Q. Please explain the difference of a priest who is suspended and one who is defrocked.
— B.Q., Philadelphia
A. Here’s a reply from Msgr. Charles Pope:
The term “defrocked” is not a term used in the Church’s Canon Law; even its secular use varies. Church law speaks of priests who might be suspended and those who are laicized.
A priest who is suspended has his faculties to publicly preach and celebrate the sacraments removed. In certain cases he may be permitted to say Mass privately and may still retain some obligations to say the Divine Office. He still lives celibately. If the troubles that led to his suspension can be resolved, he can be restored to public ministry.
A priest who is laicized, however, is legally regarded as a layman. He cannot say Mass at all, even privately; he is no longer obliged say the Divine Office; and he may get married. Some priests are punitively laicized because they committed serious sins as a priest. Other priests are laicized at their own request because they sadly are no longer willing to live the life to which they were ordained.