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Church defection website suspends service over legal vagueness

CountMeOut.ie puts itself on hold because of “lack of clarity” over whether the church now acknowledges defections.

A POPULAR WEBSITE that helped members of the Catholic Church in Ireland to formally defect from it has suspended its services amid confusion as to whether Irish church authorities now acknowledge its services.

CountMeOut.ie, set up in Summer of 2009, helped unhappy members – who, if baptised, are officially members of church until they try to declare otherwise, regardless of their beliefs – to notify the diocese of their baptism that they wished to declare their defection. So far, over 12,000 people have used its services.

The site’s administrators have suspended its services, however, because of an amendment to the Church’s Canon Law made by Pope Benedict earlier this year which removed any reference to the practice of defection.

The amendment proposed by the Pope in his ‘Omnium in Mentem‘ document – which came into effect just after Easter – reversed a series of earlier notes originally created so that the marriages of estranged “former-Catholics”, as the site puts it, would still be considered valid in the eyes of the Church.

This loophole had been exploited until a 2006 note formally outlined a process for official defection.

The site says that the Church in Ireland has yet to form a concrete policy on how it will treat requests for the annotation of the baptismal register – the official ‘membership book’ of the Church in each diocese – and that its services had been compromised, with many users informing it that their defections were not processed.

The assistant chancellor of the Dublin Archdiocese told the site, when contacted, that it would continue to process defections as had been done previously, but the site said it believed that while baptismal annotations were still being carried out, they no longer represented a person’s formal departure from church membership.

It is also unclear whether the new law applies retrospectively, meaning that the 12,000 people who thought they had left the church may still be considered members.

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About the author:

Gavan Reilly

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