Occasional Papers eBook

Richard William Church
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 447 pages of information about Occasional Papers.
that even the editors of this volume hardly feel themselves bound to make out the consistency of Henry, they might have spared themselves the weak and not very fair attempt to get rid of the force of the remarkable words in which this recognition is recorded in the first Statute of Appeals (24 Henry VIII. c. 12).  The words would, no doubt, be worth but little, were it not that as a matter of fact a spiritualty did act and judge and lay down doctrine, and even while yielding to unworthy influence did keep up their corporate existence.

But when the ecclesiastical legislation of Henry VIII. is referred to, not merely as the historical beginning of a certain state of things which has undergone great changes in the course of events, but as affording a sort of idea and normal pattern to which our own arrangements ought to conform, as supplying us with a theory of Church and State which holds good at least against the Church, it seems hard that the Church alone should not have the benefit of the entire alteration of circumstances since that theory was a reality.  Those who talk about the Supremacy ought to remember what the Supremacy pretended to be.  It was over all causes and all persons, civil as well as ecclesiastical.  It held good certainly in theory, and to a great extent in practice, against the temporalty as much as against the spiritualty.  Why then are we to invoke the Supremacy as then understood, in a question about courts of spiritual appeals, and not in questions about other courts and other powers in the nation?  If the Supremacy, claimed and exercised as Henry claimed and exercised it, is good against the Church, it is good against many other things besides.  If the Church inherits bonds and obligations, not merely by virtue of distinct statutes, but by the force of a general vague arbitrary theory of royal power, why has that power been expelled, or transformed into a mere fiction of law, in all other active branches of the national life?  Unless the Church is simply, what even Henry VIII. did not regard it, a creation and delegate of the national power, without any roots and constitution of its own, why should the Church be denied the benefit of the common sense, and the change in ideas and usage, which have been so largely appealed to in civil matters?  Why are we condemned to a theory which is not only out of date and out of harmony with all the traditions and convictions of modern times, hut which was in its own time tyrannous, revolutionary, and intolerable?  Arguments in favour of the present Court, drawn from the reason of the thing, and the comparative fitness of the judges for their office, if we do not agree with them, at least we can understand.  But precedents and arguments from the Supremacy of Henry VIII. suggest the question whether those who use them are ready to be taken at their word and to have back that Supremacy as it was; and whether the examples of policy of that reign are seemly to quote as adequate measures of the liberty and rights of any set of Englishmen.

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