Vatican queried by Irish group ‘Count Me Out’ on laws of leaving church

The Vatican, Rome

Paul Dunbar, co-founder of, wrote to Archbishop Francesco Coccopalmerio, president of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts at the Vatican, yesterday, with inquiries regarding new Vatican rulings that may alter the process of formally removing oneself from the Church.

The Irish Times reports that, an Irish website that assisted people who wanted to formally disassociate themselves with the Church, was suspended in 2010 following new canon law issued by the Vatican.

Count Me Out co-founder Paul Dunbar is seeking clarification on the new Vatican canon laws which came into effect in 2010 with the Apostolic letter Omnium in Mentem.

Dunbar wrote that canon lawyers explained to him that through Omnium in Mentem, formal defections were not removed from practice. Rather, Dunbar was told that the change meant that marriage was not invalidated by a formal act of defection.

However, in 2010, the Dublin archdiocese stopped accepting formal defections, but stated that people could continue to defect informally if they wish.
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Dunbar and Count Me Out were told that Catholics should still be able to formally leave the church through either a declaration of defection, which is a letter to the local bishop, or through an act of apostasy, which is a rejection of belief.

The Irish Times reports the three main posits that were posed to Archbishop Coccopalmerio by Dunbar and his group: “Is it possible for members of the church to formally cease their membership and if so how? Does Omnium in Mentem completely remove the possibility of defecting from the church? Is it possible for people to be excommunicated by signing an act of apostasy and how would this be recorded in law?”

Dunbar is looking for explicit clarification in hopes of reviving the website and service, which provided 12,000 defection forms while it was live for a year and a half. The service was initiated in 2009, following the Ryan report of sexual abuse against children in institutional care.

There are “a significant number of people in Ireland who are interested in ceasing their membership”, wrote Dunbar.

Between 2009 and 2010, more than 500 people formally defected through the Dublin archdiocese alone, reports the Irish Times.