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20/07/2011 - Church Continues to Block Formal Cessation of Membership

The Catholic Church continues to block efforts by those who wish to formally renounce their membership of the faith. The Countmeout.ie organisation recently assisted 16 people in their effort to have an "Act of Apostasy" recognised as a formal declaration of their wish to leave the church. However, the Archdiocese of Dublin has decided it cannot accept these declarations meaning those who wish to leave the church continue to be denied this option.


The website Countmeout.ie made headlines in 2009 when it offered a simple 3-Step process for this wishing to formally leave the Catholic Church. The process involved sending a "Declaration of Defection" to one's local diocese, after which an annotation was made to the baptismal register. In 2010, however, the church made changes to Canon Law which removed the option to formally defect. Count Me Out has been exploring alternative methods of formally renouncing one's membership since the changes to Canon Law and recently trialled a new declaration known as an "Act of Apostasy".


The Act of Apostasy allows someone to declare themselves an apostate to the faith, i.e. one who rejects Christian teachings. Canon Law stipulates that an apostate to the faith automatically incurs a latae senteniae excommunication. In response to the 16 Acts of Apostasy which were sent to the Archdiocese of Dublin in June 2011, a spokesperson stated that they would not be accepted. Furthermore, it was stated that excommunication does not mean that somebody is no longer a member of the church.


Count Me Out has concerns about the latest developments. It appears that there is currently no possibility of formally ceasing one's membership of the Catholic Church. This has implications for one's freedom of religion and association. Countmeout.ie has experienced a ten-fold increase in traffic to the site in the aftermath of the Cloyne Report. This demonstrates the desire of many lapsed Catholics to leave the church and we are now calling on the church to make this a possibility.


Count Me Out, 20/07/2011




Relevant Articles of Canon Law


Can. 751 Heresy is the obstinate denial or obstinate doubt after the reception of baptism of some truth which is to be believed by divine and Catholic faith; apostasy is the total repudiation of the Christian faith; schism is the refusal of submission to the Supreme Pontiff or of communion with the members of the Church subject to him.


Can. 1364 §1 An apostate from the faith, a heretic or a schismatic incurs a latae sententiae excommunication, without prejudice to the provision of Can. 194 §1, n. 2; a cleric, moreover, may be punished with the penalties mentioned in Can. 1336 §1, nn. 1, 2 and 3.