Ordinariate pays back £1 million to Anglican charity

29 June 2012

CONFRATERNITY OF THE BLESSED SACRAMENT

THE Ordinariate has paid back a £1-million grant it received from the Confraternity of the Blessed Sacrament (News, 8 July 2011) after the Charity Commission ruled that the payment was "unauthorised".

The Commission announced the conclusion of its investigation of the grant yesterday. Its statement says that the decision to make a grant to the Ordinariate, a Roman Catholic body for former Anglicans, "was taken at an inquorate meeting, the majority of the trustees having a (financial) personal interest in the decision" and was "in breach of the charity's governing document".

Since the meeting was inquorate, it says, the decision to award the money was "invalid. There was no valid exercise of the power to make a gift to the Ordinariate and the payment was unauthorised."

The Confraternity, a registered charity, was founded in 1862 to support the Catholic revival in the Church of England. The Charity Commission website states that its charitable objects are "for the advancement of the Catholic faith in the Anglican tradition".

The Charity Commission concluded that "the objects of the Ordinariate are wider than those of the Confraternity. A gift given to the Ordinariate without restriction could be used for purposes which have no connection with the Anglican tradition at all."

It goes on to say that "there is substantial doubt whether the Confraternity could make a grant to the Ordinariate (even with restrictions) which could be applied by the Ordinariate consistently with the objects of the Confraternity".

The Commission "considered the trustees of both charities were under a duty to take action to ensure the repayment of the money". The Commission said that it had been "informed that the grant had been returned in full (with interest) by the Ordinariate of its own volition".

A statement posted yesterday on the Ordinariate's website confirmed that the grant had been "returned".

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It said: "The grant was awarded by the Trustees of the Confraternity of the Blessed Sacrament following extensive legal advice in 2011.

"Subsequently, the grant was challenged and, as the result of an investigation by the Charity Commissioners, the Ordinariate has returned the funds of its own volition . . .

"It is deeply regrettable that this generous benefaction is to be returned, but our sincere hope is that the conclusion of the legal process regarding this grant may now lay this issue to rest."

A statement posted on the Confraternity's website yesterday defended the grant to the Ordinariate, saying that it "was consistent with the founding spirit of the Confraternity and with charity law".

The Confraternity's legal advisers "are of the view that the Commission misrepresented the charitable purpose of the Ordinariate charity" and "appeared to overlook the fact that it was specifically created as a means of enabling former Anglicans to enter communion with the Holy See while continuing to preserve and share their rich Anglican traditions".

The Confraternity also insisted that the decision to award the grant had not been motivated by any of the trustees' personal financial interest. "As some of the trustees already intended to apply to join the Ordinariate, or were thinking of doing so, they sought and obtained an unequivocal undertaking from the Ordinariate that no part of the grant would be used in a way that conferred a benefit on any of the trustees."

The Confraternity said, however, that it was not going to challenge the Charity Commission's decision, nor oppose the return of the grant.

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