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Address For A Return
28 March 1867
Volume 186
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rose to move an Address for a Return of any Actions brought or Penalties recovered under the 2nd clause of 14 & 15 Vict. c. 60, commonly called "The Ecclesiastical Titles Act." He avowed that he believed the answer to such Motion would be nil, and that if he were to enlarge his inquiry he should be informed that it would be impossible to bring any action under the measure. He thought it right, however, to call the attention of their Lordships, and through them of the public, who did not appear to be sufficiently aware of the circumstances, to the condition of the Act. In the year 1851 there broke out in this country a sort of moral fever, which sometimes affected the body politic as a cattle plague or cholera would the animal body. It broke out in the shape of a "No Popery" cry, in consequence of a bull issued by the Pope, which roused all the Protestant bigotry against the Roman Catholic bigotry of the country. A Bill was then brought in by his noble Friend (Earl Russell), not now in his place, into which the most objectionable clauses were introduced by the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack, and it was carried by considerable majorities. He was happy to say that there were some who were not carried away by the cry which was raised at that time. Sir James Graham took a great part in resisting the measure, and he himself (Lord Lyveden) had the satisfaction of thinking that, though a humble follower of the noble Lord who introduced the Bill, he on that occasion voted against him. Well, the Bill had been perfectly inoperative and inefficient, as might have been expected. In the meantime, it had been violently declaimed against. Dr. Manning said that he thought it his plain duty, as a Christian and a gentleman, to violate the statute law of the country every day of his life. He had been told that the Roman Catholic Bishops were not very anxious to see the Act repealed; but with that their Lordships had nothing to do. If the Roman Catholics were agitating about any question, their Lordships would be told that they should not yield to Roman Catholic clamour; if they were perfectly quiescent, then it would be said it was better to leave things undisturbed. Now, it appeared to him that to keep up a useless cause of irritation was always unseemly. Their Lordships would be told that what the Irish Roman Catholics wanted was not to see this Act repealed; but they wished for some alteration in the position of the Church of England in Ireland. He should be willing to act with them on that subject if he saw any possibility of success; but it seemed to him so hopeless an attempt to try to accommodate the Church of England in Ireland to Irish tastes that he must recede from the task. With the views entertained by members of the Church of England here, and also by Dissenters, nothing could be done. They had to consider whether, since they could not relieve the greater grievance, they should not remove the less. In his opinion it would be beneficial to have it known that the reverend Prelates of the Church of England were not unwilling to remove this cause of irritation, which could not be considered as any security to the Church, but had rather the effect of rendering it weaker. He had great hopes in the First Lord of the Treasury for the repeal of this Act; because on the occasion of the Oaths Bill last year being brought forward a second time he very wisely, after an opposition, yielded to the wishes of his Roman Catholic fellow-countrymen, and upon the passage of the Ecclesiastical Titles Act the noble Earl, he found, expressed no approbation of it. In the present state of Ireland it was the duty of their Lordships especially to consider every possible grievance that tended to keep the Catholics in a state of uneasiness and disaffection. The Roman Catholic priesthood had acted in a most exemplary manner during the late insurrection, and anything which deprived them of the position which they ought to enjoy in the eyes of Irishmen ought to be removed. He was quite aware that a Bill on the subject had been brought into the other House, but that was no reason why their Lordships should not entertain the question; and, as no member of the Government had been present to express an opinion on the Bill in the House of Commons, he hoped some of them would do so now. He had always thought the Act in question a most impolitic piece of legislation; it had been totally inoperative, and he would ask their Lordships whether it was well to maintain it upon the statute book? Its removal would be no step towards the destruction of the Church of England; but, on the contrary, would rather strengthen it, by showing that Parliament, whenever it had an opportunity, was willing to conciliate the Roman Catholics, and would not insist upon the continuance of an Act which had been passed in a time of fever and excitement.

Moved, That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty for, Return of any Actions brought or Penalties recovered under the Second Clause of Cap. 60., 14th and 15th Vict., commonly called "The Ecclesiastical Titles Act."—(The Lord Lyveden.)

