A Catholic charity has been forced to pay back a £1m grant after a review by the Charity Commission ruled that the payment had been invalid.
The Ordinariate of our Lady of Walsingham, a charity that seeks to promote Catholicism, says it has returned a grant provided by the Confraternity of the Blessed Sacrament, a religious charity that provides grants to organisations that encourage worship. The commission found that the confraternity’s decision to provide the funds had been "invalid" and "unauthorised" because not enough eligible trustees had voted on it.
Trustees of the confraternity agreed to make the grant in May last year, having received an application for funding from the ordinariate to assist with supporting priests and theological teaching and development. But the commission received what it described as a substantial number of complaints about the grant, which was covered in the religious press when announced last year.
A Charity Commission inquiry into the grant concluded that the decision to provide the funds had been invalid, having taken place at an "inquorate meeting".
The commission concluded that because the ordinariate’s charitable objects were wider than those of the confraternity, there was "substantial doubt" as to whether the grant was in keeping with the confraternity’s objects.
Father Christopher Pearson, the superior-general of the confraternity, said in a statement that although it had decided not to seek an appeal of the decision, the charity still felt it had not acted inappropriately. He said: "We remain firmly of the view that the grant to the ordinariate was consistent with the founding spirit of the confraternity and with charity law. Our legal advisers have continued to stand by their advice to this effect and our stance has also been endorsed by eminent canon lawyers."
The grant has now been returned in full with interest by the ordinariate.