Tuesday, January 31, 2012

An Impious Sale by Ramsgate Monks

Fr Mildew reports that the former monks of Ramsgate who have now relocated to the former Franciscan Friary at Chilworth are selling off at public auction some truly beautiful objects. Fr Mildew raises concern about selling chalices which have been consecrated for sacred worship, as if the act of consecration meant nothing, fortunately the reliquaries on sale appear empty.

Though I wish the monks well, I hate to say this but this seems to be an impious sale that I like Fr Clifton find very distressing. The catalogue can be seen here. I only hope and pray that these sacred objects are bought and restored to the holy use for which they were intended. However their fate is more likely to become part of some decorative scheme or possibly even to be used for a sacrilegious purpose, auctions are like that.

What was it that Pope said about those things considered holy by previous generations?

St Benedict says monks should sell things a little cheaper than market prices. I am sure that if the monks are happy with the estimated figures, which seem surprising low these holy objects could be sold by private sale to clergy who would use them well and guarantee their continued sacred use. I would be willing to do it for them.

Many of the objects were donated in memory of loved ones, there is a ciborium with an inscription asking for prayers for a young pilot killed presumably in the Battle of Britain and lots of other things which were never intended for sale but as offerings at the altar for the souls of the departed. I just hope the Abbot has permission from the donors descendants for their disposal.

It appears disrespectful to their memory.

The monastery can be contacted here, I think. I have of course sent them a link to this post, perhaps in charity you might contact the monks too.
I am sure they are good men but just being foolish and obviously ill advised.
I have heard on the grapevine Farnborough Abbey are interesting in acquiring as many of these items as possible, "too keep them in the monastic family".

Fr Mildew's post: 
"I have raised the question of whether the monks had a right to do so and the legalities the Diocese will look into. However, and whatever the case, I deplore the fact that these effects were not offered to the diocese before departure of the monks. You can see these effects and the catalogue of which they are a section by going to the auction web site. www.dominicwinter.co.uk and following the links to the auction of art and antiques 8th and 9th Feb. Now whatever else transpires they have no right to sell by auction two important chalices which are consecrated objects. There is an ADVERT for the sale in todays "Daily Telegraph" which illustrates two items. One is a "recusant chalice " (in fact it is one of two chalices in the sale). Now judging by the picture it is certainly an old chalice but cannot be a true recusant chalice. These were small chalices which could be unscrewed into two pieces for easy transportation by the missioners who travelled the country whilst persecution of Catholics was strong. The valuation is £3ooo.oo to £5000.00 which might be OK as a valuation if it is a recusant chalice but is a false figure for the chalice based on age alone. However this begs the question...A chalice is a consecrated object and should not be sold at all, only handed on. To sell consecrated objects is simony and against Canon Law.
There are several other items including a pair of Altar Candelabra by Hardman. The Abbey was built by AW Pugin who used Hardman's for all necessary silver work and ornamentation in Churchs designed by AW P.
I will endeavour to find out if the monks have right of ownership...but the chalices should be withdrawn anyway."



Fr Ray,
What can one say-it beggars belief! What next? God help us!



Gigi said...

The pieces are beautiful, but this is horrible: these are consecrated items. If the monks have been re-housed is the sale necessary? I echo Father Ray's point that some of these pieces may turn up on some pseudo gothic mantlepiece. Or worse.

Terry Nelson said...

A Cistercian monastery in Wisconsin was suddenly 'disolved' last year, and not long afterwards many of their 'artifacts' were sold at auction as well - from the tabernacle to Roman vestments to fine art.

These things are troubling.

Collectors love it however. As do thieves, bent on pillaging churches to sell similar treasures to dealers.

georgem said...

I'm speechless. Drop, drop slow tears.

Fr. Gabriel Burke C.C. said...

If the good monks no longer need these sacred objects why not give them to congregations that do. I am sure there are parishes or monasteries throughout the world that are in need of sacred objects

Richard said...

There seem to be dozens of chalices for sale, presumably from the days before concelebration.

Richard said...

Father, don't expect the auctioneer's "estimate" to match the final selling price. They have a habit of under-estimating to attract buyers.

What we don't want though is for all your readers to try to save these from profanation and ending up bidding against each other and so driving up the price.

What about someone quickly setting up a Trust to buy back sacred items at auction, and sell them on to priests or parishes (with right of first refusal to stop it happening again)?

If there really are priests prepared to buy these things (or people to buy them for priests), then the Trust could, in time, be almost self-funding and could rescue a lot of sacred objects.

