Wednesday, February 08, 2012

The Hale Chalice and Pugin Bequest Saved but What is Lost?

A fine and rare Charles I recusant silver-gilt chalice by William Rainbow, 1633, the hexafoil base engraved with The Passion of Christ, all six panels within engraved gadroon borders, the domed centre rising to a hexagonal disc and with a similar stem divided by a fluted and pierced knop with 6 lozenge shaped bosses, the tapering bowl with later Latin inscription "MOMENTO DOMINE GENTIS CANTUAR : HALES AVITIS ARIS SAVA" "PER TEMPORA FIDELIS ERTINCTA A.C. MDCCCLXXXV"

The Carologianian Chalice which had been in use at Masses for the now extinct Hale family from Canterbury along with various items that were definitely left Pugin to St Augustines Church have had at least a temporary reprieve from the hands of the auctioneer. A great deal  of embarassment has been caused to the auctioneers but still, lesser objects are up for sale like the ciborium inscribed on the underside:
"Pray for the Soul of Patrick John Brady R.A.F. Killed in Action 9th August 1941",
or the chalice illustrated below simply asking for prayer for "H.L." with the date.
There are numerous other ex voto objects with similiar inscription, collectively they probably wont raise more than a few thousand pounds but they were given for a particular purpose, to be at service of the altar. They are not significant, not important, simply the gifts of the ordinary people.

Possibly amonst the other objects are bits and pieces of Pugin's gift to the Abbey Church, St Augustine's which itself was a ex voto offering, there is no proof, just the probability that other Hardman made and Pugin designed aricles were intended as gifts to the Church, now they are going under the hammer.

The Abbot of Chilworth has consented to withdraw some of the "significant" items but it strikes me that all the items are significant, yes even chalices given to the monastery for now no longer remembered monks. Families who have given ex voto a son, would give the monastery ex voto a chalice for his use.Now the sacred object, the holy and venerable chalice he had held in hands is to be sold. The monastery through necessity has had to move from Ramsgate to Chilworth, they left the bodies of their dead behind, now another link has been cast off.

The Fifth Commandment says, "Honour your mother and father, and you will live long in the land". It is not just about parents it is about rootedness and belonging. We have a future, if we have a past. That which was counted holy by previous generation cannot suddenly be discarded - or sent to the auctioneers.
Monks of old knew the importance of remembering and it was for this reason they were entrusted with memories; the bodies of the dead, the writining of the Chronicles and the preservation of book and treaties, wills and laws; in many places even the instruments of Royalty and king-making. The reason was that they were trusted, trusted to value the past so that their might be a future. 

It is quite significant that in Rome at the moment a conference about child abuse is going on,. Over that issue what we have lost is "trust", the result of the scandal is that Bishops and Priests and the heads of religious orders have shown themselves to betray trust.
Over this auction we have lost trust. For people called to proclaim the Gospel "trust" is essential, if we are to be credible witnesses to Christ. If things given to us on trust are treated as trivial and discarded easily, then we break trust and show ourselves untrustworthy.
If we are not trustworthy then we have nothing of value to say.
The great crisis of the Church today is simply that we have lost our credibility as witnesses. If we cannot be trusted in small things we cannot be trusted in great.

Let us pray for those who have given us things on trust.


Supertradmum said...

Praise God for this, but this is not the end of the story.

Priceless said...

It is much more, and much deeper, than losing trust. It is a matter of losing faith. Untold millions have lost their faith because they lost their trust in their priests and bishops - and abbots. Those priests and bishops who have retained the trust of their flocks have a value that no auction could ever meet.

Peter said...

This is all very sad.
Trust law has a rule against perpetuity and this case seems to illustrate the problem. The monks have more than they can use. With hindsight one can say that they should not have taken the items in. Or perhaps they should have agreed with each donor on their eventual disposal.
[I suspect that many newly ordained priests would be pleased to accept and use these items and pass them on in turn to others so giving some sort of respect to the original intention.]
Similar concerns apply to land and buildings used by the Church or its institutions like schools.
Those who establish charities might also consider how their charity should be wound up when the time comes.
Perhaps seminaries should teach about this and use this sad story to illustrate the necessity to get these things right. As you say Father it is all about trust.

Thank you for letting us know.

John Fisher said...

Perhaps a public forum is not the place o write what I am going to write but here I go. The monks from Ramsgate and now at Chilworth have to grasp why many do not stay in the communiy.
Within the community there is no grasp of cuntinuity and no effort to maintain. Many foolish choices have been made over the years. Smaskhing up of Pugin's high altar in the abbey church. (The Tabernacle now in Anglican Southwark cathedral). Removal of Pugin's choir screen. Not maintaining St Augustines abbey buildings. Wasting money building a cross shaped pond (over 20,000). Over the decades monks have demolished many building of heritage significance. The 17th century presbytery of St Ethelbert's demolished. Also Assumption House...sold to developers. The abbey school at Westcliffe on Sea sold for little. As they have left parishes they have transfered valuables to the abbey.
The monks despise Pugin. There is a sad acedia at work within the community. Balancing books, wise investments, and doing work has not really been grasped. As has been demonstrated the Pugin legacy is impoortant and the monks could have built on that. They didn't care. Long afternoons spent in sieata's and just despairing!
The monks also do not grasp the importance of continuity in worship. They sing chant. They have no time of the Traditional Mass. So now they are at Chilworth. Second rooms turned into onsuites. They are in a building in good condition because the Franciscans maintained it. So they have run away from problems as they have for years. Same old problem they need money to live the lifestyle. Many of the monks have have learnt to linger. They go through the motions but the vision?
So now they sell the family heirlooms. They sell other peoples property! They just do not get it.

Fr Ray Blake said...

Yes, things ultimately have to be disposed of.
The previous tradition was that vessels were destroyed and melted down, rather than sold off.
Care was always taken the sacred was not profaned, textiles which were used in the liturgy were re-cycled -altar clothes refashioned into purificators, corporals etc and eventually being buried
BUT NEVER put to profane use or traded.

Fr Ray Blake said...

