If you were baptised as a Catholic you are still counted among the congregation of the church, regardless of what beliefs you currently hold. Here are some reasons why you may wish to leave:

  • You no longer subscribe to the Catholic ethos, or are a ‘lapsed’ Catholic and you
    • Do not wish to be counted as a member;
    • Are appalled by the revelations concerning clerical abuse and wish to formally leave the church as a symbolic action;
    • Do not approve of the close relationship between the church and the Irish state and wish to contribute to its dismantling.
  • You wish to join another faith/religion.

Church Abuse Scandals

The Catholic church has been rocked by countless scandals involving physical, sexual and emotional abuse of mostly young children, and the coverup of these crimes. This has been documented in the Ryan Report of May 2009, which stated that children lived in “a climate of fear” and that “sexual abuse was endemic in boys institutions”, and the Murphy Report into the Dublin Archdiocese, published in November 2009. The public reaction to these reports was one of shock and outrage. Formally defecting from the Catholic church is one way of letting church authorities know how you feel about these scandals.

Church/State Relations

Ireland has long been regarded as a traditionally Catholic country. As such, the state has afforded the Catholic church a role in the provision of a range of key social services. For example, 98% of primary schools are funded by the state and yet are managed by the local Catholic bishop. Many hospitals are funded by the state and run by the Catholic church. The institutions where the abuse documented in the Ryan Report occurred were all run by Catholic orders. In modern Ireland, do we really want to maintain this close relationship between the church and state? Formally defecting from the Catholic church sends an unambiguous message that you no longer wish to be counted in a statistic used to justify the church’s role in the state’s social services.

A Clean Break

Some may argue that simply being a “lapsed” Catholic (i.e. not going to mass, not praying etc.) is enough of a step. There are others that feel this does not go far enough for them, it does not provide the emotional satisfaction they require. Formally defecting from the Catholic church is the best means possible to make a decisive break with the church.
Making the decision to leave the Catholic Church should not be taken lightly. There are ramifications that are dealt with in the FAQ.


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