AN Anglican monastery struggling for funds bought a flat for a member who later converted to Catholicism.
The Community of the Resurrection at Mirfield yesterday defended its support for Father Robert Mercer – who left the Church of England because he opposed the ordination of women priests.
The monastery bought a £160,000 flat in Worthing near Brighton to allow him to be close to his sick sister.
But the community is also trying to raise £2m for a major revamp of its home on Stocksbank Road.
The Examiner was contacted by a source who is unhappy with the arrangement.
The complainant said: “This fully ordained Roman Catholic priest who, as a Roman Catholic cannot recognise the legitimacy of the Anglican Eucharist, remains a brother of an Anglican religious community.
“He continues to live in the apartment, which is now effectively being used for Roman Catholic purposes.
“The Community of the Resurrection has been endeavouring to raise some £2m for the refurbishment of its church.
“The refurbishment has gone ahead, but only because the community used funds which were set aside for the building of a new monastery on the site.
“It continues to try and recoup these funds through its appeal, which so far has raised some £650,000 – the vast majority provided by its companions and friends.
“They are being asked to make financial sacrifices from their own pockets and are raiding their own assets to give things to the community’s auctions.”
Fr Mercer joined the monastery in 1962 but left Mirfield in the late 1960s to work at one of the group’s priories in Rhodesia – now Zimbabwe.
Father George Guiver, superior of the 22-strong community, explained that the monks had decided not to expel him when he left the Church of England more than 20 years ago.
Fr Guiver said: “He used to belong to the Anglican Communion but in 1988 he joined a breakaway church called the Traditional Anglican Communion.
“He made the move because he was opposed to the ordination of women.
“The community doesn’t have a view on it, there are those who support ordination of women and those who are against.
“At that time we made the difficult decision about his membership of the community because he had moved to a separate church.
“It was a difficult decision to make but the community felt that we should keep doors open rather than closed when it comes to church unity.”
Fr Mercer retired in 2006 and the community bought him a flat on the south coast so he could be close to his sick sister.
Fr Guiver said: “When he retired, he hadn’t lived in the community for nearly 40 years.
“Returning after so long would not be easy.
“He had a very ill sister in Worthing who had to flee from Zimbabwe with next to nothing.
“She needs constant care, he wanted to be near her so we invested in a flat for him in 2006 round the corner from her.
“He maintains the flat – the boiler broke recently and he paid for the replacement.”
Fr Mercer was ordained as a Catholic priest last month.
Fr Guiver said monks had once again decided to allow him to remain a member.
“We again considered all of this very carefully and we felt there were no really new issues in addition to those we considered in 1988,” he said.
“He’s 77 and has no other income except for his pension. We can’t turn an old man out on the street.
“He’s a very keen member of our community, he comes to stay with us for several days, several times a year.
“He’s been a member of the community for 50 years, he’s very much one of our brothers and a religious community is like a family.”