A body of the English clergy; it was originated by William bishop, bishop of Chalcedon, who in 1623, as part of his plan to reorganize the missionary Church in England, instituted a chapter consisting of a dean and canons. Its functions, as he conceived them, were threefold: to act as an advisory body to the bishop; to preserve continuity of jurisdiction sede vacante ; and when the bishop died, to submit to Rome nominations for his successor. Its author took this step, however, without prior reference to Rome, which refused to accord the chapter any official recognition, maintaining that Bishop had acted beyond his jurisdiction. Nevertheless, Rome refrained from any act of censure, chiefly, it seems, from fear of creating scandal. After the death of Richard smith, bishop of Chalcedon in 1655, the chapter made a somewhat exaggerated claim that it had the unofficial approval of both Innocent X and Alexander VII for assuming jurisdiction over the Church in England and issuing faculties sede vacante. Rome eventually decided to appoint another bishop, insisting that the chapter should cease to attempt to exercise jurisdiction: both Philip Howard, who was to have been appointed in 1672 if political circumstances had not prevented it, and John Leyburn, who was appointed in 1685, were made to promise to enforce this. Though after 1685 it never again tried to exercise jurisdiction, the chapter continued to claim canonical status and to perpetuate itself until the hierarchy was restored in 1850; its members then disbanded and reformed themselves into the Old Brotherhood of the Secular Clergy.
Bibliography: Archives of the Old Brotherhood, partly catalogued in 1876 (HMC. 5th Report. Appendix: 463–470.). Many documents were removed to Westminster Cathedral Archives (ser. A, v.17ff.; ser. B, v.25ff.). The rest remain with the Old Brotherhood. h. tootell, Dodd's Church History of England, ed. m. a. tierney, 5 v. (London 1839–43). e. h. burton, Life and Times of Bishop Challoner, 1691–1781, 2 v. (London 1909). b. hemphill (pseud. for b. whelan), The Early Vicars Apostolic of England, 1685–1750 (London 1954) passim. j. sergeant, An Account of the Chapter … ed. w. turnbull (London 1853), based on Ward's MS history in the Old Brotherhood Archives. j. a. williams, "The Old Chapter and the Secular Clergy," Catholic Recusancy in Wiltshire (London 1968). g. v. anstruther, Cardinal of Norfolk (in progress), ch. 4, 5. t. a. birrell, "English Catholics without a Bishop," Recusant History 4.4 (1957–58). a. f. allison, "Richard Smith, Richelieu and the French Marriage," ibid. 7.4 (1963–64).
[a. f. allison]