« PreviousContinue »
The explanation of the whole story is probably to be found in the mention of the Cardinal of Lorraine. He was deeply convinced of the power of diplomacy, as centred in himself. He had made a great impression by his oration at the Colloquy of Poissy (Sept. 1561); his advocacy of concessions-such as that of the chalice to the laity had shown his wish for unity; at the Council of Trent he distinguished himself by his dexterity in drafting compromises to bring together opponents. He was thus the very man to bridge over a gulf of separation; but, as in the matter of the acceptance of the decrees of Trent by France, he sometimes promised more than he could perform. Doubtless he made the suggestion or the promise; his authority to do so is entirely another matter.
But for Elizabeth the Papal Supremacy was the one thing inadmissible. Her relation to the Papacy was then of the first importance. It is sometimes treated of as mainly diplomatic, as a policy formed by events, and therefore open to change from time to time, or if events had been other than they were; it is sometimes treated as if it arose mainly from the domestic and ecclesiastical conditions of England. But the general drift of the works here considered is to suggest that Elizabeth's position was based more upon general principles than upon temporary expediency. The break-up of the medieval system, centred in the claims of the Pope to govern sovereigns and, if need be, to depose them, had begun. Disregard of those claims was common if not universal. France disregarded them in practice; the Pragmatic Sanction, the Gallican claims, the speeches of the French representatives at Trent, especially upon the * reformation of Princes,' with their proposed limitation of the temporal power, had shown the divergence of the views held in France and Rome. Even the energetic diplomacy of the Cardinal of Lorraine could do little more than gloss over the difference; and France never accepted the views of the papal sovereignty which underlay the Tridentine decrees. The Empire had shown its opinions, so far as such an incoherent body could have a common opinion, not only by Maximilian's fantastic scheme for making himself Pope, but by the 'Libel of Reformation' prepared (September 1561) for presentation to the Council of Trent. Under that scheme Italy would Vol. 216.-No. 430,
have ceased to be the centre of ecclesiastical gravity; the Princes were to direct the reform that was to be made, as well as dispose generally of ecclesiastical funds. These differences of principles were never properly arranged; the astonishing thing is that the Papacy, admitting no question as to its power, tiding over one difficulty after another, has reached modern times with its theoretical scheme as to Church and State not only not re-considered, but to all appearance fundamentally the same. Neither Joseph II nor Febronius could change its medieval theory, although the former and his fellowprinces were able to impose limitations in practice.
With Dr Meyer we hold that the conflict between the Papacy and the England of Elizabeth is part of the conflict between the medieval papal Church and the modern State. In varying ways the reigns of Henry VIII, Edward and Mary had disentangled the principles from the perplexing whirl of events. By Elizabeth's accession the principles could be clearly seen; and it is to us the merit, to supporters of the Papacy the reproach, of her administration to have acted upon the theory of national independence as opposed to Papal Supremacy. Hence her disregard of papal approaches, and hence, too, her preference for the political over the religious aspects of all Church questions. It was her main care to assert the independence of national religious life, and, by so doing, to secure in the end not only national but individual liberty. It was not wholly her fault if, in aiming at the larger end, she sacrificed the smaller. Her rejection of the Papacy gained freedom for national growth.
But, when the papal foundation for ecclesiastical unity was rejected, the episcopal foundation was left. Then, partly by instinct and partly by reason, the episcopate was made, in that historic spirit which is secured by continuity of form, the motive force of the English Church in a way which the papal power and the defects of Church life had made impossible for the later Middle Ages. There were many difficulties of adjustmentinternal difficulties-between the power of the State and the power of the episcopate. If the Fathers at Trent found the subject of episcopacy a difficult one to discuss and an impossible one to settle under the governing
condition of the Papacy, it was only likely that English Churchmen should find their own difficulties of another kind. It was easy to make a triumphant appeal to antiquity; it was more difficult to form a clear ideal of episcopal powers when the Papacy and the Canon Law were removed. It was significant that Parker, careful, cautious, and learned, should draw the outlines of the English system; it was significant that a later prelate, Whitgift, should go further in his appeal to theory and in his practice of power. The recognition of this principle as the foundation of the Elizabethan settlement of religion' makes it easier to understand much that happened. The repeated refusals, as in 1572, 1577 and 1581, to allow ecclesiastical matters to be discussed in the Commons instead of by the bishops or Convocation marked the difference between Elizabeth and her predecessors. The episcopal authority, which had been formerly the means of reconciling local life and Catholic unity, was to be allowed independence, subject always to the Royal Supremacy, which was to be a support against impugners at home and would-be oppressors abroad. As the reign went on, it became clearer than ever that the claims of the Papacy did interfere with national sovereignty and national freedom.
