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The supreme tribunal of the House of Lords decided recently that the gift of money in trust for the Order of Discalced Nuns, engaged in a contemplative life, is not a gift for a charitable purpose, hence the bequest was declared to be null and void. This decision is held to be a refutation of the Common Law of England, that recognized the Christian faith, including the legitimacy of financial provision for the worship of God, as well as prayers for the living and the dead.
This decision is not surprising, for, as The Tablet of London noted in discussing the Established Church, the Law Lords declared in 1917, by a majority of four to one, that Christianity is no longer the law of England. "My Lords," said Lord Sumner in addressing the House of Lords, "with all respect for the great mass of lawyers who have used it, the phrase 'Christianity is part of the law of England,' is really not law, it is rhetoric."
In the "History of English Law," Holdsworth, the author, says: "It is true that there is still an Established Church; that the King is still its supreme governor, and the defender of the faith; that its law is still the King's ecclesiastical law, and an integral part of the law of England. But like many other parts of the law and constitution of England, these are survivals of an older order, from which all meaning has departed."
This year, when the Anglicans are observing the 400th anniversary of the Book of Common Prayer, religious conditions must be discouraging to the powers that be in Britain's National Protestant Church. On the other hand, encouraging is the progress of the Catholic Church; the Church that the Anglican Communion, with its Book of Common Prayer, was instituted to drive into oblivion. The decline of religion among Britain's non-Catholic population was reflected in the report that 40 per cent of the young men who served their country during the recent war, were unable to say the Lord's Prayer. Just imagine how much larger the percentage would have been if the "RC" soldiers were not included in the religious survey reported.
Naturally, we are pleased with the progress the Church is enjoying in its endeavor to make England once more "Merri England," which was Catholic England. Catholics who numbered 1 in 150 of the population at the end of the 18th century, now number 1 in 16. Catholics numbered 3,577,890 in 1947, which was only 114,833 less than the membership of the Anglican Church that is politically, socially and financially favored by the Government. A survey by the Daily Graphic of London showed that twice as many Catholics per thousand of England's population than Non-conformists go to church weekly; and twice as many Non-conformists than members of the Church of England attend church services. The Warden of the G. K. Chesterton home for convert ministers, reported that clergymen and their families are passing in growing numbers from Protestantism to Catholicism. He says the average is 28 a year, whereas the average was only 12 a year before the war.
The persecution Catholics have had to endure in Britain, makes the story of the progress of the Church in that land more interesting than is its progress in the United States. She suffered intense persecution from the time of the vicious reign of Henry VIII and "Good Queen Bess," until far into the 19th century. The Catholic Church was outlawed, her property confiscated, many of her bishops, priests, and faithful laity imprisoned, tortured, and put to death; just as the Catholic Church, and her children, are being prosecuted and persecuted by the Communists today in Moscow-dominated countries. A penalty was imposed upon persons who failed to attend Anglican Protestant Church services, where the Book of Common Prayer, with its 39 Articles, was used, in which the "Romish Church" is condemned; transubstantiation declared "to be repugnant to Scripture," and the "offering of Masses" is called "blasphemous fables and dangerous conceits."
The 400th Anniversary, being celebrated during this year in honor of the Book of Common Prayer, calls to mind the totalitarianism of the Germany of Luther! the totalitarianism of the Geneva of Calvin; as well as the totalitarianism of the Britain of Henry, Edward and Elizabeth, that gave birth to the anti-Catholicism that is Protestantism, the principles of which led finally to Communism.
This Book of Common Prayer, the product of Thomas Cranmer, the apostate Archbishop of Canterbury, was foisted upon the people of Britain against their will. Catholics who attempted to prevent its use were fined a hundred pounds for the first offense; two hundred for the second; and suffered the confiscation of their goods and life imprisonment for the third offense.
As far as the Church is concerned, she always expects to be crucified, as was her Founder. But she knows that after the cru- cifixion, comes the resurrection, as it did in Britain; and as it will come again, after the crucifixion she is enduring in the Lands-of-Socialism-Applied shall have been a thing of the historic past. But the pity of all this is that millions of present day Protestants ---the Oxnams included---are outside the Christ-instituted Catholic Church, because their 16th and 17th century forebears were forcibly deprived of her teachings and guidance; just as the Communist persecution of our Church today is likely to cause millions of descendants of present-day Catholics, in Kremlin-dominated lands, to be the enemies of the Church of their forefathers.
DISCRIMINATION: BRITISH ELECTION LAW
It was interesting to learn through the Pittsburgh Catholic, in its straight-shooting "To The Point" column that we often read with profit, of the curious quirks in British election laws. For instance, British subjects in Holy Orders are barred from being candidates for Parliament. Hence Catholic priests and Anglican ministers are deprived of the privilege of running for the House of Commons; but not Baptist, Methodist, and other ministers of Protestant sects that have not this rite of ordination. Again, persons held in involuntary servitude, that is, inmates of British prisons, are furnished with ballots during elections; whereas the 16 Carmelite cloistered nuns, voluntarily confined to their convents, were refused the voting privilege they applied for.
CATHOLICISM IN (1953) ENGLAND
Our interest in the status of religion in Britain was awakened by the figures in the 1953 British Catholic Directory. The report therein of a large Catholic Church affiliation is interesting, com- ing, as it does, from a country in which Catholicism had been out- lawed, and faithful Catholics treated as cruelly, if not more so, than are Catholics in the Lands-of-Socialism-Applied.