A little hard, perhaps?

Lynda said...

The behaviour of the monastery, as adverted to, suggests a religious community that has turned away from the substance and form of the Catholic faith, to its own modern, easy, popular, ideological version. I cannot imagine that they could have done what they have if they were obedient to the Church's authority and teachings, and availed of the sacrament of confession. I presume no one is joining them?

Terry said...

Well, at least there's some light in this sorry mess.

I'm amazed that Damian Thompson has taken up the issue on his wildly popular blog. Oh wait, it's nothing to do with the bishops (so far) so he's not interested. Typical.

Society of St. Bede said...

Are they not the E.B.C. ?

Every bodily comfort...

Richard said...

I am thankful that some things have been saved - but there are items being sold that are important and a tragic loss to the Church eg the beautiful chalice given by the family of Fr Feazey and used by him, a man so important in the early days of the revival of Walsingham, Also, to me, the sale of an agnus dei is deeply shocking - even if it is described as a medal.
I have to say, as a former member of the community, that I agree with John Fisher totally. There is a lot that could be said about Ramsgate/Chilworth - but the same is true of many monastic communities these days, why else are so many of them dying?
I suspect that the move to Chilworth is a sticking plaster that wont work. The malaise is grievous and a more luxurious lifetstyle will not halt the decline.
I am thankful that you and Fr Clifton have been able to achieve so much with the help of other priests and the readers of your blogs who have made thier voices heard - but am very sad at what is being lost and at the death-throes of a once fine community which, I suspect, have just begun.

vetusta ecclesia said...

Actually, no, Soc. St Bede, they are not EBC but Subiaco Congregation.

FrBT said...

Father Ray

I would like to personally thank you for this blog and this source of 'Defending what is True and Right'

I kept glancing at the lap top several times yesterday evening to watch the developments of the whole matter.

FrBT said...

Father Ray

There are further complications to the sale of these items.

Ownership in the legal terms is now being disputed by several persons.

The whole matter is very poor and irregular. With respect to the Abbot - but in personal comment- I say - Fr Abbot you have sadly made a big mistake to put these objects into auction.

Investigation proves that there are more sacred objects around the Bens. Respectfully I ask that Fr Abbot(s) think twice in the future.

The word TRUST has always been a major word in meaning and in deed.

Who can we trust? How is trust shown and reciprocated?

Can we trust the Man in The Collar?
The Woman with The Veil?
The Bishop?
The Cardinal?
The Leader of The Catholics in England and Wales?
A father?
A mother?

Major questions needing deep thought in the answers.

I am very much distressed at the thought that Priests in the most senior positions - positions which hold a lot of trust, are allowing the sale of objects which have been part of The Holy Mass for decades if not centuries.

Where is the respect for the treasures (not meant in financial scales) of Holy Mother Church?

If senior priests are allowing holy objects to be sold in auctions, to persons unknown, who may do ??? to the objects, objects taken by their juniors, to auctions which bring the Church into disrepute - then where can we the lay people put our trust?

- child abuse - physical, sexual, mental

- Holy Mass abuse - homosexual, lesbian, transgender, transexual gatherings in Holy Churches to support the groups

- Baptism of children - who you know will never see the inside of a Catholic Church except in hatch, match and dispatch

- Priests who openly support homosexual marriages

- Priests who openly support lesbian marrisges

- Priests who have allowed the Religious Education in Catholic Schools to fall to such low standards that the question is seriously asked 'is it right to call this school catholic?'

Difficult questions - requiring truthful answers and truthful carrying out of duties by the trusted person.

Jude said...

It will be interesting to see if the Catholic Herald &, in particular, Damian Thompson have anything to say about this debacle. Thompson has been noticeably silent & I share Terry's view that this is because he can't bash the bishops over this, although successive bishops in Southwark have done nothing to stop the monks neglecting the patrimony or even giving it away (as happened with the vestments).
No doubt Fr Abbot is now relishing the prospect of spending whatever cash has been raised today, but it seems to me that the integrity of his community is now in tatters.

Peter said...

Thank you.
My comment was based on total agreement with your spiritual approach and my own knowledge of trust law and practice.
I am sure that the donors did not think it would be necessary to impose any condition as to eventual disposal. I suggest that church bodies and clerics should think of such things and agree with donors so as to avoid the concern that you rightly express.
By the look of the pictures the chalices have many more years of life left before they become unsuitable for use. Some might then be kept for display and others destroyed as you explain. Selling them for profit is almost certainly not what the donors expected.
I am thinking also of land and buildings. The Bishop of Lancaster has raised the issue of those schools that are Catholic in name only. How best can the intentions of their early supporters be respected? That is another aspect of the issue of trust that you rightly consider.

Thanet said...

Peter Pugin gave his generous gift to the Church via the Vicars Apostolic with the undoubted intention that it would be kept intact: they (& their successors in Southwark) have consistently betrayed that trust by allowing the benedictines to neglect and squander the gift. Now all that is left is a few (fine) pieces of altar plate and an ensemble of neglected buildings. The collection of vestments was given to the V&A - completely ultra vires - and the act has never been challenged, presumably because the bishops are scared of the Museums 'clout'.
We are left with a mess - Pugin's gift has been wrecked; a monastic community has shown itself to be seriously in need of reform; the Church has been shown to be feeble and careless. If it hadnt been fpr Fr Blake & Fr Clifton & the comments/work of their readers this whole thing would have gone unchallenged.

Richard said...

Do we know, yet, who bought what?

Nicolas Bellord said...

Peter: The rule against perpetuities never applied to Charities! They can go on for ever.

It is ironic that the law of trusts was given to us by successive Lords Chancellor acting as the conscience of the King and quietly whispering in ear "Well that may be legal at common law but as a Christian King you simply cannot do that".

Father you say John Fisher's comment was harsh but your post is much harsher. You have made statements about trust which I only think of making to clergy when I am awake at four in the morning! What you have said is absolutely right and I hope it gives food for thought to your brethren.

Fr Ray Blake said...

