Arthur Stapylton Barnes.

Bishop Barlow and Anglican orders, a study of the original documents online

. (page 9 of 15)
Online LibraryArthur Stapylton BarnesBishop Barlow and Anglican orders, a study of the original documents → online text (page 9 of 15)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

and men were saying there was ' never a lawful bishop
in England,' and it was only three weeks after that
that Creagh escaped from the Tower, fled to Louvain,
and told Sanders of the pressure that had been put
upon him. Creagh only remained at Louvain a short
time. He returned to Ireland and was recaptured in
1568. He was once more brought to the Tower, and
was kept there in close and harsh captivity till his
death in 1585. There was strong suspicion of poison.
One wonders whether the publication in that same
year of Rishton's book, revealing the fact that Creagh
had spoken at Louvain about these overtures, may not
have been the cause of his death. Dead men tell no
tales. What he had said then did not matter, since
as Rishton had told the story it carried its own refu-
tation. But at least he should have no chance of
himself correcting the mistake that had been made.


Queen Elizabeth's ministers would hardly have hesi-
tated to order the removal by poison or otherwise of
a prisoner whose life was already forfeited by the law,
and who had knowledge of a very inconvenient secret.

After Creagh's refusal there was one way, and one
way only, by which the situation could be saved. The
whole matter could be removed to Parliament. It was by
no means a pleasant alternative, but there was nothing
else to be done. It was bitterly humiliating and could
not fail to set people talking, but it was the only way
out of the impasse, and so it was adopted. The strange
Act 8 Eliz., cap. i, ' An act declaring the making
and consecrating of the archbishops and bishops of
this realm to be good and lawful and perfect,' was the

This Act rehearsed that ' divers questions had
grown by overmuch boldness of speech among the
common sort of people upon the making and conse-
crating of bishops whether the same were duly and
orderly done according to the law or not,' and ' evil
speech was used against the high state of prelacy.'
All this was no doubt true enough, and much of it
had probably arisen from the long delay over Bishop
Bonner's case. All the world knew that Bonner had
boldly said that ' there was never a lawful bishop in
England,' and everyone knew too that for some reason
or other the Government dared not act, but had gone
on deferring the hearing of the case for more than two
years. No wonder if gossip in the meantime had
flourished and increased exceedingly.

Then the Act goes on, very cumbrously and
tediously, to explain that there really were some
grounds for such an opinion. It could not give the


real grounds, for it was precisely in order to keep those
secret that it was being passed, so it had to put forward
others instead, and it was not the fault of those who
had to draft it if these other reasons do not strike
the mind as conclusive. The possible illegality arising
out of the fact that the Ordinal was not originally a
part of the Prayer Book, and therefore was not neces-
sarily authorised by an Act which named the Prayer
Book only, was made to appear as the whole cause for
the action now taken. It was therefore enacted that
all consecrations which had been held according to the
Queen's letters patent since the beginning of her reign
should be held to be valid, and that all bishops so
consecrated should be declared, judged and deemed
good and perfect bishops, notwithstanding anything
to the contrary that could or might be objected.
Whatever flaws, legal or otherwise, there might have
been in what had been done in the past, the supreme
power of the English Parliament, coming to the aid
of the authority of the Supreme Governor of the
Church, now washed away and made good, so that
these consecrations could in no way be attacked for
the future.

By this Act the position of Bishop Home and the
other Elizabethan prelates was indeed established
beyond controversy just so far as their legal status in
England was concerned, but the difficulty of Bonner
still remained. If Home was now certainly legal
Bishop of Winchester, and all his past actions in that
capacity were valid, then Bonner must still be tried
for his life, and the facts which so much pains had been
taken to hide away would quite possibly be dragged
out in court. To avoid this some means must


