Competent Ecclesiastical Authority for Reception of the Formal Act of Defection from the Catholic Church

Author: Rafał Dettlaff


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According to the definition included in the Code of Canon Law of John Paul II, apostasy means the total repudiation of the Christian faith. The problem of apostasy has accompanied the Church since its inception. The abandonment of faith was treated as a crime against the unity of the Church community. From 1983 to 2010, the Code of Canon Law included another term for apostasy: a formal act of defection from the Catholic Church. This act had certain juridical effects enumerated in canons 1086, 1117, and 1124. Pope Benedict XVI, by motu proprio Omnium in mentem of 26 October 2009, removed all references to an act of formal defection from the Catholic Church from the canons. However, this problem has not been removed from the public life of the Church. In the presented study the author explains the origin and canonical understanding of the expression: “a formal act of defection from the Catholic Church”. He describes the procedures to be followed in this regard in Austria, Germany and Poland and he also explains who – on behalf of the Church – can receive the declaration of the apostate’s will.


apostasy, a formal act of defection from the Catholic Church, delegation of power, jurisdiction