Rise in number of people symbolically defecting from the Catholic Church

Notme.ie sees an increase in the number of people symbolically defecting from the Catholic Church.

Atheist Ireland runs a website called notme.ie. The purpose of this website is to allow people to register that they would choose to leave the Catholic Church if they were allowed to do so. Over the past couple of weeks we have seen a marked increase in number of people who have used the website to symbolically register their defection from the Catholic Church. This is no doubt in reaction to the terrible revelations about the Tuam babies and the news that the religious orders have yet to fulfil their commitments under the redress scheme.

In Ireland, due to Canon Law, there is no way to formally defect from the Catholic Church. It is only possible to ask the church to register the fact that you would, if the church acknowledged your freedom of conscience, defect from it. This can be done by writing to the Bishop of the diocese in which you were baptised. If known give the parish and date of your baptism and if possible provide a copy of your baptismal certificate. You will need to outline why you are defecting. The response to this letter can vary from diocese to diocese. Some will accept your wish to register your defection, others will ask for a meeting or will not respond and you will have to write a few times. The best outcome from this is that you will receive a letter acknowledging that you wish to register that, if given the option you would choose to defect. The church will record this as a de facto defection.

Some background on defection

Notme.ie was set up to fill a void that the now defunct countmeout.ie site fulfilled. Count me out was set up by Cormac Flynn, Paul Dunbar and Grainne O’Sullivan to allow Irish adults, who were baptised as children but no longer identified themselves as Catholic to formally defect from the church.

This involved filling in a defection form and sending it to the parish priest from the area where the baptism occurred. The priest would then make a note on the baptism register formally recognizing that the individual named was no longer a member of the Catholic Church. This process was set up to facilitate tax systems in Germany and Count Me Out adapted the process for an Irish diaspora.

When Count Me Out was operational over 12,000 people downloaded the declaration of defection. Many posted their defection letters. However in April 2011 Church law was changed and the option to formally defect removed.

In essence, the Catholic Church is breaching the human rights of people who were baptised into the church as children and without their consent. By refusing to allow defection the Catholic Church is breaching Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights. Article 9 ‘Freedom of Thought, Conscience and Religion’ states:

Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief, in worship, teaching, practice and observance.

(of course, the Vatican State have not signed up to the European Convention on Human Rights).

NotMe.ie lets you informally and symbolically leave the Catholic Church. It has no impact on the Catholic Church’s view of your religious standing but is a way to identify as not Catholic. This symbolic gesture supports the separation of church and state. It does not signify or support atheism or humanism as many religious people also support church and state separation.

However, this is not the solution. It is unacceptable that the Catholic Church refuses to allow people who no longer identify as Catholic to formally leave the church. Atheist Ireland calls on the Catholic Church to recognise and respect the human rights of those who wish to no longer remain part of their religion.

1 Comment

  1. Avatar
    Tommy Nesbitt January 28, 2019

    I do not believe in the teachings of the Catholic Church. I am an Atheist.


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