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as a humble member of the Roman Catholic body, wished to tender his best thanks to the noble Lord (Lord Lyveden) for the manner in which he had brought this question forward. The noble Lord had said that some of the Roman Catholic prelates were not anxious that this question should be pursued at the present moment; but the reason was that they thought its discussion inopportune, because the public mind was occupied by so many other things of greater importance, and they believed that to raise the question now might irritate some ultra-Protestant minds. But it was no reason why their Lordships should not repeal an objectionable law that the public mind was in a state of quiescence upon the subject. The operation of the Act caused great inconvenience in framing deeds relating to charities. Supposing that in such deeds a Roman Catholic bishop were constituted a trustee, there was a difficulty in indicating him, except by all sorts of circumlocution, otherwise Roman Catholics ran the risk of rendering some of their charities legally inoperative. This was the only inconvenience felt in England; but in Ireland the subject was felt to be one of great importance. It was admitted on all hands that during the late disturbance the Roman Catholic prelates there had shown themselves entitled to the confidence of the Government from their loyalty and their anxiety to maintain the cause of good government and good order; and therefore any means of bringing them into closer relation with the Government would be of advantage. Now, the noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Kimberley) must, during his Viceroyalty, have desired to see at his levées some of the Roman Catholic prelates; but it was impossible for them to go there unless their proper status were recognised, and they were called by the titles by which they were usually known, neither could they fill a position of adequate usefulness while this law was in force. It was surely a small thing to ask that this Ecclesiastical Titles Act should be repealed; and he hoped that his Protestant fellow-countrymen had come to the conclusion that Roman Catholics did not, by the assumption of these titles, make any territorial claims. These titles were taken according to canon law, for the purpose of designating individuals in a regular constituted hierarchy. The Ecclesiastical Titles Act had been utterly inoperative, and he fully believed that the Return now moved for, if it were made, would be nil; but the existence of this statute was irritating and positively inconvenient, as he had shown, to Catholics, while it afforded no commensurate security to the Anglican establishment, and its repeal would be received with gratitude by the Roman Catholics both of England and Ireland.

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being the only representative in the House of either the English or Irish Prelates, desired to express his entire concurrence in the views expressed by the noble Lord (Lord Lyveden). While the Ecclesiastical Titles Act was inoperative, it was irritating to a large number of the members of the Roman Catholic Church, and he was quite sure that its repeal would be viewed with satisfaction by all right-minded members of the Protestant communion. Had he had the honour of a seat in their Lordships' House when the Bill was brought forward there he should certainly have recorded his vote against it; and it was a pleasure to him now that the subject was again before their Lordships to express his entire concurrence in the suggestion that it should be repealed.

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So far as the Return which has been moved for is concerned, there cannot be the slightest objection to its production. It would involve no considerable expense or delay, for as no proceedings have been instituted under the Act, the Return will be nil. But I hope I shall be forgiven if I decline to enter into a discussion of the policy of the repeal of this Act. If the noble Lord intends to propose the repeal he will no doubt give notice to the noble Earl the author of the Act (Earl Russell), whose absence from the House I notice with great regret. Now, my Lords, what has been said by my noble Friend behind me (the Earl of Denbigh) seems to me to indicate the expediency of proceeding with great caution in this matter; because my noble Friend told us that, except in regard to certain cases of charities, no practical inconvenience has resulted from the operation of the Act in England. Well, so far as any practical inconveniences are or may be complained of by the Roman Catholic prelates, I am quite sure that at all times both this and the other House of Parliament have every desire to remove everything of that kind. But my noble Friend went further, and pointed out one question which I think he will see, upon consideration, is just the question likely to raise again those strong feelings of irritation which first led to the passing of the Act. My noble Friend argued that the Act, though only inconvenient in England, had a very different effect in Ireland. Now, what is the cause of this difference? Because in England the Roman Catholic Bishops have not adopted territorial titles in rivalry with the Bishops of the Church that is recognised by the law; whereas in Ireland the Roman Catholic titles are in a position of antagonism and rivalry to those recognised by law, I remember a fact which shows how our own Church acts in such cases. When a Protestant Bishop was about to be appointed at Malta it was objected that there was already a Roman Catholic Bishop of Malta, and that the appointment of a Protestant prelate might appear to be an invasion of the rights of the Roman Catholic Bishop. The title of Bishop of Malta was therefore dropped, and that of Bishop of Gibraltar substituted. My noble Friend said that in Ireland the Roman Catholic Bishops have only adopted the titles to which they are entitled by the canon law. But I must observe that this just touches the sore point—is the law of the realm, or the canon law to prevail with regard to ecclesiastical titles in Ireland? It may be a matter of insignificance in itself; but it is just the point which, if agitated, is likely to raise all the ill-feeling between the two Churches which, happily, is subsiding day by day, and which, as far as this particular question is concerned, has sunk into absolute indifference. I repeat I will abstain from expressing any opinion as to the expediency of repealing the law, which I admit, and am happy to admit, is practically a dead letter in all respects; but I should very greatly regret that this question, which at present excites no feeling at all, should be made an occasion of bitterness and acrimony which I am most anxious to see disappear altogether between the members of the two Churches.

