JASON KENNEDY - The founder of a website formerly used to allow people leave the Catholic Church is asking people who still wish to defect to retrieve their records from their parish.
Paul Dunbar, who runs countmeout.ie, is asking people to request a copy of their records from the parish they were born in. Mr Dunbar hopes that data protection legislation can be used to force the church to amend their records to reflect the member’s desire to leave the organisation.
Catholics may no longer formally defect from the Church after a change in canon law that took place in 2010. Before that, countmeout.ie said more than 12,000 copies of its online form to defect had been downloaded.
A spokeswoman for the Archdiocese of Dublin would not comment on Mr Dunbar’s campaign, but reiterated the statement issued in 2010, saying it was a change that did not just affect the Church in Ireland, but also the world. “The Archdiocese of Dublin plans to maintain a register to note the expressed desire of those who wish to defect. Details will be communicated to those involved in the process when they are finalised,” she said.
Despite this, Mr Dunbar says people are still unable to leave the church of their own accord, even through excommunication. “During April 2011, we assisted 16 people in their effort to have an Act of Apostasy recognised as a formal declaration of their wish to leave the church,” he said.
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”, he said.
“We have sent letters to Archbishop Martin and the Vatican over the last few months and we never got reply. If people don’t wish to be a part of the institution, it has no right to bind them there. It’s frustrating.”