06 December 2022, The Tablet

Concern over retired priests' fund in Portsmouth

Concern over retired priests' fund in Portsmouth

The Bishop of Portsmouth, Philip Egan, said the diocese’s provision for retired priests is “second to none”.

Priests in the Diocese of Portsmouth have criticised the amalgamation of a charitable fund for retired priests with the larger diocesan trust last month.

Two members of the management board of the diocese’s priests retirement fund resigned on 18 November after the trustees of the fund decided to transfer it into a special trust of the diocesan charity. The trustees of the fund are also trustees of the diocesan trust.

In a letter to diocesan priests, Sue Broadbent and Alan Sendell said that the merger “was done against our strong professional advice given over the past several months, and despite our request to defer decisions until a consultation exercise was undertaken with the priests of the diocese”.

They said that the trustees had taken decisions on the advice of the diocesan curia to the detriment of the fund “when they knew they were conflicted”.

The Bishop of Portsmouth, Philip Egan, responded to their resignation in a letter to diocesan clergy on 21 November, regretting their departure and describing the diocese’s provision for retired priests as “second to none”.

The diocese in unusual in England and Wales in supporting its retired priests through a separate fund, established through specific fundraising in the 1990s under the governance of the diocesan trustees. The fund provides retired priests’ income and owns property for their use.

In his letter, Bishop Egan said that the fund was founded “to emphasise to donors that their contributions were ring-fenced for the benefit of the retired priests only and not for the general operations of the diocese” and could not be used to settle litigation against the diocese.

He said that there had been “a growing awareness and a divergence of views” on the separate status of the fund, amid a worsening financial situation for both the fund and the diocese. 

Establishing the fund as a fully separate charity, he said, would mean “the bishop would become detached from his canonical responsibilities”.  The diocese had decided to establish the fund as a “special trust” which would remain ring-fenced within the diocesan trust on independent legal advice.

Priests and laity in the diocese have expressed concern at the decision. In a letter to The Tablet, Mgr Nicholas France says that there was “no general consultation before achieving this”.  Several priests, as well as Sue Broadbent and Alan Sendall, have submitted complaints to the charity commission.

In a response to The Tablet, the diocese’s chief operating officer Heather Hauschild said that the measure was intended to maintain the fund “without all the complexities around how decisions are made and the additional costs of administering a separate charity”.

“The proposed structure reflects the bishop’s responsibilities to retired priests,” she said.


  Loading ...
Get Instant Access
Subscribe to The Tablet for just £7.99

Subscribe today to take advantage of our introductory offers and enjoy 30 days' access for just £7.99