Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Gordon, John (1644-1726)

GORDON, JOHN, D.D. (1644–1726), bishop of Galloway, born in Scotland in 1644, was a member of the Gordon family of Coldwells, near Ellon, Aberdeenshire,and was royal chaplain 'apud New York in America,' when, on a vacancy in the see of Galloway, a congé d'élire in his favour was issued 3 Dec. 1687. He was accordingly elected bishop 4 Feb. 1687-8, and consecrated at Glasgow by Archbishop Paterson. At the revolution he followed James II to Ireland and France, and while residing at Saint-Germain he read the liturgy of the church of England to such British protestants as resorted to his lodgings. Subsequently, however, he was converted by Bossuet. It appears that he was privately received into the Roman church during his sojourn in France, though at a later period he made a public abjuration of protestantism at Rome, before Sacripanti, the cardinal protector of the Scotch nation. At his conditional baptism he took the additional name of the reigning pontiff, and ever afterwards signed himself John Clement Gordon. The pope, wishing to confer some benefice pension on the new convert, caused the sacred congregation of the inquisition to institute an inquiry into the validity of Gordon's protestant orders. After a long investigation his orders were treated as if they were null from the beginning. The decree of the inquisition to this effect was issued 17 April 1704. After this Gordon received the sacrament of confirmation, and Clement XI conferred on him the tonsure, giving him the benefice of the abbey of St. Clement, by reason of which Gordon commonly went by the name of the Abate Clemente. It is observable that he never received other than minor orders in the Roman catholic church. He died at Rome in 1726.

He was the author of a controversial piece entitled 'Pax Vobis, or Gospel Liberty.'

[Le Quien's Nullité des Ordinations Anglicanes, ii. 312, Append, p. lxviii; Francisque Michel's Les Écossais en France, ii. 274; Keith's Cat. of Scottish Bishops (Russel). p. 283; Tablet. 2 April 1853, p. 212; Estcourt's Question of Anglican Orders discussed, p. 156, Append, p. cxv; Lee's Validity of the Holy Orders of the Church of England.]

T. C.