HOME  Why its a mistake to give the Catholic Church support via membership or donations




I ____________________________, do hereby give formal notice of my defection from the Roman Catholic Church. I want it to be known that I no longer wish to be regarded as a member of the Roman Catholic Church.

I further declare that I am aware of the consequences of this act regarding the reception of the sacraments of the Church, including the sacraments of the Eucharist, marriage and the sick and also with regard to burial.

I undertake to make this decision known to my next of kin and to ensure that they are aware of these circumstances in the case of my being incapacitated.

I acknowledge that I make this declaration under solemn oath, being of sound mind and body, and in the presence of a witness who can testify as to the validity of this document.

This declaration is morally valid and in the light of canon law and in how moral law supersedes ecclesiastical law I have a moral right if not a legal right in Church law not to be seen as a Roman Catholic and I wish to invoke all legal rights in Church to be considered a non-member as they are granted.

Signed:____________________________ Address:________________________________

Witness:___________________________ Address:________________________________


With the above Form, you should include a letter with the following PRINTED information:

Your name,
Your full address,
The name under which you were baptised if married since,
The date of your baptism,
The parish Church of your baptism,
Your date of birth,
The name of your parents, and
The name of your godparents.


Why do some Catholics return huge numbers when asked how many people are Catholic?  That is not down to people counting the baptisms for many baptised become something other than Roman Catholic.  It is down to an estimate based on how many call themselves Catholic on census forms.  If you consider the law of the land to overrule the Church then clearly you are not Catholic when though you have a Catholic background you do not put Catholic but something else on the census form. 

Do not let people make you feel there is or should be a stigma towards leaving the Catholic Church. A religion is a system of belief and practices and worship - the people are in the system but they are not the system. Leaving the Church does not imply that you hate the people. It can but it doesn't need to.

The Church says she is a hospital for sinners. It is far better to see society as a hospital for people who are trying to grow together

The Catholic Church abolished formal defection or formal leaving of the Church in 2010.

However you can still leave. A Catholic who becomes a Protestant for example is no longer subject to canon law regarding marriages or anything. He is no longer obliged to go to Mass.

You can leave a golf club without getting your name off its membership book. So it is with the Church.

The Church insisted that if people wanted to defect they had to be interviewed by Church authorities to ensure they understood what they were doing. This was in case they were rejecting not the Church but their incorrect understanding of the Church. This requirement was quite reasonable. If a person marries and doesn’t really know the other person that marriage is invalid for they did not make a reasonably informed choice. Thus it was not a proper choice. So too it is good to be informed before you leave so that you can leave properly.

It is interesting that the Church considers some decisions to leave her as invalid because of the lack of informed consent. And it regards most people as members though their consent to be members is grossly misinformed or uninformed. Oh the hypocrisy!

We admire one another not for being great Catholics but for being great people. That is why we should honour ourselves and abandon the Church. The Church is a problem - to put it mildly. When you are not part of the solution you are part of the problem. If you are a sensible person in a fundamentalist religion then you risk being a fundamentalist in the making. If you really think you are not to blame for what the Church does if you support it by membership and if you think that you are not an enabler, then why do you say you would be immoral and an enabler if you joined some form of Islam that you considered intolerant and violent? Double-standards!

Do not support Roman Catholics chapels and priests financially. Do not attend Church. Have your baptismal record amended so that you are declared to have departed from the Church. Do not let your name be on the parish record. It is routine for people to leave one parish for another or for no parish. Simply ask the priest to take you off the list. No rudeness in that!

Encourage prospective converts to the Church to inform themselves properly and remind them that they may only be hearing about the side of the religion that looks good. It is your business the same way it is your business if they want a job and you know of one that would suit them. It makes your own life easier if you encourage people to be mature and responsible.

If Catholics were informed properly and knew their religion better they would perceive that it is not the kind of religion they would want to be a part of. If you defect publicly you give them food for thought.

Do not let yourself be put off leaving by the sweetness of Catholics who pick and choose what they like or what they think is good out of the religion. The religion is not a menu.

