Thinking Anglicans

Restoration of deposition?

This question on the possible restoration of the canonical penalty of deposition from Holy Orders was asked at General Synod on Friday evening.

The Revd Neil Patterson (Hereford) to ask the Chair of the House of Bishops:

Q74. Following the concerns expressed by MACSAS and others about clergy convicted of serious offences continuing to maintain their clerical style and dress, will the House of Bishops consider bringing forward proposals to restore the canonical penalty of deposition from Holy Orders, in order that the Church may more clearly repudiate from its ministry those who have seriously betrayed the trust placed in them?

The Bishop of Durham to reply on behalf of the Chair:

A There are two issues here. Firstly, with regard to the wearing of clerical dress- including clerical collars- taking power to prevent prohibited clergy from wearing clerical dress would be problematic, not least since it would be unenforceable in practice. With regard to exercising ministry, prohibition for life already exists as the most severe penalty under the Clergy Discipline Measure and may be invoked in the case of serious safeguarding offences. When the draft Clergy Discipline Measure was being considered in 2000 the Synod decided not to include deposition in the range of penalties available under the Measure.

I intend to invite the House of Bishops to reconsider whether that decision was wise but amending the CDM to allow deposition would require a Measure, so change would take some considerable time.

The question was not reached in the available time, so no supplementary questions were possible, although as with all questions now the answer was published in advance.

Press reports include:

Steve Doughty Daily Mail Church of England brings back powers to defrock vicars guilty of sex abuse and other crimes
John Bingham The Telegraph Church of England could return to defrocking rogue priests after child abuse scandals

The first report appears to confuse “The House of Bishops will be asked to think about doing it” with “It will be done”.

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