Website helps Dutch Catholics protest church’s opposition to gay marriage

AMSTERDAM — A website operator in The Netherlands is helping thousands of Dutch Catholics research information on how that can leave the church in protest of its opposition to same-sex marriage.

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 has soared from about 10 visits a day to more than 10,000 after Pope Benedict’s latest denunciation of same-sex marriage.

“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, although he admits he has no way of verifying just how many visitors to his website actually follow through 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 legalized 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 legalize same-sex marriages.

In his Christmas address to Vatican officials, the 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”.

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