Actus formalis defectionis ab Ecclesia catholica (a formal act of defection from the Catholic Church) is the action by which someone formally, and not just de facto, leaves the Catholic Church. Canons 1086, 1117 and 1124 of the 1983 Code of Canon Law indicated some juridical effects of such an act, but these effects were abolished by the motu proprio Omnium in mentem of 26 October 2009.[1][2][3] A notification from the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts in 2006 specified in what the act consists.

The Catholic Church in Germany and some other countries previously treated as such an act the declaration that some made to the civil authorities for the purpose of avoiding the extra tax traditionally collected by the state for the benefit of whatever Church the tax-payer was a member of. The Church in those countries considered people who made this declaration as no longer entitled to the privileges of membership of the Church, such as having a wedding in church.

The 2006 notification ruled that such declarations do not necessarily indicate a decision to abandon the Church in reality. It laid down that only the competent bishop or parish priest is to judge whether the person genuinely intends to leave the Church through an act of apostasy, heresy, or schism. It also pointed out that single acts of apostasy, heresy or schism (which can be repented) do not necessarily involve also a decision to leave the Church, and so "do not in themselves constitute a formal act of defection if they are not externally concretized and manifested to the ecclesiastical authority in the required manner."

The decision to leave the Church must therefore be manifested personally, consciously and freely, and in writing, to the competent Church authority, who is then to judge whether it is genuinely a case of "true separation from the constitutive elements of the life of the Church ... (by) an act of apostasy, heresy or schism."

If the bishop or parish priest decides that the individual has indeed made a formal act of defection from the Catholic Church – making a decision on this matter will normally require a meeting with the person involved – the fact of this formal act is to be noted in the register of the person's baptism. This annotation, like other annotations in the baptismal register, such as those of marriage or ordination, is unrelated to the fact of the baptism: it is not a "debaptism".[4] The fact of having been baptized remains a fact, and the Catholic Church holds that baptism marks a person with a seal or character that "is an ontological and permanent bond which is not lost by reason of any act or fact of defection."

See also


  1. Text in Latin
  2. [ Luke Coppen's Catholic Herald Blog Pope issues Motu Proprio modifying Canon Law]
  3. New papal decree clarifies role of deacons and result of defections on marriage
  4. This term has sometimes been used, as on of 6 July 2007, which also referred to a particular formula of manifestation of the act of defection, rather than the act itself, as the "actus defectionis".

External links

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