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Benedictines to sell church treasures worth £100,000

By on Thursday, 2 February 2012

A chalice for sale next week

A chalice for sale next week

About £100,000 worth of treasures from St Augustine’s Abbey in Kent are to be sold at auction next week.

The objects being put up for sale include church plate, chalices – including a Charles I chalice made in 1633 and an Arts and Crafts chalice worth £13,000 to £15,000 – as well as reliquaries and a 19th-century monstrance.

The treasures are being sold by Dominic Winter auctioneers after the remaining Benedictine monks at the abbey decided to move to a smaller friary in Chilworth, near Farnham in Surrey.

Priestly bloggers Fr Mildew and Fr Ray Blake have criticised the sale, saying more effort should have been made to keep the holy objects for use in liturgy.

Fr Blake, parish priest at St Mary Magdalene, Brighton, said that St Michael’s Abbey at Farnborough, Hampshire – another Benedictine monastery – were considering trying to acquire “as many of these items as possible”.

A spokesman for the abbey declined to comment.

Fr Blake wrote: “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.”

A spokesman for Dominic Winter said that all of the religious objects had been deconsecrated. The auction will be held on Wednesday and Thursday next week.

St Augustine’s Abbey in Ramsgate, designed by A W Pugin, was the first monastery to be built in England since the Reformation. It was founded in 1856. The 11 Benedictines voted to leave in 2009 and bought the Franciscan friary in Chilworth in 2010.

  • Anonymous

    A spokesman for Dominic Winter said that all of the religious objects had been deconsecrated.
    How on earth do you do that? The imagination boggles.

  • bruno

    So it is pointless buying these chalices because the have been “deconsecrated”: this is done by making them unfit for purpose, by piercing the bowl or cutting them up into pieces.

    I presume the Abbot has told the auctioneers this taken place: obviously a man not to be trusted!

    Yet another scandalous Benedictine.

  • bruno

    Someone posted this on Fr Blake’s blog:

    Would it be helpful to contact the Abbot President of the Subiaco Benedictines:Curia Generalizia Congregazione Sublacense, OSB,Via di S. Ambrogio 300186 ROMA (RM)ItalyCuriaT + + s.ambrogio@tiscali.itAbbot President D. Bruno MarinT + Cell +39 338.271.11.07F + praeses.subiaco@tiscali.itbruno.marin@praglia.itCuria Generalizia – Sant’Ambrogio; Date of foundation (8th century?)1861 / aggregation 1861Time zone: GMT +1Council of Assistants:P. Mark Hargreaves, (Procurator General, from Prinknash)Residence: Curia, S. Ambrogio—Tel 

  • Fred the Ferret

    Bishops deconsecrate churches that have been consecrated via a special rite.

  • Parasum

    Why couldn’t the objects have kept their purpose, and been given to other Benedictine houses, other religious houses, or to other Catholic churches ? Alienating sacred vessels is a very bad idea indeed – it’s not as though they were being sold to ransom hostages, say. Like as not, they  will put to all kinds of unworthy uses.

    Since they’ve been deconsecrated – why not have them repaired ?

    If the Church’s own personnel  have no respect for sacred things – it is pointless to expect the laity to do so.

  • AidanCoyle

    I assume there is a reason why these items are being offered for sale. Might the community that is offering them for sale need to raise funds for entirely worthy reasons to continue and develop their ministry, perhaps? Might the sacredness of the purpose for which these objects are being sold outweigh any qualms about their sale?

  • Thanet

    I have looked at the catalogue & see that quite a few of the pieces are by Pugin/Hardman which suggests they might belong the the Archdiocese and not the Benedictines.  Pugin gave the church & its contents to the Diocese which, in turn, allowed the monks to use them.  This did not alter the ownership.  I recall, some time ago, there was correspondence on the internet about Pugin’s collection of vestments – also bequeathed to the Diocese – which the monks simply gave away in the 1980s.

