The following letters appear in The Guardian, the first from Father George Angus and the second florn a correspondent signing himself" Incredulous." Father Angus writes :
I read an account of the consecration of the Rev. A. H. Mathew by the Dutch Old Catholic Bishops with some curiosity for the following reasons. I possess a book, entitled " Ecclesia," consisting of a planned series of papers by writers, seven in number, all of whom are in communion with Rome. The volume is edited by Arnold Harris Mathew, who dates from Chelsfield, Kent, and himself contributes two papers, as also a Preface. There is an Appendix by the Rev. Spencer Jones, reproduced from an American periodical. The date is 1906. Is the recently consecrated Old Catholic Bishop for England the same clergyman who edited " Ecclesia" (also, presumably, for England) only two years ago, and who was then, as far as can be judged from his book, a Christian in obedience to the See of Rome ? If so, the conversion, or transition, from Rome to Utrecht seems somewhat sudden, and perhaps I may be forgiven for asking the above question.
The letter of "Incredulous" is as follows : Your Old Catholic correspondent announces the consecration of Mr. Mathew as first Old Catholic Bishop for England. Who is this Mr. Mathew ? Is he really "an Old Catholic Bishop," or what is he ? He himself tells us that he is a lineal relative of Sir Toby Mathew, who was a grandson of Bishop Barlow, who consecrated Parker, the first Protestant Archbishop of Canterbury.
History shows that it is difficult to ascertain whether Sir Toby Mathew was a Jesuit or not a Jesuit, a friend or an enemy of the parochial clergy ; but it proves conclusively that he did his best—under Jesuit influence—to prevent the secular priests having a Bishop of their own in the reign of Elizabeth and James I. On close examination we find that Mr. Mathew is not unlike his relative Sir Toby. It was difficult to tell who or what Sir Toby was. He was Protestant or Catholic, priest or layman, Jesuit or secular—all things in all circumstances to gain his objects. And at this moment we cannot discover whether Mr. Mathew is Roman or Anglican, or Old Catholic or
Agnostic, or Jesuit or secular priest, or what he is. Is he a Bishop ? And if he be a Bishop, of what denomination ? And where are his disciples ? Scientists and Modernists (like our friend Father Tyrrell) must recognise in him the "unknown species" whose evolution cannot be classified. Perhaps it is because he has so many spots or shades of all religions that The Mirror announces his consecration as the unification of all jarring Christian sects, and himself as the healer of divided Christendom.
It is stated that he has already a following of seventeen ex-Roman Catholic priests and eight fully-organised parishes in Ealing, Bromley, Orpington, Brighton, Birmingham, Hull, Nottingham, and Chelsfield. But no human eye can see these men in the flesh. We are told they are there, that they exist ; but no man on earth can find them. Doubtless Mr. Mathew has studied magic, and he has the power, like Simon of old, to do most marvellous things in proof of his Apostolic election and mission. Faith is the belief in things unseen ; but it requires very strong faith indeed to believe that Mr. Mathew has, or ever had, seventeen ex-Roman
priests and eight congregations in these towns, and no one but Mr. Mathew can see them. I am like St. Thomas, I believe when I see, and I undertake to give £m to each of those ex-Roman Catholic priests, if Mr. Mathew will produce them, and thus pay the penalty of my indredulity.
Now if Mr. Mathew has not seventeen priests and no eight congregations of laity, how was he elected Bishop ? And how did he induce the Old Catholic Bishops to consecrate him ? All right, if he has these priests and people ; all wrong if he has not. Unlike the Roman, the Old Catholic theology teaches that deception of any kind invalidates the consecra tion of the Bishop, because the Holy Ghost cannot be a party to deception. Before, then, Mr. Mathew sets himself up as first Old Catholic Bishop for England, and attempts to convert us and to ordain Old Catholic priests, we have a right to demand the proofs of the validity of his own episcopate as an Old Catholic Bishop, and all depends on the production of the seventeen priests and the eight congregations. If they do not exist, then he is no valid Old Catholic Bishop ; if they do exist, and he refuses to produce them, then he begins his Mission to England by casting doubts on his own episcopate and the Orders conferred by him ; and thus we have the case of his ancestor, Bishop Barlow, repeated. The question, then, is this : Is Mr. Mathew a validlyconsecrated Old Catholic Bishop according to the teaching of Old Catholic theology ? Produce the seventeen ex-Roman Catholic priests, all is proved ; fail to do so, and grave suspicion of deception is aroused, and all Mr. Mathew's ordinations are doubtful. The Zia each for the seventeen priests is ready on their taking tangible human form and telling us where to find them.