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St Mary's permitted to sell 'mistake' vestments

31 January 2014


THE Consistory Court of the diocese of London granted a faculty for the parish priest of St Mary's, Bourne Street, to sell three sets of vestments, because they were "generally regarded as mistakes", were "not in keeping with the present vestments", and had been bought "without sufficient consultation with the PCC".

The Deputy Chancellor, the Revd and Worshipful Justin Gau, said, however, that he found it "extraordinary" that the "very considerable expense" of buying the vestments had gone ahead without "sufficient consultation", especially as they had been purchased within the past few years.

The sets of vestments were identified as red high-mass vestments that were described as "Gothic in shape"; gold high-mass vestments that were regarded as "too yellow for our gold setting"; and green high-mass vestments that were described as "bad design, too dull".

It was assumed that all these vestments had been purchased by the PCC. If any had been gifts, or purchased out of gifts of money, the PCC would have had to satisfy the court that they had made sufficient enquiries of the donors about what should happen to the vestments.

The Deputy Chancellor said that the church website stated that "St Mary's mission is funded largely from direct giving by those who worship at the church, the parish being unusual for a central London parish in lacking significant endowments of property or investments." In those circumstances, the Deputy Chancellor said, the "careful stewardship of parish resources should be paramount".

Nevertheless, while he deplored the potential waste of resources, that was entirely a matter for the PCC and parish priest to deal with, and was not an argument for refusing the petition for a faculty. The petition was based solely on "matters of aesthetics", and the Deputy Chancellor said that, as a matter of taste, it struck him that the vestments were "perfectly acceptable, and to the untutored eye might be deemed sumptuous even for the most jaded of Spanish cardinals".

It was a truism, he said, that most faculty applications for the disposal of church property based solely on its aesthetic appreciation would be rejected out of hand.

If this were a petition for the disposal or removal of anything else, the Deputy Chancellor said that he would have no hesitation in rejecting it. The faculty system was designed "to reject whimsical applications based upon individuals' personal fancies".

But the vestments appeared to have been introduced into the church without a faculty, were deemed unsuitable by the priest, the Revd David Cherry, and the PCC, and their disposal was not opposed by the DAC. In those circumstances, the Deputy Chancellor said, he could not impose his personal views.

The faculty was granted for the disposal of the vestments, subject to the putting of the monies realised towards replacements of designs that were to be approved, and minuted as approved, at a meeting of the PCC.

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