Reason is really just about seeing facts. It based on a is a. A defection to Humanism is more valid than a defection from Catholicism to Protestantism. That is because Humanism is more rational. You are more authentic and more yourself the more you check things out and learn the truth. Humanism always examines things to see if they are true. The Humanist is always open to revising.

The Catholics argue that Church law, canon law, has real authority because the Church that puts it together is the only religion authorised by God. Why should canon law be regarded as special? Why not make up your own canon law and invalidate your ties with the Church? When there is no proof that the Church is really approved by God and is the true Church why not?

The law of the Church cannot be distinguished from a fake or pretend legal system. To set up law, you must first have authority. To have authority, there must be clear and strong evidence that you really have it. The Church cannot give a shred of acceptable evidence that it has any right to set up laws to control people. The law of the land, as Church and state have to be separate, must only recognise you as a Catholic if you believe in the faith - picking and choosing is not real belief in Catholicism but making your own faith up. And furthermore you must go to Mass and tick Catholic on census forms. In other words, the state cannot recognise you as Catholic on the basis of a mere label. You must give the state evidence. The state is about evidence.

Must the Church be forced to restore defection rights?

The Catholic Church has removed the formal Act of Defection from Canon Law.

CountMeOut.ie has had to suspend the issuing of defection papers, due to changes to the Catholic Church's Canon Law. It seems that the formal defection process has been deleted, but the Church is being characteristically vague about what the changes actually mean.

This is a recording of co-founder of Count Me Out, Paul Dunbar talk to UCCAtheists.com recorded on 02-November-2010

Why we suspended the site:

The references to defection in canon law was announced in 2009 that they would be removed by the pope, the references to defection has now been removed Because of the number of emails from people trying to defect, saying they were unable to, countmeout got in touch with the Arch-Bishop in Dublin to clarify the situation and kept getting responses back saying that they acknowledge that there were changes coming but could elaborate on what they were. The impression was that they didn't know themselves, it was the Vatican pulling the strings.

Paul said that he thinks the changes have nothing to do with the amount of people leaving the church or the countmeout website. He said it was something that had been in in the pipeworks for quite a while. It is suggested that the law could have been seen as a loophole that needed closing. Paul said that countmeout do not think that. They think it is a side effect of another change they made to canon law.

Church response:

In response to a request by RTE for a balance interview the church just issued a statement:

"The Holy See said that at the end of August that it was introducing changes to Canon Law, and as a result 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"

Paul said that this causes more confusion. The question is how can you defect but not formally? How does that work? As of yet countmeout has got no further clarification.

Possible Challenges

He said that there were a number of ways of challenging it would be:

1. The Data Protection Commissioner, as part of the data protection act, any organisation that holds information on you is obliged to hold accurate information and also obliged to divulge that information to you fully, if it's not accurate you're in your rights to challenge that and say that's not accurate, so if you asked for a record from your local parish, and it said baptised, confirmed, holy communion, married etc but no record of defection and they still consider you a member, you could theoretically challenge them on that, saying that's not an accurate reflection of your position in the church, you don't consider yourself a member any more and they haven't recorded that fact.

2. Common Law, freedom of association, freedom of religion, if the church will not allow you to leave it seems they would be in contravention of the constitution. But how to go about that is yet to be tested.
I would suggest the following. It is more than just about membership. It is about dissociating yourself from the errors and lies and dangers of the Catholic religion. A ban on defection would imply that the Church has the right accuse you of all-sorts such as of being a bad Catholic etc.

It would be a very serious matter for Church to try and force membership of the Catholic Church on the Catholic who becomes a Jehovah's Witness or a Seventh-Day Adventist by refusing to accept she is a former member. Why would it be such a serious matter? Well Jehovah's Witnesses and Seventh-Day Adventists consider Catholicism to be antichrist and cursed by God. A member gives minimal support - letting your name stay on a membership list is the minimum of support you can give. To refuse to recognise Catholic converts Jehovah's Witnesses and Seventh-Day Adventists as ex-members is blatant shameless dishonesty. Its extreme bigotry to force membership on people like that.

