The Service of Reconciliation in St. Paul's Cathedral on October 13th, 1890, is so remarkable an event in psychological and ecclesiastical history that it ought not to pass unrecorded in this Journal. During the previous month, Edward Easton attended the Sunday service, committed suicide by shooting himself, and died in the consecrated edifice. At the inquest the jury found a verdict of suicide “whilst temporarily insane,” which to the unlegal and uncanonical mind would seem to divest the circumstances of the taint of crime as much as if the man had broken a blood vessel. It cannot be the blood in itself that renders reconsecration, or rather reconciliation necessary; it must be the supposition that there had been some infraction of the moral law. However, after the careful consideration of precedents, the Dean and Chapter presented a petition, in which it is stated that they had been advised that the cathedral had been, “by such act of self-murder, and by the blood-shedding consequent thereupon, polluted and defiled.” To this petition the Bishop of London replied, and by virtue of his episcopal authority declared “the said Cathedral Church to be exempt and reconciled from all canonical impediment, and from every profanation contracted and incurred by, or through, the aforesaid acts of suicide and blood-letting for ever.” In this quaint phraseology it is curious to note the event is recognized as involving two acts. The Bishop acted under the advice of the Chancellor, Dr. Tristram. In justification of his advice he makes a very singular observation: “The evidence at the inquest established a case of partial insanity or suicidal mania; there was none to show that he was otherwise of unsound mind.” It is to be regretted that the Chancellor should express an opinion on a subject he knows nothing about. As well might a physician pronounce an opinion upon an obscure point of law. But this is the way with the lawyers. They are as much at home in the philosophy of the human mind and its pathology as if they had studied medical psychology for a lifetime. The service consisted of an anthem, a short address from the Bishop, followed by his direction to the Registrar to read the petition of the Dean and Chapter. Then the Litany and 51st Psalm were next read, and the latter portion of the Commination Service was read. When the prayers were concluded the Registrar read out the Sentence of Reconciliation. While it is admitted that in the Canon Law of both the Eastern and Latin Churches an obligation to pursue this course existed, and was therefore in force up to the time of the Reformation, it would seem that it was not imperative upon the Bishop to act as he did. Since the Reformation there is no mention of a single instance of the performance of this remarkable service. Dr. Tristram believed that the public desired to have the ceremony performed. The Times was of opinion that there was no general wish for such a service. On the contrary, their correspondence supported the belief that the Bishop, Dean, and Chapter would have exhibited more prudence if they had ignored the suicide and allowed the services to go on in the usual way.
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