Richard Wade reporting.
Reader Eoin recently commented on an Ask Richard post from last February dealing with a question about officially leaving the Catholic Church. Eoin brings to our attention the fact that the Vatican has suspended all processing of individual acts of formal defection from the RCC.
The Irish website Count Me Out has been providing information, guidance and access to the forms needed for people wanting to file a “Declaration of Defection.” They report:
In April of this year, the Catholic Church modified the Code of Canon Law to remove all references to the act of formal defection, the process used by those who wish to formally renounce their membership of the Church.
This resolution, dubbed “Omnium in Mentem” apparently puts all applicants who have filed but have been waiting a long time for any response, into church bureaucratic limbo. Because there are many questions left unanswered, Count Me Out has temporarily suspended all further creation of Declarations of Defection via their website, starting October 12, 2010.
Assuming that “Omnium in Mentem” invalidates the concept of formal defection, the Church no longer deems that an act of defection changes a person’s relationship with the Catholic Church; instead the annotation of the baptismal register becomes merely an administrative task.
Whatever the hell “an administrative task” means.
Count Me Out offers some insight about the backqround of this action by the RCC, and some advice concerning the possible ramifications. They speculate on the reasons why the Vatican has done this, focusing on the confusion caused by making certain exceptions to canon law regarding defections pertaining to marriage. It’s confusing to even read their explanation.
I have three simpler and perhaps more cynical ideas about the Vatican’s motives, but I don’t pretend to know for certain. I’m offering them here to stimulate a discussion, and I ask readers who have more experience and insight about this to correct me and/or add their own ideas:
- It will save them a lot of embarrassment. Having this official procedure forces them to individually acknowledge each one of the growing numbers of people who are dissatisfied, disappointed or even disgusted with the Church, and each Declaration of Defection is a powerful public demonstration of both their failure as an institution and the power of their members to defy them.
- It will save them a lot of work. People are informally leaving the Church in stampedes lately. If more and more of them want to have official documents to formally and finally signify and certify that, the Vatican will need a new clerical staff as big as the Internal Revenue Service.
- Most importantly, it will save them a lot of money. In several countries, the Catholic Church gets government subsidies for various activities and services. The amount of taxpayer money they get depends on their claim of how many people are Catholics in those countries. Unless I’m wrong, I think they use Baptismal records rather than church attendance census, since the numbers will always be larger. Without the Declarations of Defection, there won’t be documents that can be used to discredit their claims of having large numbers of adherents.
So if you want to leave the Roman Catholic Church, you can no longer get them to officially acknowledge and document your exit out the door. You can go, but you’ll have to climb out the window. They don’t want to know about it.