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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 39

A Cardinal's Broken Oath; A Letter to his Eminence Henry Edward, Cardinal-Archbishop of Westminster

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A Cardinal's Broken Oath.

A Letter

Freethought Publishing Company logo

Freethought Publishing Company London 63, Fleet Street, E.C.

1882 page break

Printed by Annie Besant and Charles Bradlaugh London 63. Fleet Street, E.C

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Cardinal-Archbishop of Westminster.

Three times your Eminence has—through the pages of the Nineteenth Century—personally and publicly interfered and used the weight of your ecclesiastical position against me in the Parliamentary struggle in which I am engaged, although you are neither voter in the borough for which I am returned to sit, nor even co-citizen in the state to which I belong. Your personal position is that of a law-breaker, one who has deserted his sworn allegiance and thus forfeited his citizenship, one who is tolerated by English forbearance, but is liable to indictment for misdemeanor as "member of a society of the Church of Rome." More than once, when the question of my admission to the House of Commons has been under discussion in that House, have I seen you busy in the lobby closely attended by the devout and sober Philip Callan, or some other equally appropriate Parliamentary henchman. Misrepresenting what had taken place in the House of Commons when I took my seat on affirmation in July, 1880, your Eminence wrote in the Nineteenth Century for August, 1880, that which you were pleased to entitule "An Englishman's Protest" against my being allowed to sit in the Commons' House, to which the vote of a free constituency had duly returned me. In that protest you blundered alike in your law and in your history. You gave page 4 the Tudor Parliamentary oath Saxon and Norman antiquity. You spoke of John Horne Tooke as having had the door of the House shut against him by a by-vote, no such by-vote having been carried, and the statute which disabled clergymen in the future not affecting John Horne Tooke's seat in that Parliament. You declared that in the French Revolution the French voted out the Supreme Being; there is no record of any such vote. In March, 1882, when the House had expelled me for my disobedience of its orders in complying with the law, and taking my seat, you again used the Nineteenth Century. This time for a second protest, intended to prevent my re-election. You, in both your articles, reminded the bigots that I might be indicted for blasphemy. Your advice has since been followed. Persecution is a "two-edged sword," and I return the warning you offer to Lord Sherbrooke. When I was in Paris some time since, and was challenged to express an opinion as to the enforcement of the law against the religious orders in France, I, not to the pleasure of many of my friends, spoke out very freely that in matters of religion I would use the law against none; but your persecuting spirit may provoke intemperate men even farther than you dream. In this country, by the 10th George IV., cap. 7, sees. 28 and 29, 31, 32 and 34, you are criminally indictable, Cardinal-Archbishop of Westminster. You only reside here without police challenge by the merciful forbearance of the community. And yet you parade in political contest your illegal position as "a member of a religious order of the Church of Rome," and have the audacity to invoke outlawry and legal penalty against me. Last month, in solemn state, you, in defiance of the law, in a personal and official visit to the borough of Northampton itself, sought to weaken the confidence of my page 5 constituents; and you were not ashamed, in order to injure me, to pretend friendship with men who have for years constantly and repeatedly used the strongest and foulest abuse of your present Church. An amiable but ignorant Conservative mayor, chief magistrate of the borough, but innocent of statutes, was misled into parading his official robe and office while you openly broke the law in his presence. In the current number of the Nineteenth Century you fire your last shot, and are coarse in Latin as well as in the vulgar tongue. Perhaps the frequenting Philip Callan has spoiled your manners. It else seems impossible that one who was once a cultured scholar and a refined gentleman could confuse with legitimate argument the abuse of his opponents as "cattle." But who are you, Henry Edward Manning, that you should throw stones at me, and should so parade your desire to protect the House of Commons from contamination? At least, first take out of it the drunkard and the dissolute of your own Church. You know them well enough. Is it the oath alone which stirs you? Your tenderness on swearing comes very late in life. When you took orders as a deacon of the English Church, in presence of your bishop, you swore "so help me, God," that you did from your "heart abhor, detest and abjure," and, with your hand on the "holy gospels," you declared that no foreign prince, person, prelate, state, or potentate hath, or ought to have, any jurisdiction, power, superiority, preeminence, or authority, ecclesiastical or spiritual, within this realm." You may now well write of men "whom no oath can bind." The oath you took you have broken; and yet it was because you had, in the very church itself, taken this oath, that you for many years held more than one profitable preferment in the Established Church of England. page 6 You indulge in inuendoes against my character in order to do me mischief, and viciously insinuate as though my life had in it justification for good men's abhorrence. In this you are very cowardly as well as very false. Then, to move the timid, you suggest "the fear of eternal punishment," as associated with a broken oath. Have you any such fear? or have you been personally conveniently absolved from the "eternal" consequences of your perjury? Have you since sworn another oath before another bishop of another church, or made some solemn vow to Rome, in lieu of, and in contradiction to, the one you so took in presence of your bishop, when, "in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost," that bishop of the church by law established in this country accepted your oath, and gave you authority as a deacon in the Church you have since forsaken. I do not blame you so much that you are forsworn: there are, as you truly say, "some men whom no oath can bind and it has often been the habit of the cardinals of your Church to take an oath and break it when profit came with breach; but your remembrance of your own perjury might at least keep you reticent in very shame. Instead of this, you thrust yourself impudently into a purely political contest, and shout as if the oath were to you the most sacred institution possible. You say "there are happily some men who believe in God and fear him." Do you do either? You, who declared, "So help me, God" that no foreign "prelate .... ought to have any jurisdiction or authority ecclesiastical or spiritual within this realm." And you—who in spite of your declaration on oath have courted and won, intrigued for and obtained, the archbishop's authority and the cardinal's hat from the Pope of Rome—you rebuke Lord Sherbrooke for using the page 7 words "sin and shame" in connexion with oath-taking; do you hold now that there was no sin and no shame in your broken oath? None either in the rash taking or the wilful breaking? Have you no personal shame that you have broken your oath? Or do the pride and pomp of your ecclesiastical position outbribe your conscience? You talk of the people understanding the words "so help me, God." How do you understand them of your broken oath? Do they mean to you : "May God desert and forsake me as I deserted and forsook the Queen's supremacy, to which I so solemnly swore allegiance"? You speak of men being kept to their allegiance by the oath "which binds them to their sovereign." You say such men may be tempted by ambition or covetousness unless they are bound by "the higher and more sacred responsibility" involved in the "recognition of the lawgiver in the oath." Was the Rector of Lavington and Graffham covetous of an archbishopric that he broke his oath? Was the Archdeacon of Chichester ambitious of the Cardinal's hat that he became so readily forsworn? Lord Archbishop of Westminster, had you, when you were apostate, remained a poor and simple priest in poverty and self-denial, although your oath would have still been broken, yet you might have taunted others more profited by their perjuries. But you, who have derived profit, pride, and pomp from your false swearing—you, who sign yourself "Henry Edward, Cardinal-Archbishop" by favor of the very authority you abjured in the name of God—it is in the highest degree indecent and indecorous for you to parade yourself as a defender of the sanctity of the oath. As a prince-prelate of the Church of Rome you have no right to meddle with the question of the English Parliamentary oath.

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Your Church has been the foe of liberty through the world, and I am honored by your personal assailment. But you presume too much on the indifference of the age when, in this free England, you so recklessly exhibit as weapons in an election contest the outward signs of the authority the Vatican claims, but shall never again exercise, in Britain.

Charles Bradlaugh.