The Chancellor's judgment
The family of Margaret Keane sought permission for an Irish language inscription to be included on a proposed churchyard memorial at St Giles Church, Exhall.
The Coventry Consistory Court - presided over by the diocesan Chancellor - granted permission on 6 May 2020, provided that the memorial also included an English translation.
The Chancellor's judgment has been widely reported in the press. A spokesperson from the Diocese of Coventry said:
"The Bishop is very concerned pastorally that a judgement of the Chancellor has caused anguish at a time when a family in the diocese are grieving for a loved one. However, he is not able to comment on any ongoing judicial process.
The Chancellor was acting in his judicial capacity, according to the procedures of the Consistory Court, which is outside the control of the Bishop and the Diocese.
Any decision of the Chancellor may, with permission, be appealed to the Provincial Court of the Archbishop, in this case the Arches Court of Canterbury."
4 June 2020
The appeal hearing
The family of Margaret Keane appealled the Chancellor's judgment regarding the requirement to include an English translation alongside the Irish language inscription.
The appeal was heard by the Arches Court of Canterbury on 24 February 2021. At the end of the hearing, the Dean of Arches indicated that:
- Permission would be granted for a memorial containing the words “In ár gcroíthe go deo” without an English translation.
- The church records are to include the translation “in our hearts forever”.
The Dean of Arches said that the court will issue their reasons for allowing the appeal in due course.
24 February 2021
Frequently asked questions
What are the Churchyard Regulations?
The Churchyard Regulations 2019 were written by the Diocesan Chancellor for use within the Diocese of Coventry. As paragraph 7 says:
“The general approach is that each churchyard should be harmonious in appearance and that it should remain as a worthy setting for the church. Harmony does not mean uniformity but the design and choice of materials for a memorial and the choice of words and images for an inscription should seek to ensure that the memorial integrates into the established character of the churchyard.”
Under these regulations, the local vicar or archdeacon is able to grant permission for some memorials. However, if a proposed memorial does not fully comply with the Regulations, a family must seek permission from the Chancellor.
How is permission sought from the Chancellor?
The Chancellor’s permission is called a ‘faculty’, and it is required for any memorial that does not fully comply with the Churchyard Regulations. There is a three-step process.
- First, the application is considered by the local church. The Parochial Church Council must discuss the application and then vote on whether they wish to support it.
- Second, the application is considered by the Diocesan Advisory Committee. The committee comprises a range of people with differing areas of expertise. It is not a decision making body; but it can choose to recommend or not recommend an application.
- Third, a decision is made by the Chancellor. The Chancellor considers all of the above, and then decides whether or not to grant a faculty.
The Chancellor may also issue a judgment, which is a public document.
Can the Bishop overrule the Chancellor?
No. The judicial procedures of chancellors and their consistory courts are outside the control of diocesan bishops. Furthermore, bishops are not permitted to interfere in these legal proceedings.
Can the Chancellor's decsion be appealed?
Yes. Permission can be sought to appeal to the Arches Court of Canterbury.