The other day, media brought up the news of Rev. Vosper who does not believe in God, but has been allowed to administer in the United Protestant Church of Canada. A Canadian Preacher Who Doesn’t Believe in God.

I am eager to know how the Catolic Church deals with priests who have since turned atheists . Is there an official procedure for the same ?

  • Many believers go through periods of doubt, they may technically be Atheists, and then later on come back. The Sacrements they administer are still valid. It can be such a priest would go for advice from an older priest and/or their confessor, etc. I don't think anyone is an atheist until they die an atheist (my opinion).
    – Gordon
    Commented Feb 7, 2019 at 16:12
  • My comment may not have addressed your question since it appears Rev. Vosper may have publicly advertised that he was an atheist, this might cause scandal, so Canon law? Of course, the fact is Vosper left the Catholic Church. He more or less decided his own case. The problem would be if a priest very publicly declared his atheism and then attempted to stay in the Catholic Church.
    – Gordon
    Commented Feb 7, 2019 at 16:30

1 Answer 1


If the priest who apostatized and became atheist is obstinate in his heresy, he is to be deposed/defrocked:

1917 can. 2314:

§1. All apostates from the Christian faith and all heretics and schismatics:

1°. Incur excommunication ipso facto, and

2°. Unless they repent, shall be deprived of any benefice, dignity, pension or other charge which they may hold in the Church, and be declared infamous; clerics, after repeated warning, shall be deposed;

  • Sure, many denominations have formal rules that say this, but it doesn't always happen in practice. The Anglicans have a very poor record for defrocking their atheists for example. Priests who realise they no longer have faith may also want to hide it. What active measures does the Catholic Church take to ensure their atheist priests are identified and defrocked?
    – curiousdannii
    Commented Feb 10, 2019 at 8:42

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