BREEKS V. WOOLFREY, 1 Curt. 880
Court of Arches, 19 November 1838
Spes Mea Christus
Pray for the soul of J. Woolfrey
It is a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead.
(2 Mac. xii. 46.)
The articles purport to state the law, and the facts to which the law is to be applied. The first article, with reference to the inscriptions, alleges that, by the twenty-second article of the Church of England agreed upon in 1562, it is declared that “the Romish doctrine concerning purgatory, pardons, and other things therein mentioned, is a fond thing, vainly invented, and grounded upon no warranty of Scripture, but rather repugnant to the word of God.” That all persons erecting, or causing to be erected, in the churchyard of any parish any tomb- or head-stone, containing any inscription contrary to the doctrine and discipline of the Church of England and to the articles of the said Church, the person so doing ought not only to be peremptorily monished immediately to remove the same, but also be duly corrected and punished; and this proposition has not been denied by the other side. The second article sets forth the facts that, notwithstanding the premises, Mrs. Woolfrey did erect a tomb- or head-stone with the inscriptions before mentioned, which it alleges to be contrary to the doctrine and discipline of the Church of England, and to the articles, canons, and constitutions thereof, and particularly to the said twenty-second article, that due notice has been given to her to remove the same, but that she refuses so to do.
The authorities seem to go no further than this—to show that the Church discouraged prayers for the dead, but did not prohibit them; and that the XXII. Article is not violated by the use of such prayers.
I am, then, of opinion, on the whole of the case, that the offence imputed by the articles has not been sustained; that no authority or canon has been pointed out by which the practice of praying for the dead has been expressly prohibited; and I am accordingly of opinion that, if the articles were proved, the facts would not subject the party to ecclesiastical censure, as far as regards the illegality of the inscription on the tombstone. That part of the articles must, therefore, be rejected.
(Sir Herbert Jenner-Fust, Dean of Arches)