Defection from the Catholic Church – Update!

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by TheChristianAlert.org, via flickr

I did get a response to my Declaration of Defection last year. It was rather disappointing. The bishop basically said the church won’t consider me non-Catholic because I’m not converting to another religion, and asked me to call some priest to discuss why God is real. I briefly considered calling, but I’m just not willing to invest any time, energy, and stress into this. What is the guy going to say to me? Nothing I haven’t heard. I find their evidence for Jesus et al. very unconvincing, so why waste both our time?

I think the bishop was being a bit disingenuous in his letter, as he failed to mention that the Catholic Church doesn’t even have Defection anymore. There just isn’t any way to have them record officially that you are not a member. Yes, it’s annoying. I would rather not be associated with them or risk them using my “membership” as part of their clout. But on reflection, I suppose it doesn’t matter much. I don’t give the Catholic Church any of my time or money, and I know that I have left the institution far behind. They will still have a record of my baptism without any notation that I jumped ship, but when it comes down to it, I guess it isn’t a big deal if they have my name on a piece of paper somewhere.

As far as I know, there aren’t any laws in the U.S. that would require a church to remove you from their membership list upon request. As long as they aren’t doing anything to you, but simply have a record of your baptism in their books, I don’t think they are violating any law. And after all, those records are just documentation of an event that did in fact occur.

While it’s just an anonymous forum post, it seems this person has run down the situation very well. In short, you leave by not participating and by considering yourself non-Catholic. Having the church officially acknowledge that is really only going to happen if you ever want to participate in a sacrament again. (Fat chance.)

Just a word about excommunication here: you can try to get excommunicated, but there’s no real point. Excommunication does not remove you from the church. People who are excommunicated are explicitly considered current Catholics, but the church denies them the sacraments in an effort to pressure them into repudiating their sin and coming back to the fold (sins like saving the life of a mother at the expense of her non-viable fetus for instance). So I wouldn’t bother.

There you go – this ended rather with a whimper than a bang. I’m sorry dear readers that I didn’t have the patience to call and recount the priest trying to convince me to come back. Maybe someday, if I ever get really, really bored I’ll give it a go.

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About Christine

I'm a full-time mother to two kids, an ex-lawyer, a breastfeeding counselor, a skeptic, and (to steal a phase from Penn & Teller) a "science cheerleader." You can reach me through my Facebook page.

Posted on May 1, 2013, in Religion and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. I recently wrote a letter to the bishop of my diocese requesting a defection, and received a response a couple days later saying that I just needed to submit a hard copy letter requesting the defection, have it notarized, and it would be granted. Can’t say it “officially” means much, but I feel better having something formal from them saying I am no longer a member 🙂

  2. I thought about seeking defection or excommunication, but ultimately decided that energy would be better spent convincing some friends and family to jump ship with me.

  3. I know this is confusing, but the thing is, is that unless you are actively registered with a parish, the Catholic Church has no idea who you are.

    If you aren’t registered in a parish, then you aren’t even counted as a member of the Catholic Church during a church or in the official US census. Parish registrations are updated yearly, so unless you or any other person re-registers every year, then you can safely assume that many active Catholics ARE NOT recorded or counted as members of the Catholic Church because they simply did not renew their parish registrations. It happens. More often than you think. To make it worse, parish registration isn’t even REQUIRED for practicing Catholics, unless they specifically want to participate in a Sacramental Ceremony. Don’t want to be counted as a Catholic? Simply don’t register at a parish.

    So, again, if you aren’t registered, they literally have no idea who you are. None. If you were simply baptized as a baby or no longer attend mass, no one will come knocking on your door, nor will you be getting mail or fliers or be stalked at your work that’s not how that Catholic Church works. Other religions like the Mormons, Scientologists and Jehovah Witnesses proselytize and DO actively keep track of members. Which is probably why the priest told you to join another religion. That way, when it’s time for a census, you would be included and be counted as a member of the OTHER NEW RELIGION instead of the Catholic Church (assuming you were actively registered at a local parish church).

  4. Please sign my petition to contact the bishops and archbishops in this country and help change this law! It is ridiculous that they are not allowing people to leave the Church. Where is the free will?
    I understand that some people are happy to just accept the new defection law because it doesn’t change anything, and like yo said it’s not as if you are giving them any of your time or money, but there are many people who would like the option of being removed from the Catholic Church. Please help with this injustice by signing this petition, we would be very grateful for the support!
    Sign here by copying and pasting this link into your browser: http://www.change.org/en-GB/petitions/paul-callan-allow-formal-and-official-defection-from-the-catholic-church-in-ireland

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