• Italy's news in English
 
app_header_v3
Losing faith: why Italians are spurning the Church
Vatican scandals are driving Italian Catholics away. Photo: Vincenzo Pinto/AFP

Losing faith: why Italians are spurning the Church

Patrick Browne · 8 Jan 2016, 10:39

Published: 08 Jan 2016 10:39 GMT+01:00

At least that's according to the Italian Union of Atheists, Agnostics and Rationalists (URR), an organization that helps Italian Catholics abjure their religion by providing them with forms that can be downloaded online and sent to their local parish in order to get the process going. 

A record 47,726 forms were downloaded in 2015.

This beat the previous high of 45,797 set in 2012, while the not-so-popular Pope Benedict was still at the helm of the Catholic Church.

But while the high volume doesn't necessarily mean that all those who downloaded the forms went through with giving up on their faith, last year's figure also represents an increase of more than 15,000 downloads on 2014, despite Pope Francis' enduring popularity.

In the months after the election of the charismatic pontiff in February 2013, Catholics around the world were feeling inspired by his seemingly more open and tolerant approach, leading to an increase in church congregations.

But his appeal has since been tainted by a series of scandals, especially those that emerged in 2015.

“Last year's record numbers are due to multiple factors," Adele Orioli, a spokesperson for URR, told The Local.

"Firstly, we have the latest Vatileaks scandal and the Vatican's subsequent treatment of the journalists involved.

"Secondly, the Church was hit by fresh paedophile scandals in 2015. And finally, there was the Vatican's vocal opposition to Italy's civil unions bill. All of these have probably led to a higher number of Italian Catholics feeling alienated from the faith.”

The URR forms are mainly being downloaded by young Italians who have lost patience with the Church, or are maybe angry at being initiated into the religion before they were old enough to have their say, Orioli added.

While Elena Coda, a 27-year-old student from Sardinia, hasn't applied to officially leave the Church, she told The Local that "as a non-believer, it is something I could see myself doing".  

“I used to be religious but stopped believing, not because of anything the Church did. It was more that my personal circumstances changed and now I really only believe in what I can see."

Others say that while they would be reluctant to completely renounce their faith, Vatican politics contributes to their religious apathy.

"“I'm baptized and I do believe in God," Vincenzo Cascone, a 25-year-old student from Naples, told The Local.

"I wouldn't leave the Church, even though I don't go very often at all, but it has lost a lot of appeal. There have been too many scandals and I think that when it comes to issues like civil unions they just need to evolve.”"

Each generation in Italy is slightly less religious than the one before: a trend which is confirmed by several sets of data.

Parish records reveal a decrease in the number of children being baptized, while figures from Istat, the national statistics office, in late 2014 revealed that only one out of four people now attends Church at least once a week.

Attendance at papal events in Rome has also declined since the end of 2013, with the Holy Year, of Jubilee of Mercy, getting off to a slow start in December despite the millions of pilgrims anticipated.

Story continues below…

Meanwhile, a 2010 study showed that less than a quarter of baptized Italians are actively practicing their faith.

But is it just the younger generation renouncing God?

"I am Catholic but only really go to mass on special occasions," said Andrea, a 50-year-old barman in Rome.

"If I wanted to leave the Church I would have already done it, but with young people today it's a different story."

Church scandals involving paedophilia and corruption began to receive widespread media attention from the 1980s onwards, and Andrea says he even sees a difference in his two teenage children - who have grown up to be more critical of the Catholicism.

"There has been a lot of bad press about the Church and young people today are much more cynical. My children have been baptized and were confirmed, but still have no interest in the Church whatsoever."

For more news from Italy, join us on Facebook and Twitter.

Patrick Browne (patrick.browne@thelocal.com)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Italy hosts first Down's Syndrome 'Olympics'
The athletes taking part are dubbed T21s, named after the most common form of Down's Syndrome, trisomy 21. Photo: AFP

The roar from the stands in Florence could not have been louder if it had been stars Usain Bolt or Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce on the track.

Why Milan could be Europe's post-Brexit financial hub
Milan is vying to be Europe's post-Brexit financial and business hub. Photo: Melanie Bowman

Milan has also joined the race among European cities to pick up the post-Brexit spoils should London’s financial institutions choose to shift their operations elsewhere. But is it a viable contender?