be found of stopping the suit altogether. It was
attempted first to do this in the Lords, by an amend-
ment restricting the validation of the acts of the bishops
by excepting all such as related to life and property.
But when this went down to the Commons it was
feared that such an amendment might be held in law
to invalidate the leases, etc., which these bishops had
already granted. The desired object was, however,
attained by appending to the Act a second clause,
which provided that no person should be molested on
account of any certificate of any such bishop which had
been sent in prior to the end of the session then in
course, and especially that any tender of the Oath of
Supremacy made by any such bishop before that time
should be void and of no effect. Thus the case
against Bonner was quashed, and all proceedings
stopped, possibly to his own great surprise, as he did
not know to what it was that he owed this unexpected
clemency on the part of his enemies. People generally
must have felt, as historians feel to-day, that it was an
astonishingly great result to have come from so small a
cause as the possible merely technical illegality of the
Ordinal employed. It was comparable to the use of
a Nasmyth steam hammer to break the shell of a walnut.
What was the use of the validating clause issued by
the Supreme Governor at that very consecration if it
could not cover such a trifle as that ? Were the
powers of the Crown over the Church really so very
limited ? It was not thus that Henry and Edward in
the past or, for the matter of that, Elizabeth herself
in the future were ordinarily wont to construe the
powers of their supremacy. Men wondered then, and
historians have wondered ever since, because they had


not the clue which explains everything ; but to this
extent Elizabeth and Cecil had their way, that no one
suspected the real cause, and the secret about Barlow's
consecration remained a secret still.

Two curious documents, to which attention does
not seem to have been drawn hitherto, survive in
Parker's Register 1 and finish up the story. Appar-
ently the judges were not satisfied even with the Act,
and required something more. So, on November 24,
1566, Elizabeth issued a Latin Brief addressed to
Archbishop Parker, and bidding him, before the octave
of St. Hilary next, when the Law Courts would reopen,
make search diligently in his Registers and other
Archives. Whatever he should there find about the
consecration of Robert Home to the see of Winchester,
he was to have engrossed on parchment and send to
the Barons of the Exchequer, properly certified under
his own seal. Parker accordingly, on January 24,
1566-7, makes the report, addressing it to * Honora-
bilibus Viris Dominis Baronibus Scaccarii,' and says
that having searched his Register he has found that on
February 15, 15601, he had confirmed the election
of Robert Home to the see of Winchester, and on the
1 6th of the same month had consecrated him * adhibitis
primitus 2 ceremoniis more Ecclesiae Anglicanae usitafts.'
With this certificate the Barons of the Exchequer were

1 Register, Parker, i, fol. 258.

2 This word primitus was added by Parker himself, the rest
being a quotation from the Register. It is not quite clear what he
can have meant by it. It cannot mean ' for the first time,' for Home's
was by no means the first consecration under the new conditions.
Nor can it well mean simply ' the ceremonies having first been
performed,' which would be doubtful Latin in any case, for the
consecration was itself the sum of those ceremonies.


apparently satisfied, now that the Act had given to all
such consecrations a sanatio ab radice in the eyes of
the law, and so the Bonner case ends. To the last
the real point at issue, the status of Bishop Barlow,
was never divulged to the world at large.



THE discovery of the terrible mistake which had been
made in allowing Barlow to act as consecrating bishop
in the initiation of the new hierarchy must have come
as a thunder-stroke to the authorities of the English
Church, and especially to the Queen herself. To
Parker and the other new bishops it may well have
seemed of little consequence, once their legal position
as parliamentary bishops was secured by the new Act.
For none of them had any real belief in Apostolical
Succession, or would have troubled himself greatly
about the breaking of the chain. To them it was
sufficient that, as Article XXIII puts it, they were
* lawfully called and sent ' and had * public authority
given unto them in the congregation,' and they asked
no more. But to Elizabeth and to Cecil it meant
much more. To Elizabeth it meant an absolute
breach with the Catholic succession, and she had not
lost belief in the doctrine of the sacraments to the
same extent as had the bishops. To both the Queen
and to Cecil it meant, too, a very definite lessening
of bargaining power in case of a reconciliation with
Rome. And while the bishops were all of them eager
to close the door to all negotiations with Rome, well


