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.
I know lots of great people who are Catholic. But the Church itself – I cannot call it good by any means. So in addition to the silliness of me being counted among their adherents when I share none of their beliefs, I don’t like the idea that I’m counted in their numbers. If everyone who disagreed with the Catholic Church in some significant way (like the 66-68% of American Catholics who regularly use birth control) took their name off the rolls, the Church’s political clout might be reined in quite a bit, and maybe that would force the Powers That Be to move their policies and procedures into more transparent, reasonable, and humane territory.
For what it’s worth, I’m sending this off today. Weirdly I felt a little bad writing it, like I’m going to hurt the Bishop’s feelings or something. I guess guilt is one of the things that is most easily indoctrinated and hardest to get rid of! (I’ve redacted personal information so Bill Donohue can’t track me down to yell at me.)
Bishop Michael F. Burbidge
c/o The Diocese of Raleigh
715 Nazareth St.
Raleigh, NC 27606
Dear Bishop Burbidge:
I am writing to inform you of my defection from the Roman Catholic Church.
Since the age of 16, I have rejected most of the teachings of the Church. I have not attended mass for over 20 years. I do not believe in any deity, and I do not believe that there is such a thing as sin. I have been living with my husband for 18 years without being married in a Catholic Church, and I have made a positive decision not to have my daughters baptized.
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 was born on _____ and baptized on ______, as Christine _____, at:
The last sacrament of record in which I participated was Confirmation, which would have been around 19__, at:
I would appreciate it if you could send me written notification when my name has been removed from the records. I am fully aware of the consequences of my separation from the Church and accept them. I do not wish to participate in any Catholic sacraments.
Thanks for your assistance in this matter.
I will keep you all updated on any response. Half of me wants them to simply comply, and the other half hopes some priest sends me a letter trying to convince me to stay (as some defectors have had happen) so I have something interesting to share!
(photo by robertelyov via Flickr)