Officially Leaving the Catholic Church: The First Attempt

Cynical-C is trying to officially leave the Catholic Church and he’s written a letter to his bishop to put that process in motion:

I am writing to inform you of my defection from the Roman Catholic Church. I was born an atheist and then baptized into the Catholic Church as an infant which of course made it impossible for me to give my consent. My mother was a Catholic and mistakenly believed that it was her duty to raise me with her religion.

I have been an atheist now since the early 1990s and my convictions of a world devoid of superstition, demons, and deities grows stronger with each passing day. I have, however, neglected to officially sever my ties from the Church. The Church’s position against women’s reproductive rights, its political opposition to allowing homosexuals to find happiness in marriage even outside of the Church, and the aiding and harboring of predatory priests who sexually abuse children has made me realize that I cannot in good conscience remain silent while still being counted as a participant of an organization whose ideals I find reprehensible and morally wrong. Therefore, I consciously and freely state that I am defecting from the Roman Catholic Church and wish that my name be removed from church records.

I suspect it won’t be this easy… but if it is, then I hope others follow in his footsteps!

(via Cynical-C Blog)

  • http://facebook maryjane

    When I officially requested that my name be dropped from membership of the church I had attended since I was a child, it was a bit of a fight. Not only did they think that it was only a reaction to some member who might have offended me, but they said they had to take my letter before the church board and have them vote on it. I was outraged! I told them that it was none of the church board’s business, and a choice I had made. This went on for a while, and finally I was assured they had done what I asked. I don’t believe them. They have dead people on the roles. They never take anyone off (unless they WANT to, out of spite). So, I just go about my life and do not consider myself a member. I consider all preachers liars, and churches full of gullible people. Nice people, perhaps, but judgemental people who are convinced they are the only ones who know the “truth”. I pity them.

  • liz

    i have been planning to do this for some time now. I’m just so busy with school and other things.

    It supposed to be as easy as just sending a letter to ‘your current’ priest and they’re supposed to do the rest of the work…aka contacting the Vatican or record keepers (some one higher up on the Catholic food chain). But i can’t imagine that the church you send it to will be in any rush to continue the process…so it takes some people a few letters.

    that is, of course, just what i’ve heard about the process.

  • Michael

    Good for you!

    I don’t mean to be nit-picky, but let’s try not to forget about the church’s opposition to reproductive healthcare and education.

    Power to you

  • aoife

    have you heard of Count Me Out.ie? It’s a website that takes you through the whole defection process. I know it’s relatively specific to Ireland but I’m sure it could be a good template for people from elsewhere. :)

  • MaleficVTwin

    Couldn’t he just desecrate a communion wafer in full view of the clergy? Seems easy enough.

  • Reginald Selkirk

    It hardly matters. We’re all going to be baptised Mormon after we die anyway.

  • beckster

    Also a pain to get your name off the official Mormon list.

  • czechatheist

    I have read in newspaper that as consequence of the paedophilia scandals in Germany the catholic church there has established special phone line for those who wish to leave the church. After the call they send you the paperwork and there you go. Apparently they don’t feel that stopping people from officialy leaving the church could help their cause. From what I’ve read the run out of church in Germany and Austria was massive in past few months. On the other hand in predominantly atheist Czech republic those few who are still registered within a church don’t seem to be looking for a way out (we also lack any paedophile scandal of the German or Austrian proportion).

  • Jesse

    How do you tell if you are on a list? I was baptised, but I’m not sure where or if I’m an “official” member.

  • http://skepticaldrew.blogspot.com Andrew Montoya

    I was looking for information on excommunication when I ran across this site:
    http://www.atheistfoundation.org.au/articles/easy-steps-excommunication-additional-advice-and-success-story

    Hopefully that information is helpful!

  • Jerry Priori

    I understand wanting to defect formally in order to not be counted as one of the flock. My issue with all of this is that I’m not a Catholic because I say so. I really don’t care what the church says; I don’t play by their rules. Additionally, there is absolutely nothing from stopping them from counting you anyway. What are they going to say? We’re two-billion people minus one?

    Do all the churches tally up the baptisms and defections and send them to Rome?

    I haven’t been a Catholic for thirty years. I may have a file on me somewhere in some dusty file cabinet somewhere, but I can’t imagine anyone consults it as if it were a census document to count me as a member.

    I know I’m not a Catholic. My family knows I’m not Catholic. Everyone knows; it’s no secret.

    Additionally, everyone knows the numbers of members the church quotes are exaggerated and include people who are no longer members. Anyone who takes their fantasy figures seriously isn’t going to let the reality of defections get in the way of church propaganda. By all means, defect formally if you find it meaningful. But it just strikes me as jumping through another church-created hoop and I stopped playing that game far too long ago to start engaging in it again now.

  • http://reanhouse.blogspot.com Sarah

    How do you know which church or churches have you on their books?

    I was christened but I went to Catholic school and was presumably baptized.

    Anyone know who I would contact to find this out?

