Cathedrals and the Faculty Jurisdiction

by Philip Jones

It is often said that the cathedral is ‘exempt’ from the faculty jurisdiction.  It would be more accurate to say that cathedrals are subject to a different faculty jurisdiction from that which regulates parish churches.

The present faculty jurisdiction over cathedrals was first conferred by the Care of Cathedrals Measure 1990.  This was supplemented by two further Care of Cathedrals Measures, passed in 1994 and 2005 respectively.  All three Measures were at length consolidated into the Care of Cathedrals Measure 2011.

Like the Cathedrals Measure 1999, the Care of Cathedrals Measure 1990 established two new cathedral authorities:

(1) a fabric advisory committee (‘FAC’), which every cathedral is required to have, and to which the chapter must report annually (2011 Measure, s.4(1) and s.24(3)).

(2) the Cathedrals Fabric Commission.  This is a national body with responsibility for all English cathedrals.  Most of the Commission’s members are appointed by the Archbishops, but five members are elected by, and from, the General Synod.  At least one elected member must be a chapter member (2011 Measure, sch.1).  The Commission is supposed to promote ‘standards of good practice’ concerning the care of cathedral property (s3(3)).

Neither the consistory court nor the bishop is involved in deciding cathedral faculties.  Instead the chapter must apply for a faculty to the cathedral’s FAC.  It seems that nobody else, not even the bishop or the cathedral council, may apply for a faculty, only the chapter.

The FAC has jurisdiction to grant faculties for minor works.  More significant works must be referred to the Comission for approval (s.6).  Confirmatory faculties (i.e faculties approving work ‘illegally but usefully done’) may be granted only by the Commission (ss.2(3) and 6(11)).

The Fabric Commission has power under s.6 to exclude minor works from the requirement of a faculty.  It may also hear appeals from decisions of the FAC (s.10(1)).  Appeals from decisions of the Fabric Commission are heard by a special Commission of Review chaired by the Dean of the Arches or a chancellor appointed by the Dean (s.11(3)).

A faculty petition must be initiated by the chapter but a cathedral tenant may appeal where a faculty has been refused, or granted only conditionally, for works by the tenant for which the consent of the chapter is required.  In these circumstances the tenant may appeal whether or not the chapter has appealed.

Although the bishop is not involved in cathedral faculties, he is responsible for enforcing the faculty jurisdiction on the chapter.  He may order a ‘special visitation’ of the cathedral, if he fears that the chapter has carried out, or may carry out, works without proper authorisation(s.16).

A special visitation by the bishop under the Care of Cathedrals Measure differs from an ordinary visitation in that it is not subject to the cathedral’s constitution.  It has the effect of an injunction.  When a special visitation is ordered the chapter may not act ‘with regard to the matter under inquiry’ (i.e the suspected contravention of the Measure) without the bishop’s written approval.  The bishop may also give directions to the chapter in respect of the matter under inquiry, after consulting the Fabric Commission, which the chapter must obey (s.17).

The Care of Cathedrals Measure confers enforcement powers similar to those conferred on the consistory court by the Care of Churches and Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction Measure 1991.  Having ordered his special visitation the bishop may authorise proceedings against the chapter for an injunction or restoration order.  These proceedings are heard by the Vicar-General’s Court (the same body that is constituted to determine disciplinary complaints against bishops).

The Vicar-General’s Court may order an injunction or restoration order on similar terms to the consistory court in faculty proceedings, and has a similar power to join any offending parties to the proceedings by special citation (s.20).

The strong enforcement powers that can be applied to the chapter in relation to dealings with cathedral buildings and their contents distinguish the Care of Cathedrals Measure from the Cathedrals Measure 1999, which is notably lacking in enforcement powers.