Defrocking, unfrocking, or laicization of clergy is the removal of their rights to exercise the functions of the ordained ministry. It may be grounded on criminal convictions, disciplinary problems, or disagreements over doctrine or dogma, but may also be done at their request for personal reasons, such as running for civil office, taking over a family business, declining health or old age, desire to marry against the rules for clergy in a particular church, or an unresolved dispute. The form of the procedure varies according to the Christian denomination concerned. The term defrocking implies forced laicization for misconduct, while laicization is a neutral term, applicable also when clergy have requested to be released from their ordination vows.
Clergy are some of the main and important formal leaders within certain religions. The roles and functions of clergy vary in different religious traditions but these usually involve presiding over specific rituals and teaching their religion's doctrines and practices. Some of the terms used for individual clergy are clergyman, clergywoman and churchman. Less common terms are churchwoman, clergyperson and cleric.
Doctrine is a codification of beliefs or a body of teachings or instructions, taught principles or positions, as the essence of teachings in a given branch of knowledge or in a belief system. The etymological Greek analogue is "catechism".
Dogma is an official system of principles or doctrines of a religion, such as Roman Catholicism, or the positions of a philosopher or of a philosophical school such as Stoicism.
Strictly speaking, the act of defrocking or unfrocking refers to the removal of the frock-like vestments of clergy and ministers, especially those that are used in officiating at worship services, baptisms, weddings, funerals, and communion. Typically, a clerical frock may refer to an ankle length alb, a colored stole associated with the preaching office, or a chasuble worn by ministers for the celebration of the Eucharist.
The alb, one of the liturgical vestments of the Roman Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran, and Methodist churches, is an ample white garment coming down to the ankles and is usually girdled with a cincture. It is simply the long, white linen tunic used by the ancient Romans.
The stole is a liturgical vestment of various Christian denominations. It consists of a band of colored cloth, formerly usually of silk, about seven and a half to nine feet long and three to four inches wide, whose ends may be straight or may broaden out. The center of the stole is worn around the back of the neck and the two ends hang down parallel to each other in front, either attached to each other or hanging loose. The stole is almost always decorated in some way, usually with a cross or some other significant religious design. It is often decorated with contrasting galloons and fringe is usually applied to the ends of the stole following Numbers 15:38-39. A piece of white linen or lace may be stitched onto the back of the collar as a sweat guard, which can be replaced more cheaply than the stole itself.
The chasuble is the outermost liturgical vestment worn by clergy for the celebration of the Eucharist in Western-tradition Christian churches that use full vestments, primarily in Roman Catholic, Anglican, and Lutheran churches. In the Eastern Orthodox Churches and in the Eastern Catholic Churches, the equivalent vestment is the phelonion.
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Catholic canon law
Members of the Catholic Church clergy may be dismissed from the clerical state, an action known as laicization. The term "defrocking" is not normally used within the Catholic Church, although journalistic reports on laicization of Catholic clergy sometimes use it.Laicization differs from suspension. The latter is a censure prohibiting certain acts by a cleric, whether the acts are of a religious character deriving from his ordination ("acts of the power of orders") or are exercises of his power of governance or of rights and functions attached to the office he holds. As a censure, suspension is meant to cease when the censured person shows repentance. Laicization, on the contrary, is a permanent measure, whereby for a sufficient reason a cleric is from then on juridically treated as a layman. Laicization is sometimes imposed as a punishment (Latin, ad poenam), or it may be granted as a favour (Latin, pro gratia) at the priest's own request. New regulations issued in 2009 regarding priests who abandon their ministry for more than five years and whose behaviour is a cause of serious scandal have made it easier for bishops to secure laicization of such priests even against the priests' wishes.
The Catholic Church, also known as the Roman Catholic Church, is the largest Christian church, with approximately 1.3 billion baptised Catholics worldwide as of 2017. As the world's "oldest continuously functioning international institution", it has played a prominent role in the history and development of Western civilisation. The church is headed by the Bishop of Rome, known as the Pope. Its central administration, the Holy See, is in the Vatican City, an enclave within the city of Rome in Italy.
Suspension is either paid or unpaid time away from the workplace as ordered by the employer in order for a workplace investigation to take place.