The ban on defection would be null and void.

You can leave the Church by breaking the canon laws that prescribe excommunication for certain so-called sins. The sin of heresy cuts you off the Church. The Church will still assume that you are a member for the sake of convenience. But that is a practical thing and not necessarily declaring you a true member.


To defect from the Church properly you would need to,

# Genuinely think or believe that the Catholic religion is untrue and that you have no obligation to obey it. The more you believe it the less obligation you have.

# Defect without compulsion.

# Declare in writing that you cast off the authority of canon law over you.

# Formally declare you will not live as a member of the Church.

# Formally declare you do not and will not believe the teaching of the Church.

# Communicate this defection in writing to the bishop of the diocese into which you were born and to the priest of the parish where you were baptised.

# Declare that you know what the implications of this decision are if you get married, buried or are asked to be a godparent (you can't be). You will also need to stop declaring yourself Roman Catholic to state authorities or on census forms.

Do a statement along the lines above. Send it to your diocese and make sure that you get a reply letter stating that your intention has been carried out. I would include a statement that I am a heretic or apostate and therefore excommunicated according to the rules of canon law in it. The Church considers a person to have left the Church when they apostatise. You can apostatise simply by becoming a paid-up member of a humanist organisation.

Why bother sending forms to the Church to declare defection from the Church for it is the census figures that the government uses to work out how many members that the Church has? What is so wrong with simply declaring yourself to be of no religion on the census from instead of sending forms to your bishop and/or looking for baptismal annulments? But it is about declaring yourself what you are. You want to assert your right to be seen as no longer Roman Catholic. Obviously to leave the Church properly you need your piece of paper to prove that you have left according to the rules of the Church. Formal defection rights need to be restored.

You have the right to defect from the Church without the formal defection process. For example, if you are an Anglican and you fall away you can convert or defect to Catholicism without even letting the Anglican Communion know you have gone. This defection has to be regarded as real and valid. If it is not, that is a violation of Data Protection law. The Catholic Church is obliged under such law to record the names of those who no longer consider themselves members of the Church. It is obliged under simple justice.

If I am Catholic and defect to Mormonism, the only time the Catholic Church would have the right to continue to consider me a Catholic would be if my defection and conversion to Mormonism is insincere and I am still a Catholic in my faith and belief. If I abjure my Catholic faith sincerely, then I am no longer Catholic and under excommunication in Canon Law.


A formal defection would only be a legal recognition by the Church of a departure from the Church that has already taken place. The Church law recognises that law and reality are sometimes different things. For example, under Canon Law, your marriage annulment is valid but it may be that the annulment was a mistake made by Church lawyers.

Baptism is supposed to make you a member of the Catholic Church and to impose the authority of canon law on you.

If you can annul your baptism, you can honestly say that you were never a genuine member of the Church. You should have the right to have the baptism declared null and void. If the baptism didn’t work, then it can no more make you a member of the church than a pretend baptism can.

Annulment is a valid option. If you feel your baptism didn't work, then your view comes first. It has to be presumed correct.


