Argentine campaign urges Catholics to quit church

Wed Mar 4, 2009 2:48pm EST
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By Claudia Gaillard

BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) - In an effort to reduce the church's political influence, Argentine atheists and feminists are spearheading a drive to get people who were baptized Roman Catholic but disagree with the church's politics to formally renounce their faith.

The "Not in my Name" Internet campaign, also called Collective Apostasy, encourages people who are Catholic in name only to write to the bishops where they were baptized to officially register that they have left the church.

Latin America is home to about half of the world's Roman Catholics but many people who were baptized Catholic do not practice the religion.

"The church counts all those who've been baptized as Catholic and lobbies for legislation based on that number, so we're trying to convey the importance of people expressing that they no longer belong to the church," said campaigner Ariel Bellino, a member of an atheist group and a former Catholic.

Some 200 people signed onto the campaign on Monday, when it was first launched, and another 500 people signed up on Tuesday at, Bellino said.

He said a similar drive was waged in Spain, where leftist movements have a historical anti-clerical streak, and in Chile.

Apostasy in the Roman Catholic Church is defined as the total and obstinate repudiation of the faith.

More than three-quarters of Argentina's 40 million residents define themselves as Catholic, according to a survey done by state researchers last year. But of that group, only about 20 percent say they regularly attend mass.   Continued...

<p>Catholic faithful attend a mass during a pilgrimage in veneration of Virgin Mary at Sheshan Shrine in Shanghai, May 24, 2008. REUTERS/Aly Song</p>