Page:Catholic Encyclopedia, volume 13.djvu/722

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England. If there was any such allowance it might be argued that by the sanction now given by the State to the practice by Cathohcs of their reUgion the same allowance to them, too, is to be implied. In or- der to consider whether any allowance of the privilege of reUgious confession endured in the Protestant Church of England, it is necessary to consider whether confession itself endured there and, if so, to what ex- tent.

It is material to recollect that the whole system of spiritual jurisdiction and the administration of canon law in England received a paralyzing blow with the advent of the Reformation. The Submission of the Clergy Act in 1533 (25 Henry VIII, c. 19) deprived the laws of the universal Church, under the headship of the pope, of all the validity in England which was based on the mere ground of their being Decrees of the universal Church. That statute appointed a commission of thirty-two persons, sixteen lay and six- teen ecclesiastical, to inquire into the various ecclesi- astical constitutions and canons, and it enacted that such of them as, in the opinion of the commissioners or the majority of them, ought to be abolished, should be abolished, and such of them as, in their opinion, ought to stand, should stand, the king's assent being first obtained; but until they should have so deter- mined, any canons, or constitutions which were not contrariant to the laws, statutes, or customs of the realm or were not to the damage of the king's preroga- tive, were stiU to be used and executed as before. The statute was repealed in the reign of Queen Mary, but re\aved in that of Elizabeth; however, the commis- sion never completed its labours and never arrived at any determination. The same direction is further pursued by other statutes in the same reign. Thus the preamble to 25 Henry VIII, c. 21, states that the realm of England is subject only to such laws as have been made within the kingdom or such as, by the suf- ferance of the sovereign, the people of the realm have taken by their own consent to be used among them, and to the observance of which they have bound themselves by long use and custom, which sufferance, consent, and custom are the basis of the force thereof.

In an Act of the same reign relating to marriage, the prelude runs thus : ' ' Whereas the usurped power of the bishop of Rome hath always intangled and troubled the meer jurisdiction and regal power of this realm of England". There is, also, the Act 37 Henry VIII, c. 17, which declares that "by the word of God" the king is "supreme head in earth of the church of England", having power and authority to exercise all manner of ecclesiastical jurisdiction. Thus, in the reign of Henrj^ VIII, the whole basis of canon law — the jurisdiction of the universal Church with the pope for its head — was removed, and for such canon law and ecclesiastical jurisdiction as remained a new basis was constructed, viz. that of the consent of the Eng- lish nation and the royal sufferance. Professor Mait- land observes that these various statutes impose upon the ecclesiastical courts "not merely new law, but a new theory about the old law". "Their decisions", he says, "were dictated to them by acts of Parliament — and that is a very new phenomenon." "In this reign", he says, "we come upon a sudden catastrophe in the history of the spiritual courts."

This reign is the introduction of the Protestant Reformation into England inasmuch as it nationalizes the Church, makes it dependent upon the State, sepa- rates it from the authority of the pope, and consti- tutes the king supreme head. Still we find the king sternly checking the growth of Protestant doctrine and by the Statute of the Six Articles, passed in the thirty-first year of his reign, we find it declared that "auricular confession is expedient and necessary to be retained and continued, used and frequented in the Church of God", and it was thereby made a felony to


assert a contrary opinion. Therefore, with the excep- tion, conceivably, of its exclusion in cases deemed to offend against the king's prerogative which was then carried to great lengths, there is no reason to think that the privilege of the seal would not have been ob- served in that reign. But under Edward VI and his Calvinistic uncle, the Lord Protector Somerset, the Church of the State rapidly became Protestant in its doctrine also, and in matters other than that of its headship. In the first year of his reign (1547), we find a mention of confession in a royal injunction issued to all his subjects, clergy and laity. The ninth of the royal injunctions issued that year runs as follows: "That they (i. e. parsons, vicars and other curates) shall in confessions every Lent examine every person that Cometh to confession to them, whether they can recite the articles of their faith, and the Ten Com- mandments in English, and hear them say the same particularly".

In the First Prayer Book of Edward VI, published by parliamentary authority (1548), the Communion service prescribes a general confession. The service for the visitation of the sick contains a mention of con- fession and a form of absolution in the following words: "Here shall the sick person make a spe- cial confession, if he feel his conscience troubled with any weighty matter: After which confession the Priest shall absolve him after this sorte: Our Lord Jesus Christ who hath left power to his Church to ab- solve all sinners which truly repent and believe in him, of his great mercy forgive thee thine offences; and by his authority committed to me, I absolve thee from ail thy sins, in the name of the father and of the son and of the holy ghost". This Prayer Book goes on immediately to say: "and the same form of absolu- tion shall be used in all private confessions".

The Second Prayer Book, which was published in 1552, contains the same form as the First Prayer Book in the service for the visitation of the sick, but it omits all mention of private confession. It also prescribes the general confession in the service before the Communion, as to which last named, however, it ex- pressly denies transubstantiation or consubstantia- tion. This denial was omitted in the Third Prayer Book and is omitted from the Prayer Book as finally settled in 1662. The service for the visitation of the sick remains the same in that final version with the exception that, instead of saying "Here the sick per- son shall make a special confession ", it says: "shall be moved to make a special confession of his sins", and that, after the direction to absolve him, there are the words "(if he humbly and heartily desire it)". The mention of private confession is omitted.

We receive an indication of the nature of the con- fession spoken of from the exhortation to the Com- munion service, prescribed in all the versions of the Prayer Book, which directs the minister to exhort the congregation in the following words : ' ' And if there be any of you whose conscience is troubled and grieved in anything, lacking comfort or counsel let him come to me or to .some other discreet and learned priest, taught in the law of God, and confess and open his sin and grief secretly, that he may receive such ghostly coun- sel, advice and comfort that his conscience may be relieved and that of us (as of the ministers of God and of the Church) he may receive comfort and absolu- tion to the satisfaction of his mind, and avoiding of all scruple and doubtfulness: requiring such as shall be satisfied with a general confession not to be of- fended with them that do use, to their further satisfy- ing, the auricular and secret confession to the Priest: nor those also which think needful or convenient for the quietness of their own consciences particularly to open their sins to the priest to be offended with them that are satisfied with their humble confession to God and the general confession to the church". The lat- ter part, from "requiring, etc.", was omitted in the