AskDefine | Define defrock

Dictionary Definition

defrock v : divest of the frock; of church officials [syn: unfrock]

User Contributed Dictionary




de- + frock 'vestment'


  1. to divest of a frock
  2. to formally remove the rights and authority of a member of the clergy.
    The defrocked priest may no longer perform rites.


Extensive Definition

To defrock, unfrock, or laicize a minister or priest is to remove their right to exercise the functions of the priestly office. Various Christian denominations have different procedures for doing this.


In Anglicanism, defrocking is extremely rare. More common is the simple removal of licence. Anglican clergy are licensed to preach and perform sacraments by the bishop of the diocese in which they reside. In the event that the bishop suspends this licence, the priest would no longer be allowed to exercise these priestly functions.
In the Anglican Church of Canada "deposition from the exercise of ministry if the person is ordained" is 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 (Canon XVIII). General Synod 2007 made the practice of suspending the license illegal in cases where discipline proceedings could be commenced (Resolution A082).

Eastern Orthodoxy

In Eastern Orthodoxy, doctrine does not state that the priesthood confers an indelible character on the person's soul. Laicization removes the ordained status completely. All sacred actions of a former clergyman are normally considered invalid (beginning from the time of laicization).
Laicization of a clergyman or monk 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 the spouse. In this case, the man remains in good standing with the Church but is no longer a cleric or monk.
Forced laicization or removal from sacred orders is a form of ecclesiastical punishment, imposed by the ruling bishop of this 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 canons 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.
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 or being blessed by a priest.


In the United Methodist Church, when an elder 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).

Roman Catholicism

In Roman Catholicism, a priest, deacon, or bishop may be dismissed from the clerical state as a penalty for certain grave offenses, or by a papal decree granted for grave reasons. A dismissed priest is forbidden to exercise ministerial functions, but an indelible priestly character is held to remain on his soul (as is sung at a priest's ordination, "You are a priest forever, like Melchizedek of old:" ). Consequently, any exercise of his sacramental power to consecrate the Eucharist is considered valid even though illicit. If a penitent is in danger of death, a dismissed priest may and indeed must hear his confession and confer absolution. To reinstate a priest dismissed from the clerical state, the consent of the Pope is required.


defrock in German: Laisierung

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

boot, bounce, break, bring into discredit, bring low, bring shame upon, bump, bust, can, cashier, cast reproach upon, debase, deconsecrate, degrade, demote, deplume, depose, deprive, dethrone, disbar, discharge, discredit, discrown, disemploy, disenthrone, disgrace, dishonor, dismiss, displace, displume, drum out, excommunicate, expel, fire, furlough, give the ax, give the gate, humiliate, impute shame to, kick, kick upstairs, lay off, let go, let out, liquidate, make redundant, oust, overthrow, pension, pension off, pillory, purge, put to shame, read out of, reflect discredit upon, release, remove, remove from office, replace, reproach, retire, sack, separate forcibly, shame, strip, strip of office, strip of rank, superannuate, surplus, suspend, turn off, turn out, unchurch, unfrock, unsaddle, unseat, unthrone
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