Website Set-Up To Help Dutch Catholics Leave Church
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AMSTERDAM -- In just a few days Tom Roes' website which gives Dutch Catholics the ability to download the documents necessary to leave the church has seen its traffic explode. According to Roes, traffic on ontdopen.nl - "de-baptise.nl" - had soared from about 10 visits a day to more than 10,000 after Pope Benedict's latest denunciation of same-sex marriage earlier this month
"Of course it's not possible to be 'de-baptized' because a baptism is an event, but this way people can unsubscribe or de-register themselves as Catholics," Roes said.
He admitted that he had no way of verifying just how many visitors to the site actually go ahead and leave the church.
Roes, a television director, said he left the church and set up his website partly because he was angry about the way the church downplayed or covered-up sexual abuse in Catholic orphanages, boarding schools and seminaries.
The Dutch government estimates that 28 percent of the country's population are Catholic with a smaller 18 percent declaring themselves Protestant. Also according to government statistics, a much larger proportion - roughly 44 percent - is not religious at all.
The Netherlands is famous for its liberal attitudes, for example having legalised brothels in Amsterdam's famed red light district along with cannabis cafes in almost every major city and town. In April of 2001, the Dutch government was the first in the world to legalise same-sex marriages.
In his Christmas address to Vatican officials, Pope Benedict XVI signaled that he was ready to forge alliances with other religions around the globe in attempts to halt same-sex marriage. The pontiff told the church hierarchy that "the family was threatened to its foundations" by attempts to change its "true structure".
A report by an independent Dutch commission published in 2011, revealed there had been tens of thousands of victims of child sexual abuse in the Netherlands since 1945 and criticized the church's culture of silence.