Richard, The names of buyers will not be published but the amounts each item raised is on-line.
Some items seemed to go for a surprisingly low amount.

John Nolan said...

There is a side chapel in Westminster Cathedral donated by a family in the understanding that Holy Mass would be said for their intentions in perpetuity. Like all the the other chapels in the cathedral it has been stripped and Mass is no longer offered there. The version of Catholicism which prevails today has little in common with the even recent past, and no improvement in papal celebrations or the modest revival of the Usus Antiquior will make a blind bit of difference. Not in my lifetime, anyway.

Fr John Hunwicke said...

I presume the auctioneers were even too mean to pay a modest fee to someone who could transcribe the inscription on the chalice accurately. I imagine it reads MEMENTO DOMINE GENTIS CANTUAR: HALES AVITIS ARIS SAEVA PER TEMPORA FIDELIS EXTINCTAE A.C.1885 (Remember, Lord, the Kent family of Hales, faithful through cruel times to the altars of their ancestors, extinct in the year of Christ 1885).Googling Hales Tunstall Hall gets information about this recusant family.

Richard said...

Almost everything sold for well over the estimate.

Items estimated at £20 or £30 sold for hundreds - possibly, I fear, good Catholics bidding against each other to save sacred vessels.

If the figures given on the auctioneer's website are correct, then:
- two chalices sold for £3,600each, one was estimated at £300, the other at £600,
- a monstrance estimated at £600 sold for £6,800,
- a Victorian pyx, estimated at £300, sold for £3,400.

One chalice went for £14,200.

Overall the abbey made £63,080 (less auctioneer's fees). As you say, Father, many of us would value the lost trust far more highly, but presumably not the Abbot.

My fear is that this financial windfall will only encourage others (abbeys, priests, bishops) to do the same.

Fr Ray Blake said...


I understand the auction was delayed for half an hour or so, whilst the auctioneer was on the telephone, I was told to the Abbot. It began with announcement that the items withdrawn from sale "would be kept within the Catholic community".
Several priests were present at the auction. I don't think the prices were inflated, for auction they were reasonable, I was amazed that many items went so cheaply. A friend was able to purchase a chalice for me, it went for less than if it appeared at our local auction house.
If its ownership is disputed I am of course quite willing to return it.

Apostle of the Lord said...

Remarkable that the monks did not have a clue as to what they were selling, nor did their auction house !
Lot 658 descibed as a Victorian Reformed Gothic table and estimated at £100-£150 and sold for £8,500 is in fact a disign by A.W.Pugin and made as part of the original Abbey Church Furniture-the credence table. Lot 643 estmated at £100-150 and sold for £1,900 is thought to be the original kitchen table from the Grange. Lot 631 is an original drawing of the Abbey by Peter Paul Pugin, it was estimated at £150-£200 and sold for £3,400. These examples are indicative of what neither the Community nor the Aucioneers knew they were selling.I could go on and on ! I wish them well with their new found wealth but have to tell them that the items they sold are beyond wealth, why ? because they WERE an important part of their history, they are lost now and so is their true value and meaning !!


Peter said...

Nicholas is right about the perpetuity rule. I suspect that it would be hard to prove that any of the items being sold were held in trust in terms of civil law. It was the logic, rather than the rule, that I thought worthy of mention.
Just as in planning private trusts it is necessary to look to the demise of the named beneficiaries so for charitable and religious property one should consider what will happen when the original purpose or use ceases. In some cases it will be possible to have a successor, such as the diocese, or another charity with comparable objects identified.
So a trust whose purpose was to provide a school for local Catholic children might find that the provision of taxpayer funded education removes its main purpose. Using the funds to pay bursaries for poor Catholic students at university might be a suitable redirection of the funds.
In the case of these items now sold by the monks one would hope that they might still be used in Mass albeit that it would not be in the monastery. I suspect that the absence of any provision for the end of monastic use meant that the monks were able to consider selling to the highest bidder. As all seem agreed this outcome is far from ideal.

Fr Ray Blake said...

Indeed,the chalice I bought identified as being made by Arthur Pruden was actually made by Alfred Pruden, better known as Dunstan Pruden, one of the most notable English silversmiths of the 20th cent, it is similar to one in the V&A, the estimate was £250-350 - daft!
That table was so obviously Pugin.

Apostle of the Lord said...

Father Ray,

I happen to know of the chalice in question. If I had to say to you that you won a watch with what you paid for it I would not be exagerarting. Look at the design, look at the perfect dimensions of both chalice and paten. Those people describe the knob as 'probably ivory', it is without doubt ivory and the craftsman who patiently crafted the beautiful Celtic scroll would have been one of the best of his time, oh that we knew his name ! Your right father, A. Pruden ( Alfred ) is regarded as on of the finest silversmiths of last century. If you aksed me what the insurance valuation of the chalice is I would not hesitate to say a figure of some £4,000-£5,000. The all important thing is father that you now have the chalice, you will appreciate it for what it is. The very sad thing for me is the inscription. I find it difficult to understand how anyone, let alone monks, could 'sell' a sacred vessel given in memory of someone who was clearly loved by the benefactor(s).
Best wishes.

Thanet said...

What were described as a pair of 'monstrances' were reliquaries designed by Pugin for St Augustine's - and the community knew that!
The loss to the Church & to our culture - is indescribable. So many of the items (not just the silver) had stories attached, well known in the community (I was a member & know)which will ot have been passed on to the purchasers.
I just hope that Paulinus enjoys spending the cash he gained in such a dreadful way and at such a high cost. I suspect that the monks have doen irrepairable damage to their reputations, credibility & integrity by this stupid action. I, for one, am ashamed to have been associated with them.

Fr Ray Blake said...

That would be my estimate for insurance purposes, there are quite a few similar chalices in the area, Prudens are local being based a Ditchling, he taught in Brighton, so there is a good connection.
I am touched by the inscription, "In Thanksgiving for the Love of HWOH, who died May 12th 1919", but the chalice wasn't made until 1931, did the donor spend twelve years scrimping and saving and praying for HWOH whilst mourning his/her beloved? Had their love gone on through the Great War only for them to be parted by the influenza epidemic? It is sad story, and yet it is celebrated by bringing it to the altar and a house of prayer.

