Lord Hope of Thornes, the former archbishop, said he stripped the Very Rev Robert Waddington, a former dean of Manchester cathedral who was once in charge of church schools, of his right to conduct church services after allegations of child abuse against him. But Hope said he did not report the matter to the police or other child protection agencies because he deemed Waddington did not pose a further risk to children.

The extent of the allegations against Waddington have emerged in a joint investigation by the Times and the Australian newspaper that uncovered internal church files showing Hope was made aware of abuse allegations in 1999 and again in 2003. The Office of the Archbishop of York confirmed it was aware of legal action by an alleged victim. Dean died in 2007. The controversy comes after a report published earlier this month, ordered by former Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams, warned the church risked a ticking "time bomb" if it failed to take urgent action to prevent further incidents of child abuse.

The allegations will also add to the pressure on Williams's successor, Justin Welby, who now faces the prospect of dealing with historic childhood sexual abuse in addition to rows about same-sex marriage and women bishops.