Sex abuse allegations against Catholic priests have led to more than 50 'de-frockings' in England and Wales since new guidelines were put in place to protect children and vulnerable adults over a decade ago, it has been revealed.
The National Catholic Safeguarding Commission said 52 priests had been laicised - or defrocked - since 2001.
Danny Sullivan, chairman of the NCSC, said the rise in allegations last year might have been prompted by the Jimmy Savile scandal which resulted in a surge of calls to child abuse survivor support groups.
"It is standard practice within the Church in England and Wales if a priest is arrested for allegations of abuse, if a priest goes to court and if a priest receives a prison sentence then we would expect the bishop to automatically liaise with Rome over removing the priest from ministry," Sullivan said.
"If for some reason the priest is not laicised we have a system of what we call covenants of care and a priest may be under restricted ministry in quite a strict sense. For 11 years now in the Church we have made it clear that if anybody comes forward with allegations, whether current allegations, or ones from the past, we will automatically refer it to the statutory authorities."
He said the 2010 figures for abuse also registered a spike - at 92 - and he believed this may have been prompted by the publicity surrounding Pope Benedict's meeting in London 2010 with clerical sex abuse survivors.
The statistics were revealed as the commission said there were 81 child protection allegations made last year - a leap from 59 in 2012.
The number of parishes without a safeguarding representative grew between 2012 and 2013 from 88 to 126, the commission said, possibly due to concern over increased paperwork associated with the role.
There were 384 "covenants of care" in place by the end of 2013 in England and Wales where either a priest or a lay person is placed under restrictions.
Overall in the period between 2003 and 2012, 598 allegations of abuse were reported to statutory authorities by dioceses and religious congregations in England and Wales, of which more than three quarters, or 77% were allegations of sexual abuse.
New procedures were implemented within the Catholic Church in England and Wales after the late Lord Nolan made 83 recommendations to improve child protection following scandals involving paedophile priests.
The figures come after the Vatican said earlier this year that nearly 400 priests were defrocked worldwide in 2011 and 2012 by the former pope over claims of child abuse.
Peter Saunders, chief executive of the National Association for People Abused in Childhood, said the figures for the defrocking of clerical abusers were "encouraging".
"We cannot have people in this position of huge trust and responsibility being given free rein to abuse children or vulnerable adults. I know from personal experience having spoken to many victims that there is still work to be done," he said.
"I am not heaping unfettered praise on the Church but clearly there is an element of giving some credit for what they (the Catholic safeguarding staff) are trying to do."
Anne Lawrence, former chairwoman of Minister and Clergy Sex Abuse Survivors said the figures for the number of allegations received over the last decade represented the "tip of the iceberg".
She said: "There is nothing within the system in the Catholic Church, nothing that they have done, despite our repeated requests that they engage in a process in which they enable people to come forward at a higher rate than the national average.
"There is evidence that it is probably harder to speak out if you are from a Catholic background or a religious setting."Suggest a correction