Apostle of the Lord said...

Please don't be so hard on them. I know it is difficult to believe, but they really did not know what they were dealing with-I am not making excuses for them, only stating what I believe. In 1977 I was invited by Dom Bede Millard
( whom I believe has sice died )to value the contents of their sacristy- excluding vestments which were beyond value-. I stayed in the monastery for two days and Dom Bede and the community were very charming and treated me with great kindness,they even allowed me to brouse the Grange and see many of the original features, such was my delight that I waved my valuation fee! Anyway I did the valuation and sent a report to Dom Bede, this has obviously become lost or misplaced. For example: The Omar Ramsden was valuated then at £20,000-£25,000. The Pruden chalice was valuated then at £2,000. The relequaries to which you refer were valued at £4,000 (pair) simply because they are indeed Pugin. I well remember my excitement at first glancing the Rainbow chalice. I remeber taking it apart and examining it closely, The auction house valued this at
£3,000-£5,000. I simply could not put a value on this and I remember telling Dom Bede that I could not value it; but if I had to say to you that 10 times the above value might just about come close, you will understand, I hope !
They have made a mistake, as we all do, at least please try to understand their reasoning for getting rid of these artefacts; you obviously have other issues with them and will be privy to much more knowledge than the rest of us, but, again, please don't be so hard on them, hopefully they will realise the massive mistake that they have made.
With all good wishes.
AOTL. said...


Can I suggest that you well document this part of your blog to posterity - so that future years of catholics or generally historians will read how we tried to save the Eccesiastical Artefacts from Ramsgate Abbey?

We read about catholics in the past. Perhaps we should preserve today what the children of tomorrow will read and maybe understand what we were trying to do, not just catholics but all people of goodwill who contribute to this blog.

Thanet said...

Thank you, AOTL, but I can assure you that they knew exactly what they were dealing with and its likely value. Indeed, what I presume to have been your valuation report was kept in the Sacristy! But, as has been said before, while at Ramsgate they did not value Pugin, their heritage or the EF of the Mass and so would have felt no compunction in selling for whatever they could get.
One wonders what they have taken to Chilworth & can only hazard a guess that it will be just enough to enable them to continue with their particularly stark style of concelebration, unless the friars left them a fully equiped sacristy.
I am sorry if I appear to be harsh, but it comes out of experience. said...

Apostle of The Lord

Thank you for your comment. I am not being hard nor do I consider that other people are being hard.

The fact that Fr Abbot allowed these items to be put into auction tells me several things - as a lawyer with many years experience.

- Fr Abbot did not know what he truely had in value and did not do the correct checks with top experts

- Fr Abbot did not appreciate or respect the beauty of the objects (not just ecclesiastical but other objects also)

this concerns me the most
- Fr Abbot ignored the past history of each object and the purpose of that object with the intention of the donors

ie. Chalice to be used at Mass.

and Fr Abbot did not hesitate to approve a sale on sacred objects knowing that it (the object) may fall into the wrong hands
( deconsecrated or not)

I find it astounding that a person in such a senior position has disregarded so many important issues - and approved the sale.

One issue alone would be enough for me to say - no we cannot do this because it is not the right thing to do.

If Fr Abbot does not also appreciate the mastery of Pugin, the excellence of his mathematical precision of his works and the sheer magnifisence of his manifestation of true brillance -

then it is a sorry state that the Bens find themselves in - yet again!

Sorry Fr Ray, I am taking too much of your space. My apologies.

Nicolas Bellord said...

Thanet: Unless I misunderstand you, you seem to be saying the monks were not aware of the monetary or historical value of these objects. Presumably they were able to recognise a chalice when they saw one regardless of monetary or historical value? You do not sell chalices - full stop. Or perhaps they had taken to using pottery egg cups in recent years?

On the subject of Catholic charitable trusts the usual practice since the Charity Act 1960 was to have a gift over for Roman Catholic Purposes so that if the original purpose cannot be fulfilled the assets would remain within the Church. Unfortunately earlier than that it was considered unwise to mention Catholic purposes in a formal trust deed as it could be considered that this was a superstitious use and thus void at law and possibly leading to confiscation by the Crown. This was especially so in respect of gifts for Masses. It was F.E.Smith as Lord Birkenhead (of all people!) who ruled in about 1920 that a gift for masses was valid. He said it was about time England fell into line with our great Dominions and other possessions such as Canada, Australia and Ireland. Although I seem to remember a much more recent case taking another view so strong is the survival of anti-Catholic prejudice.

The absence of any mention of Catholicity in earlier trust deeds has been taken advantage of in more recent times when getting rid of other tiresome Catholic assets such as our Adoption agencies viz: Cabrini.

Somewhere I seem to remember a judge saying that a trust was the highest duty known to the law. Forget it.

Nicolas Bellord said...

Apologies; apologies my remark should have been addressed to Apostle of the Lord and not Thanet!

Apostle of the Lord said...

To Thanet, Lawyeratwork and Nicolas B.
I merely asked Thanet to be a little less harsh on the monks. I am not making excuses for them. I only give them the benefit of the doubt when I say that they did not know what they were doing ( I seem to remember Our Lord doing the same as he endured his passion and death ! ). What they have done is called 'ignorance'. We may well be in a position to have knowledge and understanding as to the value, monetory ot otherwise, of the items sold but did they ? Thanet does seem to want to vent anger at this community, that certainly comes over in his posts, that is sad. I only ask that a little more charity be expressed.
I have shared my only experience of said community when I valued the items for them ( this was not for re-sale but for insurance ) and it was a memorable one. Nicolas states the obvious when he says that you do not sell chalices, we know that should be the case Nicolas but maybe the community are going through tough times financially !
Lawyer at work expresses the wise course of action ie, that the Abbot should have sought expert advice and ask counsel of others.
May I suggest that we follow the Christian principles of forgiveness and the understanding that we all learn from our mistakes !
Bless you all.

Paddy said...