  • Deesis

    Yes the monks have asset stripped parishes transfering plate to the abbey before giving the parishes back to the Archdioses of Southwark. Finally they have taken much of what they collected including items that are part of what Pugin left to St Augustine’s Abbey church (which  belongs to Southwark) with them. The move to Chilworth has had a financial cost and so they are selling off what they have collected. Much of the church pate isn’t theirs to sell.

  • Thanet

    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”
    So who will act to prevent this scandal escalating?

  • Mark

    It would be good if these objects were sold and the proceeds given to the poor.

    “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me. At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth”

    Why do monks needs these treasures – a clay cup and plate would do to serve the Eucharist?

  • Nat_ons

    Jesus did not use a mean clay pot at any divine meal let alone at a Seder; only the best was required, presented and used as it still is among righteous Jews – for the holiness of its end: God (not man, not even of monks).

    We always have the poor with us, so selling the silver now might feed a few today – tomorrow, well, that will just have to starve on the well intended if mean spirit of yesterday.

    The Jews of Christ’s own, after all, day poured into a house of God dripping with dyes, paints, marbles, silver, gold and gems – as did Jesus.

    And that is actual bold, unworldly holiness denied by a Judas-view of wealth and its common use in faith; that is, that it must be given up now according to current likes. This is the opposite of God’s revealed religious purpose for goods, which is that they be husbanded – as by good stewards – to bring out the old with the new, the rich with the ordinary; so it is with earthly donations to a heavenly worship (never to be scrimped or begrudged in reasoning but gifted with irrational generosity). What Christ witnessed – if not appreciated by Judas and his followers even today – is that overturning the money-minded exchange is right but only to recognise the difference between the holy and common; thus the vastly expensive and enduring stones of now defunct and destroyed temple still draw souls from all over the world to visit, to wonder and to pray – to have sold them off for a passing reward would have no such effect no less on the spiritual than on the materialist; it is not a matter of ownership – as if a mere chattel to be gained and disposed of, like money – it is understanding where one’s heart must be .. and why only the best of treasures can give it just image (if only as a shadow).  

    Not all things are holy to God, even if they are expensive and are given generously to the use of a community of faith; these are the common articles that any group might attract: seats, drapes, lights. To the Jew – if not the Western Christian – the plate, the best silver, the rich coverings are made holy to God in use .. being part of his worship .. even if only perfume, oil or casket. It is the grace of holiness that is assaulted in an iconoclast stripping an icon or scroll cover from its place merely to lie in a museum; eyes may goggle at it still in sanctuary or corridor, yes, but it is only in its context of divine service that it can be rightly understood .. an awesome truth abandoned to materialistic commerce dressed up as charity; so by all means go sell all that you may have and then give it as alms, for your sins – do not propose to sell what is not yours to give in order to satisfy your ideologies .. it is the latter that the Benedictines are proposing to do in this instance to the gifts once entrusted to their care (from others and for others), and worse still, not to some common items of property but with those actually gifted as holy to God by grace through faith rather than under the shadows of Moses’ law.

    “You are to distinguish between the holy and the common, and between the unclean and the clean; and you are to teach the people of Israel all the statutes that the Lord has spoken to them through Moses.” Lev 10 : 10-11.

  • Thanet

    Will you be updating us on the auction and the furore it has provoked?

  • Deesis

    I think it is to pay for the ensuite bathrooms they have had built for each monk!

  • NEWS+ beginningtoend

    This is completely INORDINATE practice!
    since no destination and designated use can at all be guaranteed,
    and is UNFITTING of Consecrated Holy vessels,
    since due disregard is a COMPROMISE in any state of Life!

    the winnowing fan

  • Disillusioned

    There has been a storm of protest which, aided by the comments of members of the laity (but, surprisingly no-one from the Herald) has resulted in a few of the items being withdrawn frome the sale,  Some interesting insights into the life of Ramsgate/Chilworth have emerged, including a penchant for long siestas and en-suite bathrooms & I think that community has lost credibilty,  Anyone wishing to comment dierectly to the Abbot can do so using the email address given on the Subiaco Congregation website – 

  • bill

    the. monks also have sold to privite colectors rare books some worth over 60,000 pounds
    some of local history some religious rare books