The bulk of the money Roman Catholic Church raised to start up the Ordinariate in the UK came from an charity created to promote Anglo-Catholic mission within the Church of England.
According to the Church Times (and Ruth Gledhill in a Times story behind a paywall) the Charity Commission for England and Wales has been asked to investigate a grant of £1 million by the Confraternity of the Blessed Sacrament to the Ordinariate in the UK.
Apparently leaders of the Confraternity, who were at the time Bishops and clergy of the Church of England but who are now Roman Catholic, decided to use funds set aside for work within the Church of England to help fund the start up of the Ordinariate–which by design is meant to help Anglicans become Roman Catholic. To do this they had get their trustees to agree to tweek their understanding of the mission of the group.
Here is the Church Times report:
A spokeswoman for the Charity Commission said: “Concerns have been raised with us regarding the Confraternity of the Blessed Sacrament. We are currently considering these to establish whether there is any regulatory role for us.”
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 present Superior-General, Fr Christopher Pearson, now a priest in the Ordinariate, has reported that, in December, the Ordinary of the Ordinariate, Mgr Keith Newton, then the (Anglican) Bishop of Richborough, approached him “asking whether it was within the remit of the Confraternity to make a financial grant to the proposed Ordinariate”.
The Ordinariate was formally established on 15 January. Shortly afterwards, the trustees of the Confraternity received a formal application for financial assistance to the Ordinariate from Mgr Newton, “to provide for theological teaching, learning and development and the support of priests in the Ordinariate”.
The decision to donate £1 million to the Ordinariate was “unanimously agreed” by trustees at a meeting on 10 February. It was also agreed at the same meeting, “in view of the possibility of such a grant being challenged . . . to seek additional legal advice”.
The trustees agreed “to give effect to” the decision to grant the £1 million at a meeting on 19 May.
The secretary-general of the Confraternity, the Revd David Waller, said that drafts of the decision were “circulated and approved” by the council-general, at its AGM, when it met on Thursday of last week.
Mr Pearson said: “We agreed that the Objects of the Ordinariate [were] compatible with the charitable Objects of the Confraternity, and specifically the advancement of the Catholic faith in the Anglican tradition. We agreed that making a grant would be in the best interests of the Confraternity, in furthering our charitable objects.
“We also hope that a substantial grant might be a helpful signal to others contemplating offering financial support to the Ordinariate, thus increasing the likelihood of the charitable objects of the Confraternity being secured in the long term.”
The Confraternity’s £1 million donation is more than half of their 2009 £1.85 million fund balance. UK Roman Catholic dioceses had agreed to contribute £250,000 to a fund to help start up the Ordinariate.
The head of the Ordinariate for England and Wales, Mgr Keith Newton, admitted this week that the group is struggling financially three months after it welcomed its first members into the Catholic Church from the Church of England. This month the group will have to start paying its clergy and other bills are piling in, Mgr Newton told The Tablet on Tuesday. In addition a recent grant of £1 million to the Ordinariate from an Anglo-Catholic group, Confraternity of the Blessed Sacrament, has been challenged and is under investigation by the Charity Commission.