On Tuesday, the widow of a Church of Ireland priest gave me her husband's home Communion set. It's inscription states it had originally been donated by a parish to their priest in 1834. Accepting her kind gift I assured that when the time came I would pass the set on to another priest to ensure that it remains in liturgical use.

Such sacred items are not our possessions; they are but entrusted to our stewardship for a time.

FrBT said...

So for now, let us leave it at that ladies and gentlemen.(if I may be permitted to say this?)

Let us see what Fr Abbot plans to do next and if Fr Abbot Primate has made enquiries about this big mess?

I think we will hear more about this. I do feel sorry now for Fr Abbot, because of the obvious and also because his gastro- intestinal area must be very unhappy.

Our Lady of Lourdes tomorrow. Are you Anointing the sick of your parish Father?

May The Immaculate Conception Bless You All.


Jude said...

AOTL - I think there is a lot of amazement here which maybe boils over into anger: something has been done which is a grievous blow to the Church and it is right that otherwise voiceless people be able to express themselves and may lead to a lesson being learned. It is, after all, the culture of forgiving silence which, in part, led to so many of the problems that have faced us in recent years.
Like Thanet I am a former member of the community & I know the monks could not have acted simply in ignorance; they arent silly men after all. As has been said by others - here and in similar threads - there was a general lack of respect for the history, legacy and generosity of benefactors which led to the present situation.

Nicolas Bellord said...

AOTL: You claim that the monks acted out of ignorance. What evidence do you have for that? They had only to accept the auctioneers' estimates to know that they were going to get a lot of money.

Many of those who caused Christ's death were guilty of murder but surely not many realised they were also guilty of deicide - so they were ignorant in that sense.

Were is the ignorance here?

What evidence is there that they are short of money? I do not know what the total proceeds were of the sale yesterday but the original estimate was I believe some £100,000 which is not such an enormous sum to keep a community going. Why not offer to sell to other communities or churches? Why not make a straight appeal for funds? They could have sold a few indulgencies - sorry that would be simony. So it is okay to sell a chalice if you need the money?

I always think that forgiveness goes through various stages. First of all you squash the desire to go round and hit someone over the head. But further stages wait upon the sinner showing some sort of remorse or recognition for what they have done. It is too easy to come up with statements about not judging and forgiving.

My grandfather went to school with this Benedictine order. My father and I were educated by other Benedictines. My disillusion with present day Benedictines is substantial. Does one just ignore it all and wait for the next scandal? Something has to be done.

Gratias said...

Thank you Fr. Blake for keeping this in the record. May you use the Chalice for many years in your masses. Hopefully the other artifacts will be donated to the Church by their new owners as the TLM expands throughout the English-speaking world.

Best wishes from a California reader.

Apostle of the Lord said...

Nicolas B,

I'm sorry if what I said upsets you but really from the tone of your latest post you seem not so much upset but angry whether it is with this particular community or Benedictines in general. Please don't let your anger develop and cause you to become spiritually sick. What has been done is done Nicolas, for whatever reason it has been done. Let go of this please, what has happened is bad enough, don't make things worse for yourself, believe me in all of this there will be no winners and the only person who will suffer is yourself.

Father Ray,
I don't intend to comment any more on this matter, the deed is done. I know there are issues for Thanet and Jude to do with the community, maybe they should visit Chilworth and settle their differences there rather than on your blog.

God bless you father Ray and If you ever need anything ( except vestments ) valued for insurance please ask and I will be happy to oblige.

Michael Clifton said...

Fr Ray The original trust deed drawn up by Pugin with Bishop Griffiths of the London District is in print in the "letter of Pugin" which is I am afraid in 3 vols. Pugin wished that all gifts made to the church hereafter (there were no monks around when the deed was made) should remain the property of the Church. The problem has been a)how long is that trust acceptable as proof of ownership today and b)which items were actually bought by the monks later on.
There is another problem in Canon Law. Canon 1292 parts l and 2 demand that valuable items proposed for sale cannot be alienated by the Ordinary (ie Abbot) but written permission obtained from Rome. This also applies to historical items. this is worth investigating.

Nicolas Bellord said...

Father Clifton: If there was a trust deed,however old, donating these objects in perpetuity to the Church then that is a valid charitable gift. A complaint to the Charity Commission might be in order.

ATOL: You need not worry about my spiritual health. After 50 years spent in the law I have become hardened to clerical irregularities. Although I am tempted to wonder at times whether the whole thing is a farce. What concerns me is the scandal they cause. I believe many people will say "Why bother?" if that is the way the clergy behave. I know of people who no longer go to Mass as a result of these scandals. Indeed I was asked the other day when discussing one scandal whether I still went to Mass in view of these scandals.

Yes I am angry at what appears to be a prima facie breach of trust and I will not let it go. Funds and assets held upon charitable trusts cannot be used just as a community or church likes. I have found that this is not always popular advice!

Much has been said about having better governance for these communities. I would not dispute that but my experience is that the introduction of lay people does not necessarily help as in these days of poor catechesis they are often even more clueless and addicted to worldly values. These are spiritual matters and who better to guard spiritual standards than the clergy? - surely that is what they are trained to do. I therefore do wonder whether something is not amiss with the spiritual lives of some communities and clergy and whether something needs to be done.

When I hear a sermon that the only notice one needs to take of Rome is in respect of infallible statements such as that on the Assumption of which there have been only two or three in the last couple of centuries I do wonder.

Supertradmum said...

I tried to get Catholics to buy things. My concern is either a result of profane or occult use of items which held the Body and Blood of Christ. This entire sale is no better than the Visitation of the Henrecian thugs going into Fountains or Glastonbury and stealing objects. I am thoroughly ashamed and dismayed still. I hope enough good people and priests bought things. It is too horrid.

Richard said...

Father, pleased to hear that the prices didn't seem to be inflated.

And delighted that you were able to get something.

mikesview said...

I suppose these blokes ARE Catholic? Or are they CIMOs ? (Catholics in name only?)

Fr. M. said...

Father Raymond,
May I as a Benedictine be allowed to put forward my point of veiw ?

