Corporate Reunion [Arnold Harris Mathew and the Order of Corporate Reunion, 1913]

It is difficult to deal adequately with the ecclesiastical vagaries of the gentleman who calls himself Archbishop Mathew, for, drest in no authority whatever (but in a most gorgeous array of Gothic episcopal vestments), he continues to play such fantastic tricks before high Heaven as must surely give the angels cause for some poignant emotion. [We refer to a picture of himself, giving his blessing urbi et orbi, which is presented along with the first issue of The Union Review and may be had for framing, on terms mentioned in that periodical.] His latest enterprize, as announced in The Union Review, intended apparently to be the organ of the body, is to revive the old “Order of Corporate Reunion,” founded by Dr. Lee and others in 1877, and understood to be extinct long ago. But a certain Mr. Oliver Widdrington, writing to the Universe for February 21, protests against the statement that the Order is extinct and repudiates the notion that any surviving members could be so foolish or so ignorant of Catholic principles as to associate themselves with an “heretical Anglo-Dutch schism.” Manifestly one cannot revive what is not dead, and Mr. Widdrington assures us that the old Order is so far alive that it still possesses a “registrar.” However, as this official, according to the same authority, “has not issued notices for many years,” it is not to be wondered at that Archbishop Mathew thought the field clear for a resurrection of the former futile scheme. Readers of the Universe, in which paper a correspondence on the subject has lately appeared, may be puzzled to notice that the “organizing secretary” of the soi-disant revived Order signs himself “Francis Bacon, Bishop,” and gives Archbishop Mathew’s house as his address. I am credibly informed that there is not only an identity of residence but an identity of person between the two, in other words, that Archbishop Mathew uses “Francis Bacon,” one of his noms de plume, a fact which raises curious reflections when we see the two names mentioned separately in the prospectus of the revived Order as its “Honorary Prelates” and notice that “Francis Bacon” sometimes comes forward, for instance, in the Catholic Times of July 19th last year, as the champion of his “friend and superior,” the latter preferring to preserve a dignified silence under attack. Be that as it may, it is plain that the same characteristics of mystery and make-believe which brought to nought the aims of the previous venture are written large over this new attempt.

The whole conception is wrong from the beginning, wrong in its conception, wrong in its methods. God’s message, delivered and authenticated by the Church, is to the individual soul, not to “orders” or “societies.” He who believes that the sect he belongs to should seek reunion with Rome is bound to seek reunion himself, irrespective of the attitude or action of others. “Quid ad te? Tu Me sequere.”To refuse to put oneself personally into harmony with the divinely-appointed organization of the Church, under pretext of doing more for God outside that arrangement, is to assume a wisdom greater than God’s. We notice in these new plans exactly the same fallacies as marked the old, especially the fallacy that sacerdotal and episcopal powers can be lawfully conferred or exercised without jurisdiction, and an inability to see that once one has separated from the Church by schism or heresy one is no longer a Catholic till one has purged oneself of one’s guilt before a competent tribunal. Mr. Mathew may possibly be a Bishop, but he is certainly not a Catholic, he may have orders but he has no mission nor jurisdiction, and his projected association stands condemned, by experience as well as by reason, by its ideals no less than by its methods. If he wishes to re-enter the Fold, he should not try to climb over, much less to burrow under, but should apply to the Keeper of the Door.

—From The Month: An Illustrated Magazine of Literature, Science and Art (London: Longmans, 1913), pp. 294-295.

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Filed under Anglo-Catholicism, Order of Corporate Reunion

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