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Absolutism in Exeter diocese

10 March 2017

March 9th, 1917

THE Bishop of Exeter [R. E. W. G. Cecil], having exchanged preliminary courtesies with his diocese, has now addressed to it a pastoral letter. The increase of the food supply first engages his lordship’s attention. He then expresses his profound sorrow at finding that Reservation is practised in some churches in the diocese, “and that for the purpose of adoration”. He “fails to see how any reasonable man can doubt that it is wrong to practise Reservation in this province and diocese”, thereby administering a rebuke to his brethren of London, Oxford, Birmingham, and other sees, and dismissing as unreasonable the thousand signatories of the Memorial, the countless lay folk by whom they are supported, and some of the greatest theologians of the English Church, past and present. . . It is true, he adds, that the bishops are not agreed in their rulings, and if any priest will not accept his ruling the Bishop of Exeter suggests that he should resign his cure of souls and seek work in another diocese. That, we note, is the principle of making a wilderness and calling it peace. Yet he is desirous that he should not make a decision onerous to the clergy, however binding upon their consciences, and he proposes to call together the Greater Chapter and seek advice from their sound learning. Upon this proposal we observe that the Greater Chapter is not the synod with which a bishop should govern but a body of men selected, usually, for their moderation, whose decision would not ease consciences. The diocese of Exeter now knows exactly where it stands, or lies. Though it freed itself in the sixteenth century from the absolutism of a Pope, it is not free in the twentieth from the absolutism of a diocesan.


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