knowing that their position was hopeless if any such
negotiations were successful, the Queen and her
minister were by no means of the same mind at this
period. They were anxious to keep the door open
and avoid a final breach. At that very moment, in
1566, they were considering the possibility of a matri-
monial alliance with the Archduke Charles, the brother
of the Emperor Maximilian. A few months later there
were negotiations for a marriage with the sixteen-year-
old Charles IX of France. In either case some degree
of reconciliation with Rome could hardly fail to be
the result. Elizabeth herself, too, was sick of her
new Church, of the men whom she had been obliged
to make bishops, and of the ruin they had brought
upon all religion in England. It must have been
most unwelcome tidings that her new succession,
initiated after so great difficulties, was all a sham. At
all hazards, if she were not to be the laughing-stock
of Europe, a position which she of all women would
least desire to occupy, the matter must be rectified so
far as it was still possible. The secret was not yet out,
but still, in case it should become public property,
and who could tell whether it might not do so at any
moment, seeing how many people might possibly still
have personal knowledge on a matter which after all
took place only thirty years before ? all that was
possible must be done to save a situation which
certainly seemed to be lost beyond redemption. If
Barlow himself were not a bishop, how about those
others who consecrated with him ? Could not they,
or one of them, have supplied what was lacking in him
of episcopal character and the power of Order ?

On this subject, the exact nature of the function


of the assistant bishops at a consecration, Anglicans
generally are very much confused in their theology.
It is common to read in their books that all such
bishops always consecrate simultaneously with the
principal consecrator, that this indeed is the very
object for which they are present, and that consequently
Apostolical Succession resembles rather a net than a
chain, and cannot be broken by the failure of any one
bishop. Unfortunately this doctrine, beautiful and
comforting though it be to those who are disturbed
about the validity of their succession, is not true.
It is upset completely by one little fact which they
always fail to take into consideration, namely, that
according to English custom it is the consecrating
bishop alone who pronounces the words which make
up the ' form ' of consecration. It is manifestly use-
less, so far as the transmission of the succession is
concerned, for any number of assistant bishops to join
in the laying on of hands if they do not at the same
time join in the words which constitute the ' form ' of
the sacramental act. It has no effect at all, according
to all Catholic theology, if one bishop lays on hands
while another person, whether a bishop or no, pro-
nounces the words of the ' form.' Such an action would
be adjudged by all theologians to be unquestionably
invalid, for the Church knows nothing of any such
dividing up of a single sacramental action. Yet in
the Ordinal of the Book of Common Prayer, as in all
the Sarum Pontificals which preceded it, the rubric
has always been clear that the archbishop or presiding
bishop and no one else is to pronounce these essential
words. It follows inevitably that the assisting bishops
cannot, at any consecration carried out in accordance


with the Book of Common Prayer, have had any share
in carrying on the succession, supposing them other-
wise to have been fully qualified to do so. There is
a story told of a recent king of England, probably
entirely apocryphal, yet even so its value as an illus-
tration is in no way impaired, that his baptism was
invalid and had to be repeated, because the Arch-
bishop of Canterbury had said the words while the
Archbishop of York had poured the water. Just in
the same way the co-operation, e.g. of Mark Antony
De Dominis, who had been formerly Catholic Arch-
bishop of Spalato, at the consecration of Bishop Felton
in 1617, could have done nothing to bring in the
Catholic succession, as long as the essential words
were pronounced, as they were, only by Archbishop

The general teaching of the Church on the whole
subject is perfectly clear, and is that the function of
assistant bishops at a consecration has nothing what-
ever, ordinarily, to do with the handing on of the suc-
cession. One bishop alone consecrates, and through
him alone can the line of succession normally be
traced. In all cases where the presiding bishop alone
recites the ' form, ' no question can even be raised on
this point. No theologian has ever yet maintained
that anyone can perform any sacramental act whatever
without pronouncing the words which constitute the
4 form ' of the sacrament, or that the essential parts of
a sacramental act can be divided between two persons,
save only in the single case of matrimony, where the
duality of the ministers is of the essence of the sacra-
ment through its nature of a contract.

