Not Me: A Symbolic Defection from the Catholic Church.

In Ireland there was a way to formally record that you were no longer a Catholic and require the church to record that fact. Over 12,000 people started this “Declaration of Defection” process. But in April 2011 the Catholic Church changed church law and removed the option to record formal defections.

Cormac Flynn, Paul Dunbar and Grainne O’Sullivan were the pioneers of who took on the church and we salute them. They closed after church law was changed to frustrate people trying to record their defection.  Read more details here. believes that if people tell the church they have defected then it should take a reality check and listen to them and correct their records. Young infants do not have a choice when they are baptised but adults have the right to set the record straight. lets you informally and symbolically leave the Catholic Church. It has no impact on the Catholic Church’s view of your religious standing but is a way to identify as not Catholic. This symbolic gesture supports the separation of church and state. It does not signify or support atheism or humanism as many religious people also support church and state separation. is maintained by Atheist Ireland an Irish advocacy group, that does not recognize church law or state submission to church law, promoting atheism and reason over superstition and supernaturalism, and an ethical, secular society where the State does not support or finance or give special treatment or privilege to any religion.


  1. Avatar
    John Reid November 09, 2014

    I have tried to extinguish my inherited membership of Roman Catholicism only to find it is no longer possible due to a change in “Canon Law”. Effectively this means that a religious organisation of which I have never expressed a desire to be a part of, is now refusing to acknowledge my request to no longer be associated with it. Even Google will acknowledge a “take down” request!

    Surely there is some facet of data protection law that can be applied here?

  2. Avatar
    Shannon October 12, 2015

    I asked about this at your last information table in Dublin but I’m not sure I spoke to anyone who knew what I was referring to (possibly my fault for not being clear or remembering the wording on this page). Is there any way to get more information about this? I’m really just curious as to what is meant by a ‘support network’, and what kind of volunteering is needed.

    Many thanks

    • Avatar
      Ashling O'Brien October 15, 2015

      Hi Shannon, this page has been updated to include information about our new campaign



  3. Avatar
    John Hamill October 15, 2015

    Hi Folks,

    You can find some information about how to defect from the Catholic Church and/or get excommunicated as an apostate here:

    This is a description of how I managed to leave the Church, even after the change in Cannon Law referred to. Let me know if you’ve any questions. It’s worth registering a “virtual defection” on too … and get your non-religious friends to do likewise! 🙂


    • Avatar
      Mary Bellew March 13, 2019

      As the law changed before my defection was complete, I’m now on a “list” of people who no longer wish to be regarded as Catholic. So I have been informed by member of archbishops staff. Will find way out yet, I hope.

  4. Avatar
    kenneth ohehir December 09, 2015

    I left the church quickly when i moved to Germany from Ireland and found out I had to pay 7% kirchensteuer (church tax) on my gross income……and guess what….if you sell your house then you have to pay 7% of the proceeds to the church also….

    • Avatar
      Lauren August 27, 2018

      Can you please go into detail on this.?

  5. Avatar
    NOEL QUINN March 17, 2018

    i wish to leave the catholic church on the grounds that i believe science has proved beyond doubt that life is just life ,and when were gone were gone, your legacy is how you behave on this planet ,and the catholic church itself has a lot to answer for.

  6. Avatar
    Edel Griffith May 16, 2018

    Can the new GDPR legislation coming into force on May 25th at least mean that I can request for the Church to no longer store my records and thus they can’t count me as a catholic.

    • Avatar
      Daniel Moggan July 01, 2019

      I have just asked the data protection officer in my archdiocese if I can do this and they’ve stated it’s not possible and they are covered not to erase the information. I’m questioning them on it.

      • Avatar
        Blacksheep Bride October 17, 2019

        Any reply after questioning them on this? I’d very much like to defect and I’m sad i didn’t think to do this before 2011. I left the church in 1987!

  7. Avatar
    Danny October 21, 2019

    Anyone have any more information on how to defect and officially leave the catholic church, im really struggling to get any information online.

