Growing numbers of French Catholics are asking to have their names removed from Church records in protest against the unrelenting wave of scandals in the Church.

Driving the news

RFI reports that more and more people are requesting local parishes delete their names from baptism records.

The French Church provides no official records of the numbers of Catholics renouncing the faith.

But the founder of the website Apostasy for all told RFI that visits to the site have increased tenfold in recent months.

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Go deeper

The experience of Anne-Charlotte is typical.

This young woman, baptised in 1985, says she lost her faith when she was eight or nine but has only just now decided to take the step of apostasising, or leaving the faith.

“To see that the Church was clearly against homosexual marriage, that was one thing”, Anne-Charlotte told RFI.

“Then there is the anti-abortion stance. And then the stories of paedophilia coming out all over the world. That was big. I wanted to see what the Church was really doing to fight against paedophilia in France”.

“Clearly they are closing their eyes, and they just move priests around”, Anne-Charlotte lamented of the Church’s attitude to abuser priests.


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For the record

French Bishops spokesman Vincent Neymon told RFI that he understands people like Anne-Charlotte who want to leave the Church.

“The Pope and French Bishops have said it: There have been horrible things committed by priests. And there is also a silence that was maintained and sometimes even Bishops that covered up these mistakes”, admitted Neymon.

“People who are angry and scandalised by the attitude of the Church, we understand them… That people chose to leave the path, because it’s full of traps and obstacles and it’s ugly, because the church made mistakes is understandable”, the spokesman added.

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The intrigue

But leaving the Church in France is not as easy as writing a letter to a parish asking to be removed from the baptism register.

France’s highest court ruled in 2014 that the Church isn’t obligated to delete a person’s name from their records, but may instead add a note to the entry saying that person has renounced their baptism.

The ruling angered many people who no longer wish to have anything to do with the Church.

It also prompted Apostasy for all to observe that, until a European court rules on the matter, “nothing prohibits [a church] from completely erasing your baptism… except for bad faith”.


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For the record

French Bishops’ spokesman Neymon explained the Church’s refusal to allow de-baptism.

Baptism, he said, is “a pact between a person and god, and the only ones who can undo it are the two involved: the person and god”.

“We cannot dissolve it. The Church is not an association or a club that you leave by giving up your card”.

Neymon also expressed the Church’s concern for all those who are leaving the Church without requesting formal apostasy.

“What about all those people who are not in apostasy, who, because of what is happening, are leaving, quietly, without saying anything?… It is to those people that we want to say that we are doing everything to make the Church a safe house once again”, the spokesman said.

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What’s next

The Church’s refusal to cooperate hasn’t broken Anne-Charlotte’s resolve.

Though she is sceptical of whether her leaving the Church will make a real difference.

“When I prepared my letter, I was thinking about what I would say to my diocese. And I decided it was pointless to give reasons and criticism, because they won’t hear it. It will have no weight”, the young woman lamented.

Her friend Zoe, a few years younger, also wants to leave the Church.

“It is one thing we can do, even if it will not rock the Church. It’s the only symbolic act we can do to show we disagree”, Zoe said.

All of Novena’s coverage of the French Church