Leaving the Catholic Church — officially — isn’t something you can just do with your mind. While anyone can mentally check out of a faith, the Church considers you one of their own unless you file the proper paperwork. Thankfully, there are people who will gladly guide you through the process.
In Argentina, where two-thirds of the population is Catholic, there are a lot of reasons to be frustrated with the Church. It’s not just the sexual abuse scandals. Because of pressure from the Church, the legislature recently voted to block a bill that would’ve allowed abortions through 14 weeks of pregnancy. On top of that, you have the Church’s stance against marriage equality, LGBTQ rights, comprehensive sex education, etc.
That’s why a group called Collective Apostasy has been helping people officially walk away from the Church. When I first wrote about them a couple of weeks ago, they were just trying to grab people’s attention, as were other organizations that were part of the Coalition for a Lay State.
Their work is paying off.
In the month since the country’s senate voted to maintain a ban on almost all abortions, more than 3,700 people have submitted apostasy applications to the Argentinian synod, according to César Rosenstein, a lawyer and founding member of the Argentinian Coalition for a Lay State.
“Apostasy is an important symbolic and political act,” said Rosenstein, who said that visits to the group’s website had shot up since the vote from 100 daily unique users to around 40,000 a day.
It’s a small percentage, but that’s 3,700 people who have taken the first step to divorce themselves from the Catholic Church. It’s bound to go up.
One of the sticking points for the self-described apostates is what their paperwork will get them. Will the Church delete all records of their existence as members? Not exactly…
Although the Catholic church usually responds to apostasy requests by annotating “Apostate” on the baptismal records of applicants, campaigners are demanding instead that their names be erased altogether from church registers — and that their baptismal certificates be physically destroyed.
“Although Argentina’s data protection law allows the church to keep personal data of its members, we are arguing that the personal data of people who no longer consider themselves members must be deleted from the church’s files altogether,” says Rosenstein.
Technical details aside, what’s important is that thousands of people are taking action to leave the Church. They’re not just criticizing it. They’re walking away for good. That’s a movement thousands more ought to join — it may be the best way to pressure the Church into changing its ways.
(Image via Facebook. Thanks to Brian for the link)