Anglo-Catholicism Infests the Diocese of Newark (1934)

Our Catholic Corner


Grace Church, Newark, and the House of Prayer Centers of This Insidious Movement in the Protestant Episcopal Church

READERS of The Chronicle have been made aware this year of the quiet but sure growth of the cult of Anglo-Catholicism in the Diocese of New York. It has been the hope of The Chronicle’s roving reporter in this season’s series of articles in Our Catholic Corner to acquaint Protestant Episcopalians with conditions in the minor “Catholic” parishes in the New York area and to arouse some of our loyal adherents to action so that this alien movement in our Church might be stamped out in short order and the clerical minority that has been foistering this growth upon us put in its place. Bad as conditions are in the New York area, it is unfortunate that the “Catholic-minded” have been spreading their cult of superstition and Italianate voo-doo throughout the whole breadth of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States.

The Diocese of Newark is just a tube journey from the cathedral of Anglo-Catholicism in the East, the famous Church of Saint Mary the Virgin and the abode of the Merry Monks of Saint Mary’s. Fortified with pencil and paper and missionary zeal, your reporter braved the perils of the Hudson Tubes and traversed the industrial country side of north Jersey. When we arrived in the historic city we made at once for Grace Church. We had been told, dear reader, that Grace Church was on the up-and-up as far as Catholicism was concerned and that the Fathers in charge put on a regal Roman show. This we thought would please our readers and, perhaps, cause a few of our Jersey brethren to be on guard lest this nasty cult spread through their diocese with the speed with which it has recently infected the Diocese of New York. Grace Church is located on the main street of the city and occupies a vantage point in the centre of the fine business section of the town. The sign on the door of the church was one most humiliating for true Protestant Episcopalians, and one calculated to give undue emphasis to the eccentric rites of a small group in the Protestant Episcopal Church. We quote in detail the legend on the prominently located sign: “Holy Communion at 7:30; Children’s Mass at 10; Matins at 10.40 and Sung Mass at 11.” The list also included a Solemn Evensong for Sundays and the catchy postscript “Daily Masses.” This, dear readers, is how the Protestant Episcopal Church is represented on Newark’s busiest street. In the porch of the church a notice called attention to the fact that the Father Rector hears confessions at stated times or by “appointment.” We wonder where they have the confessionals for in our inspection of the edifice we saw no cupboard or cranny that might be used for this Romish device. When we opened the door a whiff of stale incense indicated that we were in one of the centers of Anglo-Catholicism. We looked about for some Holy Water stoups in which we had hoped to freshen up a bit after our arduous trip; but no, Grace has not come to this form of Catholic refreshment yet. The Rector was catechising the Sunday school as we entered. Like their brothers under the cassock, the Romanists, the Anglo-Catholic priests believe in training the children and feeding them noxious pabulum that it is most difficult for them to throw off when they reach the age of reason. Of course Romish doctrine is the usual fare and we remember being told by a curate in one of these parishes that Roman Catholic catechisms were frequently used. This Rector was impressing upon the minds of his charges the importance of the Mass. Said he: “The Mass represents Christ’s death upon the Cross. Our Lord did not command us to say Evensong, but the Mass is the one service that He demanded that we celebrate. Catholic Christians must hear Mass every Sunday and on the greater festivals.” And this, dear reader, is being taught week after week in the Church Schools of the Catholic parishes throughout the Protestant Episcopal Church. Grace Church lives up to the Anglo-Catholic tradition for the garish and tawdry in church interiors. It is passing strange how these aesthetes that are so arty when it comes to designing and embroidering copes and chasubles display such miserable taste in their rococo embellishments. Stations of the Cross indicated that the sacred personally conducted tour can be followed in the heart of Newark. Here and there sanctuary lamps depended from the ceiling, containing the provocative red lights. Seven were before the high altar and one before the side altar. Two chapels flank the chancel, one dedicated to St. Mary and the other to St. Joseph. The former was done in the Calabrian manner and a gilded triptych surmounted the altar. The table contained a tabernacle and the lamp indicated that one of Newark’s wonder workers had enshrined Christ there. The door of the tabernacle was covered with a most Victorian silk portier and a lambrequin hung from the mensa. Eight candles, were on the table to give some-light in the dark place. A sanctus bell and hammer were nearby so that the faithful might be made aware as the sacred moments of the transubstantiation cult drew near. The altar of “Her Most Chaste Spouse” was less ornate than that of the Gran’ Madre di Dio. A plush antependium and a bit of rare old Cluny lace just gave the proper touch to this spot. An Italian Madonna con bambino hung over the table. This was encased in a mammoth gold frame that would have awed a simple peasant from the hill country beyond Naples. There were a number of similar paintings about the crossing and chancel of the church. The high altar was certainly not lacking in candle power. Wax tapers galore is the cry of the Anglo-Catholics and Grace Church is no piker in this respect. A golden door led into the tabernacle in this altar, but as the sanctuary maids of all work merely nodded as they swept by in front of it we knew that the cupboard was bare. Soon a brace of acolytes in red made their appearance and began the lighting of the candles. Matins were said and preparations were in progress for the piece de resistance of the morning, the Sung Mass. Twenty-two candles on this high altar were lighted for this travesty on the Lord’s Supper. A procession of the choir marched in shortly to the strains of a Mozart andante. When they had taken their places in the stalls, they commenced a hymn to the tune of which the second procession chassed in from the vestry door. This latter cavalcade included the Father Celebrant arrayed in an ample chasuble of generous cut. The servers in waiting wore white cotton gloves and red soutanes. The bearer of the smouldering incense pot had on a pair of gauntlets. What, no “asparagus?” We have become so used to the rite of the Holy Splashing in Anglo-Catholic parishes that we were shocked to note that at Grace this liquid refreshment had not yet come into fashion. The celebrant was now at the foot of the altar making his preparation with the customary bowing, fawning and wriggling. Next he mounted the steps and began the Rite of Fumigation. Not a devil nor a moth could have withstood the swings of this acrid smelling smudge. Just the thing, we thought, for our porch this summer when the mosquitoes get bad. The technique of this celebrant in the swishing of the tiny Vesuvius is to be mentioned and, like the man on the flying trapeze, we thought, he swings with “a well mannered ease.” O alas, and alack. One of the candles was giving trouble. It sputtered and carried on until a daring acolyte snuffed-it. Now, dear reader, we are in a quandary. Was the Mass a valid one, with one of the six office lights gone bad? O dear, to think that we really might of missed Mass that Sunday. The poor celebrant was so put out that he muffed his next aria and went horribly off key as he intoned collect after collect. At the gospel a second fumigation took place and the celebrant passed a few curls of the smoke over the Missal ere he sang from it. The Creed came next and we wondered how it was that the Fathers of Grace have not advanced the Gloria to a position in the beginning of the Mass. The Romans have it at the beginning of the Mass, and so do St. Mary’s and St. Ignatius’ and the Prayer Book orders it at the end of the Holy Communion. Here, you see, are a number of reasons why Anglo-Catholics love to introduce the Gloria right after the Kyrie. Throughout the Mass we were delighted at the change in the lighting effects. Now the nave was in darkness, now special lights played upon the celebrant and then again the whole chancel was bathed in light. We remembered the last time we dropped into the Radio City Music Hall for a ballet and we called to mind, as we sat in Grace Church, that Anglo-Catholics do afford a nice sort of ballet divertisement in the Protestant Episcopal Church. When the time came for the people to communicate the celebrant turned to the people, blessed them with the Host, and turned to the altar and consumed the Communion before any in the congregation could file to the altar-rail. This done the blessing was given and the celebrant retired to the gospel side of the altar to recite the last gospel. No kiss of peace was given, and the only osculations that were part of the service were those that the celebrant from time to time implanted on the mensa. On the way out the Father Rector in biretta and cassock greeted the folks as they passed out onto Broad Street.

