The Torok Case (1936)

THE CONTROVERSY over the case of Bishop Torok has broken out anew, the latest developments in it being the appeal by Bishop Manning and six other bishops for an investigation by the House of Bishops and the statement of Bishop Wilson that he has asked Dr. Torok to refrain from participating in the consecration of any bishop or ordaining any priest until the matter can again come before the House of Bishops. The curious thing about this whole unfortunate controversy is that both parties are demanding the same thing—an investigation by the House of Bishops. To ,the impartial observer it would certainly seem that the decision of the question as to the status of Bishop Torok and the desirability of admitting him as a bishop in the Episcopal Church is plainly a question for the House of Bishops to determine. However, the House of Bishops has twice had the opportunity of making a definite ruling on this whole matter—at Atlantic City in 1934 and at Houston in 1935—and twice has failed to do so. The first time the House rejected the election of Dr. Torok as Suffragan Bishop of Eau Claire but did not pass on the questions of the validity of his consecration or his status so far as the Episcopal Church is concerned. The Presiding Bishop accordingly appointed a committee to investigate these matters and that committee reported at the session of the House in Houston last November. It appears now that the bishops at Houston neither accepted nor rejected this report but declined even to receive it officially. In short, they simply dodged the whole issue.

Because the House of Bishops did not face this question fairly and squarely as it ought to have done a very grave misunderstanding and confusion has resulted. Bishop Wilson interpreted the silence of the House as giving tacit consent to his reception of Dr. Torok as a bishop in the Episcopal Church, and proceeded to do so within two weeks of the meeting of the bishops. Bishop Manning and his associates derived a directly contrary meaning from the silence of the House, and in their present protest they make out a very strong case, though we think not a conclusive one, against the acknowledgment of Dr. Torok as a bishop in the Episcopal Church.

It seems to us that both parties to the controversy are acting in good faith and-are justified in their contrary views of the attitude of the House of Bishops. If the House had simply had the courage to state definitely either (a) that Bishop Torek’s orders were valid and that he might be received as a bishop in the Episcopal Church, giving also some indication of how that acknowledgment should be made, or (b) that his orders were not valid or that for some other reason he should not be acknowledged as a bishop in the Episcopal Church—if the House had taken either of these reasonable attitudes the whole question could have been settled very easily. At Atlantic City and again at Houston a year later, the House of Bishops had the opportunity of taking such action. By choosing instead to pursue a vague and indefinite course and to postpone the day of judgment, the bishops corporately have taken upon themselves the responsibility for a controversy that was unnecessary and that cannot fail to injure the good name of the Church.

We realize that what we have said will not be popular with either party to the controversy and will bring The Living Church into further disrepute among the bishops of the Church. We feel nevertheless that the duty of the Church press is to express its opinion frankly on matters of grave importance to the Church, and that we have conscientiously tried to do. Justice to Bishops Wilson and Torok and the good name of the Church require that the House of Bishops cease evading the issue and render a clear, unequivocal, public decision in the matter at its next meeting.

The Living Church, January 25, 1936, p. 95.

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