An official from the Roman Catholic Church says that it is "impossible" to undergo "de-baptism" as a growing number of people in Western Europe and the United States request such a process.
Jeannine Marino, program specialist for evangelization & catechesis at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, told CP that atheists who seek to be "de-baptized" or "un-baptized" cannot technically do so.
"From the Church's perspective, it is impossible to 'un-baptize' or 'de-baptize' someone because we believe that baptism permanently seals the person to Christ and the Church," said Marino.
"People can stop participating in the Church, but we believe the grace of the sacrament has marked them forever."
Marino explains that with baptism, "no matter how long they have been away from the Church" an individual "can return to the faith."
"If the request to be 'de-baptized' is meant to have one's name removed from the baptismal records, this would not be allowed since the baptismal record is a record of historical facts," said Marino.
"Catholic canon law prohibits records from being substantially altered or deleted."
In Western Europe, the "de-baptize" movement is growing. In 2009, over 100,000 British atheists downloaded "certificates of de-baptism" as a way to disconnecting themselves from the Christian faith once and for all.
In 2010, the Netherlands saw an estimated 2,000 people seek to remove their baptism from official records, and one French newspaper estimates that France sees around 1,000 people annually attempt to be "un-baptized."
Although the "de-baptize" movement can also be found in the United States, according to Jeff Field, director of communications for the Catholic League, they are not growing with the strength that they are in Western Europe.
"There have been groups in the United States that have held de-baptisms, but they haven't caught on," said Field.
"These events go to show that they are not happy enough to live a life with no religion, but they feel the need to disparage religion. It says more about their intentions than it does anything else."
"De-baptism," or the act of removing recognition of one's baptism, is treated like a sacrament by some atheist organizations. In the United States, the group American Atheists has overseen "de-baptisms," using a blow dryer on recipients of their ritual.
Regarding how to reach out to those considering "de-baptism," evangelization & catechesis program specialist Marino talked about Pope Benedict XVI declaring a "Year of Faith" that would begin this coming October.
"The Year of Faith is a time for all Catholics to reach out to our missing brothers and sisters and invite them to rediscover the beauty of the Christian experience."