While in Newark we decided to kill two birds with one stone and visit the other center of the cult, The House of Prayer. If it were possible to kill two parishes with one stone we certainly know two in Newark that would invite our aim. Across the railway tracks in a nondescript neighborhood lies this parish. The place is ancient and the rectory a building of historic interest dating from the days of the American Revolution. These were the days before Protestant Episcopal parishes bore on their door the notices that appeared on the entrance to the House of Prayer. The list included Low Masses, Sung Mass, E. P. & Benediction. The interior is dull, dank and dingy. A table offered the series of tracts by the Holy Cross Fathers. Colored Stations of the Cross point the faithful on a sacred jaunt. Side altars abound. On one of these is a crucifix encrusted with scores of paste rubies. Before the high altar a red lamp indicated that this parish too maintains the Preserved Wafer. Some forty or fifty candles, were set on the table. More in numbers, we are told, than heads in the congregation at the estimable Sung Mass. Hither and yon were glass pots for the reception of pennies. The House of Prayer is raising an organ fund to which Anglo-Catholic readers of this page might wish to contribute. Send your mite to the Rector, The House of Prayer, Newark, N. J., and assist him in his drive for a “mile of pennies”.

And so we took our leave of Newark in a sympathetic mode. Here too, Protestant Episcopalians must stand up and fight the menace that is threatening the very life of our church with its insistence on doctrines and superstitions that were cast off by thinking people at the time of the Reformation and which have no place in a modern world of intellectual freedom.

The Chronicle (Poughkeepsie), July, 1934, pp. 242-243.

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