion of the majority to be subjected to a strong State control, to avoid encumbering that of the minority with similar fetters.
In his zeal against Church and State, M. de Pressense has omitfed to dwell upon the evils resulting from another feature of the Concordat, to which he has cursorily alluded, namely, the actual increase of power which its provisions in one direction conferred on the Pope. They were far-sighted counsellors of Pius VII., who took this as their ground for urging upon the reluctant Pope the adoption of the treaty with Napoleon, saying, "Let us conclude the Concordat which he desires: when it is ratified, all the immensity of its religious importance will be known, and the powrr which it gives to Rome over this epismpacy in all the world. To us the Concordat appears chiefly deplorable, as giving an impulse to that ultratnontanism