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You can’t leave, she won’t let you

March 9, 2012

This quote from the movie Event Horizon seems to typify my state of entrapment with the catholic church.

Ok, fair warning eh? This is going to be one of those anti-catholic rants of mine. If that’s liable to bother you, step away from the blog…now.

Still here?

Ok, just making sure.

Apparently, there once was a law concerning formal defection, complete with a form to fill out and turn in to the relevant diocese. And I found this form, but apparently too late. It seems the church chose to abolish this process in 2009. Their church documents cite minutiae about married couples, but this happens to match a point in time when a lot of catholics in Dublin were formally and publicly jumping ship. I don’t even have to wonder why.

Not that this formal act of defection meant all that much to the church, even then. Evidently, they feel that their baptism ritual has marked me forever. Figures, eh? Wouldn’t do for it to involve any measure of maturity, competence or choice on the part of the victim, er, recipient.

If the bishop or parish priest decided that the individual had indeed made a formal act of defection from the Catholic Church – making a decision on this matter would normally require a meeting with the person involved – the fact of this formal act was to be noted in the register of the person’s baptism. This annotation, like other annotations in the baptismal register, such as those of marriage or ordination, was unrelated to the fact of the baptism: it was not a “debaptism” (a term sometimes used journalistically): the fact of having been baptized remained a fact, and the Catholic Church holds that baptism marks a person with a seal or character that “is an ontological and permanent bond which is not lost by reason of any act or fact of defection”.

The news about proxy baptism of the dead in mormon churches reminds me of this, and why not? As bizarre as it sounds for some obsessed mormons to pretend-baptize dead family members (or Holocaust victims), the same kind of ritual was forced upon me in just the same fashion; the only difference being that I was an infant and not a corpse.

So while atheist groups may put pressure on the church, and on more liberal members of the church to leave it, the church continues to stubbornly hang onto its members, no matter how much of a heretic or apostate they may be. So when the RCC cites its billion or so adherents, know that they’re counting a few questionable entries. Just have a look at how ridiculous it’s become in the conversation between the church and the CountMeOut organization from Ireland.

The Act of Apostasy allows someone to declare themselves an apostate to the faith, i.e. one who rejects Christian teachings. Canon Law stipulates that an apostate to the faith automatically incurs a latae senteniae excommunication. In response to the 16 Acts of Apostasy which were sent to the Archdiocese of Dublin in June 2011, a spokesperson stated that they would not be accepted. Furthermore, it was stated that excommunication does not mean that somebody is no longer a member of the church.

I see on CountMeOut’s Twitter feed that last month, they sent a letter to a ‘pontifical council’ to clarify if there is any process of formal defection left, and if the church would record it. At this point, I have my doubts. I’m sure they will hem and haw, and obfuscate and stonewall, for as long as possible. Maybe I’ll live long enough to see the RCC own up to its behavior, and for skeptics to be able to rally against it.

But I’ll most likely die a (technical) catholic, even if I am a goddamned apostate, because of course I deny the doctrines of the church; its god is just a concept to me, and a nonsensical, nonexistent one at that. I think the only way I could possibly make more of a fuss about it would be to represent some state as a Representative or Senator in Congress, and support abortion rights.

Of course, to do that I’d have to overcome the religiously inspired, societal distrust of atheists in our country. Unlikely.

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