Catholics in England and Wales are shown in this Directory to number 2,848,400 regular members of parishes. Added to this are Scotland and Northern Ireland (which with England and Wales form the United Kingdom), that harbor respectively 1,000,000 and 500,000 parish affiliated Catholics. This brings the total to about four-and-a-half million who are known to the clergy, an increase of 40,700 from 1952 to 1953. This British Catholic Directory also shows a corresponding increase in the number of priests, churches, chapels, and schools.
The Catholic increase is in striking contrast to the decline of membership in the Church of the vicious, persecutors of Cath- olics, whose anti-Catholicism during the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries, reduced the number of Catholics in England and Wales to 70,000 in 1780.
The Anglican Church has been steadily declining in membership and influence, despite its governmental support and its social status, due in part to the reigning Sovereign being the "Supreme Governor" of this Church by Law Established. The membership of this Protestant Church is relatively not much more than the membership of the Catholic Church. Its decline can best be traced through the number of its clergy. Noting this, "The Spectator" of London said, that the clergy, who numbered 22,000 in 1944, had since been dropping at such a rate, that it is likely to have not more than 10,000 in 1960.
This decline is not surprising, considering the doctrinal conglomeration in the Anglican Church, that is boastfully called "comprehensive." Members may be Unitarians, Modernists, Marxists, or "Anglo Catholics," and be in good standing. They may deny the Virgin Birth; the Divinity of Christ; even be internationally prominent Communist apologists, and remain Bishops or Deans therein. Some ministers in this Doctrinal Confusion may call themselves "priests," as some do, despite the fact that they were not ordained for priestly functions. They may profess belief in transubstantiation, say "Mass," profess belief in the seven Sacraments, when their Church officially declares that there are only two Sacraments; and dubs sacred Catholic beliefs and practices, that these Anglo Catholics ape, to be blasphemous fables, and dangerous conceits.
Anglicanism broke the religious unity that began to be brought about in the Heptarchy (the Seven Kingdoms that became England) through the work of St. Augustine (d. 604 A.D.) and the 40 Italian Monks, sent to Britain by Pope Gregory the Great, followed by Theodore (602-690 A.D.). The Christian unity was broken, as readers of THE PILOT know, by Henry VIII, Edward VI, and Elizabeth I. Catholic Church property was confiscated, includ- ing Westminster Abbey in which Elizabeth II is to be crowned. Catholic priests, and the faithful Catholic laity, were arrested, tortured, and put to death, for professing and practicing things Catholic.
We could rejoice at the decline of the number of clergy and members of the Church of England, IF it meant returning to the Church of their pre-16th century forebears. But, sorry to say, the majority of them have departed so far from religion, that Dr. Stephen Spinks, editor of the Hibbert Journal, says in his "Religion in Britain Since 1900," that "80 per cent of the population of England, under 30 years of age, cannot name the Four Gospels."
While the vicious persecution of Catholics in Britain is of the historic past, there still lingers some petty restrictions. For in- stance, no Catholic Bishop may assume a territorial title, unless it is conferred by the Crown. Hence the Catholic name Archbishop of Canterbury, or of York, or names of other age-old Sees, that were originated by, and linked to the Apostolic See of Rome, are reserved for the bishops in the Church of "Good Queen Bess." Besides this, messages addressed by the Catholic hierarchy in the United Kingdom to the Crown, or Government officials, are returned if they designate themselves therein as Catholics. British law says they are, what the 16th century Elizabeth dubbed them, "Roman Catholics," and must so designate themselves to have their communications considered.
Catholics have suffered from persecution throughout the Chris- tian centuries; but their Church has lived on, being the indestructible Mystical Body of Christ. The enemy has always had the power to restrict her activity, as was demonstrated in Britain, but she has had, and continues to have, a comeback power no other Church has, that has bewildered her enemies. This was noted by Macaulay, the British historian and statesman. He declared, "We have heard it said that the world is constantly becoming more and more enlightened, and that, this enlightenment must be favorable to Protestantism, and unfavorable to Catholicism. We wish we could think so ...Protestantism has made no conquests worth speaking of since the Reformation. Nay, we believe that, as far as there has been a change, the change has, as a whole, been in favor of the Church of Rome. ..Four times has the human intellect risen up against her yoke. Twice she came forth from the conflict bearing the marks of cruel wounds, but with the principle of life still strong withiN. When we reflect of the tremendous assaults which she has survived, we find it difficult to conceive in what way she is to perish...It is remarkable, that neither the moral counter-revolution of the 19th, should in any perceptible degree, have added to the domain of Protestantism. During the former period, whatever was lost to Catholicism was lost to Chris- tianity; during the latter, whatever was regained by Christianity in Catholic communities have, since the Reformation, become infidel and become Catholic again; but none have become Protestant."
Too bad Macaulay did not realize the basic cause of the revival of the Catholic Church in England, and in other persecuting lands throughout the Christian ages; Too bad he did not realize that the "principle of life still (remained) strong within" the Catholic Church, despite the "tremendous assaults" she had to endure, because she is the Church that Christ established; the Church within which Christ abides; the Church against which Christ said "the gates of hell" would endeavor to prevail, but would not succeed.