With the release of the PA Grand Jury report on systemic abuse within the Catholic Diocese in the state, I have personally had to come to grips with some very strange feelings on the subject. This post might involve some navel-gazing self reflection, but please dear reader, humor me for a minute.
I was never abused by my local priest growing up and never knew anyone who was … at least I didn’t know I knew anyone who was. The fact remains that the man who baptized me, presided over my father’s funeral, and presided over my sister’s wedding was, according to the report, a rapist. So the unsettling thing, for me, about this revelation is that no one ever said anything. I did not grow up in a large town. At the time it was easily a population of under 2000 people. Whoever his victim was I know them, based on the information I can glean from the report they definitely went to school with people I deeply love and care about … and no one ever said anything.
The Church Knew There was a Systemic Problem
Now, I was never a particularly religious kid. Sure, there are those of us who are secular advocates (like Tim Minchin and Patheos Non-Religious’ own editor Dale McGowan) who have a certain fondness for the music and pageantry of Catholicism because we’re artistically minded and can appreciate aesthetic and performance, but like many (including Tim and Dale), that wasn’t enough to ever really make me buy in to the whole mythology. I did my thing, the church did theirs, and occasionally I would show up just to appreciate the spectacle of it. But by the time I started to get involved in secular activism earnestly it was already 2010.
This is important because starting in 2006 reports of sexual impropriety by the Catholic Church swept through Ireland, leading to a mass exodus of Irish Catholics from the faith. Back then, before I had even considered doing such a thing, the church had a method for defection from they Catholic register called a Formal Act of Defection. Basically, by sending a letter to the Bishop of the diocese in which you were baptized, one could request that you be removed from the roles and no longer be counted as one of the Catholics when they state that they are “spiritual leaders of 1 billion souls”.
In 2009, as the church schemed to triage their substantial loss of membership in Ireland, it did away with the Formal Act of Defection. For most, or at least many, this didn’t matter much. The Vatican still allowed for conversion, but did away with a method for those leaving the faith without adopting another religion, so there was no mechanism to be removed from their register, and thus counted as one of them. This left those of us who identified as an Atheist with no way to stand up and say: “I demand you not count me as one of your own.”
Satanism, though, is a Religion
It hadn’t really occurred to me when I got involved with The Satanic Temple that it, as far as I’m aware, qualifies as a religion to the extent that I now have an avenue through which I could request that my baptism be nullified under Catholic law. But in light of this recent scandal, and because we now have conclusive evidence that the man who baptized me–a man my family trusted for spiritual guidance–was clearly in dereliction of his duty as a man of the cloth in the first place, I can’t in good conscience allow this situation to persist. This is truly disturbing, and as fine a detail as it is I am left with a sense that the very idea that when the Catholic Church claims they are responsible for the lives of “1 billion souls” that in some small way they still count me among their number because at some point a rapist dripped some water on my head once when I was an infant.
That Being the Case …
An Open Letter to Joseph Bambera, Bishop of the Diocese of Scranton, Pennsylvania
Dear Fr. Bambera:
I was baptized and received my first communion at Christ the King Church is Blakeslee, PA under the guidance of Fr. Raymond Deviney, who was recently revealed to be a rapist in the Pennsylvania Statewide Investigating Grand Jury Report that was released to the public on 8/14/2018 (see figures 1 and 2).
While I understand the church no longer has a formal method for defection by those with no supernatural beliefs, it is also my understanding that such a defection is still possible if one leaves the Catholic faith for another Religion. As such I, M. John Matirko, do hereby give formal notice of my defection from the Roman Catholic Church. I want it to be known that I no longer wish to be regarded as a member of the Roman Catholic Church.
I do this as a member in good standing of The Satanic Temple and a practicing Satanist. As a member of The Satanic Temple I cannot in good conscience continue to allow my name, no matter how nominal, to be counted as one of your professed membership. Non Serviam.
I further declare that I am aware of the consequences of this act regarding the reception of the sacraments of “the Church”, including the sacraments of the eucharist, marriage and the sick and also with regard to burial.
I undertake to make this decision known to my next of kin and to ensure that they are aware of these circumstances in the case of my being incapacitated.
I acknowledge that I make this declaration under solemn oath, being of sound mind and body, and in the presence of witnesses who can testify as to the validity of this statement.
As a blogger on the largest interfaith website in the world making this declaration publicly, I assert that my audience be held as witnesses and that shares and comments be recognized as such.
Take me off your list. Unsubscribe. I demand to not be counted as one of your flock.
Council member, The Satanic Temple-Arizona