I don't have time to do it myself, but throw out the idea in case anyone is interested.

Lynda said...

It is shocking that monks should even consider treating consecrated chalices that have held the Blood of Christ, in such a sacreligious way, quite apart from the fact that it is prohibited by Church Law. The scandal caused must be significant; the proposed sale conveys serious falsehoods about the Mass and transubstantiation.

Felix Johnston said...

You say they are "good men", no Father they let Pugin's great church fall into ruin. These are men who have no respect for the history, the tradition, handed on to them, they are scandalous and they will wither on the vine.
I wept when I looked at the catalogue.
I know my grandparents donated vessels to the Abbey, I suppose they might well be in the sale.

John Fisher said...

As an ex member of St Augustine's Abbey I can say this is typical of the long list of acts that resulted in their having to leave Ramsgate.The community disliked Pugin, They badly treated buildings and the Pugin legacy. Others including English Heritage have seen what the monks did not!No man joins a community that repudiates the past and generousity of donors and past monks. The community is anti Extraordinary Form. Vestments belonging to the Pugin Church secretly sent to the V@A. My concer is wht will happen to the empty monastery buildings. These should be rented or purchased for one of the traditonal communities.

Pablo the Mexican said...

I am not going to comment on this post.

Everything I would say would be uncharitable.


Amfortas said...

What does Canon Law say - if anything - about the sacred nature of vessels, etc.? Can they effectively be de-sacralised? Is there a hint of idolatry in some of the reactions to the sale?

Fr Ray Blake said...

Chalices traditionally were deconsecrated by drilling a hole in the cup other sacred objects by crushing them for scrap, so they could not be used for secular purposes.

nickbris said...

We would have to re-open hundreds of Places of Worship and ordain a lot more Priests to usefully make use of these artefacts.They should fetch much needed funds to achieve more good than just leaving them in storage.

They would have already been deconsecrated.

Fr Ray Blake said...

The other problem is that many of these objects were given specifically as memorial to the dead and/or to be used at the altar, they were given in good faith with certain expectations and accepted on those conditions. It is a betrayal of trust tantamount to theft to use these things for another purpose or to allow them to be used for a totally different purpose.

Anonymous said...

There were two parishes in Ramsgate. I was PP of one for a short time. A now deceasedFather Patrick Whelan OSB ( no relation!) was PP of the other. If we were both in company and if I had occasion to introduce either of us I would say " This is Father Patrick Whelan PP of the Benedictine Parish. I am PP of the CATHOLIC parish!"

Once when I was on holiday Fr. P came and removed from the store room of parish (Catholic!) two Pugin candelabra.....saying they properly belonged to the Abbey! I could tell more..but......

I would just add that I have long been convinced that Monasteries and abbeys played a major part in the people supporting the King at the Reformation and not the Church!

Nicolas Bellord said...

Canon 1269 relates to sacred vessels: "if they [sacred vessels] belong to a public ecclesiastical juridic person, however, only another public ecclesiastical juridic person can acquire them."

But hey-ho Canon Law is a bit of a dead letter and we certainly do not want chaps like Cardinal Burke lecturing to us on the subject.

Nicolas Bellord said...

Whatever the position in Canon Law I suspect that many of these items were donated and were therefore held on trust. It is not lawful to sell them and the monks are exposing themselves to actions for breach of trust.

However have not the Benedictines brought enough shame on the church in the last year or so without having them selling sacred objects? Is it not time for reform? The scandals have been put down to poor governance but what about their spiritual lives or do they only worship mammon?

Rose said...

Why not give the buildings and contents to the Ordinariate?

Supertradmum said...

My family in America in the past generations provided Churches with stained glass windows, gold tabernacles and movable items. We never dreamed that any of those things, which were blesses-especially those things used for the Mass, would be sold to art dealers. I am shocked. This is a betrayal of trust and a misuse of legacies. Why did they have to sell things.There are seminarians and temporary deacons coming up to ordination throughout the country. Give the chalices to those men, or to another Benedictine Monastery such as Buckfast or Downside for safe keeping. This is stealing.

John Fisher said...

I have just looked at the catalogue. Many of the items in the 400's are part of the abbey plate and were used there. They are Pugin being made by Hardiman and Co. The monks should have left them at St Augustine's when they left. Some of the plate is from other parishes handed back by the monks to the diocese.

Anonymous said...