Latin is a classical language belonging to the Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. The Latin alphabet is derived from the Etruscan and Greek alphabets and ultimately from the Phoenician alphabet.
Eastern Orthodox doctrine does not state that the priesthood confers an indelible character on the person's soul. Laicization removes the ordained status completely.From the time of laicization all actions of a former cleric that would have been considered sacred are normally considered invalid.
Laicization of a cleric may come as a result of a request for removal from sacred orders, or as an ecclesiastical punishment. In the first case, very often, the cleric may ask to be laicized in order to enter a second marriage after the divorce or the death of his spouse. In this case, the man remains in good standing with the Church but is no longer a cleric.
Marriage, also called matrimony or wedlock, is a socially or ritually recognised union between spouses that establishes rights and obligations between those spouses, as well as between them and any resulting biological or adopted children and affinity. The definition of marriage varies around the world not only between cultures and between religions, but also throughout the history of any given culture and religion, evolving to both expand and constrict in who and what is encompassed, but typically it is principally an institution in which interpersonal relationships, usually sexual, are acknowledged or sanctioned. In some cultures, marriage is recommended or considered to be compulsory before pursuing any sexual activity. When defined broadly, marriage is considered a cultural universal. A marriage ceremony is known as a wedding.
Divorce, also known as dissolution of marriage, is the process of terminating a marriage or marital union. It usually entails the canceling or reorganizing of the legal duties and responsibilities of marriage, thus dissolving the bonds of matrimony between a married couple under the rule of law of the particular country or state. Divorce laws vary considerably around the world, but in most countries divorce requires the sanction of a court or other authority in a legal process, which may involve issues of distribution of property, child custody, alimony, child visitation / access, parenting time, child support, and division of debt. In most countries, monogamy is required by law, so divorce allows each former partner to marry another person; where polygyny is legal but polyandry is not, divorce allows the woman to marry another person.
Forced laicization or removal from sacred orders is a form of ecclesiastical punishment, imposed by the ruling bishop of a cleric for certain transgressions. According to the canonical procedure, if the cleric is found guilty of an infringement of a sacred vow, unrepentant heresy, breaking of canon law or ecclesiastical discipline, he can be suspended from exercising all clerical functions. If, disregarding his suspension, he continues to liturgize or does not repent of his actions, he may be permanently deposed from the sacred orders (in common parlance, "laicized"). Strictly speaking, the deposition can be appealed at the ecclesiastical court, but, in modern practice, the bishop's decision is usually final.
Heresy is any belief or theory that is strongly at variance with established beliefs or customs, in particular the accepted beliefs of a church or religious organization. A heretic is a proponent of such claims or beliefs. Heresy is distinct from both apostasy, which is the explicit renunciation of one's religion, principles or cause, and blasphemy, which is an impious utterance or action concerning God or sacred things.
Canon law is a set of ordinances and regulations made by ecclesiastical authority, for the government of a Christian organization or church and its members. It is the internal ecclesiastical law, or operational policy, governing the Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox churches, and the individual national churches within the Anglican Communion. The way that such church law is legislated, interpreted and at times adjudicated varies widely among these three bodies of churches. In all three traditions, a canon was originally a rule adopted by a church council; these canons formed the foundation of canon law.
Discipline is action or inaction that is regulated to be in accordance with a particular system of governance. Discipline is commonly applied to regulating human and animal behavior, and furthermore, it is applied to each activity-branch in all branches of organized activity, knowledge, and other fields of study and observation. Discipline can be a set of expectations that are required by any governing entity including the self, groups, classes, fields, industries, or societies.
Laicization as an ecclesiastical punishment may carry with it the excommunication of the former cleric from the church for a certain period, or indefinitely. The anathema, the permanent act of excommunication, against a member of the church or a former cleric is usually imposed by the decision of the synod of bishops or the ecclesiastical council. In such cases, this not only defrocks the former cleric but also banishes him from entering an Orthodox church, receiving the Eucharist and other sacraments, and being blessed by a priest.
