Ecclesiastical court judgments – January (II)

Review of the ecclesiastical court judgments during January 2022 (II)

Seventeen consistory court judgments were circulated in January 2022, and the nine featured in the first part of the round-up all related to Procedural issues, and Reordering, extensions & other building works. This second part reviews the remaining eight judgments which concern ExhumationChurchyards and burials  and Bells, as well as links to other posts relating to ecclesiastical law.


Exhumation

Errors in burial

Re St. Mary the Virgin Rowner [2021] ECC Por 4 The petitioner wished to exhume the cremated remains of her mother and reinter them with the remains of her father who was buried in the same churchyard[1]. At the time of her mother’s death, the petitioner’s father purchased a double family plot intending that his remains would be interred with those of his late wife when the time came. The family was unaware that the selected plot was insufficiently deep to take Mr Haine’s remains; a headstone was placed in memory of the late Mrs Haine, with space left for Mr Haine’s details to be added in due course [7]. When the petitioner’s father died it was found to be impossible to add the father’s remains to the grave, due to insufficient depth. Furthermore, the grave could not be enlarged as it was obstructed by concrete.

She was advised that a new plot would be prepared that day and that her mother’s and father’s remains would be interred there together. Her father’s details had already been inscribed on the headstone bearing his late wife’s inscription, in anticipation of their interment in the same plot [8]. When the time came for the ceremony, the family were informed that their mother’s remains could not be removed from the existing plot without formal approval, with the result that only their father’s remains were interred in the new plot [9].

The Chancellor considered that a mistake had been made, in that those digging the mother’s grave should have been aware that a double plot was required and that the plot itself was not suitable for a double interment. He therefore granted a faculty of the exhumation of the mother’s remains and their reinterment in the grave of her husband. [Re St. Mary the Virgin Rowner [2021] ECC Por 4] [Top of section] [Top of post]

Other

Re Beverley Pamela Wilson deceased [2021] ECC Car 4 The petitioner wished to have the cremated remains of her daughter, who had died in in a tragic accident in 1998, exhumed from a grave in Parkside Road Cemetery in Kendal and reinterred with the remains of the petitioner’s recently deceased father in another grave in the same cemetery [1]. However, the Chancellor noted:

“[6]. …it is possible that the recently deceased father together with in due course the Petitioner and her two daughters could be interred in the Deceased ‘s existing grave although it would not be ‘very ideal’ because the last set of cremated remains could not be interred in a container. Instead, they would have to be poured into the grave, as may have been the case in relation to the Deceased’s cremated remains…In fact, I remind myself that the current Diocesan Churchyard Regulations indicate that cremated remains should normally be buried without a container although at the incumbent’s discretion be buried in a casket or um they may provided that it is made of biodegradable material.

[7]. I do not regard the necessity for a new headstone as significant, given that anew headstone would seem necessary in any event”

The Chancellor declined to grant the faculty sought, because he did not accept that any exception was warranted by the facts of this case to the presumption of the permanence of Christian burial. [Re Beverley Pamela Wilson deceased [2021] ECC Car 4] [Top of section] [Top of post]

Re St. Margaret and All Hallows Orford [2021] ECC Liv 5 The petitioner wished to have the cremated remains of her father, who died in 2000, exhumed from Orford churchyard and reinterred in the grave of her mother, whose ashes had been interred in Warrington Cemetery about 18 months before the death of the petitioner’s father. The petitioner’s mother had been a Roman Catholic and her father had been an Anglican. The petitioner claimed that, at the time of her father’s death, the family mistakenly thought he had to be buried in an Anglican grave. She also stated that the family now wished to have the couple united in a family grave. The Chancellor decided that there were no exceptional circumstances to justify the grant of a faculty: the issue as to where the petitioner’s father could be buried could have been decided shortly after his death; a long period had elapsed since the interment; and there was no support for the exhumation from the parish. [Re St. Margaret & All Hallows Orford [2021] ECC Liv 5] [Top of section] [Top of post]


Churchyards and burials

Churchyard Regulations

Re St. Peter & St. Paul Hambledon [2022] ECC Por 1 There was a disagreement between siblings as to the inscription to be included on the memorial for the grave of their parents, who had died within a short time of each other. Two of them wished to have the words ‘IN GOD’S KEEPING’, followed by dates, then  ‘FOREVER IN OUR HEARTS’. The third sibling wished the words ‘Only in the agony of parting do we look into the depths of love’ to be added. The first two siblings did not consider the words appropriate and so one of them applied for a faculty to authorise only the words that they had chosen.

