The organisation, which provides support to female lay members in the Catholic Church and organises prayer vigils and study days in addition to its campaigning work, applied last year to be registered as a charity. The commission turned down the application.
Gareth Morgan, senior partner at the charity consultancy the Kubernesis Partnership, is representing CWO on a pro-bono basis.
He said CWO’s campaigning work was one reason behind the commission’s decision. "It’s fine for a charity to campaign if this is an attempt to further its charitable objects, but what needs to be decided is whether CWO’s proposed charitable objects would provide the public benefit needed for charitable status," he said.
Morgan told Third Sector the case was complicated because it was also about the organisation’s intention to merge with the charity Lisieux Trust for Women’s Ministry.
But he said he was unable to provide a detailed explanation without prior approval from the organisation’s board.
"It could be a very interesting case," he said. "It comes down to the meaning of public benefit and the way in which the Charity Commission applies this in the case of religious charities."