Requests to officially renounce the Catholic faith, known traditionally as apostasy, have been on the rise in France, a sample survey by La Croixconfirms. And the survey suggests that the practice is linked to publicity over controversial issues such as clerical sex abuse.
But the numbers involved are relatively small compared to some media reports suggesting there had been a “flood” of requests by people to have their names removed from baptismal registers.
To measure the real extent of the phenomenon, it is necessary to solicit information directly from dioceses, since the French Bishops’ Conference (CEF) does not keep national records.
“We are sometimes accused over this, but we are not an association with membership lists,” said Father Olivier Ribadeau Dumas, spokesperson for the conference.
Among the 15 dioceses surveyed by La Croix, some did not respond or stated that they did not wish to provide figures.
All the others confirmed an increase in requests to renounce membership of the Catholic Church since August 2018, with a further acceleration since the beginning of 2019.
In Bordeaux, the counter is already at 40. In 2018, it totalled 57, including 35 in September-and October, says Marc Ruellan, an archivist in the archdiocese.
In Paris, last year’s figure of 76 requests was almost reached in the first five months of 2019 with 70 individuals seeking to leave the Church. In Strasbourg, with 174 requests in 2019, the previous figures have already been exceeded: the diocese had recorded 104 apostasies in 2018, and only 37 in 2017.