To the Editor of The Living Church:
WITH reference to the report and article on the above subject in THE LIVING CHURCH of the 20th inst., it is difficult to say whether I am more astonished at the groundless statements, the spirit underlying the report and article, or their appearance in the columns of a journal devoted to the work of the American Church and the standing of your paper.
In passing over the reference to “wandering gentlemen”—the judgment on the taste and language of this paragraph I will submit to readers of THE LIVING CHURCH, with a pious hope however that a few of them may wander about in the writer’s social circle.
The writer whilst acknowledging that my participation at the consecration of the Bishop of Cuba “introduced an element that, so far as it goes, would cure the alleged defects in Anglican Orders” which Pope Leo XIII. deemed of sufficient importance to invalidate those orders, yet in his opinion even an event of such far-reaching consequence as that seems insignificant in comparison to what he fears may have occurred—the violation of the letter of some canon, for he quotes with keen approval, evidently, the short-sighted action of Bishop Nicholson at the consecration of Bishop Weller, but every student of Church history to-day knows that on that historic occasion the American Church missed a unique opportunity which the sainted and learned Bishop Grafton of Fond du Lac clearly saw would constitute an important step towards the unity of Christendom. Unfortunately the narrower policy prevailed and the Anglican Church still stands to-day where she then stood, alone—not in communion with any of the other historic Churches of Christendom. Yet the article would still have the Church to-day persist in that calamitous policy-emulate the Bourbons-never learn from experience.
The statement that a technical question only was at issue in regard to that proposed act of full communion, it is difficult to reconcile with the fact that the Bishops named belonged to Churches which were not in communion with the Anglican Church, and, notwithstanding the recognition extended by the House of Bishops and Lambeth Conference, that recognition was all on one side, as subsequent official Russian and Old Catholic decisions only too clearly indicated, so that the action of the Bishops was a purely personal
I am also a member of the Dutch Old Catholic Episcopate, with one intermediary step, as the article truly asserts, precisely in the same order of succession as Monseigneur Herzog, who was consecrated by Bishop Reinkens, and the statement that I “belong to no ecclesiastical body that has been accorded the first vestige of recognition by any Anglican Body” is absolutely untrue, as there are several priests to-day serving in the American Church on Archbishop Mathew’s ordination, some of whom are not many miles from your editorial chair, and not merely priests, but there is also a Bishop of the same orders serving as rector in the Church in America. Even in my own case, I was licensed in an American diocese after my arrival here four months ago. Whilst in England there are two priests at this moment on the same orders licensed and serving in the diocese of London. If these cases do not constitute “a vestige of recognition” perhaps THE LIVING CHURCH will kindly tell us what does. The assertion based again on “common repute,” that I am “only one of a number of gentlemen occupying the like status,” is even more inaccurate than the next report quoted about certificates but which is also incorrect.
Another sweeping and glaring misstatement is that I am one of a number of men admitted to Episcopal Orders in a manner that is ecclesiastically irregular. Here I presume he assumed that I was consecrated by Archbishop Mathew after the resolution of the Bishops of the Union of Utrecht, but as usual it is an erroneous assumption, for although Archbishop Mathew claimed autonomy for the Church in Great Britain and Ireland from the Metropolitan see of Utrecht in 1911, the case was only formally and ecclesiastically pronounced upon at the Old Catholic Congress at Cologne in August, 1913, when the Old Catholic Bishops declared that they found themselves compelled to declare that “they regard as ended their ecclesiastical relations with Bishop Mathew.” This official breach of union between the Continental and English Old Catholics took place some time after my consecration as Regionary Bishop of Scotland. His relations with the Anglican Church, which were gradually straining since the publication of his pamphlet on Anglican Orders, were finally broken off when the Revised Order of Corporate Reunion was founded, through which he as prelate of the order and his Suffragan Bishop conditionally reördained about four hundred priests (mostly beneficed) of the Anglican Church who doubted their own orders; most of these men are still serving in the Church of England.
