The Shame of Ireland
Religious orders can avoid getting the consent of the Charity Commissioners when they are transferring protected property if they conduct deals under canon law instead.
The orders have been advised that canon law is considered a separate jurisdiction and once a transfer complies with its constitution, it does not have to go through Irish legal procedures.
There are strict rules under canon law governing how property is kept and passed on. For this reason orders have typically preferred to deal with the Charity Commissioners.
While the property of individual provinces is considered their own under canon law, all sales above certain thresholds must be authorised by a diocesan bishop or the Holy See.
In order for sales to be allowed, they must also comply with rules of each congregation. Even if an order ceases to exist, only the Holy See can authorise redistribution of its assets.
The religious orders received a number of briefings on their property assets and portfolio prospects ahead of the formation of the new charities legislation.
The orders had expressed concern that all of their properties, even those separate from the provision of frontline services, would be subjected to the watch of the Charity Commissioners.
At the Association of Bursars of Religious Institutes annual conference in 2007, the legal speaker advised them that the best option was to vest property in the name of individual members in their baptismal name.
This would not need to be brought to the attention of the Charity Commissioners.
However, separate conference papers describe the difficulties orders have with canon law, and members of religious orders cannot sell the property as it is still controlled by the order.
However, if bank loans and mortgages are required, it is likely the relationship between the order and the individual would need to be identified.
Add a Comment