I wonder if some of the chalices are engraved as belonging to St. Ethelbert's Church, the real CATHOLIC parish in Ramsgate. Dom Bede. the great Pugin lecturer, told me that they had chalices which properly belonged to my parish of St. Ethelbert, Ramsgate..
Sadly the then Abbot would not surrender them and the then area Bishop, John Jukes, (the poor Franciscan with the Gucci shoes!)would not allow me to pursue the matter. Please don't make me swear! I could write a book but I would not publish it out of real love for my Mother, the Church.

On the side of the angels said...

I've spread the word to local priests..hoping they might even club together to salvage something

Amfortas said...

Thanks for the responses Fr Blake. Let's hope Farnborough Abbey manages to save some of the treasures.

Gigi said...

Hopeful news at least from Farnborough Abbey... Rose makes a very valid point: could these items be put to decent service by the Ordinariate?
Father Ray speaks of the betrayal of trust, with many of the pieces given specifically in memory of the dead and for use at the altar "accepted on those conditions". Quite: surely the monks have been formally instructed or even legally advised on this??

Anita Moore said...

I am inclinded to third Rose and Gigi: give the buildings to the Ordinariate. On the other hand, if the buildings have been allowed to fall into disrepair, might that not saddle the Ordinariate with a huge financial burden?

Meanwhile, I hope these sacred objects are rescued from being used for sacrilegious purposes. I wish I had the means to help.

Richard said...

Canon 1301 gives the Ordinary the power (and the obligation) to ensure that the wishes of donors are met.

Although Canon 1310 gives the Ordinary fairly wide powers to over-ride the donor's wishes.

But who is the Ordinary here? The Bishop, the Superior, or just the Abbot?

Nicolas Bellord said...

Without going into the details the powers to vary a gift under Canon 1310 are pretty narrow. You either have to have the express permission of the donor or the performance of the gift becomes impossible i.e. keeping it becomes impossible. This roughly lines up with English law. But this certainly does not apply to sacred vessels.

I think the Ordinary would have been the Abbot.

Lawyeratwork.com said...


I have had a look at these beautiful objects and I cannot belive that someone would seek the Abbot's approval and put these up for sale.

The Abbot of course has the last word in this matter, and the local Ordinary would not get involved save that any one object(s) were held in Trust by the Abbey for a Deanery or a local parishioner/parish.

If there is a question of disputed ownership then someone from the Curia make an application to the local Court to halt the sale until ownership had been agreed.

I personally will think again if I am to ask my local PP to use a object of beauty and much value - to be held on Trust, (which I have bought)
The word trust has a big question mark on it at the moment.

An object of beauty and value may be sold several years on without the batter of the eyelids.


The Rev. M. Forbes said...

An uch factor of+100.

Simeon said...

Would it be helpful to contact the Abbot President of the Subiaco Benedictines:

Curia Generalizia Congregazione Sublacense, OSB,
Via di S. Ambrogio 3
00186 ROMA (RM)
T +
F +
e s.ambrogio@tiscali.it
Abbot President D. Bruno Marin
T +
T Cell +39 338.271.11.07
F +
e praeses.subiaco@tiscali.it
Curia Generalizia – Sant’Ambrogio; Date of foundation (8th century?)
1861 / aggregation 1861
Time zone: GMT +1
Council of Assistants:
P. Mark Hargreaves, (Procurator General, from Prinknash)
Residence: Curia, S. Ambrogio—Tel +

rachel said...

if the sale does go ahead can it not be limited to religious organisations??? these items are breathtakingly beautiful,superb craftsmanship and of course for those who have paid for these items,of huge sentimental value.It is awful to think these Sacred Vessels may fall into the wrong hands lets Pray they dont!!!

Lawyeratwork.com said...

Thank you Simeon.

Very helpful and especially today on this beautiful feastday of The Presentation Of The Lord.

I am sending an email to the Abbot President D.Bruno Marin asking for clarification of ownership of each vessel and object and also assurance that each vessel/object has been deconsecrated in accordance to Canon Law.

Would anybody else like to join me in sending their own email?

Thank you Fr Blake


Chris said...

Dear Fr. Blake,

I regularly read your blog: its contents are full of edifying stuff! Keep up the great work!

I agree that it is a shame that these sales are happening, but perhaps I could bring a slightly different point to the discussion.

The nature of the monastic vocation is that one is called to a life of Prayer. Prayer and intercession for humankind is something which is of infinite goodness. Is it not, therefore, more important that we give the monks our full support in what must be a time of immense hardship for them, instead of taking the opportunity to denigrate the Community at Chilworth?

