The English cathedrals are doing very nicely, thank you. The First World War Centenary Repair Fund, administered by the government, has so far contributed £40million – and a further £5.5million this week alone. And this is not their only source of revenue. Businesses are often generous in their support: for example, a few years ago Goldman Sachs gave £40million to St Paul’s for the renewal of its stonework. And this as the canons were speaking in support of the Occupy movement and excoriating the City banks. There are 44 cathedrals and they charge admission – and it’s not cheap. St Paul’s will let you in for £18, generously reduced to £16 for children and pensioners. At Westminster the fee is £20 and at York £15. the cathedrals attract 11 million visitors each year, so you hardly require pencil and paper to work out how much the Deans and Chapters are raking in – well over £150million from pay-at-the-door alone.
Mind you, they need to bring in the money to pay themselves their stipends for, while the average Vicar receives £25,000pa, cathedral Canons are paid rather more and Deans get £34,000.
There is one more big difference between the financial condition of the parish churches and that of the cathedrals. The average parish church is required to pay tens of thousand of pounds annually to diocesan central funds through an ever-increasing tax variously known as the quota, the common fund or the parish share.
The cathedrals pay nothing.
Effectually, this means that each Vicar or parish priest must be a permanent fundraiser to provide his own stipend.
So we see there operates in the Church of England a sublime equality – though some places are more equal than others.
Cathedrals have often been described – chiefly by the Bishops and Deans who inhabit them – as “the jewels in the crown of the English Church.” A spokesman for the C. of E., responding to the latest tranche of cash from that WWI Centenary Repair Fund, was even more lavish in his praise. “Our cathedrals,” he effused “are valuable community hubs.”
So we are to understand that the hierarchy’s new vision for Christian churches in England is to see them as an aspect of social work by practitioners of the social gospel – which is only the social bit without the gospel – and another sign of the Church’s suicidal secularisation perpetrated by those who were ordained and appointed to teach us about the things that are sacred.
And lo is written, “My house has been called the house of prayer, but ye have made it a community hub.”