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Administration and Decision Making in the Diocese

Civil Law and the Diocese

The Diocese is a registered charity (No. 252878) and all the assets – land, buildings, contents, investments and cash – are held in trust.

This charitable trust was set up in 1967, following the establishmnet of the Diocese in 1965. The Trust Dead states that:

"The Charity property and all income thereof including the rents and profits of the charity lands shall be held upon trust to use and apply the same either as capital or income for the advancement of the Roman Catholic religion in the diocese (our emphasis) in such ways being charitable as the Bishop shall from time to time direct and for the service and support whether in the diocese or outsiude the diocese in such ways aforesaid of any lawful charitable purposes whether educational or otherwise promoted or supported byu the Church".

Furthermore, charity law requires that the income and property of the charity "must be apllied for the purpose set out in the governing document and for no other purpose." (Charity Commission: Responsibilities of Charity Trustees, March 1996, para 27)

The Trustees are appointed by the Bishop as the appointing Trustee, and are responsible in civil law for the correct administration and application of the Diocese's assets.

Registered charity status bestows great benefits to the Diocese, for instance, through the Gift Aid Scheme. At the same time we have grave responsibilities and there are civil and criminal sanctions against abuse.

The main aim of the Charity Act 2006 is to ensure that all assets of a charity are managed prudently and effectively.

Diocesan Trustees

Link to further details on the Role of the Trustees


Civil and Canon Law - The Nature of the Relationship

When promulgating the Code of Canon Law in 1983, Pope John Paul II emphasised that it was to be regarded as an indispensable instrument to ensure order, both in individual and social life, and also in the Church’s own activity. Though not a substitute for faith, grace, charisms or charity, the Code contains the fundamental elements of the hierarchical and organic structure of the Church as willed by her divine founder, or which are based on apostolic and ancient tradition. It also sets out the fundamental principles which govern the exercise of the teaching, sanctifying and governing offices of the Church, together with certain rules and norms of behaviour. The Code of Canon Law has the force of law for the whole Latin Church and must be observed [cf Apostolic Constitution, Sacrae Disciplinue Leges 25 January 1983, and canon 1]. 

Thus, the life of the Church in the Arundel and Brighton Diocese is governed by the laws promulgated by the Pope and the College of Bishops, as well as those issued by the Bishop himself. 

However, the Church in this country is also subject to civil law and is considered as a voluntary religious association whose members are organised and bound together consensually. Except in one or two specific cases, the civil law does not recognise the juridical standing of canon law. In civil law, the Diocese of Arundel and Brighton has the status of a charitable trust and is therefore bound by the law governing such trusts. 

In the administration of the affairs of the diocese, charity, financial, health and safety, data protection, education and employment legislation, together with that relating to the safeguarding of others, must be observed by clergy, parishioners, and administrators, individually and collectively. Guidance on relevant legal requirements is given in the diocesan Parish Administration Manual

It must be acknowledged that both civil and canon law are autonomous systems of law and both claim priority in accordance with their basic principles, which are not always compatible. This means that, on occasion, conflict will arise between the requirements of canon law and those of civil law. However, this does not mean that steps cannot be taken to foster closer co-operation between the two systems. Indeed, the advantages gained from civil recognition as a trust are of great benefit to the mission of the Church and so the relationship between civil law and canon law should be one of dialogue and collaboration. 
In recognition of the competence of the state in certain areas, the canon law sometimes defers to civil law. In these instances, the prescriptions of the civil law must be observed and are given effect in canon law, insofar as the civil law is not contrary to divine law and unless the canon law provides otherwise (canon 22). This observance of civil law takes place particularly in the area of the administration of the temporal goods of the Church, e.g. the law of contracts and the faculty jurisdiction of the Historic Churches Commission (cf canons 1268, 12842,2° and 3º, 1286, 1290). 

General Principles

Policies, which establish a fundamental framework on which subsequent decisions and actions are undertaken, not only ensure a just order in the many and varied aspects of the life of the diocese but also and more importantly, are valuable aids to pastoral effectiveness and the implementation of the diocesan vision statement. Far from being a process of centralisation, diocesan policies seek to establish a balanced relationship between the various communities and office-holders in the diocese, aiming to place concrete decisions and actions at the most appropriate level in accordance with the principle of subsidiarity. 
Diocesan policies may cover any area of diocesan life, such as sacramental preparation, the administration of schools and the role of parish pastoral councils. In terms of canon law, all diocesan policies must ultimately receive the approval of the bishop in order to have any standing in the diocese. Moreover, some policies may take the form of diocesan law and must be promulgated by him (canons 8 §2, 135 §2, 391 §2).

The formation of diocesan policy clearly demands wide consultation. In some cases, the specific subject matter of the policy will determine the bodies and individuals to which it will be presented for consultation. In other cases, consultation will be sought from the various established bodies in the diocese.