The Most Rev’d. Thomas W. Mossman, OCR
I shall feel obliged by being allowed to say something in reply to the strictures of Mr. J. W. Lea upon the Order of Corporate Reunion in a recent number of Church Work. The writer in question characterizes our Order as a “secret society.” Of all the strange and unjust charges which have been brought against the Order of Corporate Reunion, this of being a secret society appears to my mind the most strange and unjust. If ever there was a Religious Order in the Church of GOD which courted the fullest investigation into its principles, its history, its objects, and its mode of action; if ever there was a society which was willing to publish upon the house-tops all that it believes, and all it does, and all it aims at doing, it is the Order of Corporate Reunion. There is only one thing it does not do, and that is, advertise the names of its members. I have yet to learn that it is of the essence of a Religious Order in the Church of GOD to advertise the names of its members and officers through the medium of the public press. We shall not do it. But although we can trust our superiors not to give up our names even to the Archbishop of Canterbury against our will and without our permission, there is nothing in the constitution of our Order which forbids any of its members from publishing their own names from London to the wall of China on the east and San Francisco on the west if they choose to do so, and if any one cares to be made acquainted with the fact. For myself, I believe I am as obscure and uninfluential an individual as a beneficed priest of the Church of England well can be, but if it is a matter of concern to any one to know it, I can only say that after the most careful and prayerful consideration of the constitution and objects of the Order of Corporate Reunion I gladly and willingly became a member of it. Next to being a member and a priest of the Catholic Church there is no privilege I esteem so highly, no honour I deem so great, as that of membership in the Order of Corporate Reunion. Further, I am at all times ready to furnish full information about the Order to any one sincerely seeking it, and to admit them to membership, if they are willing to comply with the rules of the Order, and bring such testimonials as, being submitted to the Superiors of the Society, shall be by them deemed satisfactory.
I turn now to the subject of the foundation and history of our Order. I thought it was known to everybody who cared to know or enquire. If they do not know, I am sure it is not because the story has not been repeated often enough in print. However, I will tell the history yet once more. About a year-and-a-half ago, a number of English Priests and Laymen, who had long sighed and cried over the abominations of the times, met together in the City of London, and after a Solemn Mass of the Holy Ghost, they proceeded to hold the constituent synod of their Order. They took as its dogmatic basis the one Catholic Faith of the Undivided Church of GOD. And they chose, by free and unbiased and unanimous election, their Rector, their Provincials and their Provosts. And they promised to obey all the rules of the Catholic Church, which have been declared to be binding upon English Churchmen, and to defend and maintain to the best of their ability Catholic Doctrine and the eternal principles of right and authority upon which Catholic discipline and Catholic ritual are based. All this may of course have been very wicked, but I fail to see it.
“But,” say some, “perhaps all this, so far, many not have been so very bad, but then you are asserted to have Bishops in your Order, and you do not deny the charge.” Why we should either assert it or deny it outside the members of our Order, I do not know. It is, indeed, an unquestionable fact, but it is a fact which, so far as I am able to see, concerns the members of the Order of Corporate Reunion, and them alone.
If venerable Catholic Bishops of other rites, having full knowledge of the constitution and objects of the Order of Corporate Reunion, and believing that some of its members were worthy of being promoted to the dignity of the episcopate, chose to raise them to that dignity, I can see no grounds for gratifying the curiosity of the British public, by publishing either their names or the names of our authorities to the world. To wish for such information implies a total misapprehension of the reasons for which the Order of Corporate Reunion gratefully accepted the priceless gift of a Catholic Episcopate. The Members of the Order of Corporate Reunion are thankful to know that they can have for themselves and their children and their near and dear ones the Divine and Apostolic rite of the Holy Chrism, which Anglican Bishops have laid aside, or abolished, at the bidding, I suppose, of their Supreme Governor, from whom, as they swear, they hold all the spiritualities of their bishoprics.
The Members of the Order of Corporate Reunion are glad and grateful to their Divine Redeemer to feel that through His great and undeserved mercy they and theirs can have the unspeakable comfort when they are sick and dying of being anointed with “Prayer Oil,” even though the Fathers of the English Reformation may have denounced it as a “Corrupt following of the Apostles.” I suppose in doing so they followed their great Leader and Apostle, Luther, who rejected the Epistle of S. James as an Epistle of straw. The Members of the Order of Corporate Reunion prefer to follow S. James.
Mr. Lea is pleased to bring against us the heavy charge of being “troublers of Israel.” When we remember by whom this appellation was first given, and against whom the accusation was made, we need not be distressed at being reproached with the self-same reproach as the great Elias. No, it is not we who are “the troublers of Israel,” although there are but too many such. The real “troublers of Israel” are those who cry, “Peace, peace, when there is no peace.” They are those who are building up the wall of separation between us and the See of Peter, the Apostolic See of the west, the See of the Primate of the Catholic Church, and who now that the wall is falling down, are trying “to daub it with the untampered mortar” of their figment of “National Churches,” and who revive the Donatist heresy, which it was thought the great S. Austin had crushed, by speaking of the two Provinces of Canterbury and York, Provinces separated from the whole of the rest of the Catholic Church of GOD, as The Church. Mr. Lea talks about our “having a quarrel with The Church.” (The italics are mine). What does he mean by The Church? Does he mean the Church of which the Royal and Imperial Lady, who, I observe, took the Sacrament in a Presbyterian Church last Sunday, is the Supreme Governor and Supreme Ordinary? If he does, why did he not say so? Or does he mean the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church of the Creeds? If he does, who, I must ask, gave him authority to speak in Her august name, and say that we, the Priests and laity of the Order of Corporate Reunion, “have a quarrel” with Her, that “we are hostile and antipathetic to Her constitution and authority”? Or will he shelter his accusations under the plea that the Anglican Church and the Catholic Church are absolutely identical, that they are convertible terms? If he does, perhaps he will be good enough to point out in what respect his Creed differs from the Creed of the Donatists of the fourth and fifth Centuries?
Mr. Lea is pleased too to blame us for not publishing and advertising the names of our Prelates, as the Reformed Episcopal Church does. I answer, there is no kind of parallel between the two cases. The Reformed Episcopal Church seeks to make all the converts it can from the Church of England, and unite them to its own body. Our mission is to remain in the English Church, and endeavor by all lawful means to reform and purify and elevate her from within, and being Catholics ourselves, first, to do all we can to make her more Catholic than she is or has been for these three hundred years since she became separate from the rest of Christendom.
I trust that as you have admitted into your columns a most, as I think, severe attack upon a voluntary Society in the Church of England, you will not refuse to admit this defence of it from one who believes himself to be a Catholic Priest in full communion with the Anglican Church, and who yet deems it a high honour and great privilege to subscribe himself,
Thomas W. Mossman, O.C.R.