The Benedictines at Chilworth are a community of very holy men (I know some of them quite well), and I am, quite frankly, surprised at some of the hostility towards them shown in some comments.

This is a time when we, as Catholics, should be there for our brothers in Christ.

Best wishes,

John Fisher said...

I think you are missing the point. Many of the items of church plate belong at St Augustine's or were taken from parishes around Thanet when the monks transfered parishes to the Archdiocese of Southwark. In the case of those with ex abbotsnames on or monks they belong to the Benedictine comunity. Anything by Hardiman and co is not the monks. Also anything.
Writng to the head of the Subiaco Congregation might help. Many itmes being sold should really be sent to Farnborough Abbey.

Anita Moore said...

Chris said...

The nature of the monastic vocation is that one is called to a life of Prayer. Prayer and intercession for humankind is something which is of infinite goodness. Is it not, therefore, more important that we give the monks our full support in what must be a time of immense hardship for them, instead of taking the opportunity to denigrate the Community at Chilworth?

No. This sale is per se scandalous. You do not sell consecrated vessels. You do not place sacred, consecrated vessels in the way of being put to profane and even sacrilegious uses. Do not kid yourself that Satanists do not buy things like these and use them in Black Masses. This may even be a violation of Church law (someone more knowledgeable will have to weigh in on that). We do not support our brothers in Christ in scandalous endeavors. That is false charity.

Richard said...

I am a former member of the community and am scandalised, but not surprised to read this. I have looked at the catalogue and believe that some of the items belong to the diocese and are not the monks property to sell. Pugin bequeathed the church and its contents to what became the diocese and the monks were, in turn, allowed to use them - they did not acquire them. There was a similar scandal in the 1980s when they gave Pugin's collection of vestments to the V&A - it also belongs to the Diocese but has never been claimed by the authorities.
This whole situation is a disaster and well-illustrates how a once fine community has decayed.

Chris said...

I know I do miss the point rather a lot in life, but on this occasion I don't feel I have missed it.

Of course I am not somehow condoning what has been taking place, and when I talk about supporting our brothers in Christ I don't mean in the furtherance of bringing the Church into disrepute.

However, if we read between the lines on this, it is not hard to work out that the Community is suffering financially for whatever reason. I just think we should be lending our support them generally.

Best wishes.

rachel said...

would it be possible to launch a fund to help the monks of farnworth abbey or indeed any other organization to help buy these or any other Sacred Vessels that come up for auction in future?? and can i also ask if the area Bishop has been contacted in regard to this???

Fr Ray Blake said...

Fr Clifton has more information.

I am sure the Abbot of Farnborough would welcome donations to buy back vessels etc.

Richard said...

I am truly scandlaised by this and have emailed the Curia and the Archbishop of Southwark (some of the articles to be sold belong to his Archdiocese). I urge all other readers to do likewise.

Jason said...

As scandalous as this is, it is, unfortunately, nothing new; priests have been despoiling their... correction... OUR churches and sacristies of sacred objects for well over 40 years now. How many items, many of them donated, have ended up in a skip, in a market, or antiques shop? You only have to look on the internet to see that there are sacred objects being put up for sale all the time: here is a consecrated altar stone (relics still intact) for sale – the same company is selling monstrances, chalices (which I’m guessing haven’t been de-consecrated), & ciboria as well as relics. This company sells all manner of glorious objects which have been dumped from churches on the continent; if ever I wanted to stock a church out, this would definitely be the place to go!!!

Lawyeratwork.com said...

Fr Ray

The whole legal point is this;

Are the Monks the rightful owners of the object(s) and if not, do they have the rights to put the object(s) on sale and why are they doing this?

If the Community needs financial support desperatly, it should be sought by other means.

You cannot sell something legally, if someone else has title/ownership of it. Unless you have written permission from the owner.


Michael Clifton said...

To suggest that because the Monks are holy men and need the money means we should not interfere in this sale is totally wrong. I have been working on the case in collaboration with the diocese today (~Friday) and I now think that we have enough evidence to show that the Hardman Silver objects were in fact given to the Church and not to any monkish order that would come in to run the Church. Armed with that evidence we might have some success in getting the Hardman Silver objects withdrawn but of course the ~Childworth community will probably contest anything we come up with !

Richard said...

Fr Clifton,
As a former member of the community I can assure you that they are fully aware that the the Pugin/Hardman articles were in the church before they arrived. In any case, it is highly unlikely that they arrived after the monks did.
One of the problems is that the community never appreciated Pugin - and certainly in latter years have not had any sympathy for the EF - and see these things simply as 'assets'. Now that they are declining in numbers and facing financial problems it makes sense, to them, to sell unused assets. It is noticeable that one piece not being included in the sale is the jewelled pastoral staff which is definitely OSB property!

