The Dutch are generally known for being pretty liberal and laid-back about topics like sexuality. But let’s not equate being laid-back with being passive. The Netherlands was the first country to make same-sex marriage legal, way back in 2001. And now a Dutch television director has created a website that helps Dutch Catholics commit formal apostasy and officially leave the Catholic Church.
For a while it was no big deal, maybe ten visitors per day. Then came Pope Benedict’s Christmas address.
Now the Dutch-language website is getting roughly 10,000 visitors daily.
The name of the site translates roughly to “De-baptize.nl”, though of course Catholic theology will tell you that baptism leaves an indelible mark on the soul. It links to an atheist website that uses the slightly more amusing “unsubscribe”: uitschrijven kerk, unsubscribe Church.
The creators of Unsubscribe Church list some of the ways formal apostasy affects Catholicism and the Catholic hierarchy:
- Churches that say things their members disagree with lose influence when those members vote with their feet and ‘unsubscribe’.
- They may also lose government funding based on the size of their membership if it got whittled down to only include active, believing Catholics.
- In some countries, the Church is allowed to collect, store, and distribute personal information in ways that other organizations are prohibited from doing. If you’re concerned about privacy, you might not want that.
- Your apostasy sends a clear signal that you don’t approve of what the Church teaches, while staying put is likely to be read as tacit approval (even though the Pope surely must know that many practicing Catholics are opposed to some of the Church’s teachings).
The steps given are specific to the Catholic Church in the Netherlands, though the procedure probably looks more or less the same everywhere. It will be interesting to see whether there’s a dip in Catholic numbers by this time next year – not likely to change the Church’s mind on the issues, but at least able to send a strong message about the disconnect between Catholic teaching and the real beliefs of people in pews.
Edit, 2013-01-03: A few commenters pointed out that the website is not “Danish-language”, but “Dutch-language”. I’m not particularly well-versed in the linguistic, historical, and cultural demarcations around this part of Europe, though I welcome any attempts by more informed readers to school me (and, by extension, my readers). Changed the language in the post to reflect the constructive criticism provided by what one commenter called “fuzzy European” readers. (I think it’s an adorable term of endearment.)