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My Lords, as I have been appealed to on this question I am unwilling to allow the occasion to pass without saying a few words. In the first place, I think it right to confess that I was one of those who voted for the Ecclesiastical Titles Bill in this House. I was at that time a very young Member of the House, and since then I have regretted, and shall never cease to regret, that vote, for I think the Act was a great mistake. As it is now the law of the land, no doubt, as the noble Earl at the head of the Government says, so grave a subject ought to be approached with great caution. It cannot be treated lightly; because there is no doubt that the policy which dictated the passing of that Act did express the feelings of a large portion of the English people; and, as the noble Earl reminds us, there is a great danger lest in touching such a question you may revive the acrimony which all of us, on whichever side of the House we may sit, wish to see buried for ever. But, unfor- tunately, besides England, there is another country called Ireland, and in that country the Ecclesiastical Titles Act, which here, I believe, excites no animosity, still creates very considerable heart, burnings, and does, I am quite convinced, stand in the way of some substantial improvement in the relations between the British Government and the Irish people. Owing to the great influence which the Roman Catholic prelates exercise in Ireland, everything which prejudicially affects their dignity and status has a great effect upon the feelings and opinions of the Irish people; and I am sure that, slight as this question of dignity may appear to some of your Lordships, the repeal of this law would give great satisfaction to the hearts of all the members of the Roman Catholic communion in Ireland. As to what fell from the noble Earl upon the question of admitting that Roman Catholic prelates may take the same titles as those held by Protestant prelates, the fact is that they are so designated, and that the law is, in practice, violated day by day. Of course, the Irish Government are careful in addressing them to keep within the strict bounds of the law, and invariably avoid giving these titles to the Roman Catholic prelates. But, in point of fact, they do assume these titles, which are generally given to them by the people, and they are universally recognised in spite of the Act. The reason is that they have been continuously assumed in Ireland; white in this country there were no Roman Catholic Bishops for some time, and consequently when they were appointed they abstained from taking the titles of the existing Protestant Bishops in this country. Having said thus much, I confess I shall see with the greatest pleasure the repeal of this Act; and I do hope that the good sense of English Protestants will lead them to see that in this country the Act furnishes no security whatever for the Protestant religion, and that so far as it operates at all it operates in a direction that is very undesirable. No man values more than I do the principles of Protestantism; but I do not wish to continue on the statute book an Act which is a dead letter, which is irritating to a portion of the subjects of Her Majesty, and which I believe serves no good object whatever.