    • Avatar
      Karen January 06, 2020

      The catholic church, like all other organisations that exist in the EU are bound by GDPR which allows for a person’s right to be forgotten, meaning that should you request to be forgotten by the church they have a legal obligation to erase any records that relate to you in anyway including removing your name from any lists is appears on.

      The only situation where a persons right to be forgotten can be refused by an organisation is where the data held is bound by other legislation, for example, if you were arrested and requested to be forgotten by the Garda they couldn’t comply with that request as they have a legal obligation to retain arrest records. Similarly an employer has a legal obligation to retain employee records etc.

      The church is not covered by any other legislation which legally binds them to having to retain the data of individuals who request to be forgotten. They are covered in the same way as any other membership type organisation that someone signs up for, like if you sign up with Facebook you have the right to delete your account at any time you see fit or if you join a gym you can end your membership when you wish to do so. This same thing applies to the church under GDPR and you have the right to end your membership when you deem appropriate and to request that your name or other data is not used by them in any way without your consent otherwise your data protection rights are essentially being violated.

      My suggestion would be to contact your local bishop in the first instance to request that any details regarding you are erased from church records under your right to be forgotten under GDPR. If you request this and they refuse to comply, you can lodge a formal complaint or follow up request with the Data Protection Commissioner. From what I’ve read online a good few people have gone down this route and the DPO are taking the matter quite seriously to attempt to resolve the issue of the church not respecting a persons right to have their data erased upon request.

      Hope this info helps.

  8. Avatar
    Steve December 17, 2019

    Danny, This is currently not possible. They will add your name to a long list of like minded people including myself to say what your intentions are. So basically they are claiming you are still a member of their cult and cannot leave due to the cannon law. Certain countries deduct a percentage of tax for the cult so I will let you do the math on how much they would lose if everyone who wishes to defect were allowed to. Sickening !!!

  9. Avatar
    Mark March 03, 2020

    The Catholic Church is acting like a dumped girl/boyfriend who continues to stalk the partner who has left the couple. It is coming across as very insecure indeed. However, it is only a matter of time until the Church loses its status. It happened in France back in 1905 so it is possible in Ireland too. Have hope.

  10. Avatar
    Ciaran January 19, 2021

    Does anybody know, If you convert to another religion are you then removed from the list of Catholics ?
    I cant find any Information regarding this. I’m hoping this could be a way of getting out of Catholicism. Id rather be an atheistic protestant than an atheistic catholic any day of the week. I know this route is fraught with problems, not least finding another church to take you on. But surly there’s a decent vicar out there somewhere willing to help.
    I’ve been an atheist for at least 40 years and for most of that time i was happy to be apathetic about my membership of a church I didn’t give a damn about.
    However in recent years I’m increasingly disgusted by them and their behavior and hate the idea of being counted amongst their number. The idea of a priest, bishop or Pope speaking for me is no longer acceptable.
    I’d like the idea of some other church notifying them “I’m gone” as opposed to the idea of me asking permission to leave
    So is conversion a way of defection ?

      • Avatar
        Ciaran January 19, 2021

        Thanks Helen. that’s great, appreciate it,
        But it really galls me to have to go begging these people to leave their club.

        • Avatar
          David K March 07, 2021

          To be fair Ciaran, you won’t be begging, you will simply be making a request and a very worth while one at that.

  11. Avatar February 11, 2021

    Does anybody know how the inquiry by the Data protection is progressing. I believe they started looking into the right to have your information deleted by the catholic church upon request in February 2020. I cant seem to find anything about it since.

    • Avatar
      John Phelan February 23, 2021

      No news on it so far

  12. Avatar
    Shaggy April 05, 2021

    I wana leave my religion can someone teach me please….please

  13. Avatar
    James Smith July 10, 2021

    Articles 18 and 20 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights say everyone has a right to believe or not believe in a religion and that nobody may be compelled to belong to an organization against their will. As Ireland is a signatory of the above, is there a legal basis to challenge the Church in court based on the above?

  14. Avatar
    Jane June 27, 2022

    Surely under GDPR we have the right to be forgotten in regards to the Catholic Church?


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