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The Church considers baptism a permanent act that cannot be erased (Unsplash/Josh Applegate)

The Church in Belgium, facing rising protests after a television film on abuse and cover-ups in its ranks, has appealed against a government data protection agency ruling that the Ghent Diocese must let a person be “debaptised”. Source: The Tablet.

When Catholics ask to have their names struck from baptismal records, officials usually add a note to their files saying they have renounced their baptism without taking the name off its official registry.

The Church considers baptism a permanent act that cannot be erased, but the agency ruled in December that the plaintiff’s personal data record overrides the Church’s interest in preserving its records.

The number of “debaptism” requests had been falling since a peak of 5237 in 2021, when the Vatican said it could not bless same-sex unions, but they have reportedly spiked again after the television series Gotvergeten (Forgotten by God) last September depicted the scandals in Belgium. 

“We were very surprised by the decision, as the Data Protection Authority in Ireland had decided the opposite a few months ago in a complaint against the Archdiocese of Dublin,” Church spokesperson Geert De Kerpel told the Church news site Kerknet.

“Data protection is European law. A similar case may not comply with privacy legislation in one European country and conflict with it in another.”

In Germany, where the state collects Kirchensteuer (church tax) for churches, individuals can officially leave the church and therefore not pay the tax, but their baptism entry remains. 


Belgian Church protests ‘debaptism’ order amid abuse outcry (By Tom Heneghan, The Tablet)