I am now nearing the end of my life. I have been a monk for 57 years and a priest for 49 years most of which was spent in Peru. I have seen poverty and suffering which I hope none of your bloggers will ever experience.
My community in Peru took the decision to convert the 'precious' items we had into dollars in order to feed the poor and cloth the naked, to bring some comfort to the sick and the dying. Now I know that you will say that is a different situation from what my brothers have done, but the principle remains the same. I am at total peace with God for what I have done. Look around father at the poverty in our world today. Do you honestly think that Our Lord is more concerened with things material than with providing for the hungry ?
I have to say this; some of your bloggers sound angry and express a serious lack of charity by their anger. Let the judgement,whatever it will be,be left to God. Two of your bloggers in particular seem very nasty towards this community, perhaps such individuals were not are remain not suited to community life. Please remember the words of the Lord " Let he who is without sin be the first to cast a stone"
Yours in Jesus Christ.

Father Matthew.

George said...

Fr Matthew,

The point is about trust, the presumption is that ex voto offerings are made for the "opus Dei". This is why the law of the Church is so strict about "alienation". If you are content with accepting a gift for one purpose then using it for another, it strikes me as being a little dishonest.

Obviously grave necessity might force one's hand, even then one has to be very careful.

What is sad about St Augustine's is that no attempt was made to sell these items within the Church but simply to put them on the open market, that is what has caused the howls of protest in the secular and Catholic press, amongst conservation groups and on the electronic media. That has damaged the Church's credibility; that and the fact that the Abbot was selling things he had no right to sell and that did not belong to him!

I trust in Peru you didn't do that!

Chris said...

Hi all,

Well said, Fr. Matthew! Anybody would have thought that all of us commenting on here were saints, guaranteed a place in heaven!

Fr. Matthew's community had to convert certain items into capital so as to tend to the materially poor and hungry, but his situation is still comparable to the one we have here: here, the monks need funds in order to continue their prayer that the world is freed from its spiritual poverty, or perhaps I should actually say, from the bondage of sin.

While we're at it, what undermines the Church's credibility the most is the public manner in which a group of religious, whose work is fundamental to the Church's very existence, has been mauled by certain posters.

Some of the comments have been extremely cruel and borderline-defamatory. One comment that 'I just hope Paulinus enjoys spending the cash he gained' seems to have negative undertones; and I'm not sure what 'I cannot imagine that they could have done what they have if they were obedient to the Church's authority and teachings, and availed of the sacrament of confession' is designed to imply.

Best regards,

Father Matthew said...


What was sold in Peru was ours to sell, we followed every precept of the Law of the Church in detail. The decision was made based on the fact that we felt that we could not adore the Lord's Table with gold and silver while his people were dying of hunger.
I understand fully what you say about trust and that is of the greatest importance. George, it is imperative that we do not start judging one another, that only leads to suspicious minds. If you, and others, must attack this community for what they have done then please do so with an element of charity, much of what has been written is lacking in such.
The Abbot and community probably wish that they had done things differently and that they could turn the clock back, but they can't. Did not Our Lord say do not condemn and you will not be condemned.
Bless you.
Fr. M.

Sally Winnemucca said...

All this vilification of the monks. A few facts:

The monks provided hot soup, bread, tea and coffee to any wayfarer who knocked at their door, right up until they left Ramsgate. I have come across many ex wayfarers who have been full of gratitude for their kindness.

The monastery was purpose built over 150 years ago and could not have been a very comfortable place, especially for the several elderly members of the community. How much would a leaky roof cost to be fixed? £60,000. The repair of a broken heating system? £60,000. The monks did install solar panels in an attempt to save on heating bills but the system broke and the company who had installed them had gone into liquidation. It cannot have been easy to rattle around in an enormous creaky building, built for a community of 40 and down to about a dozen in recent years.

Parishioners have felt that the Diocese was more than happy when the monks ran parishes and schools in the past but didn't seem to offer much in the way of help when they needed it. Father Benedict, the PP of St. Augustine's, was in poor health and yet he ran a very busy parish, dashing from church to church, hospital visits etc. etc. Other monks had other duties, looking after their elderly, gardening, cooking, guest rooms etc. etc. and so they were stretched to the limit. The parishioners raised a lot of money at bazaars and fetes but how much of it went to the monks and how much to the Diocese? Would like a Freedom of Info call on that one.

The saddest of all in this sorry tale is that the monks did not let their parishioners know how much trouble they were in, both financially and in manpower. Had the town of Ramsgate known (let alone the parishioners) there would most certainly have been a concerted effort to raise funds and bring the monastery into the 21st century.

Yes one could shake them for their naivity in selling off the silver, whether theirs or not, but for what they suffered in the last few years at Ramsgate, after everything they contributed to the area over the years they deserve a break. If the Diocese didn't help them when they needed it, then they probably took the silver in payment. Who knows?

sally winnemucca said...

I would just like to add that the monks were probably pleased to see the back of "Thanet". How arrogant to call Abbot Paulinus plain Paulinus.

Arturo said...

Ms Winnemucca,
Religious Communities are problematic, they are by nature secretive, and have their own mores and ways of thinking.
In order to preserve their community they reject outside scrutiny. Hence this auction, and the inept way it was handled, and unfortunately hence sexual scandals which seem to predominantly affect religious communities.

Hence your statement, no-one knows where the money goes and no-one knew the mess they were in. It seems very sad that such a community felt unable to disclose their problems to the wider Catholic community.

Jonathan said...

What a breath of fresh air ! Thank you for what you said and saying it in the context of your 'statement'. People do tend to forget the good done and focus on the negative, that is because they are full of negativity themselves. You have obvioulsly had experience of this community in a positive way and I thank you for sharing that with us. Be prepared to be attacked by others for what you have said, no one these days likes the truth to be told! I agree with you, to address the Abbot by his first name is disrespectful to say the least,what would the ultra traditionalists on this blog say if you started calling Cardinals and Archishop's Cormac, Vincent and Peter? they would find that offensive. I also agree with Chris when he said that a comment saying that " I hope Paulines etc" is bordering on the defamatory. Another point to make is Georges reply to Father Matthew, he talks about the 'Opus Dei' surely the Opus Dei is feeding the hungry, clothing the naked etc.


