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Church of England brings back powers to defrock vicars guilty of sex abuse and other crimes

Church of England brings back powers to defrock vicars guilty of sex abuse and other crimes
Punishment of expulsion from the priesthood was abolished 12 years ago
But it's to be reinstated by the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby
The Archbishop broke the news to a survivors group and said Church is determined to stamp out child abuse

By STEVE DOUGHTY FOR THE DAILY MAIL
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/
July 12. 2015

The Church of England is to restore its traditional powers to defrock vicars who break the law, Church leaders said yesterday. (Sun)

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.

Getting tough: Restoration of the most severe penalty for clergy guilty of sex abuse or other crimes was revealed by the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby (above)

Getting tough: Restoration of the most severe penalty for clergy guilty of sex abuse or other crimes was revealed by the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby (above)

The Archbishop said the Church will start its own investigation if the Government-backed inquiry led by New Zealand judge Lowell Goddard does not look at the Church's record in the next six months.

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.

This means they can keep their title of Reverend.

However Archbishop Welby and senior colleagues now believe that the power to defrock must be brought back as a sign of the Church's disapproval of abusers.

The Bishop of Durham, the Right Reverend Paul Butler, confirmed the return of the penalty to the Church's parliament, the General Synod, in reply to a question from Herefordshire rector the Reverend Neil Patterson.

Mr Patterson asked for '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, the Right Reverend Paul Butler (above), confirmed the return of the penalty to the Church's parliament

The Bishop of Durham, the Right Reverend Paul Butler (above), confirmed the return of the penalty to the Church's parliament

Bishop Butler said bishops are to discuss whether the 2003 abolition of defrocking 'was wise'. But he warned that the CofE's tortuous legal procedures mean that bringing it back will be a long process.

'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,' the bishop said.

'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 Clergy Discipline Measure to allow deposition would require a measure, so change would take some considerable time.'

Bishop Butler said the Church would not try to make laws forbidding those banned from the priesthood from wearing dog collars and clerical shirts because the ban could not be enforced.

Archbishop Welby promised a Church investigation into abuse at a meeting with survivor organisations at Lambeth Palace. The Church will act if the Goddard inquiry, which is expected to last five years, does not deal with allegations involving clergy in its early months, he said.

Muhammed al Huseini, who was one of five representatives of abuse victims at the meeting, told the BBC: 'During the meeting that we had with Justin Welby he promised that he would undertake an independent audit into abuse in the Church of England and this independent audit would be overseen by survivors' organisations, representatives, sat alongside representatives of the Archbishop.'

A number of CofE priests in southern England have been sentenced for child sex abuse crimes in recent years. None were stopped while they remained active clergy.

Last year retired former Archbishop of York Lord Hope surrendered his honorary position as a bishop in the Diocese of Bradford after a judge-led inquiry found he had protected a predatory paedophile, the Very Reverend Robert Waddington, from exposure, investigation and prosecution. Waddington, a former Dean of Manchester, died before his crimes were made public.

END

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