It’s my sacred right to leave the Catholic Church
Wednesday, August 20, 2014
 By JP O'Malley
BETWEEN 1914 and 1915, the Jewish Czech writer, Franz Kafka, wrote the mesmerising novel, The Trial.
Today, 100 years later, it illuminates the connection between bureaucracy and power.
In The Trial, a young bank official, Joseph K, is arrested for a crime that doesn’t seem to exist. He is taken to a quarry outside of his town and killed.
The word ‘Kafkaesque’ is overused by journalists, but it is appropriate in describing my experience when attempting to ‘excommunicate’ myself from the Catholic Church. Attempting to leave this immensely powerful organisation is like being locked in a crystal maze with no exit sign in sight.
Ostensibly, my official attempt to depart from Catholicism started last October. But the philosophical quest began 18 years ago. As a young boy, the Catholic Church was vital in shaping my cultural and intellectual identity.
There was a picture of the Sacred Heart in my bedroom. Every night, until I was eight years old, my brother and I would kneel and say prayers before sleep.
A decade of the rosary was said in the family when someone got sick or when there was a crisis. As a small child, one Lent I attended mass every single morning. My uncle is a practicing Catholic priest in Limerick City. And my father still has many close friends who are priests. All of them are good, decent, honest men, with strong moral convictions.
Historically, even for all its failings, the Catholic Church played a positive role in people’s lives.
The rhythms and rituals of prayer divided the day into sections that gave people meaning. The introspective space of a building provided a place to seek spiritual comfort, to create community networks, and to enable people to believe in the idea of a cohesive society with a shared sense of purpose, rather than a cluster of random individuals.
I recall these positive outcomes, because it’s insulting to the generation that came before my own to somehow believe that their value system, which derived from Catholicism, can now, rather facetiously, be seen as farcical.
However, these positive traits, were, over time, supplanted by an obsession with power.
I made my First Communion in 1992.
This was just one year after the arrest of Father Brendan Smith, the notorious paedophile priest whom the Catholic Church initially protected, but who was eventually convicted of several, depraved sex crimes on innocent children: first in Northern Ireland, in 1994, and then again in the Republic, in 1997.
From aged 12, I had no belief, whatsoever, in the concept of a divine being.
By the time I was in my 20s, I was a militant-atheist.
And after my close reading of the ‘Ferns’, ‘Murphy’, and ‘Ryan Reports’, I was fully convinced that this was not an organisation I wanted to be associated with in any way.
It came as a huge surprise to me, then, last October, after I wrote to Reverend Fintan Gavin, the assistant chancellor of the Dublin Dioceses, asking if I could formally leave the Catholic Church, to be told that it was impossible.
The official reply I received mentioned that, in 1983, the Vatican brought in a law that allowed members to defect.
The measure was implemented, I was told: “to ensure that any marriage entered into after formal defection would be valid in the eyes of the Catholic Church.” I’ve read this part of the letter many times and it still makes no rational sense. It’s the kind of absurdity one finds in a legal document: where words become so ambiguous that they cease to have meaning.
However, there was some information that confirmed what I was looking for. Fintan Gavin reiterated that since canon law was changed in 2009 “those [former] defections do not have legal effect.” In other words: the Catholic Church refuses to allow its members to walk away voluntarily.
When one has no affiliation — culturally, spiritually, or otherwise — to such an organisation, it’s easy to read this letter with a dose of Father Ted-style humour. But while the Church and State are completely separate — in terms of the common law in Ireland — that relationship has never been as simple as either the Irish government, or the Catholic Church, presently define it.
Since the founding of the Irish State, in 1922, the Church has provided a free service to the Irish government: a de facto, bureaucratic invisible hand to keep the population under control. If the Soviet Union had the Cheka to enforce public morality through fear, Ireland had priests and bishops. The costumes may have been different, but the theme remained the same: unquestionable, totalitarian power.
While these methods of coercion were never legally recognised in the Irish Constitution, the country was, one could argue, unofficially a theocracy until the early 1990s.
Helen O’Shea, the current secretary of Atheist Ireland, who was able to formally defect from the Catholic Church pre-2009 — before the law was revoked by the Vatican — says that in the interests of democratic accountability the Irish state must operate in a consistent manner for all its citizens in terms of religious freedom.
“[Many] Irish schools are almost exclusively controlled by Catholic management. And when places are limited, a baptism certificate is often required. This is unacceptable in a supposedly non-theocratic state,” she said.
“Atheist Ireland are currently investigating setting up a website, so people can document their wish to leave the Church formally. It’s very ignorant [of the Church] to insist on membership when an individual requests the opposite,” said O’Shea.
Previously, a website, Countmeout.ie, assisted Catholics in leaving the Church.
From 2009, Countmeout.ie’s members could download a form, have a small dialogue by email with their local dioceses, state why they wished to leave, and finally defect. In the first few months of the website’s existence, 12,000 people downloaded forms from it. As Canon Law changed that same year, however, the website had to cease operating, which it did in 2011.
According to the 2011 census in Ireland, 277,000 people declared themselves of no religious orientation.
That was a 44% increase on the previous census in 2006.
Which brings us to the question: should the Irish government implement a facility that allows Catholics to formally disassociate themselves from their former Church?
The more I thought about this issue, the more appropriate it seemed to bring this matter to the Irish government.
But the reaction I received from various departments was clouded in more bureaucracy than the Church.
