Archdiocese to keep register of those who wish to leave church


THE ARCHDIOCESE of Dublin intends to maintain a register to note “the expressed desire” of those who wish to defect from the Catholic Church.

However, the archdiocese said that because of recent changes to the code of canon law, it would no longer be possible to defect formally from the church.

The CountMeOut website, which helps disaffected Catholics renounce their membership of the church, was this week forced to suspend temporarily its defection service on foot of the changes.

The site, which was set up last year in the wake of the Ryan report into clerical child sex abuse, assists users in generating a “declaration of defection”, a church document that proclaims a person’s intent to leave the Roman Catholic Church.

Earlier this year, the church modified certain elements of its canon law in relation to its recognition of mixed-faith marriages, removing all references to the act of formal defection.

The changes meant the annotation or amendment of the baptismal register in response to a defection request no longer changed a person’s relationship with the church.

A number of would-be defectors have contacted the website in recent weeks to complain at the delay in the processing of their defection requests.

Some received responses from the Dublin archdiocese, stating their applications could not be processed until the church decided how it would implement the changes to canon law.

The archdiocese said yesterday that the changes to canon law did not alter the fact that people could defect from the church, “albeit not through a formal process”.

As an alternative to the formal process, the archdiocese said it planned to maintain a register of those expressing a desire to leave the church.

But Paul Dunbar of CountMeOut claimed the withdrawal of the formal defection procedure had implications for a person’s right to freedom of religion and association. Mr Dunbar said the changes to canon law left the situation “open-ended” and it remained to be seen whether the church was in breach of the Data Protection Act, which requires organisations holding personal data to keep accurate records.

CountMeOut has written to the Dublin archdiocese seeking clarification on the matter.

“Despite these requests, the church have yet to reach a firm position on how or whether they will continue to accept requests for the annotation of the baptismal register,” Mr Dunbar said.