The Chancellor considered that the additional words expressed immediate personal grief which it was not appropriate to include on a permanent memorial and they might “detract from the messages of love and care which the inscription would otherwise convey”. He therefore granted a faculty for the memorial with the wording proposed by the petitioner. [Re St. Peter & St. Paul Hambledon [2022] ECC Por 1] [Top of section] [Top of post]

Reservation of grave space

Re St. Mary and St. Radegund Postling [2021] ECC Can 1 A priest, who had several personal and family connections with the church and village, sought to reserve a grave space. Public notices resulted in letters of both support and  objection [1]. The PCC objected on the basis that it had made a policy decision in 2012, reaffirmed in 2020, of not approving any reservations of graves, but to have a ‘first-come, first-served’ policy; however, the present incumbent and the SSM supported the application  [4]. In October 2021, the priest informed the Registry that he had reflected on whether to persist with his petition in light of the PCC’s opposition and the objections received, and had decided to do so. Similar petitions that had been lodged by his sister and brother-in-law had, however, been withdrawn [2].

The Chancellor stated that weight should always be given to such a PCC policy, but such a policy could not override the discretion of the Chancellor, should an exceptional case arise. The Chancellor determined that in this case the petitioner had shown such a degree of exceptionality as to justify the grant of a faculty.  [Re St. Mary & St. Radegund Postling[2021] ECC Can 1] [Top of section] [Top of post]

Re St. George Fatfield [2021] ECC Dur 4 The petitioners, husband and wife, wished to reserve a grave in the churchyard. They did not live in the parish or regularly attend the church, and therefore did not have a legal right to be buried in the churchyard. The reason for their application was that a number of relatives were buried in the churchyard. There was a limited number of grave spaces left in the churchyard. The Chancellor determined that, with few grave spaces left, the rights of the parishioners would be prejudiced by the grant of a faculty, and he therefore declined to grant one. Re St. George Fatfield [2021] ECC Dur 4[] [Top of section] [Top of post]

Re St. George Fatfield [2021] ECC Dur 5 The petitioners, husband and wife, wished to reserve a grave in the churchyard. They did not live in the parish or attend the church, and therefore did not have a legal right to be buried in the churchyard. The reason for their application was that their son and daughter-in-law had reserved a grave next to the plot which the petitioners wished to reserve. There was a limited number of grave spaces left in the churchyard. Although the petitioners had some historic links with the parish, the Chancellor determined that, with few grave spaces left, the rights of the parishioners would be prejudiced by the grant of a faculty, and he therefore declined to grant one. [Re St. George Fatfield [2021] ECC Dur 5] [Top of section] [Top of post]


Bells

Re A Redundant Church Bell [2021] ECC Oxf 11 In August 2019 the court granted a faculty authorising remedial works to a ring of three bells in the tower of this Grade I listed medieval village church in accordance with proposals by a firm of church bell-hangers [2]. However, the existing treble had been found to be so irreparably cracked as to render it unusable, preventing it from being retained in the ring of bells as originally had been planned, and a new treble had been located to take its place in the ring [5]. The petitioners therefore sought permission to display a redundant treble bell at the base of the church tower, notwithstanding the risk that it might be stolen from the church, which was left open during the day.

The Chancellor concluded that it would be just and expedient to order that the existing faculty should be amended: (1) the return of the existing treble bell for display in a secure position within the foot of the bell tower (with the method of securing the bell to be agreed between the PCC and the DAC); (2) the introduction to the bell tower of a redundant bell (made in the 1760s) from another church [7].

However, there were differences of opinion between the churchwarden, the Diocesan Senior Church Buildings Officer and the Diocesan Bells Adviser as to the degree of risk of theft and whether the bell should be displayed at ground level or on the first floor of the tower [9] to [20].

The Chancellor, after considering the CBC Code of Practice on the Conservation and Repair of Bells and Bellframes, and related judgments on the risks of church artefacts being stolen, determined that retaining a treasured artefact would always carry some degree of risk, wherever the artefact was retained. He therefore gave the petitioners to choice of retaining the redundant bell on display either on the ground floor or on the first floor of the tower

The Chancellor concluded by stating [our emphasis[:

“[31]. This anonymised judgment can, and should, be made publicly available and disseminated to the parish, the DAC, the Bells Adviser, the Archdeacons, ecclesiastical judges, registrars and lawyers, and interested members of the public, in the usual way: but there should be no indication that this judgment relates in any way to this particular church. For this reason, I have refrained from attaching any relevant photographs to this judgment in case they might help to identify the church”.

[Re A Redundant Church Bell [2021] ECC Oxf 11] [Top of section] [Top of post]


CFCE Determinations

The dates of the Cathedrals Fabric Commission for England may be found by scrolling down to the bottom of the page Cathedrals Fabric Commission. The determinations made on Wednesday 15 December 2021 and on Thursday 27 January 2022 are not yet available.


Links to other posts

Recent summaries of specific issues that have been considered in the consistory courts include:

Church Treasures/Sale of Paintings &c

Rustat memorial, Jesus College, Cambridge: procedural and evidential issues, (26 January 2022).


Cite this article as: David Pocklington, "Ecclesiastical court judgments – January (II)" in Law & Religion UK, 29 January 2022, https://lawandreligionuk.com/2022/01/29/ecclesiastical-court-judgments-january-ii-2/

 

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