Europeans "De-Baptize" In Growing Numbers, Church Officials Worried
By Elizabeth Bryant
Religion News Service
Europeans "De-Baptize" as a revolt against sexual abuse in the Roman Catholic Church
"And he cried mightily with a strong voice, saying, Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and is become the habitation of devils, and the hold of every foul spirit, and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird. And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues. For her sins have reached unto heaven, and God hath remembered her iniquities. " Revelation 18:2,4-5
PARIS (RNS) - A decade ago, Rene Lebouvier requested that his local Catholic church erase his name from the baptismal register. The church noted his demands on the margins of its records and the chapter was closed.
But the clergy abuse scandals rocking Europe, coupled with Pope Benedict XVI's conservative stances on contraception, hardened Lebouvier's views. Last October, a court in Normandy ruled in favor of his lawsuit to have his name permanently deleted from church records -- making the 71-year-old retiree the first Frenchman to be officially "de-baptized."
"I took the judicial route to get myself de-baptized because of the church's excesses," said Lebouvier, speaking by telephone from his village of Fleury, near the D-Day beaches.
"It's a sort of honesty toward the church because they have a guy on their register who doesn't believe in God."
Lebouvier's case is among a growing wave of de-baptisms in Europe, one of the most visible manifestations of the continent's secular drift. Websites offering informal de-baptism certificates have mushroomed. Other Christians are formally breaking from the church by opting out of state church taxes.
"The movement is happening across Europe," said Anne Morelli, who heads a center studying religion and secularity at the Free University of Brussels. "It was very apparent during 2011 -- in the Netherlands, Germany, Belgium and Austria. It is obviously related to the scandals of pedophile priests, but it has been going on for some time."
Growing numbers worries Catholic Church officials
Although there are no official statistics, experts guess the number de-baptized is in the tens of thousands.
In neighboring Belgium, which has been hit hard by the church sex scandals, de-baptism requests in the French-speaking region alone soared to roughly 2,000 in 2010, compared to 66 two years earlier, according to the Brussels Federation of Friends of Secular Morality. The numbers of people reportedly leaving the Dutch church reportedly shot up 25 percent.
In Britain, a de-baptism certificate offered as a joke by the National Secular Society has since turned serious after tens of thousands of people downloaded it. In Belgium 2000 certificates were requested last year.
In 2011 it is said that 181,000 people in Germany have left the Catholic church. The number is based on government papers filed by citizens who say they no longer will pay church taxes. - Source