It was not only against the Papacy that the freedom. of the episcopate as an expression of national religious life had to be asserted. The returned fugitives of Mary's reign were ready to carry to all extremes the 'individualism' which was the original impulse of the Reformation. The Royal Supremacy and episcopal power stood in its way. Thus the crisis came in 1572, with the publication of the Admonition to Parliament' and its command to 'take away the lordship, the loitering, the pomp, the idleness and livings of bishops.' It is certain that there was an attempt to create a Presbyterian machinery which could work underground until it was widespread enough and strong enough to throw off episcopacy and subvert the Church. It is probable, as Mr Usher thinks, that in reality the supporters of this new system were rather loud and ubiquitous than many and influential. They based their plan upon the appeal to Scripture in that narrow sense that Bancroft and Hooker overthrew. But they were right, after all, when they
insisted that there was a lack of administration in the Elizabethan system. Its details were, indeed, not worked out; arrangements which might make an excellent 'Interim,' eked out by the royal authority, were of necessity far from complete. But, whether we take the controversies or the events of the reign, the working-out of this conception of a Catholic Church without the Pope is easy to trace. The Puritans agreed that the Pope should be thrown overboard, but they wished that the bishops should follow him. Here again the Elizabethan government was consistent; but it was weaker in its internal system than in its exclusion of foreign influence. The principles separating Pole and Parker were not more vital, but were easier to disentangle, than those separating Cartwright and Hooker; it was therefore easier to separate them in practice.
In all this working-out of a system there had to be much that was tentative, something that was revolutionary. The real appeal of any revolution, even of one that bases itself upon an appeal to the past, lies to the future. The Elizabethan settlement sought to make room for the national life to grow; and hence its quarrel with the Papacy. In its reform of doctrine, in its seeking for new light from a learning that was really new, it passed behind the Middle Ages. That it did not throw over the Middle Ages is everything; it preserved the episcopacy, and, while it failed to reform many administrative abuses, it kept that coercive system which the medieval Church had tried to bring to perfection. It might, perhaps, have been possible, even in the days of Elizabeth, to go back to the earlier conception of a spiritual authority, working by persuasion and guidance, instead of by force and punishment. But the Elizabethan mind was still too medieval for that to happen. The coercive machinery of the Church courts was kept; it came to depend more and more upon the strong arm of the State. More and more it roused the growing anger of the individual seeking for freedom of movement and of growth. It was an error, but its harmfulness was small compared to the persecutions abroad.
In political matters the Elizabethan model gained success. It was efficient; and it worked in unison with the national feelings. In Church matters much the same can
be said. It is true that the Catholic recusant, the Nonconformist, and the Separatist were the creations of the reign; but they were its unavoidable creations. And many who, under other management, might have been numbered with them became children, even if murmuring children, of the National Church. Upon the great principles of Church government mechanical details, often meant merely for a time, were built up; but the whole work of reconstruction was never fully carried out, and much was left to chance or to time. The whole long line of ritual disputes which has descended from the Ornaments Rubric is the result of an attempt to water down regulation by practice; a little more readiness in Elizabeth's time to face the facts and act boldly would have saved later generations much strife. But behind and beyond these deficiencies of detail the great principles remained.
What were the alternatives to the Elizabethan scheme? There was, on the one hand, the papal obedience. Its acceptance would have meant a sharp separation between religion and many parts of the national life, a separation even greater than that seen elsewhere. It would have meant for England, as it has meant for other countries, a sacrifice of freedom in thought, in worship, and in church life, badly compensated by a gain of symmetry and uniformity under papal despotism. There would have been gain, of course, but there would have been heavier losses; and chief among them would have been that of the English episcopate with its growing ideal which promises so much to-day and for the future. There would have been meted to it the same measure which was dealt to the secular priests of Wisbeach, and to some national episcopates to-day. The Papacy could call to its help from the England of Elizabeth an enthusiasm which rose through heroism to martyrdom, the highest gifts of men in character and power; for we cannot rate too highly some of those who toiled in silence and died in shame. But by its maxims and its management it reduced this material to a dwindling sect, passing out of touch with the national vigour and the national hopes. Some part of this result was due to their persecution by the Government, but more was due to the deliberate choice of their papal leaders. Again we say that