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100 years ago: Dr Knox’s lament

07 October 2022

October 6th, 1922.

IT IS impossible not to feel tenderness towards a good and conscientious man who at the end of a long life sees his cause utterly defeated. But sympathy need not prevent criticism, and there is a point which calls for it in the lecture which Dr Knox, late Bishop of Manchester, gave at the Church House on Tuesday. His lordship said that “for half a century the bishops had been dragged behind the chariot wheels of the Catholic extremists, protesting, struggling, fulminating, but finally consenting.” Fifty years takes us back to 1872, and we do not remember that the bishops were then so furiously impotent as Dr Knox asserts them to have been. It was then possible for a bishop to refuse a licence to a curate unless his vicar gave a written undertaking that he would not wear coloured stoles or take the eastward position. In 1874 the Archbishop of Canterbury procured the passing of the Public Worship Regulation Act, for the declared purpose of “putting down Ritualism”. In 1876 Mr Tooth was inhibited, in 1877 he was imprisoned, Mr Pelham Dale’s benefice was sequestrated, and St Raphael’s, Bristol, was closed. Long after that priests were imprisoned and deprived, the Bishop of Lincoln was prosecuted, and judgments were obtained in favour of the Protestant men of straw whom the Church Association put up. A party which until quite lately held all that power, and turned against us every weapon that it could persuade the secular arm to wield, cannot plead with even a semblance of plausibility that it has been dragged at our chariot wheels for half a century. Dr Knox must find other phrases.

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