The Church of England is to restore its traditional powers to defrock vicars who break the law, Church leaders said yesterday.
The punishment of expulsion from the priesthood – abolished 12 years ago – is to be reinstated as a demonstration of the Archbishop of Canterbury’s determination to stamp out child abuse.
Restoration of the most severe penalty for clergy guilty of sex abuse or other crimes was revealed after the Most Reverend Justin Welby told a survivors group that the Church is ready to launch its own examination of the extent of child sex abuse by priests.
Defrocking a vicar – technically called deposition from Holy Orders – was the strongest sanction against ill-behaved clergy until 2003, when a new disciplinary code removed it.
The authors of the new rulebook thought it was enough to bar criminal vicars from conducting services, and they were swayed by religious arguments which say that once someone has been ordained as a priest they cannot be deprived of their status.