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My Lords, I freely acknowledge, with the noble Earl who has just spoken (the Earl of Kimberley), that the passing of the Ecclesiastical Titles Bill was a very great mistake. At the time I reluctantly acquiesced in it, because I was assured that it was necessary to do something to soothe the excited feelings of the moment; but I did not assent to the passing of the Bill until I had fully satisfied myself that it could not lead to any practical result whatever, and that it could impose no practical hardship upon those to whom it applied. Even so, I think that it was a mistake to have been a party to that Act; I did not sufficiently consider that, although it would inflict no practical hardship upon Roman Catholics, it was calculated to irritate their feelings. But I must observe that the Act was not quite so objectionable as my noble Friend (Lord Lyveden) supposes; because it made little practical difference in the state of the law as regards Ireland. The Emancipation Act of 1829 had already prohibited any Roman Catholic prelates in the United Kingdom from assuming titles borne by prelates of the Established Church. The appointment of Roman Catholic prelates which had then just been made in England by the Pope, was not illegal under this part of the Act of 1829; because the titles conferred upon them were not those borne by prelates of the Established Church, in which there is no Archbishop of Westminster or Bishop of Birmingham or Hexham. The assumption of these titles by Roman Catholic prelates was not therefore contrary to law until the new Act was passed. But in Ireland the Roman Catholic prelates almost all take the title of sees of the Established Church, which had been already prohibited in 1829, so that little or no practical change was made as regards that country. Granting the Ecclesiastical Titles Act to have been a mistake, and granting that it is generally wrong to allow to remain on the statute book a law that is entirely inoperative, still I am inclined to agree with the noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Derby) in doubting the expediency of raising the question of its repeal now; because we are informed that the prelates of the Roman Catholic Church are not anxious that it should be brought forward. We also know that this is a subject of much delicacy, and it is possible that in dealing with it we might rouse feelings in this country which it would be far better to leave in quiet. My principal reason for expressing the opinion I do is that I am convinced the time must come, and come speedily, when you will have to look into the whole question of the state of the Church in Ireland. I adhere to the opinion I expressed last year that if Parliament does its duty not many years, or even months, ought to elapse before the question is brought forward. This being the case I much doubt whether it would be wise to interfere with the Ecclesiastical Titles Act now, since it would hardly be worth while to raise the feeling which might be aroused by attempting to deal with this subject until there is some real and substantial object to be gained. When you are prepared to consider and deal with the whole question of the Irish Church as it requires to be considered, no fear of popular prejudice that may be excited ought to prevent your doing justice; but, in the meantime, and looking forward to the ultimate settlement of the whole question, I feel that it would be more wise and prudent to allow this matter at present to remain in abeyance.

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My Lords, I am in a somewhat different position from my noble Friend, having been one of the small minority of the House of Commons who voted against the Ecclesiastical Titles Bill. I was of opinion that the passing of that Bill originally was a great error, and I have since been confirmed in that opinion; but while I think we made a mistake then, I agree with the noble Earl that it would be unwise to open the question now when no practical object can be gained by so doing, and that we may well postpone it until such period as we consider the whole question of the position of the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland. Although I think it was an error to pass the Act, and it has been inoperative, still I think it inexpedient to raise questions now which may cause some irritation of feeling.

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said, he was one of those who supported the Ecclesiastical Titles Bill when it was brought in, and now he was ready and anxious to support the repeal of it, and he was as sincere in supporting it as he was now in desiring to see it repealed. They had been reminded that the Act was passed in a moment of great excitement. There was indeed at that time a great outcry, which was not entirely groundless; and he certainly thought, until he heard what fell from the noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Derby), that it had been entirely harmless. But while there was some justification for passing the Act originally, it was perfectly reasonable to repeal it now, to let bygones be bygones, and to let Roman Catholic bishops be legally designated by the names of the sees which they essentially governed.

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said, he desired to add his name to those of the noble Lords who, in 1851, voted for the Ecclesiastical Titles Bill, and would repeal it now. He had since seen reasons to doubt the propriety of the vote he gave, and to regret that he should have been a party to the passing of an Act which seemed to him to have caused a great deal of irritation on one side without giving corresponding security on the other For all practical purposes the Act had remained inoperative, and there was nothing he thought more open to objection than the willingness to leave upon the statute book Acts which were a dead letter, and were meant to be a dead letter, without the smallest practical effect. He should therefore be ready at any favourable opportunity, and in accordance with the public judgment, to vote for the repeal of this Act. He would allow that there was some weight in the argument of the noble Earl (the Earl of Derby), that the repeal of the Act would cause some irritation in the minds of those who originally proposed it, if they could be sure other questions would remain in abeyance; but their Lordships should remember that a cognate question had just been raised in the House of Commons, where a Bill had been introduced proposing to modify one of the clauses of the Catholic Emancipation Act, which required that the holder of the Great Seal in Ireland should always be a Protestant, that Government had supported that Bill, and that the Chief Secretary for Ireland (Lord Naas) had voted for the second reading. This was one of the questions that would probably cause some irritation, and if encountered in respect of that question it might as well be met in relation to this Bill. He thought the good sense of Protestants might be appealed to, not to contend for the retention on the statute book of an Act which afforded no valid security to their religion. His argument, then, was that as similar subjects were continually, month after month, being raised in the House of Commons, it might be advisable that in this, as in the other matter, satisfaction should be afforded to our Roman Catholic fellow-subjects.

