Guest post by Robert Meakin, Partner at Stone King LLP, Solicitors
What follows looks at the charitable structures in the Church of England and the Roman Catholic Churches and the effect of control exercised by those Churches over their charities. It focuses on dioceses, parishes, schools and religious orders. There has not been any previous research or commentary on this subject but there are some serious implications for these Churches both from a canon law and civil law perspective.
The level of control exercised by the church will influence the extent to which it can control doctrinal issues. A fundamental point should be made at the outset that although it is common parlance to speak of the Church of England and the Roman Catholic Churches, in legal terms they are made up of distinct and separate structures. This means that control and any liability that flows from control will fall upon a particular legal component of that Church rather than the whole Church.
The other fundamental point to make is that whether liability will ever fall upon a particular part of the church will depend on the level of control exercised by an ecclesiastical authority that is recognised by the civil law. For example, in the Roman Catholic Church there is a trend for the laity to take over trusteeships of charities such as schools from the clergy and religious. In general terms, if control is relinquished to the laity then any liability will fall on the laity rather than the clergy or religious that devolved such power. Continue reading