|Former Catholic - Paul Dunbar|
|Written by Staff Reporter|
|Thursday, 03 December 2009|
In the shadow of another report on child sex abuse in the Church, one Cork man has offered angered members of the Catholic Church a gateway to formally leave, following the Dublin Report last Thursday. Just this year, Paul Dunbar from St Lukes completed a Declaration of Defection from the Catholic Church after his anger against the Cloyne clerical abuse left him longing to disconnect himself from the Church.
He set up a website to help people to formally leave the church called Countmeout.ie last July. The Sligo native, who has lived in Cork for a number of years having studied Social Science at UCC and he is presently doing his post grad here.
Along with his studies, Paul has become one of the faces behind Count Me Out, the website set up by three angry Catholics, who on trying to formally leave the Church, found there was no online resources available.
"I had enough and wanted out," says Paul, who after going online with the site found himself in the national media spotlight. Paul was baptised and confirmed as most Irish Catholics are but first questioned his 'membership' of the institution in his teens.
"It wasn't for me. At 19, I was young and idealistic and decided to email a local priest to be told that I couldn't defect from the church," he says. He was told it was not possible.
"Every now and then, the urge to leave it would stir in me. But I left it go, and left it go." However, Paul finally found an answer while surfing the net. "I discovered through some ecclesiastical writings that it was possible to do. So I contacted the bishop and told him that I no longer felt affiliated to the Catholic Church. I told him that I felt grossly offended at having my name on a register and wanted out. And so, it happened."
"Even if it was purely symbolic, I needed to do it, like an act of protest," Paul says, adding that he feels relieved now. The website provides a three-step online process which simplifies the Declaration of Defection, a Church document that declares your intent to leave or defect from the Church.
The site also highlights the consequences of defecting regarding ceremonies, children's education in Catholic schools and people's right to become godparents. Over 2,000 people indicated their intention to leave the Church through the site in the first month of it going online.
And Paul says the site is also part of a larger campaign to sever the relationship between Church and State. "With the 2011 census around the corner, we want people to really consider their membership to the Church before they tell the census that they are Catholic. If they are 'other', than state so, but don't just say, "Well, I think I am a Catholic. I was christened one, so I must still be one".
"It's vital that the Church are removed from their involvement in education and health in Ireland," he says, adding that a debate on the issue is now in motion. "Some people are thrilled to be able to leave the Church, while others, such as one Cork businessman I know, is reluctant to leave in case his clients find out. Many are still in fear of the Church and afraid to tell their families. While about five per cent of people are calling what we are doing the devils work."
He says there are alternatives to the ceremonies and rituals from baptisms and weddings to funerals. He says too that there is no moral vacuum created by leaving the Church.
"We can get our moral guidelines from other places and there are lots of community organisations that do great work, such as the GAA or St Vincent de Paul or even other religious groups," he says.
Following the publication of the Dublin Report on child sex abuse on Thursday, a total of 516 people completed a Declaration of Defection on the Count Me Out website from Thursday 26 to Monday 30 November, resulting in 3,881 people taking action since the site started in July this year.
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