An Easy Way for Irish People to Leave the Catholic Church July 13, 2009

An Easy Way for Irish People to Leave the Catholic Church

If you’re (literally) an Irish Catholic, and you want to leave the Roman Catholic Church, you now have an easy way out.

It takes three steps.

Hundreds of like-minded people have completed an “actus defectionis” or “declaration of defection” on the site since it went live last Wednesday.

They have completed a three-step process that enables users to get the formal letter required by church officials to change baptism records and allow former followers officially to leave the faith. The document needs to be signed, witnessed and sent to the parish where the person was baptised.

Cormac Flynn, a 29-year-old website designer who describes himself as agnostic, linked up last month with Grainne O’Sullivan and Paul Dunbar to create the online campaign, which also runs on Facebook and Twitter.

While this is a way to show your disapproval for the Church’s abuse/child-rape scandals, it may seem silly and frivolous to go through these motions. It’s not.

Why is this important to do if you no longer consider yourself a Catholic?

Formally defecting from the Catholic church also sends an “unambiguous message” that people with changed beliefs no longer wish to be included in head counts used to justify the church’s role in the state’s services, the campaigners say.

“There are many so-called lapsed Catholics as well as agnostics and atheists in Ireland but the church continues to count them as members,” said Dunbar. “Formally defecting will mean the church can no longer use their large membership to justify continued involvement in the provision of education and health services.”

If you do formally leave, you can’t get married in the church or have your funeral there… but there are plenty of secular alternatives for both.

There’s no minimum age requirement to do this, but the website suggests you be 18 before filling this out.

So far, 664 people have left the Church.

Will you be number 666?

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Could formally leaving the faith be considered blasphemous? They rather frown on that in some Muslim countries and the Irish government is apparently adopting some of the same attitudes.

  • Tyler in SoCal

    I hadnt even thought of this. I was baptised when I was a kid at a Catholic Church and did the whole confirmation stuff (In USA). Just emailed the Parish to see what it takes to be removed from their records. Im sure Father Paul will get a kick outtve it. Yikes.

  • Richard Wade

    …people with changed beliefs no longer wish to be included in head counts used to justify the church’s role in the state’s services…

    This, of course, assumes that the church conducts accurate head counts and reports the results honestly to the state, even when reporting smaller membership is not in its best financial interest to do so, and that the state is diligent in making sure those records are accurate. Mm hm.

    Aye, an’ ye wouldn’ be pullin’ me leg just a wee bit, would ye?

  • Jen

    If you do formally leave, you can’t get married in the church or have your funeral there… but there are plenty of secular alternatives for both.

    According to my friend who just got married in Ireland, this has only been true as of 2007- before that it was illegal to get married outside of a house of worship.

    According to the delightfully drunk 20-something sitting at my table at said wedding, young people in Ireland think church is useless and outdated, and a bit of an embarrassment to people with brains.*, so this website’s success is not a surprise to me.

    *pretend I said that while drunk and Irish, using many words that may or may not be swears.

  • Matto the Hun

    I have no idea what parish, what county the parish is/was in or any of that. Blah, this is too much effort.

    Like Richard (and my wife just now) said, whose to say the keep accurate counts anyhow.

  • patientia

    They still count those who leave. They count excommunicated too.

  • Claudia

    Man, someone should find a way to do that in Spain. Here it’s pretty much impossible to leave. The church is famously resistant to apostasy and this has led to never ending fights over the years. They always justify it by saying that they can’t erase someone because they have to keep their records.

    Of course it has NOTHING to do with the fact that a majority of Spaniards (and a huge majority of the young ones) have nothing to do with the church past first communion and allowing apostasy, especially easy apostasy, would lead to a more realistic faithful count. Not a good thing for a church that receives ridiculous amounts of tax euros a year.

  • peregrine

    I’d still like to know if I’d have to go through the same process in Canada. I probably wouldn’t, necessarily; Just keep it up my sleeve in case I needed it in the future. Either that, or just wait until I do something to piss them off and get excommunicated.

    I find it odd that they call it a “declaration of defection”. Makes it sound a little more scandalous than it really is, doesn’t it? I mean it’s not like I’m bringing any secrets with me. You guys probably already know more secrets than I do.

    Is it better to defect, or get kicked out? Which would look cooler in my unauthorized biography? 🙂

    I also think I’d have an issue sending my letter of defection to the parish I was baptized in. The current pastor down there (assuming he is still the pastor; it’s been a while since I’ve heard) is a pretty nice guy, all things considered, and he’s acquainted with my family, which would be awkward. Although it’s hard to find a Catholic priest in this city that isn’t acquainted with my family.

    Yeah… all things considered, I think I’ll just wait…

  • Erp

    BTW the website is wrong in stating that if you choose to undefect you would need to be rebaptized.

    From most churches’ points of view you can’t debaptize assuming you were baptized legitimately in the first place.

    Looking at the canon law it seems that from the Catholic point of view, defection means you cease to be Catholic but you are still considered Christian. You would have to be declared an apostate for them to consider you no longer Christian (a much trickier thing to accomplish). From the Irish state records point of view defection is sufficient.

    I will note that some denominations tend to weed the rolls regularly. One way is to require the local churches to send money to the central organization depending on size (i.e., number of members times x amount of dollars). This encourages local churches to drop inactive members quickly. Others give regular members a great deal of clout which encourages them to be careful in adding new members and possibly to remove old ones quickly.

  • Tyler in SoCal

    So I talked to Father Joe back at the Parish I was baptised and I was still on the records there and being recorded as a member. He removed me. But to take it one step further to officially defect (in USA anyways) here is a good website which explains what to do.

    Basically you need to write/send a certified letter with this in it:

    “You must commit a formal act of defection. This act must include three parts: A) an internal act of will; B) an external manifestation of that act; and C) communication of the fact in writing to your local Bishop.”

  • I think the defection process could be accelerated if you got to moon the pope. I’d do that in a heartbeat.

  • Damien Kelly

    I believe any letter of defection has to be sent higher up than the parish you were born in, as far as i’m doing i’m sending mine tomorrow to the Archbishop of Dublin where my parish belongs to!?

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