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100 years ago: Echo of the bad old days

13 May 2022

May 12th, 1922.

IT IS for many reasons to be regretted that the rising generation of Catholics knows so little of the struggle through which their predecessors went in order to win for them the liberty to practise their religion. They are a rapidly dwindling number who can recall the bitterness with which Catholics were attacked half a century ago, and those whose feet are to-day set in a large room need a good deal of knowledge and imagination to picture to themselves at all adequately the strait places in which the despised Ritualists of the last century dwelt. But there are those who now and then come to their assistance. Sir William Joynson-Hicks is of their number, and as spokesman last Monday of a deputation to the Archbishop of Canterbury he had his opportunity to show us of what stuff the men of an earlier generation of Protestants were made. He seems to have searched the files for some of his phrases, which we fear must have distressed the Archbishop. He witnessed the spread of Ritualism with deep disappointment, almost with despair. So did the Church Associationists in the age of which we have spoken. “Vestments, ornaments, ceremonies, and even prayers were used in an enormous number of churches throughout the land, and confession was rampant.” Worse even than prayers, to which we do not understand Sir William’s objection, is the service held on Ash Wednesday last in a church which he named, “the ultra-Roman service of the blacking of the faces at the communion rail”. There is the authentic touch, the living voice, of the Church Association in its day of power, when archbishops hastened to obey. The Archbishop’s reply seems to have been imperfectly heard by the reporter of the Morning Post, upon whose account we rely. His Grace is made to say, “Reference had been made to the custom of confession. Never had he had one case that he had not deprecated, and as regards public absolution anything leading in the least degree to that he would put down without a day’s delay.” We are perplexed by so dark a saying.

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