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Paedophilia: the Church in Ireland staunches the flow of refugees from Roman Catholicism...
ireland / britain | religion | opinion / analysis Thursday March 10, 2011 00:55 by Francesca Palazzi Arduini
Archdiocese of Dublin impeding formal defections from the Roman Catholic Church
In October 2010, the Irish website Count Me Out, which had until then supplied the forms needed to carry out formal Defection from the Roman Catholic Church, suspended distribution of the forms and its own activity as a result of a statement from the Catholic Church in Ireland regarding the acceptance of defection requests. But was the Archdiocese of Dublin being truthful when it issued its statement? Italian anti-clericalist activist Francesca Palazzi Arduini examines the changes in which led to the Church's statement.
Paedophilia: the Church in Ireland staunches the flow of refugees from Roman Catholicism... through even more silence
In October 2010, the Irish website Count Me Out, which had until then supplied the forms needed to carry out formal Defection from the Roman Catholic Church (“actus formalis defectionis ab Ecclesia Catholica”), suspended distribution of the forms and its own activity as a result of a statement from the Catholic Church in Ireland regarding the acceptance of defection requests.
Count Me Out had accumulated a large following thanks to the indignation which arose on foot of the many cases of paedophilia (531,000 emails to the site and thousands of forms completed) which had come to public attention after being denounced following years of silence by the Irish Church and the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
The act of defection, according to the Roman Catholic Church itself, should be considered a total renunciation of the sacraments and is intended to bring about a “breaking of the bonds of ecclesiastical communion”. It is comparable to the Italian practice of the sbattezzo, or de-baptizing, first promoted by the Associazione per lo Sbattezzo and later by the Unione degli atei e degli agnostici razionalisti (UAAR – Union of Rationalist Atheists and Agnostics). It is not, thus, a mere “justification” for the non-payment of a religious tax, but a “true act of apostasy”, one for which canon law provides grave consequences (including excommunication) and which, more concretely, and if clearly communicated in writing to the ecclesiastic authorities, allows an official note of the defection to be recorded in the baptismal register, as prescribed by the General Decree of the Italian Episcopal Conference of 30 October 1999 providing “Dispositions for the protection of the right to a good name and to privacy” (1). This Decree recognized for the first time the right to obtain the correction of data contained in baptismal registers, although a decision by the civil courts in Padua in 2000 allows for such data not to be cancelled. Naturally, these pronouncements were actively sought by the de-baptizing movement and as part of a legal case taken by a member of the UAAR in Italy in 1999 with the recently-established Italian Commissioner for Data Protection (2).
So why this sudden decision on the part of the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland to evade defection requests, albeit perhaps only temporarily? In 2010, the provisions of the motu proprio “Omnium in mentem” (3), which had been under study by Vatican canon law experts for some time, came into effect. It made changes to three articles of the Code of Canon Law regarding the possibility of defecting from the Church. The three articles, however, affect solely the institution of marriage. After lengthy consultations, references to formal defection were removed by reasons of the “expediency of not having in these cases different treatment from that given to civil unions of baptized persons who make no formal act of abandonment; the need to demonstrate with coherence the identity of “marriage and sacrament”; the risk of encouraging clandestine marriages; further repercussions in countries where Church Marriages have civil effects, and soforth” (4).
The Pontifical Council also explains that the change concerns “the domain of matrimony” in connection with the obligations of baptized persons not to marry non-baptized or non-Roman Catholic persons, and by way of confirmation cites the process of consultations during which, indeed, it was thought necessary to issue a Letter to clarify the modalities of defection, in recognition of the sheer number of requests, since “In the meantime, the suppression of that phrase concering the canon discipline of Marriage has been linked with a completely different question, which however required suitable clarification, and concerned exclusively certain central European countries: it concerned the effect on the Church in cases where a Catholic made a declaration to the civil authorities that he did not belong to the Catholic Church and, consequently, was not required to pay the so-called tax for religion”.
Hence the issuing of the Letter which the Pontifical Council cites: “In this precise connection and, thus, regarding areas other than that strictly concerning matrimony referred to which the above-mentioned phrase in the three canons of the Code referred to, a study was begun by the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts in collaboration with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in order to clarify what the essential requisites for manifesting one's will to defect from the Catholic Church are. Such conditions of effect were indicated in the Circular to the Presidents of Episcopal Conferences” (5) which the Pontifical Council issued on 13 March 2006 and which there is thus no reason to consider no longer valid as it was written during the same process which led to “Omnium in mentem” and deals with the possibility of abjuring, something which has by now been confirmed.
The Catholic Church in Ireland has instead declared (and has not yet rectified in any way) that: “...it will no longer be possible to formally defect from the Catholic Church. This will not alter the fact that many people can defect from the Church, and continue to do so, albeit not through a formal process. This is a change that will affect the Church throughout 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” (6).
It would appear, then, that there is an attempt at hand to stall on requests of defection (not for matrimonial purposes, but for reasons of conscience) which continue to be made, without due consideration for the above-mentioned explanations provided by the Pontifical Council, which have been publicly available for some time on the Vatican website. And this is causing perplexity and frustration among people wishing to defect.
More silence, more clouding of issues in Ireland? It is time for the Catholic Church to stop this exploitation of “Omnium in mentem” in its attempt to put a halt to the exodus of its members.
Translation by Nestor McNab (FdCA)