Even where the assisting prelates do say the words


of the * form ' with the presiding bishop, Catholic
theologians are practically unanimous in teaching that,
here also, the whole consecration is effected by one
only. 1 There can be no question, of course, that con-
secration by a single bishop is valid. The presence
of other bishops is not necessary, although desirable.
In their absence, abbots or even prominent priests
are allowed to act in their stead. There seems
no reason, therefore, to suppose that the function of
assisting bishops at a consecration is in any essential
matter different from that of the assisting presbyters
at an ordination.

On this point the instructions of St. Gregory the
Great to St. Augustine of England, which are quoted
by St. Bede, are worth study. St. Gregory instructs
St. Augustine that, although as long as he is the only
bishop in England he must necessarily act alone, as
soon as other bishops have been consecrated three or
four should come together for all future consecrations,
not for the purpose of ensuring the validity of the
succession, but, as St. Gregory puts it, 'just as other
married couples come together to a marriage to rejoice
with the bridegroom and the bride.' 2

Perhaps St. Gregory here rather minimises the
function of these assisting bishops. Whether they do
or do not pronounce the words of the ' form ' makes
ordinarily no essential difference. The whole onus
of the consecration rests on the presiding bishop, and
the act is his and not theirs. They bring the neophyte
bishop and present him to the presiding bishop, as
Scory and Hodgkins presented Parker to Barlow,

1 See Estcourt, p. 112 seq., for catena of theologians.

2 Baedae, Of era Historica, ed. Plummer, i. 52.


saying, ' Most Reverend Father in God, we present
to you this godly and well learned man to be ordained
and consecrated Bishop.' By these words they
acknowledge that the action to be performed is not
theirs but his, and that their office is merely sub-
ordinate and secondary. But, all the same, they have
a real function to perform and are there for a real and
most important purpose. They are there, to use the
words of Martene, so often quoted by Anglican con-
troversialists, words with which every Catholic theo-
logian is in full accord, * non tantum testes, sed etiam
cooperatores, ' not only as witnesses, but also as co-
operators.* They are witnesses of course, but their
function is more than that. They are there on behalf
of the Church. They signify that it is no mere
personal act of consecration in which they join, but
the official act of the Church. They co-operate in
the consecrator's act and share his responsibility. But
if he effects nothing, neither do they. They perform
no action independent of that which he performs.
They are more than witnesses, they are co-operators
in his act, but they are not independent agents acting
apart from him.

For this, after all, is the office of a co-operator.
Aaron and Hur co-operated with Moses when they
stayed up his hands at Rephidim ; they were no mere
witnesses ; but the act and all its value was his and
not theirs, and they did nothing apart from him. Our
Blessed Lady again co-operated really and effectually
at our Redemption ; she was no mere witness as she
stood by the side of the Cross ; but she could not
therefore have redeemed us had our Lord failed to do
so. The whole merit and power of the act was His


and not hers. She is our Co-Redemptress, taking the
chief part in man's co-operation with the Redeemer,
but, alone, effecting nothing. So also, while every
theologian will admit that the assistant bishop at a
consecration is a true and effectual co-operator in what
is done, it by no means follows that he is actually con-
secrating and handing on the Apostolic Succession,
apart from what is being done by the principal bishop
whom he is assisting. Such co-operation in an act
which is, of itself, null and invalid, need not, and
ordinarily will not, be able to provide the force to
render effective an act which without such co-operation
would not have had validity.

But one case still remains to be discussed. It is a
case which had hardly ever been discussed by theolo-
gians at the date of Parker's consecration, and which
remains unsettled still, and practically undebated,
since it does not seem ever to have occurred in practice
within the Catholic Church. What is to be held in a
case in which the consecrating bishop has consecrated
for some reason invalidly, and in which the assisting
bishops not only laid on their hands, but also recited
the whole of a valid ' form ' with the principal conse-
crator, and further had the intention of consecrating
independently and not merely of assenting formally
to his action ? Can it be held, on the analogy of the
co-celebration of newly ordained priests with the
bishop who has just ordained them, that each or any
one of these assistant bishops can ever have himself
effected a valid consecration, and so have handed on
the Apostolic Succession ? That is a question which,
as we have said, the Church has never yet decided,
because no such question has ever been brought up


for formal adjudication or has ever been generally
discussed by theologians. It is therefore still possible
to hold as a private opinion that such a consecration
might conceivably be valid, but it cannot be said to be
so certainly, or even probably, though perhaps a few
theologians of the present day would be inclined to
favour it, if only it could be proved, or at least presumed,
that the assisting bishops had the requisite intention
of consecrating independently, which would not nor-
mally be the case.