In Anglicanism, defrocking is extremely rare and often impossible. Different provinces in the Anglican Communion handle this differently; the canon law of the Church of England, for instance, states that "No person who has been admitted to the order of bishop, priest, or deacon can ever be divested of the character of his order..."though the church has processes to allow any clergy (by own volition or otherwise) to cease to function in the role. Anglican clergy are generally licensed to preach and administer sacraments by the bishop of the diocese in question; however if a bishop suspends this licence, the deacon or priest may no longer exercise their respective ministerial functions lawfully in that diocese. Within the Church of England The Clergy Discipline Measure 2003 provides for a range of sanctions up to a lifelong ban from the exercise of ministry.
In the Anglican Church of Canada "deposition from the exercise of ministry if the person is ordained"is arguably equivalent to defrocking. These powers are given to the diocesan bishop (in most cases) subject to appeal to a diocesan court, or the diocesan court may exercise primary jurisdiction when the bishop asks it to (for diocesan bishops the provincial metropolitan is given primary jurisdiction, for metropolitans the provincial House of Bishops is given jurisdiction, for the primate it is the national House of Bishops). All these powers are subject to appeal to courts of appeal and on matters of doctrine to the Supreme Court of the Anglican Church of Canada (Appendix 4, General Synod Canon XVIII - Discipline). General Synod 2007 clarified deposition, including forbidding the practice of suspending the license in cases where discipline proceedings could be commenced instead (Resolution A082).
According to the constitutions and canons of the Episcopal Church in the United States, Title IV "Ecclesiastical Discipline", there are three modes of depriving a member of clergy from exercising ministerial rights: inhibition, suspension, or deposition. Inhibitions and suspensions are temporary. Clergy who are deposed are "deprived of the right to exercise the gifts and spiritual authority of God's word and sacraments conferred at ordination." (Title IV, Canon 15, Of Terminology Used in This Section, Deposition).
In the United Methodist Church, when an elder, bishop, or deacon is defrocked, his ministerial credentials are removed.Defrocking is usually the result of blatantly disobeying the Order and Discipline of the United Methodist Church and violating Biblical standards. A defrocked clergyman is prohibited from celebrating the sacraments (Holy Baptism and Holy Communion). A United Methodist elder or deacon may only have their credentials revoked through voluntary surrender or church trial. A minister who enters the status of honorable location retains their ordination credentials unless they voluntarily surrender them, while a minister who is involuntarily located may or may not, at the discretion of the Board of Ordained Ministry of their Annual Conference, retain their credentials of ordination. As a general rule, elders may only lose their credentials through voluntary surrender or action of a church court. Ministers who are found not competent to exercise their office may be suspended from ministry, but only for the duration of the incompetence. The United Methodist Book of Discipline outlines the specific rules for each option. Elders and deacons may not simply be defrocked by a bishop, but only through ecclesiastical due process.
A bishop is an ordained, consecrated, or appointed member of the Christian clergy who is generally entrusted with a position of authority and oversight.
In the Christian churches, holy orders are ordained ministries such as bishop, priest, or deacon, and the sacrament or rite by which candidates are ordained to those orders. Churches recognizing these orders include the Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, Anglican, Assyrian, Old Catholic, Independent Catholic and some Lutheran churches. Except for Lutherans and some Anglicans, these churches regard ordination as a sacrament. The Anglo-Catholic tradition within Anglicanism identifies more with the Roman Catholic position about the sacramental nature of ordination.
A deacon is a member of the diaconate, an office in Christian churches that is generally associated with service of some kind, but which varies among theological and denominational traditions. Some Christian churches, such as the Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Anglican church, view the diaconate as part of the clerical state; in others, the deacon remains a layperson.
Ordination is the process by which individuals are consecrated, that is, set apart as clergy to perform various religious rites and ceremonies. The process and ceremonies of ordination vary by religion and denomination. One who is in preparation for, or who is undergoing the process of ordination is sometimes called an ordinand. The liturgy used at an ordination is sometimes referred to as an ordination.
An ecclesiastical court, also called court Christian or court spiritual, is any of certain courts having jurisdiction mainly in spiritual or religious matters. In the Middle Ages these courts had much wider powers in many areas of Europe than before the development of nation states. They were experts in interpreting canon law, a basis of which was the Corpus Juris Civilis of Justinian which is considered the source of the civil law legal tradition.
