Finns desert church in record numbers after watching gay marriage TV show

Finns desert church in record numbers after watching gay marriage TV show October 15, 2010

A RECORD number of Finns quit the Evangelical Lutheran Church this week after seeing negative religious attitudes towards gays in a TV programme. Those who ditched the church carried out their mass exodus via an online service, the standard procedure used nowadays.
According to this report, information Officer Heikki Orsila, of, which facilitates the secession process, thought that the spike resulted from the Finnish Broadcasting Company YLE’s current affairs programme Ajankohtainen Kakkonen, aired on Tuesday.

The show entitled Homoilta (Gay Night) was a panel discussion dealing with gay rights issues, including the question of the rights of same-sex couples to marry in church. The panel included Christian Democrat MP Päivi Räsänen, who has been fiercely critical of same-sex marriages and was a principal opponent in the Parliamentary debate on adoption rights for registered same-sex couples; and the Bishop of Tampere Matti Repo.
More than half of Tuesday’s 372 resignations were sent while the programme was running.
According to the website, the total number of people to make their exit was 2,633. This was not merely around 1,500 more than the previous daily high, but greater than the total number in the entire month of July.
The previous record of 1,049 individuals parting ways with the state church in the space of one day occurred on the last day of 2008.
According to Orsila, around 90 per cent of all the resignations from the church now happen via the Internet.
The site also noted that women have normally made up roughly 44 percent of church-leavers, but that this ratio rose on Wednesday to 48 percent, and that those announcing their departure were also older than the norm.
Whilst roughly eight out of ten Finns belong to the state church, actual attendance at services is at a much lower level. Many remain inside the church – something that also involves an obligation to pay an annual parish council tax – largely to be able to get married in church.
Numbers have been declining steadily as the society becomes increasingly secularised. However,  sudden increases in resignations occur when fundamental differences of opinion on hot-button issues, such as gay rights or the ordination of women, arise.
Meanwhile, the Roman Catholic Church is now making it impossible for Church members to formally quit.
Earlier this year, the  Church modified its Code of Canon Law to remove all references to the act of formal defection, the process used by those who wish to formally renounce their membership.
This means that Count Me Out, an Irish organisation set up to help disaffected Catholics to formally leave the Church, has had to suspend its services.
Count Me Out said

Despite our requests for clarification, 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.

The Church in Ireland said in a statement to RTE News:

The Holy See confirmed at the end of August that it was introducing changes to Canon Law and as a result 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. Last year 229 people formally defected from the Church through the Archdiocese of Dublin. 312 have done so, so far this year.

Hat tip: David B (Catholic report)

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  • Broga

    Seems that there is an increasing gulf between what the Roman Catholic Church insists is its membership and reality. If an RC wants out then that is it. If the RC Church wants to include him/her in then that is no more than the usual deceits with which we are long familiar.
    Well done the Finns. They see the bigotry and decide “No thanks, this won’t do.”

  • Stonyground

    It appears that celebrations are a little premature considering that the numbers quoted seem to be relatively small.
    The RCC changing its rules is interesting though, their action obviously suggests a certain level of desperation. This action could also be another own goal in that any membership statistics that they quote in the future will be meaningless. A great number of those counted will be people who were inducted as RCs by misguided parents before they could talk.

  • Har Davids

    The numbers the Vatican uses are unimportant as long as nobody pays attention to them. It becomes a different kettle of fish the moment governments allow these alleged numbers to influence policy making: abortion, stem cell research, euthanasia and gay marriage are only some of the subjects where Rome is seriously out of step with many people, but they still have a lot of clout in the political arena, because many politicians don’t have the guts to listen to their constituants. This was pretty obvious during the UK ‘state-visit’, where at least one person should have walked out when Ratzinger spouted his lies about the connection between Nazism and Atheism.

