I think this is the funniest serious article I’ve read in a long time…
I didn’t know this. But I guess I’m not surprised. If you’re Catholic, you need to send the Church a formal letter (the “actus defectionis”) in order to officially leave the faith.
One such letter, downloaded 30,000 times, is the main attraction at the Italian Union of Rationalists and Agnostics, or UAAR, website.
The actus defectionis must be snail-mailed to the parish where baptism took place. Priests note in the register that the flock member has permanently strayed — and that’s one less believer to bulk up statistics.
The UAAR site gets a lot of hits… periodically:
“We see a traffic spike every time the Pope says something unpopular,” said UAAR site manager Raffaele Carcano…
What is the Church doing as a result of these debaptisms?
… the Vatican [has published] a legislative text reminding the former faithful that they are committing an act of “apostasy, heresy or schism.”
The pool is a potentially large one: 90 percent of Italians are baptized but only a third are churchgoers.
Sending the letter alone may not do it, though:
Luca, a 28-year-old who works in sales, downloaded the letter from UAAR’s site and mailed it. His parish priest in Verona, who had never debaptized anyone before, demanded a face-to-face meeting.
Describing himself as “kind of a coward and pretty lazy,” but unwilling to belong to a Church that didn’t represent him, Luca made an appointment. He told the priest he had never been a believer, so why belong to the flock? “A flock that included me as soon as I was born without my consent,” he said.
The priest noted Luca had formally left the religion in the baptism register, then Luca signed his name and left.
UAAR recently uploaded a new letter with reinforced legal jargon to dissuade priests from requiring in-person visits or notifying relatives of the debaptism.
Since only about a third of Italians regularly use the Internet, UAAR (which has no central office) has to be creative:
Though UAAR works mostly remotely, members meet offline to organize protests and other initiatives, including an upcoming group debaptism for the non-internet savvy.
I’ve never been baptized, but the group debaptism sounds like fun!
The whole letter idea reminds me of last summer, when I visited Iceland. I found out there was a form you could fill out to indicate your religious beliefs. Most people didn’t fill it out because of the hassle. As a result, the country automatically considered those people Lutheran– which was the “state church.” An atheist group there had a mission to get non-religious people (there were many of them in the country) to fill out the form indicating their atheism– that way the National Church of Iceland wouldn’t get all the money reserved for “religious” purposes.
(Thanks to UAAR for the link! If you’d like to read the site in English, try this.)
[tags]atheist, atheism, Catholic, Church, actus defectionis, Italian Union of Rationalists and Agnostics, UAAR, Pope, Raffaele Carcano, Vatican, Verona, Iceland, Lutheran, National Church of Iceland[/tags]