About 6 months ago, I read a blog entry by Jim Gardner on his blog, How good is that?. I knew prior to reading this that because I was baptized as a Catholic, the church still considers me a member. The statistic of 1.131 billion Catholics that's most often used includes me, and anyone else who has been baptized, regardless of current practices or beliefs. That number even includes those who are gay, divorced, have had an abortion, etc.; as long as you were baptized, you're still counted. What I was unaware of is that according to Roman Catholic canon law, I can request a "formal act of defection" from the faith, which results in a note on my baptismal record stating that I have left the church. Jim followed up with the letter he has written to his archdiocese requesting this act.
I wasn't a regular reader of Jim's blog (I am now, he's in my Google Reader account), but I found the article because I had been very angry, as was Jim, about hearing that the pope was telling blatant lies about condom use being the cause of the AIDS epidemic in Africa, and about the news coming out about the sexual abuse going on in church. I had always had a bit more virulence towards the Catholic Church than others, since I had the more experience there than with any other church. That said, I was never that concerned with my former religion, as opposed to others. It seemed more benign, since it was so much more about strange ritual and tradition, and not so much about preaching eternal damnation, at least in my experience. However, hearing this pronouncement pissed me off to no end, and made me realize that while my parish, and the church my family went to was fairly boring and uncontroversial, the Catholic Church has enormous amounts of influence across the globe, and is generally using it to spread misinformation and nonsense.** I was reading a lot of atheist blogs that talked about it to blow off some steam, and read about what others were thinking and feeling about the situation.
When I read Jim's post, I felt this was something all of us who are no longer Catholic should do. I know a lot of people are content with just no longer going to church and getting on with it. They may feel that taking time out to write a letter getting formal recognition for no longer being a Catholic from the RCC is like writing a letter to Santa Claus to tell him how ridiculous the idea of flying reindeer are. The main concerns I'm addressing in my letter, however, are not necessarily my atheism in terms of theological beliefs, but about kindness, thoughtfulness and morality, and the lack of it in the Catholic Church. I think it's important to call them out not because I think they're wrong, but because the are becoming a real hindrance to progress in the world. If many more former Catholics do this, the RCC might even begin to reconsider some of their positions (I know its unlikely, but its more likely than if no one says anything.) Even if the church itself doesn't change, a large number of Catholics officially renouncing their religion will certainly be made known, and will affect many others.
I'm rather embarrassed to say, however, that halfway through writing a letter to my own archdiocese, it got stored away in a directory on my computer, and I forgot about it until now. Luckily, while thinking about ideas for posts here, I stumbled back upon my letter, and decided that I should finish it and send it along.
I'm posting here before I finish because I think some other Catholics might be interested in knowing about this. I suspect few Catholics are aware of this. I'd love to see many more people writing their archdiocese to be officially recognized as no longer Catholic. The letter so far includes some background about my involvement with the church, and a short outline on the reasons I am requesting this defection. It is fairly similar to Jim's letter, not because I'm too lazy to come up with something more creative, but because 1) I think Jim's letter is excellent, and 2) I want to make sure I include the necessary information, and since Jim had already spoken to a clergyman, I assume he has included what is needed.
I'll post my final letter once it's finished, as well as any news afterward. Wish me luck!
** I know that the RCC also does a lot of charity and good in developing countries, but I contend that the bad far outweighs the good. I would watch the recent Intelligence Squared Debate, considering the motion "The Catholic Church is a force for good in the world" if you disagree (or if you'd enjoy watching Stephen Fry and Christopher Hitchens wittily and completely obliterating their opponents, Archbishop John Onaiyekan and Anne Widdecombe)