  • Broadsword

    It seems a portion of Finns pay the parish council tax despite having little or no religious conviction. This sort of person is more likely to question religious bigotry and withdraw their financial support. They don’t have to get married in church after all.
    As for the RCC. Not recognising formal defections keeps its official numbers up. This may seem innocuous to all but the trapped former Catholics but it’s more than a technical point. Ratty cannot allow his membership to dwindle away as this reduces his political influence. It’s all about power.
    We may see a new breed of criminal shortly – Soul Burglars!
    Priests who break into homes during the small hours intent on dousing the sleeping occupants with holy water. That’ll keep the numbers up.

  • William Harwood

    Now does everybody see how the RC organized crime syndicate is able to get away with claiming to have more than a billion mindslaves, when the true figure is about 0.65 billion?

  • fester60613

    Several years ago I attempted to formally withdraw from the catholic church in Chicago. All I got was a runaround worthy of a life-long politician. Considering the uberconservative hard-assed views of cardinal george I was not altogether surprised.
    BTW – if gays, as cardinal george says, are “too damaged” to be priests, how is it that he, who hobbles around on a bum leg resulting from childhood polio, can be a priest? Is he too not damaged?

  • tony e

    I think I’m going to appear a bit thick on this, but surely, in order to remove oneself from a religion, esp with the RCC moving the goalposts, all you need to do is think ‘what a load of bollocks?’
    All this formality, smacks to me, of post indoctrination subservience, just tell them to fuck off. It’s not rocket science.

  • JohnMWhite

    tony e, most people wish formal removal from the rolls for political reasons. 1) it reduces the Catholic Church’s numbers, and thus their perceived power. 2) it sends a clear signal to the church that their bigotry is losing them members and driving people away, which may, if enough people do it, may force some kind of change. It’s the principle of the thing, basically.
    I sent in my Declaration of Defection form several months ago, along with a lengthy and heart-felt letter explaining my reasons for leaving the church. I never did get a reply, which was rather annoying, since I did put effort into constructing a nuanced case rather than indulging in what would have been a satisfying diatribe about how evil the church is. I consider myself long gone from the church anyway, but I wanted at least some kind of acknowledgement. I think I shall have to write again…

  • Daz

    It’s a matter of official numbers. This way they can still claim x-number of worshippers, because they’re still on the books. To their credit, the Dublin branch of RCC (Inc) appear to be trying to keep an honest count.
    Bravo Finland!

  • @Tony it doesn’t look like post indoctrination subservience to me. It looks more like a moral distaste for still be being counted as Catholic, like a political statement attacking the RCC. As far as ireland goes. There are other European countries where defecting from the Catholic church makes a difference to their finances, since the state gives them money according to their membership, taking it from the registered Catholics.
    In those cases it might make it more difficult to stop your money going to them, since I understand that the formal leaving procedure was required in one or more countries in order to stop the taxman grabbing some of peoples money to hand on to the RCC.
    If I were Irish and baptised Catholic, though, I’d want to formally disicciate from my baptism for more reasons than one.
    I speculate about the reasons for this change of Canon Law, and suspect that it has mixed motives. To avoid publicity about the number of defectors, and, where it applies, to try to hanf onto people for financial reasons.
    To be fair to the RCC in Ireland, their statement is reasonably decent, considering that their hands are tied.
    David B

  • Gordon

    The Pope has said that anyone involved in an abortion is automatically excommunicated, so presumably a fund could be set up. Send £1 towards someone’s abortion, have a copy of the receipt sent to your local bishop, call and ask for your excommunication.

  • JohnMWhite

    You can also be excommunicated by joining the Communist Party or ordaining a woman as a priest or some other nefarious thing (but not, of course, RAPING A CHILD). Unfortunately the Catholic Church does not keep track of its automatic excommunications, leaving that up to god, so they still count you on their rolls.

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  • Erp

    In the eyes of the church, excommunication doesn’t mean you are no longer Catholic; it just means you are a really bad Catholic.

  • Carasek

    So, the Catholic Church’s official position is that to stop being counted as one of the flock a person has to either:
    -formally renounce one’s Catholicism and have one’s ‘resignation’ accepted by the Catholic bigwigs
    – or be excommunicated?
    I’m guessing that a certain Adolf Hitler, raised by Jew-hating Catholics, doesn’t fit into either of these categories and therefore remains a Catholic (albeit a dead one).

