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Italian Catholics can get 'unchristened'

Disaffected Catholics in Itally have come a step closer to washing off holy water they were baptised in as tiny children.

Upon request, priests in Italy must note alongside baptism information the will of adults to leave the Church. Bowing to pressure from lobby groups who call the act 'unchristening,' the Italian Bishops Conference (CEI) recently outlined the procedure.

Both sides disagree on the scope of the phenomenon - one activist group claims 10,000 people have presented unchristening requests; the Church says it is trying to do right by a 'few dozen' people who wish not to be counted as Catholics.

Cardinal Camillo Ruini, CEI president, made it clear that the Church considers the issue an entirely bureaucratic one. "You can't cancel a sacrament any more than you can cancel the act of being born," he told newspapers.

For Catholic writer Vittorio Messori, the matter is just an adjustment by the Church to avoid legal problems.

"In the same way a priest can leave the church but never de-priest himself, people can decide not to live as Catholics, but if baptised they will always be Catholics," he told Zoomata. "These pressure groups have made a big issue out of nothing and the Church is simply trying to avoid additional problems."


Italian Catholic Bishops Conference

12 Feb 2003