The committee, which was chaired by Lord Goodman, recommends that a Charities Board should be set up to advise the Charity Commissioners on who should and who should not be able to register as a charity.
Although the committee was unable to come up with a oncefor-all definition of what a charity was, it did have a number of observations on areas affecting Church life.
Without naming any particular religions, the report says "the established great religions of the world" should continue to be regarded as charities, but those judged to be detrimental to the moral welfare of the community should be excluded regardless of the number of their adherents.
On the question of contemplative orders the report says that many of them now involve the public in their activities and can be regarded as charities on the grounds that they benefit the community.
"The problem of the purely contemplative community remains, and the situation is complicated by the emergence of new communities not necessarily connected with any established religion whose main or sole activity is contemplation or meditation." In its recommendations the report says that contemplative communities should not normally have charitable status, but value judgment should be made in each case.
Prayer is not considered in law to be charity since it cannot be proved to be effectively benefiting anyone. Most religious orders are not registered as charities and their members are taxed as ordinary citizens.
In many cases, however, they have a chapel open to the public or provide a similar service and so are able to register as charities. This exempts them from income tax and corporation tax.
The committee does not recommend any changes in the law relating to covenants, one of the chief ways in which money is raised for Catholic parishes in England and Wales today. It does, however, recommend that the time-limit for a covenant scheme should be lowered from seven to four years.
Public schools are still to be regarded as charities. The report says that any decision to curtail independent education would be a political one. The committee is worried by the fact that private education benefits only a small part of the community, but the charging of fees does not exclude them from charitable status.
Much of the committee's time was spent in discussion on the political activities of charitable trusts, and the conclusions drawn in the report are that political activity may not be the prime aim of a charity and that it may not include support for or opposition to any other directly political group. On the whole the committee recommends that greater political activity should be allowed to charities.
Two former directors of charities this week launched a new communications consultancy for non-commercial organisations.
Mr Leslie Kirkley, former director of Oxfam, and Mr Peter Burns, former director of War on Want, have helped to form the group Public Voice Communications, which will help charities, voluntary organisations and pressure groups to raise funds, inform and influence the public, and generally improve the quality of their communications.