Charlie said...


What a load of tosh. Grasp the facts of the situation before you make stupid and general comments!


Peter John said...

If I can comment on two different approaches, that of Nicolas Bellord and Fr Matthew. Nicolas is well known and should be given the credit for defending right Catholic action for example when the Hospital of St John and Elizabeth was clearly involved in un-Catholic activities or advice. It took a layman to remind the hospital trustees that they were a Catholic foundation. Here you have a legal trust set up 150 years ago to which gifts were added, and therefore it is literally a breach of trust to allow sacred items to be sold and possibly used for profane purposes. It is ironic that a neighbouring parish to mine also in Southwark is currently raising funds to buy new vestments and a chalice, when several were clearly surplus at Ramsgate.
Fr Matthew's point is an old one, but no one is suggesting that the Ramsgate monks are or were living in dire poverty, and he says himself that in Peru they scrupulously followed legal requirements. The criticism at Ramsgate centres on the fact that there have been protests and queries for some weeks, but the Abbot apparently did not want to know, and went ahead even though some of his fellow Benedictines at Farnborough were concerned. What he should have done was to postpone the sale, and offer the sacred items to either fellow religious or the Diocese at a reasonable price, assuming they were the monks' freely to sell. Now is too late as many of the items will in practice be irrecoverable, although if the church trustees were minded to they might still have remedies in Equity to trace the items and recover them. All very sad and I am afraid another example of the Benedictine Order in this country failing to live up to its own historic standards, which is probably why it is in danger of dying out here. That is not to ignore the kindness I personally have received from individual monks at Quarr (including the famous Father Joe)and Buckfast.

Arturo said...

Are you suggesting that Ealing, Downside and Ampleforth have not had serious problems with sexual abuse?
The inquiries on all these Benedictine schools have suggested the root of the problem is their past failure to allow outside scrutiny. Fortunately they have addressed this issue as far their schools are concerned but not there dealings in other areas.

In a secular parish would fundraising take place and people not know where the money went?
And when the Church, a national treasure was falling down would they not get a group of lay experts involved to help?

I suggest the problems come from their monastic charism (monachus = alone)

Charlie said...


Are you seriouly asking us to believe that Diocesan bishops and priests are so transparent in their dealings and religious communities are not. Give us a break, Pleeeeze. Many diocesan bishops don't even know how to spell 'transparency'.


Nicolas Bellord said...

Dear Father Matthew,

I have absolutely no problem with what you did in Peru in selling items to raise money for the poor and I am sure you did wonderful work in the care of souls.

I too have seen dire poverty in Argentina, Mexico and Portugal - the latter was a third world country 25 years ago. What I found paradoxical is the way the poor will spend money on religious things such as ornaments and flowers because they wanted to get in touch with the supernatural. I saw this particularly on a national feast day at the shrine of Our Lady of Guadeloupe. In Portugal I have visited very poor mountain villages with very poor living conditions where the locals welcome you and insist on you being shown their church which is absolutely spick and span and tendered with enormous love by the villagers. I have heard of this being disapproved of as a kind of religiosity that is outdated. I am not so sure.

One feature of these churches, in Portugal, is that usually there is an income and expenditure account pinned up for all to see - and these accounts get read out at Mass so people can judge the needs of the clergy. I have never seen such financial transparency in this country.

You go on to quote from the New Testament about what Christ said. I am not sure that my interpretation of "the Woman taken in Adultery" is the correct one but it seems to me it rather revolves around the meaning of the words "judge" and "condemn". In speaking to her Christ in no way excused her behaviour when he said "sin no more". Was that not a judgement on her behaviour? He also said "let he who is without sin be the first to cast a stone". It always seems to me that he was bit rash in inviting her stoning as there could well have been someone who thought he was without sin. But presumably he could see into their hearts and knew there was no such person present. But I would not suggest that it was a practice to follow if one is not Christ!

I would therefore like to make a distinction between judging someone as having done wrong and condemning them to a punishment. You say it is imperative that we do not start judging one another. I wonder whether you meant "judging" in the sense I have suggested? Would that be a proper response to an accusation of child abuse?

I therefore support George and Arturo and thank Peter John in respect of their comments.

I also thank Sally for recounting the undoubted positive side of this community although I would hope that they did not have the motive of getting back on the Diocese that she suggests in her last sentence! I certainly would not attack her as Jonathan suggests she might be.

Charlie: describing a comment as tosh and stupid gets us nowhere.

Lastly I might say I was at prep school at Worth (Benedictines) and remember the excellent religious education and inspiring liturgy which has stayed with me all my life. But that was in the 1940s!

Peter said...

Thank you all the commenters for an interesting discussion especially Nicholas with his well informed points. However I do not have much confidence in civil law to help here. I think that The Tablet is nominally a Catholic charity. Readers of this blog will be able to decide how truly Catholic it really is.

vetusta ecclesia said...

I owe a lot to the late Abbot Thatcher of Ramsgate - a man who would not have approved of "stark" liturgies. He was kindly in his person but prelatical in the exercise of his office. The great sadness of his successors is their failure to appreciate and build on the Pugin legacy. After the Landmark restoration of the Grange it was still a nightmare to gain access to the church. However we now have the Friends of St Augustine's and a priest in Fr. Holden who seems to be focused on the treasure he has. He seems positive and without recrimination or backward glances - let's get behind him.

Canonlawyer55 said...

Having read all of the comments on this blog I suspect that due to the lack of comment by Fr. Raymond Blake himself and the comment by Father Michael Clifton that there are ongoing attempts to bring a case ( canonically ) against this community of Religious, the Father Abbot in perticular, although one suspects that he would only have acted with the approval of his whole community. I hope that this is not the case but if it is then Father Blake must immediately stop others commenting on this matter on HIS blog as this will be seen as him encouraging others to pre-judge the situation and will ( not may but will ) jeopardize any case brought.