  • Bo J

    I was raised catholic too and recently came out to my parents. Mother church (and my mother, oddly enough) labors under the delusion, “once a catholic, always a catholic.” I sort of want to perform a similar task and request that my name be taken off the rolls, except I really don’t care. I do however harbor the secret fantasy of being excommunicated. To me, it’s like when you were playing as a kid and your friend said, “you stepped on the carpet, that’s lava, you’re dead.” My AP statistics teacher in high school was excommunicated after she divorced her husband (a man who viciously beat her, and whom the church advised she should remain with and seek counselling). Bit of a hero, in my book.

  • muggle

    I really don’t understand this. It’s giving the Church way too much authority.

    Just say fuck you and walk away. Who gives a fuck what games they play behind you? It’s not like you’re going to be hog-tied and dragged into heaven against your will. I mean c’mon, get real. Why validate them by going through some silly divorce ritual from them?

    As Judge Judy says put a period on the end of this sentence and move on.

    There’s also a famous saying that living well is the best revenge.

    Stop letting the church take up so much of your time. Life is too short. Just take a powder and live your life and stop giving them control over you.

  • Nikki

    That thought has never even crossed my mind! I did however think an atheist tattoo would keep me from having a Catholic Funeral! I might be dead, but my life insurance would be better spent by my daughter elsewhere! Hmm… Writing a letter might be fun, framing the churches response might prove even more amusing!

  • http://godlessgirl.com GG

    I’ve considered asking the parish where I was baptised if I’m on their records. If I am, then I’d go from there.

    My only apprehension is that I’m fairly certain someone would tell my mother who is an active member and she would take it as a deep, personal insult and hurt from me to her (even though it would have nothing to do with her). I may choose not to do it out of care for my relationship with her. I’m kind of a softie.

  • Ryan

    I was probably 10 the last time I was forced to go to a Catholic Mass. From 11 to 14 I was forced to go to a “Normal” non-denominational church. I totally forgot to tell the Catholics to remove from their records. I should stop by the local Catholic Church the next day. However that might be a waste of my time because there is probably no God anyway so why would I care what a bunch of Holy Fools think about me?

  • Kahomono

    I wish Judaism was organized enough to be able to receive a process like this. In the religious deluded part of my life I was probably counted as a member of at least half a dozen synagogues, but once I left or moved away they will have just kinda forgotten about me.

  • John

    Interestingly, about 40 years ago, soon after I graduated from college, my mother, who was a member of the choir and other Methodist Church committees asked me to remove my name from the roles, since I was no longer attending.

    There was no discussion of my beliefs, just that the church had to send a set amount of money to the higher ups based on the church enrollment, not on the tithes and donations.

    I wrote a note and sent it in and, as far as I know, that was it.

    I figured I was doing the church a favor, but from the tenor of some of the comments thus far, it sounds like a few people would rather remain on the rolls and financially break the church from within!

  • Bucephalus

    Some years ago I tried to have my name taken off the register of my local Anglican church.
    I actually got yelled at by a priest. He told me that the records concerning my baptism were legal documents and that it was illegal to make any changes to them.
    Is there any non-catholic help for getting off a religion’s list?

  • http://www.ursuspacificus.net/ ursuspacificus

    I’ve been meaning to do this for a long time… I’ve been an atheist for over 30 years, and for a long time, I thought.. what difference does it make whether the Catholics think I’m Catholic?…. Well.. It matters from a marketing standpoint.

    Having been baptized Catholic, as far as I know, they still feel they can count me in their flock. When the Pope brags about a tenth of a percent rise in membership, my name is probably being counted in the basis for that growth.

    It’s like when you buy a computer with MS Windows on it, then, immediately replace the OS with Linux or something else… Microsoft still counts the Windows license as a “user” when they talk about sales and market-share and all that crap. Even if Dell barely paid anything for the license, I object to being an unwilling statistic which supports a position I reject.

    So, I sent a couple emails, and made a couple phone calls, and found the church where I was baptized. I have a request in with the Monsignor. We’ll see if that does anything.

  • http://twitter.com/xbgix bgix

    This is a link to a Vatican document from 2006. It is heavy in canonical “law-speak” but it appears to me at first glance to give guidance to successfully achieving separation without going through the trouble of “committing acts” directly intended to provoke a church initiated ex-communication. It appears to suggest that it *is* possible to declare to the proper church authority the intention of severing the ties, and get it duly noted in the baptismal registry:

    Quoting Items 5 and 6 from the doc in their entirety:

    ———————————-

    5. It is required, moreover, that the act be manifested by the
    interested party in written form, before the competent authority of the Catholic
    Church: the Ordinary or proper pastor, who is uniquely qualified to make the
    judgment concerning the existence or non-existence of the act of the will as
    described above in n. 2.

    Consequently, only the convergence of the two elements – the
    theological content of the interior act and its manifestation in the manner
    defined above – constitutes the actus formalis defectionis ab Ecclesia
    catholica, with the corresponding canonical penalties (cfr. can. 1364, § 1).

    6. In such cases, the competent ecclesiastical authority
    mentioned above is to provide that this act be noted in the baptismal registry
    (cfr. can. 535, § 2) with explicit mention of the occurrence of a “defectio
    ab Ecclesia catholica actu formali”.

    ——————————————

    http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/pontifical_councils/intrptxt/documents/rc_pc_intrptxt_doc_20060313_actus-formalis_en.html