Here then was the only possible second line of
defence left to Elizabeth, Parker and Cecil in the
difficulty into which they had got themselves, should
the facts ever become public property. It was quite
clear that Barlow being no bishop, the succession in
the direct line had pro tanto failed, and that Bonner
was so far right in saying that there was ' no lawful
bishop in England.' For all the new bishops except
Barlow, and of course Scory, had been consecrated by
Parker, and so had their succession only from Barlow.
Could it be held that the succession had nevertheless
been handed on through one or all of the other three
bishops who had acted on that memorable occasion ?
Only, it is clear, if these others, and not Barlow alone,
had said the words with the intention of consecrating
independently, and had so acted in direct contra-
vention of the rubric. The Register, as we now have it,
asserts that this was the case. All four bishops are
there definitely asserted to have joined in the laying
on of hands, and all four to have recited together the
words 'Receive the Holy Ghost,' etc.; which words in
the Book they were using, the Ordinal of Edward VI,
are directed to be said by the Archbishop alone. It


follows that the whole stress of maintaining it to be
a possible opinion, that Barlow's want of episcopal
character was made good by the co-operation of the
other three, lies first upon the possibility of proving
that to have been a valid c form ' in spite of its having
been condemned by the Bull of Leo XIII, and,
secondly, upon the trustworthiness of the Register,
and upon it alone, for there is no corroborating
evidence available from any other source. The other
copies which remain at the Record Office or at
Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, are merely pre-
liminary drafts made up for the Register itself and
have no independent force apart from it. That
they are drafts, and not copies as they are usually
designated, can easily be shown by noting the correc-
tions which have been made in the form which is now
in the Register. 1

Hence it becomes necessary for us, in order to
elucidate this point, to make a detailed examination
of the Register, and to ask ourselves whether the entry
we find there is evidence beyond dispute. The
question we have to decide is this: Is it certain that
Parker's Register as we know it to-day has not been
tampered with and made to give this particular
evidence which was not originally there ? Is the
Register entirely above suspicion ?

Such, at any rate, was not the opinion of Cardinal
Pitra, the learned Benedictine, in his day perhaps the
first authority in Europe in a matter of this kind.
He saw the Register in 1852, and expressed the

1 See Estcourt, Question of Anglican Ordinations, pp. 101-9,
for a careful discussion of the relations of these various drafts one
with another.


verdict that ' it had all the marks of an apocryphal
document.' * His reasons for this opinion he put
into writing, and confided the record to the care of
the monks of his own monastery of Solesmes. Unfor-
tunately this record is not now available, not being
among the papers at Quarr Abbey, but there is no
doubt it is still in existence, and when it is again
available it will be interesting to see how far the
impressions of the Cardinal coincide with those which
are now to be set down.

Archbishop Parker's Register, which as a public
record may be seen by any person at Lambeth Palace
at any time, is a large leather-covered volume, not
a mere collection of parchments bound together like
some of those of his predecessors, but a book, made
up of some 410 folios of parchment, each folio being
a separate skin. It is divided into five parts, Confir-
mations and Consecrations of Bishops ; Vacations of
Dioceses ; Various Commissions ; Visitations ; Colla-
tions. In the Archbishop's own lifetime, while these
various Registers were in actual use, these separate
parts will probably have been separate volumes, or at
least not only one volume, and will have been bound
together later on, when the second volume was begun,
or possibly after the Archbishop's death. On inspec-

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 9 11 12 13 14 15

Online LibraryArthur Stapylton BarnesBishop Barlow and Anglican orders, a study of the original documents → online text (page 9 of 15)