Splashed by several scandals, the Catholic Church has lost a growing number of faithful in recent years in its two largest dioceses in Quebec.
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According to data obtained by Le Journal, the number of requests for apostasy, the ultimate step by which a person renounces their faith, has multiplied by six in the diocese of Quebec in a few years, from a low of 24 in 2015. to 147 since the start of 2022.
This is a peak for a decade, but not a record, when there were no less than 286 requests in 2010.
In Montreal, annual requests doubled before the pandemic and then reached 205 last year, marked by a catch-up due to the health crisis.
Carole-Anne Aubry, from Brossard, is one of the Quebecers who have decided to disaffiliate from the Church.
“Me, the trigger was what happened with the residential schools. […] The idea had been in my head for a long time, ”says the 34-year-old young woman.
She explains that she was introduced to religion by her parents, but has not been practicing for many years.
“I wanted to dissociate myself from the Church and all that it represents. »
According to theologian Gilles Routhier, sex scandals and revelations about residential schools have tarnished the image of Catholic institutions.
“It contributes to discrediting the Catholic Church, he notes, but to what extent this is what triggers the process, that is less clear. »
The Laval University professor notes a “general climate unfavorable to the Catholic Church today” all over the world.
He avoids tying the trend to a single factor, however, saying that motivations vary from individual to individual and are sometimes very personal, such as a bad experience with the Church or a change in religious affiliation.
On the other hand, there is an increase in the number of people who report not adhering to any religion in the Canadian population.
“For there to be an act [of apostasy], it is probably that something irritated them or led them to take a step,” says the specialist.
In the Diocese of Quebec, “cases of sexual abuse are mentioned on occasion [in requests for apostasy].
The involvement of Church members in the residential school system has been raised in some other requests,” according to communications director Valérie Roberge-Dion.
On the other hand, at the other end of the spectrum, Ms. Roberge-Dion points to an even higher number of adults who formalize their relationship with the Church.
Indeed, last year, the diocese of Quebec recorded 14 baptisms and 214 confirmations of adults on its territory.
It is important to remember that these two sacraments are often required to marry in church or to become a godfather or godmother.
2015 : 24
2016 : 30
2017 : 29
2018 : 47
2019 : 92
2020 : 43
2021 : 134
2022 (as of October): 147