As Archbishop Mathew and his Bishops, priest, and people were received into union with the Orthodox Church of the East on the fifth of August, 1911, by the Prince Bishop of Beyrouth, consequently those priests of the 0. C. R. are in full communion with the Russian and other Greek Churches.
The assertion that Bishop Mathew has consecrated to the Episcopate “several parties, including myself, whether we accept the statement literally or in the sense in which it is generally understood among the class where such language is current, it is equally inaccurate, for since the establishment of the Old Catholic Church in Great Britain and Ireland and Archbishop Mathew’s consecration for this work by the Archbishop of Utrecht in 1908, he has consecrated altogether seven Bishops, and two of these had previously been nominated Monsignori by Rome, and have since, together with another Bishop, also an ex-Roman Catholic, returned to the Communion of that Church. Another Bishop, as already stated, is serving in the American Church in this country, whilst yet another is prelate of the Order of Corporate Reunion and Suffragan for the Archiepiscopal diocese: one is engaged in diocesan work in England, so I am the only “solitary wandering gentleman” left, and as my wandering to this country was at the suggestion of the Archbishop of Canterbury-of which the Presiding Bishop at the consecration was of course cognizant–I am afraid the solicitude expressed for the Church of England as to any possible embarrassment is misplaced.
Article VIII, Constitutions, quoted in the article, has no bearing whatever on the subject, and although Article VII refers to a “declaration,” it is not applicable to the present case.
I cannot help here contrasting the courtesy I received at the hands of the daily press, with its absence from certain Church journals, for when false reports were sent to some leading New York papers questioning my identity, consecration, and titles, they made full enquiries and enabled me to prove everything, and then amply apologized for the trouble they had given me.
As this letter contains nothing beyond a mere justification of my position, I shall rely on your courtesy and kindness to accord it the same prominence as the report and article, by inserting it in full. Thanking you in anticipation,
I am, yours very truly,
[It is always a misfortune to have questions of courtesy involved with questions of fact and of duty. With respect to any questions of the first nature, if we have been guilty of discourtesy to our correspondent we tender full apology. But the questions of fact and duty cannot thereby be altered. Our correspondent signs himself “Old Catholic Bishop” and now states, “I am also a member of the Dutch Old Catholic Episcopate with one intermediary step.” But two members of the last Old Catholic Congress in Europe, one of them a Bishop, have written us to say that no such Bishop was known to them, and our correspondent’s name does not appear in the list of Bishops of the Old Catholic Churches of Europe in the official year book of that body; while as to his status of Prince, if the embassy at Washington of the nation that recognizes that title would certify to it, any embarrassing misunderstanding would quickly be relieved. A statement has been published from the Austro-Hungarian consulate general in New York that no such title is known to any of the members of that office and that it is not listed in any of the state year books or almanacs available to them. We are not maintaining that these considerations ought to be treated as conclusive, and certainly if “the suggestion of the Archbishop of Canterbury” that our correspondent should come to the American Church was expressed in letters of introduction, clearly showing that the regularity of his consecration had been affirmatively passed upon by the Primate and commending him as Bishop to the American Church, much deference would very properly be shown to such letters. But our point is that the questions thus involved are sufficiently delicate to be referred to the House of Bishops, which has heretofore assumed jurisdiction, relieving individual Bishops of responsibility, when questions have arisen relating to the status of Bishops of foreign ordination whose title was perhaps not altogether clear upon its face. And the same reason that impels the caution of the “official Russian and Old Catholic” bodies, with respect to participation in a consecration within a Church not recognized by them as in full communion, must necessarily weigh equally with the American Church. But as to the incident relating to the consecration of the present Bishop of Fond du Lac, the editor carefully abstained from expressing sympathy with either of the two positions taken by Bishops participating, and prefers to continue that reticence. Our correspondent’s inference as to the editor’s sympathy must therefore be recognized as inference only, and not as receiving the editor’s endorsement by virtue of the fact of its publication.—EDITOR]
—The Living Church (Milwaukee), April 17, 1915, pp. 826-827.