A rash of requests for "debaptisms" has the Church in Belgium searching for answers as sacraments also fall into decline.
A new annual report published on November 30 has noted a decline in the faithful of Belgium, as more Catholics are asking to be removed from baptism registries. The numbers show a nearly 300% increase in “debaptism” since 2019.
The numbers, provided by The Pillar, show 5,237 requests for changes to baptismal records in 2021, which is nearly three-times the 1,800 requests of 2019.
It should be noted that the Catholic Church does not recognize or allow “debaptism.”
A Catholic baptism is a sacrament, an irreversible act that the Catechism of the Catholic Church regards as conveying an “indelible spiritual mark,” that identifies one as belonging to Christ. Of course, while you cannot undo a baptism, you can lapse in your faith and leave a parish.
Requests that have been made, however, are noted in the baptismal registers.
The report also contained some figures that show a sharp decline in Mass attendance. Fewer than 17,000 attended Mass on an average Sunday in 2021, which is down from over 241,000, in 2019. Meanwhile Christmas Mass attendance was recorded at just over 347,000 in 2021. This is down from over 551,000 in 2019. It was estimated that only 2.5% of Belgium’s 6.7 million Catholics attended Sunday Mass in 2021.
Similar declines were also seen in the other sacraments as well. First Communions, Confirmations, Catholic weddings, and funerals were all found to be in decline in 2021, compared to 2019. The report did note, however, that the figures from 2021 could be anomalous due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
While the report suggested that the recorded decline in Catholic practices in Belgium could be due to the Church’s stance on gay marriage, it could not pinpoint exactly why so many Belgians are leaving. The study noted that issues between the Church and the LGBT community have been receiving a lot of national attention in the media.
The Belgium report comes on the heels of another that found that Christians in the UK have lost their status as the majority religion for the first time since the establishment of the Church of England.
Read more about the Belgium report at The Pillar.