  • tony e

    JohnMWhite/Daz/David B,
    I did not think of it as a numbers game, cheers for the clarification, I stand, happily, corrected.

  • RogerB

    You can check out anytime you like – but you can never leave.

  • FedupwithR

    Perhaps an independent national register could be set up which could then be used to counteract the RCC’s claims. It might also be of interest to future historians.
    Meanwhile,it’s pointless expecting any form of change on Ratzinger’s shift because he was, and most likely still is, part of the orthodox group that wanted to exclude every one who didn’t adhere to 100% dogma. He was all in favor a totally reduced church before he was elected but now that he has tasted the joys of the super rich he probably wants to cling on to the numbers. Besides, a body drain doesn’t look too good.

  • JohnMWhite

    @Erp – sort of. Excommunication means the church has cut you off from valid sacraments, meaning you should not go to communion, confession, etc, and if you do they don’t count. It can be undone through penance and is sort of a celestial time out, with the main motivator for reconciling with the church being that if you die in a state of excommunication, you’re screwed – no funeral mass, no burying in consecrated ground, no chance at the last rites or a last confession to absolve you of your sins, etc. When excommunicated you are not in communion with the church, but it is meant to be temporary.
    The church does have an unforgivable sin – the sin against the holy spirit, but I’m not sure exactly what that would entail. You’d still be counted as a Catholic though, even then, just a damned one.
    @RogerB – Ironic, in that the Hotel California is thought by some to be a metaphor for hell.

  • William Harwood

    The Jerusalem Bible (Catholic) renders Mark 3:29 as, “let anyone blaspheme against the Holy Spirit and he will never have forgiveness.”
    As explained in God, Jesus and the Bible, pp. 318-319, this is basically a mistranslation of the Essene Covenant of the Commune, which used such terms as “spirit of holiness” as a metaphor for a pious state of mind.
    The Protestant Bible Correctly Translated translates the same passage as, “But anyone who blasphemes contrary to the spirit of virtue [meaning lies intentionally] has no forgiveness through the eons”. [Jesus had grown up in the Essene sect that taught that intentional lying was the one unforgivable sin].

  • JohnMWhite

    Interesting, thanks for that, William. I wonder if thinking of intentional lying being the one unforgivable sin was why Jesus was at times a bit cagey about his divinity. 🙂

  • William Harwood

    Jesus was so self-deluded that he thought the prophesied “Descendant of David” who was to liberate Judah from the Romans was himself, even though he acknowledged (Mark 12:35-37) that he was not a descendant of David.
    But he was not so self-deluded as to think he was divine. No one had ever heard of the theory that Jesus was a god prior to his deification in the anonymous gospel called John, written between 130 and 138 CE, a full century after his death. To the synoptic authors and Paul, Jesus was precisely who he claimed to be: the heir and successor of King David.

  • idefixu

    The stream on Finns leaving the doesn’t seem to be ending soon. After the TV-debate on tuesday more than 12 500 members have left the church. Yesterday was recordbreaking day with 4545 resignations. Today so far more than 2000 has left the church. All this thru the internet service. About 10% more use other paths to resign. On days before the TV-debate was aired 135 people in average left the churh daily.
    Most resignations in one year was 52 000 in 2008, of which 47 000 via the internet. This year the number will be consederably higher because of this boom.
    In mid 70’s about 92% of Finns were members of the e.l. church. Right now the number is around 79%. Even the church itself estimates that the number will be 66% or so in 2025. My prediction is that it can very well be as low as 60% the way things have proggressing during the last few years.

  • Heidi

    Update: Since the TV-depate nearly 20 000 has left the church already.

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  • idefixu

    Update: 30 000 already, but seems to be settling. 6773 (new record) on Monday, nearly 4000 on tuesday, prediction for Wednesday just under 2000.