Nicolas Bellord said...

I am not an expert in Canon Law but I do wonder about what Canonlawyer has said. If we were talking about English law an action against the Abbot would surely be a civil action rather than a criminal one. Presumably in Canon law in such a case there is no jury who would be prejudiced by unrestrained press reporting and this would be tried by a judge alone. I would have thought that a judge acting alone would be quite capable of excluding extraneous prejudicial material from his mind when judging the issue and indeed I would be surprised if he would read this blog. He would just judge on the basis of the evidence presented to him in court. There is a balance to be sought in this as if you go too far one way no crime or civil tort would ever get reported before a trial. Perhaps Canon Lawyer would like to explain the position in Canon Law further on this subject.

Canonlawyer55 said...

Yes Mr. Belord I would like to comment on your remarks. If this case for disposal of ecclesiastical items was to become Canonical then there would be more than one judge involved. In fact if the matter went all the way to the highest court in the Church, the Apostolic Signatura,which it could do if the Abbot and Community appeal any local judgement, there would be several ecclesial judges to decide in whose favour the case should go.
I take you point about the judge in civil law not reading this blog, but how many others have done thus arrousing preconceived opinions of the Abbot and his Community and their right to a fair trial. Remember that many remarks made here are anything but flattering towards the Abbot and Community, in fact, as another blogger has said, some verge on defamation. I can tell you without doubt that if Fr. Blake seeks Canonical advice re this matter the Canon Lawyer for the Abbot and Community will sight these adverse remarks as being prejudicial to a fair outcome and judgment. That is the precise reason why I offer Fr. Raymond Blake this advice.

Good wishes.


Charlie said...

I don't know much about law, canon or civil, but what the canonlawyer guy says makes a lot of sense to me. If this happened on civi-street and all of this nasty publicity was posted on Blogs and in the Catholic press and local press, how could those monks get a fair trial ?


pacificus said...

It may be that some of the contributors have been intemperate - or honest in showing the depth of their feelings - but it may be best to do what the New Kiturgical Movement did a couple of years ago when there was another very heated exchange about Ramsgate Abbey: NLM removed all the posts and closed the article to further postings.

Canon William Hudson said...

It is very sad that these items were not offered on a 'private sale' basis to other communities and clergy.

As an old boy of their school, I can attest to the fact that there were some members of the community who deeply valued their Pugin heritage. I well remember Dom Wifrid Emery, who explained sevral important items to me. Unfortunately several of the High Mass sets were cut up to make 'concelebration' sets. I remember them being used in the Abbey church, with Taizé chant!

I agree that there was and is a lot of hostility to the EF. At the recent reunion of the old boys in Ramsgate to say farewell to the community, I was a little saddened to be asked if I was a member of the church by my former headmaster!

I was able to celebrate Sunday Mass in the EF in the Abbey about a year ago and was shocked at how bare it was. Vestments, plate and other fittings have all gone. Surely some could have been left?

It is also very sad that a community which had care for all the parishes in Thanet, as well as an excellent prep school, and a decent secondary school has come to this.

It is also very sad to visit the old school buildings in Westgate ( especially the fine chapel) which are used for fake religious ceremonies ( especially marriages).

Nevertheless we can only pray for them. said...

Canon lawyer55

Thank you for your comment.

Lets get this absolutely right without attempting to put any pressure on the Good Fr Ray Blake, as you have done.

Can. 1400 $2 Disputes arising from an act of administrative power, however, can be referred only to the Superior or to an administrative tribunal

The ordinary Ecclesiastical Courts cannot hear such cases.
Special procedures outlined in Cann. 1732-1739 are used.

Can. 1445 - $2 provides for cases to be heard in the Supreme Tribunal of The Apostolic Signatura.

All evidence - internal or external is to be submitted in the case.

The plaintiff will almost be probably heard in residence in this type of issue, Can 2856.

You see my Learned Friend;
In times of old when the internet did not exist, points like this would be discussed in buildings surrounded by
beautiful decor of Chambers and such like and the continous smell of ground coffee.

Now, evidence can be gained from open forums such like this and is available to most people, from even the most smallest and thinnest phones - sat on the train home.

I would gladly and without reservation put forward in evidence the comments that have been made on this Blog site- except that I would not always be able to prove real identity.

However, I would be able to prove concern, questions and actions and results of these actions.

However, the real proof lies with the agreed sale and contents thereof and more importantly the withdrawal of items.
Also the website of the Auctioneers.

My Learned friend would not be able to hide it, disguise it or ignore it. It happened in the public domain - world wide - for heaven and earth to read and see.

Religious Communities who have autonomous governance will not want this new interference and investigation of their secretive rulings or Chapter decisions which are not to be discussed outside the Chapter.

I have asked Fr Ray before, and may I repeat again please - preserve in hard copy and disc the whole matter.

The truth is in the contents.
The truth from this Blog would be admitted in Canon Law whether the case be contentious or penal.

We owe a deep gratitude to Fr Ray Blake and may I add Fr Clifton, for publicising this matter.

2012 brings new methods of communications and new methods of investigating the Truth. That is the real world and responsibilty, power and trust comes with a price.

My compliments to you.

Canonlawyer55 said...

To Lawyeratwork,
Thank you for your detailed exegesis of Canon Law. I would say to you brother in Christ, rather than learned friend, that there are so many technical legal implications in a case like this of which we must all be aware of.
I want also to say that I have NEVER as you clearly suggest put any prassure on Father Raymond Blake,infact I hold the good priest, as I hold most priest in the highest regard for the good work he does in promoting our Faith, I was simply offering Father blake what I consider to be good and sound advice.

I return your compliments.

Charlie said...

Hopefully now we can lay this matter to rest where it should have been laid a while ago.

John Fisher said...

This is why he monks tried to asset strip St Augustine's Abbey after they moved. Here is a statement of their assets, income and expenditure lodged with the Charities Commission 113 days late!

John Fisher said...

Charlie said...

Oh John Fisher we are all sooooo bored with this story. Leave it in the past will you ?


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