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said, the policy of the repeal of the Ecclesiastical Titles Act required grave consideration. Their Lordships should remember what led to the passing of the Act. It was the appointment of Bishops to sees in England by the Pope; and the Act of Parliament was a protest on the part of the people of England against such an assumption of power of the Pope, and against his right to create territorial ecclesiastical titles in this country. This being so, the repeal of the Act might be taken in some quarters as an admission of the right thus protested against. This was a question that should be gravely considered.

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My Lords, I rise for the purpose of correcting a misapprehension of the noble Lord (Lord Lyveden) who introduced this subject. The noble Lord attributed to me the authorship of the penal clause of the Ecclesiastical Titles Act. This penal clause existed in the Bill, as originally introduced, and I moved an Amendment, the exact effect of which I do not recollect; but it was designed to render the clause more efficient; but which has remained inefficient like the whole of the Bill. It was directed only against the assumption of titles, and therefore persons might give titles as much as they pleased; but if a prelate did not assume titles no penalty could be imposed. I think the noble Lord ought to enlarge his Motion, and ask for a Return of the cases in which the law has been broken.

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I am reluctant in this very candid discussion not to take my part and make a candid confession myself. I cannot say I wish to recant. At the time the Ecclesiastical Titles Act was passed I was not in the Cabinet, though I held a subordinate office in the Government. I know at that time I held exactly the same opinion of the Bill I do now; yet I never voted more conscientiously for any measure than I did for that measure. I remember hearing at that time a speech made by Sir Roundell Palmer in the House of Commons, which I thought was conclusive as to the merits of the Bill. But what was the position? I do not know what passed in the Cabinet at the time they were considering it; but it was obvious that, rightly or wrongly, the country wanted the measure. The Pope had erected dioceses in this country, and whether that was right or wrong, I think that it was done in a very injudicious manner. That act of the Pope's led to great excitement and resentment in this country—indeed, I hardly remember a more universal feeling to have existed among all classes of Englishmen than was excited by that measure—and it was very doubtful whether we should not be driven into very intolerant action with regard to our Roman Catholic fellow-subjects. The Ecclesiastical Titles Act did not really trench in any way on the religious liberties of our Roman Catholic fellow-subjects, and many persons were quite delighted to give that kind of sop to the people of this country, in order that they might have time carefully and seriously to consider the real merits of the question. As to the expediency of moving in the matter at the present moment, quite agree that it ought to be made the subject of careful consideration; but, at all events, the noble Lord must be very much pleased at having raised this discussion, as it has been carried on in a spirit which will show all our fellow-subjects who differ from us in religious belief that we have made a considerable advance ill regard to religious toleration.

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in reply, said, he could not agree with the noble Earl at the head of the Government that no practical grievance was created by the Ecclesiastical Titles Bill; because he thought it no small grievance that ecclesiastics of the highest distinction should be continually obliged to violate the law of their country. For instance, Dr. Moriarty called himself Bishop of Kerry, and all the other Irish Catholic prelates assumed the titles of their sees. With reference to the provision which had been referred to, of the Catholic Emancipation Act, he presumed that the Irish Members thought the Ecclesiastical Titles Act inflicted some grievance on Ireland which did not exist before.

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said, he had not stated that the Ecclesiastical Titles Act did not apply to Ireland. It did apply to Ireland; but that was of no consequence, because the Act of 1829 had already prohibited the assumption by Roman Catholic prelates of the title of any see existing in the Established Church. The sees of Roman Catholic prelates did in Ireland take their names from sees in the Established Church, and therefore they came under the provisions of the Act of 1829. In England, however, the Roman Catholic Bishops took their titles from places—such as Westminster, for instance—the names of which were not given to sees in our own Church.

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said, he believed he had proposed the Amendment to extend the Bill to Ireland. He was, however, speaking from memory only, and could not be quite certain on this point.

Motion agreed to.