Anonymous said...

Needy monks? or greedy monks?
What happened the money they got selling St. Augustine's College in Westgate? It must have been worth millions!

B. said...

Fr. Blake:
I am sure the Abbot of Farnborough would welcome donations to buy back vessels etc.

You know, this is the entire point. I have become very, very careful with giving money to the Church. Today, the Ramsgate monks flip the middle finger to their donors. One of the successors of the current Abbot of Farnborough might well do the same. The whole mentality in the Church has become so decayed that as a layman you become wary of even bothering. In the conciliar Church it has become the modus operandi to sell off what our forefathers gave their last penny for in order to finance the multi-million dollar wreckovations of what is left. Why should we be so stupid to shelve out or money again, and again, and again, only to have everything stolen from us again?

I Germany I get excommunicated if I stop paying Church tax. Church tax that the bishops use to operate a porn business and hospitals that provide abortions. Why should I give any more money to the Church?

Sorry that I sound bitter. I possibly am, but that's the effect of what Church does to the ordinary faithful nowadays.

Simeon said...

According to The Tablet - News from Britain and Ireland:
"auctioneer and senior valuer at Dominic White, said that the Benedictines had gone through "a long process" in order to gain permissions to sell the items - including deconsecrating certain pieces."

Thanet said...

EFpastor - Westgate was indeed worth millions but the community - on the advice/insistence of a deceased member - sold it a knock-down price, complete with the contents. That is why the former Chapel is filled with statues now for the weddings and other functions held there. Even the altar was left behind, although the relics were removed. I was told later that one of the buyers was amazed at what was left behind - eg a collection of antique armour was sold for a huge amount of cash.
The proceeds of sale paid the day-to-day expenses of the monastic lifestyle - until the advent of the cosmetics business they weren't earning anything.
Unfortunately, OSB only looks in the short-term now in most communities because they know they are coming to the end.

Lawyeratwork.com said...

Thank you Simeon

I would ask proof of the 'long process' in written evidence and also I would ask of specific evidence from The Abbot to prove deconsecration of objects.

I still find this whole matter very concerning.

I did not think that The Bens were so poor. Ampleforth seems to be doing very well, although they do not have enough vocations - That's the real world!!

Since the Bens have enough scholars and lawyers of their own, I hope that they have done the right thing and checked each object for title and ownership proof.

If not - then perhaps you would like to consider the sale again?

If an owner persues a case against the OSB, after an illegal sale, the the Bens are going to be a lot more poorer. Do you want that problem to face you?

Take my advise dear Bens it is free and I know that you have more important things to think of than money.

Someone mention the Rule of St Benedict??
Careful you all don't end up in caves - and you will not get the Italian weather here!


Benedict Ambrose said...

Here is how one Kent newspaper is spinning the sale: http://www.thisiskent.co.uk/Kit-horror-goes-hammer/story-15121087-detail/story.html

A very, very bad business.

Richard said...

I just saw this on the net:

"There is absolutely no doubt that the Hardman plate dating from before 1860 belongs to St Augustine's church and not the abbey. Any items dating from before Pugin's death in 1852 are convered by a Trust Deed he set up in November 1846 to prevent alienation of lands, buildings, ornaments. vessels and vestments. The existence of the deed is well-known, and it printed in full in volume III of Margaret Belcher's edited Letters of A.W.N. Pugin. The sale should at least be halted until provenance and legal ownership can be ascertained. Michael Fisher, Archivist for the John Hardman Company"


Fr Ray Blake said...

Where Richard?

Richard said...

On a blog called "Laodicea

a filthy puddle of popery"

I think Mr Fisher is a published author on Pugin & his contribution backs up my earlier claim here on 3/2/12.

Anita Moore said...

It appears that title to the items put up for auction is in dispute. What about an action for injunctive and declaratory relief?

Father John Boyle said...

To say the least: very sad. All these items would appear to precious for artistic and historical reasons and therefore require the permission of the Holy See to be sold. And many might well have been given as a vow. I am very disappointed with the monks.

If these items were donated, they should be kept. There is nothing wrong with keeping them but the donors will not have intended them to be sold.

As your previous commentors have stated, this destroys the whole notion of trust. How will people donate items to the Church if they are not certain that they will not be disposed of later?

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