Ekberg wannabe says Trevi dip was a 'homage to Rome'
Delilah Jay just before she waded into Rome's Trevi Fountain on Tuesday. Photo courtesy of Delilah Jay

“I love Rome, I love Fellini and I love Ekberg – I’ve had so many comments on my Facebook page saying I look very much like her.”

Venice to build new bridge in memory of Bataclan victim
28-year-old student Valeria Solesin was the only Italian victim of the Paris terrorist attacks. Photo: Pierre Teyssot / AFP

Venice, the so-called 'city of bridges', is set to build one more, in honour of the only Italian victim of last November's Paris terrorist attacks.

Italy fears 'Calais-style' camps as migrant backlog worsens
There are 135,000 people waiting in Italian reception centres. Photo: Giovanni Isolino/AFP

Italy is scrambling to find extra places for incoming migrants amid fears the failure of a European relocation plan may result in mass encampments.

Italy to start performing civil unions from mid-August
Italy became the last major country in Europe to recognize same-sex civil unions in May. Photo: Andreas Solaro/AFP

Same-sex couples in Italy will finally have the chance to say “I do” from mid-August onwards, Italy's Interior Ministry announced on Thursday.

Italian mayor says sorry for Keita Balde racism
Keita Balde, a Senegalese born in Spain, is one of several black players in Italy's Serie A to have faced racist abuse in the past. Photo: Filippo Monteforte/AFP

"Sport is about passion, sharing and friendship. I'm sorry to hear, as the mayor and a sportsman, that some people last night embarrassed the whole city and, in particular, the real fans at the stadium."

Rescue boats recover 17 migrant bodies off Italy
The latest arrivals take the number of migrants to have landed in Italy this year to over 80,000. Photo: Giovanni Isolino/AFP

Since 2014, more than 10,000 migrants have died or are feared to have drowned while attempting the perilous journey to Europe by sea.

Italian police find €0.5 million of artefacts in art thieves' lair
Most of the loot was more than 2,000 years old. Photo Carabinieri Caserta

Police in Terno, Campania, uncovered a spectacular hoard of over 200 stolen historical artefacts worth over €0.5 million on Wednesday, inside the lair of a local gang of art thieves.

Pavarotti's family protest Trump's use of famous aria
Luciano Pavarotti became one of the most commercially successful tenors of all time. Photo: Frederick Florin/AFP

"Nessun Dorma", which became Pavarotti's signature aria and climaxes with the words "Vincero" ("I will win"), has been played often at Trump rallies.

Sponsored Article
Avoid hidden fees when sending money overseas
Travel
Five crowd-free alternatives to Italy's tourist hotspots
Sponsored Article
Why Swiss hospitality graduates are in demand
National
Italian hotspots struggling with 'too many tourists'
Culture
Meet the Italian chef behind the world's best restaurant
Travel
Escape the heat at one of these beautiful Italian lakes
Sponsored Article
Why expats choose international health insurance
Politics
Why the UK is now officially crazier than Italy
Culture
How you can stay cool like an ancient Roman
Lifestyle
Food for thought: fight on to save Med diet from extinction
Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
National
From asylum seeker in Italy to organic yoghurt entrepreneur
Sponsored Article
Why Swiss hospitality graduates are in demand
National
Fifteen maps that tell the story of Italy
National
Why Italy might be the next big threat to the EU's future
Sponsored Article
Five things Americans should know about voting abroad
Politics
Post Brexit, less than a third of Italians want to leave EU
Politics
The bright side of Brexit: the 'good news' for Brits in Italy
Culture
Eight wonderful things to do in Italy in July
Sponsored Article
Avoid hidden fees when sending money overseas
Travel
Six of the best places to visit within easy reach of Rome
British business owners in Italy feel Brexit jitters
National
How to get Italian citizenship (or at least stay forever)
Sponsored Article
Why expats choose international health insurance
Politics
Where does Britain's exit from the EU leave Italy?
Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
Politics
Has the time come for Italy’s Five Star Movement to shine?
Society
Why Italy must change after young woman’s brutal murder
Politics
Is Italy's Five Star up to the challenge of running Rome?
Culture
Six of the most bizarre Italian foods everyone should try
2,559
jobs available