When I asked the Department of Justice if such a facility could be set up, they replied that: “The State has no role in determining the rules and regulation of different religious denominations, including the canon law of the Roman Catholic Church. All citizens are equal before the law of the State, regardless of religious affiliation or non-religious affiliation.”
Similarly, the Data Protection Commissioner offered little wisdom, when I asked if it was appropriate that the Church be allowed to hold onto thousands of documents that contain false and misleading information.
Having raised this issue several times on social media, I then received a number of comments, likes, retweets, and emails, from fellow atheists, who shared their frustration at being prevented from leaving the Church.
One 34-year-old Dublin man, who wished to remain anonymous — but who provided me with adequate documentation backing up his claims — said that in Austria, where he currently resides, the state provides a service for citizens who want to leave the Catholic Church.
In both Germany and Austria, the Catholic Church imposes a 1% mandatory tax on all its members. This man explained how, as an Irish citizen, he was able, just last month, to officially leave the Catholic Church with the help of the Austrian government.
“[In Austria] the state provides information online about how to leave the Catholic Church,” he said. “I was able to register that I was officially leaving the Church, simply by returning a completed form.
“The state also provided an online system, where you can register as having left the Church. I really don’t see why this same criteria could not be implemented in Ireland.”
After a plethora of predictable and stale replies from official governmental channels, I then contacted all the political parties in Ireland.
Just one party, however, showed an interest.
Joe Higgins, of the Socialist Party, says that the Catholic Church should “remove members from their ‘lists’ if they don’t consider themselves a member anymore.”
Deputy Higgins then brought the matter up in Dáil Éireann, on my behalf.
Deputy Higgins sent a written address to the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Brendan Howlin, asking if he could consider extending the Freedom of Information legislation to cover records, such as baptismal certificates, that are currently kept by religious institutions.
The Department replied that: “A new Freedom of Information Bill is expected to be enacted before the end of the year. It might be the case that some religious institutions, or additional bodies run by religious congregations, providing a service to the public, could be prescribed as Freedom of Information bodies under section 7 of the [new] Freedom of Information Bill, when [it is] enacted.”
I then contacted the editor of the Irish Catholic newspaper, Michael Kelly. He said that he would not comment, because he had “little faith that the article would present a fair assessment”.
Seamus Aherne is a practicing priest of 41 years, and a member of the Association of Catholic Priests. I asked him if he was in favour of the Church making it easier for Irish citizens who want to leave the organisation. He said: “In regard to the State, people note on their census form what their affiliation is or isn’t. That is the official State paper.”
Finally, he said: “We won’t be grieving. It isn’t important. There is no restraint. There is no one forcing you to belong [to the Church], JP. I am not coming after you. Don’t make it a problem.”
My journey, therefore, to leave the Catholic Church, is still, I believe, in its infancy. And there is still much work to be completed. But I do feel that I have come to some conclusions, thus far.
Namely, that if the Vatican wants to hold me ransom as a member of their Church — even if it is against my will — it bears no legal rights over me as an Irish citizen. So, in theory, I should not be bothered if the Church refuses to delete my name off their list in an official capacity.
But do we, as citizens, really see everything in such black-and-white legal terms?
And do we equate civic morality and human identity only with legal pieces of paper?
Has the abuse of power within the Catholic Church ever happened in a legal manner? Were the thousands of mothers who were sentenced to a life of labour and guilt inside convent walls for decades — for simply procreating — sentenced in a courtroom with a judge? Were thousands of young children subjected to years of torturous sexual abuse by members of the clergy with the backing of the law? As I’m sure you are aware, these questions are all rhetorical. But this next one is not. And it’s worth giving serious consideration: Does the present Irish Government not owe its citizens — given the unique relationship that existed between the Roman Catholic Church and the Irish State — a more thorough form of assistance to help them redefine their secular identity in an official capacity?
Challenging power in society usually starts with a symbolic gesture rather than an immediate change to the law.
Which brings us back to Kafka and The Trial. The central theme of the book explores the extent to which power relies on the absolute complicity of its victims. Kafka’s genius as a writer was his foresight in comprehending that human beings are amalgamated into pieces of data: usually without their consent or knowledge.
In Kafka’s eyes, bureaucracy itself is not the person we should blame. The buck stops at each individual. And until we live in a society where each person is fully prepared to state publicly their belief system — be it cultural, sexual, or religious — an egalitarian Republic exists in writing, but certainly not in practice.
Yes, the State must take responsibility. But, as citizens, we must let the State know what kind of freedoms we expect as individuals.
That is why we elect them as our representatives.
This seemingly insignificant list of de facto Catholics — located in some computer hard drive that no Irish citizen is allowed to access — does, I believe, yield an enormous amount of power: far more than the Catholic Church, or the Irish Government, for that matter, are prepared, or want, to talk about.
But let us begin the conversation now.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved
Frequently Asked Questions
Q. 1. Is it possible to quit the Catholic Church? As a child, I was baptised and confirmed in the Catholic Church. That was not my choice; it was my parent's choice. Since I left home, I have never practiced any religions. I am an atheist. I do not believe in God. I want to make sure that the Catholic Church is not counting me as one of its followers.