In the canon law of the Catholic Church, the loss of the clerical state is the removal of a bishop, priest or deacon from the status of being a member of the clergy.
Clerical celibacy is the requirement in certain religions that some or all members of the clergy be unmarried. These religions consider that, outside of marriage, deliberately indulging in lustful thoughts and behavior is sinful; clerical celibacy also requires abstention from these.
Clerical marriage is the practice of allowing clergy to marry. It is a practice distinct from allowing married persons to become clergy. Clerical marriage is admitted in Protestantism, Anglicanism, Lutheranism, some Independent Catholic churches, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism and the Japanese sects of Buddhism.
In Christianity, a minister is a person authorized by a church, or other religious organization, to perform functions such as teaching of beliefs; leading services such as weddings, baptisms or funerals; or otherwise providing spiritual guidance to the community. The term is taken from Latin minister, which itself was derived from minus ("less").
An archdeacon is a senior clergy position in the Syriac Orthodox Church, Church of the East, Chaldean Catholic Church, Anglican Communion, St Thomas Christians, Eastern Orthodox churches and some other Christian denominations, above that of most clergy and below a bishop. In the High Middle Ages it was the most senior diocesan position below a bishop in the Catholic Church. An archdeacon is often responsible for administration within an archdeaconry, which is the principal subdivision of the diocese. The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church has defined an archdeacon as "A cleric having a defined administrative authority delegated to him by the bishop in the whole or part of the diocese." The office has often been described metaphorically as that of oculus episcopi, the "bishop's eye".
In some Christian churches, a reader is responsible for reading aloud excerpts of scripture at a liturgy. In early Christian times the reader was of particular value due to the rarity of literacy.
A religious is, in the terminology of many Western Christian denominations, such as the Catholic Church, Lutheran Churches, and Anglican Communion, what in common language one would call a "monk" or "nun", as opposed to an ordained "priest". A religious may also be a priest if he has undergone ordination, but in general he is not.
The term secular clergy refers to deacons and priests who are not monastics or members of a religious institute. A diocesan priest is a Catholic, Anglican, or Eastern Orthodox priest who commits himself or herself to a certain geographical area and is ordained into the service of the citizens of a diocese, a church administrative region. That includes serving the everyday needs of the people in parishes, but their activities are not limited to that of their parish.
In the Roman Catholic Church, incardination refers to the situation of a member of the clergy being placed under the jurisdiction of a particular bishop or other ecclesiastical superior. Its antonym, excardination, denotes that a member of the clergy has been freed from one jurisdiction and is transferred to another.
The Anglican ministry is both the leadership and agency of Christian service in the Anglican Communion. "Ministry" commonly refers to the office of ordained clergy: the threefold order of bishops, priests and deacons. More accurately, Anglican ministry includes many laypeople who devote themselves to the ministry of the church, either individually or in lower/assisting offices such as lector, acolyte, sub-deacon, Eucharistic minister, cantor, musicians, parish secretary or assistant, warden, vestry member, etc. Ultimately, all baptized members of the church are considered to partake in the ministry of the Body of Christ. "...[I]t might be useful if Anglicans dropped the word minister when referring to the clergy...In our tradition, ordained persons are either bishops, priests, or deacons, and should be referred to as such."
Dimissorial letters are testimonial letters given by a bishop or by a competent religious superior to his subjects in order that they may be ordained by another bishop. Such letters testify that the subject has all the qualities demanded by canon law for the reception of the order in question, and request the bishop to whom they are addressed to ordain him.
The priesthood is one of the three holy orders of the Catholic Church, comprising the ordained priests or presbyters. The other two orders are the bishops and the deacons. Only men are allowed to receive holy orders, and the church does not allow any transgender people to do so. Church doctrine also sometimes refers to all baptised Catholics as the "common priesthood".
Clerical celibacy is the discipline within the Catholic Church by which only unmarried men are ordained to the episcopate, to the priesthood in some autonomous particular Churches, and similarly to the diaconate. In other autonomous particular Churches, the discipline applies only to the episcopate.
This is a glossary of terms used within the Catholic Church.