A. 1. Yes, it is possible to quit the Catholic Church.

Q. 2. How do I go about doing it?

A. 2. You must file a copy of the "Defectio ab Ecclesia catholica actu formali," ("Defection from the Catholic Church by a Formal Act"), with the Office of the Bishop.

An of defection includes 3 sections:

A) an internal act of will;
B) an external manifestation of that act; and
C) communication of the fact in writing to your local Bishop.

Q. 3. What does the "Defection from the Catholic Church by a Formal Act" Form look like?

A. 3. The following is a sample:


I ____________________________, do hereby give formal notice of my defection from the Roman Catholic Church. I want it to be known that I no longer wish to be regarded as a member of the Roman Catholic Church.

I further declare that I am aware of the consequences of this act regarding the reception of the sacraments of the Church, including the sacraments of the Eucharist, marriage and the sick and also with regard to burial.

I undertake to make this decision known to my next of kin and to ensure that they are aware of these circumstances in the case of my being incapacitated.

I acknowledge that I make this declaration under solemn oath, being of sound mind and body, and in the presence of a witness who can testify as to the validity of this document.

Signed:____________________________ Address:________________________________

Witness:___________________________ Address:________________________________


 With the above Form, you should include a letter with the following PRINTED information:

Your name,
Your full address,
The name under which you were baptised if married since,
The date of your baptism,
The parish Church of your baptism,
Your date of birth,
The name of your parents, and
The name of your godparents.

Q. 4. As a result of this process, will my Baptismal and Confirmation Certificates be destroyed by the Catholic Church as if they never existed?

A. 4. No. The processing of a "Declaration of Defection" means that an annotation of this declaration is made in the Baptismal register in the relevant parish and diocese. The actual data cannot be deleted from the Register as it is essential for the administration of Church affairs to maintain a register of all the people who have been baptised. Indeed it is of course a factual record of an event that happened.

Q. 5. Does the Vatican website have any information on this matter?

A. 5. Yes, you can view the document ACTUS FORMALIS DEFECTIONIS.  

 To submit your question, please send to our: NEW EMAIL ADDRESS
(On the subject line: Indicate "FAQ" for "Frequently Asked Questions.")