Losing my religion
April 21, 2005 10:09 AM   Subscribe

With the election of a new pope, I'd like to take this opportunity to permanently distance myself with the Roman Catholic church and I want them to know about it in an official manner. So what is the process that I must follow to become excommunicated?

I don't mean that I wish to go out and commit a sin that will have me excommunicated, rather I wish to be stricken from their roles, or have my baptism/confirmation revoked, if such a thing can be done. No need to convince me to change my mind, nor sell me to any other religious options.
posted by furtive to Religion & Philosophy (32 answers total)
Straight Dope tackled this one.
posted by ktrey at 10:20 AM on April 21, 2005

You really can't, at least according to The Straight Dope. According to this the only reason the church would consider excommunicating you would be if you procured an abortion.
posted by substrate at 10:21 AM on April 21, 2005

Why not commit a sin? You can marry me--i could use the Canadian citizenship. : >

I'd call the local Diocese, and ask them. Or go to the local priest and tell him, and tell him why.
posted by amberglow at 10:32 AM on April 21, 2005

I just read substrate's second link, and it seems to me like an official way to get it done would be to convert to Mormonism, which excommunicates you under the "apostasy, heresy, or schism" canon. Then you resign your Mormon membership. It seems like you'd be free after that.
posted by xo at 10:51 AM on April 21, 2005

The second link that substrate posted is exactly what I was looking for.

Amberglow, thanks for the offer, but my gf would be quite put out if I married someone else before (or after) her.
posted by furtive at 11:03 AM on April 21, 2005

Why don't you just tell them how you feel in Confession? "These are my sins according to how you see them, yet I am unrepentant, and here are the reasons why..." That might throw them for a loop. I always thought that a confession-based protest by lapsed Catholics was kind of a cool idea.
posted by lilboo at 11:19 AM on April 21, 2005

From the straight dope article:

Strictly speaking, excommunication does not render you a non-Catholic. It merely means you're a Catholic who's been damned to hell.

Do you really want that?
posted by jikel_morten at 11:20 AM on April 21, 2005

It seems kind of counterproductive to want some kind of formal sanctioning from the same group you are trying to distance yourself from. Maybe that's just me.
posted by elisabeth r at 11:21 AM on April 21, 2005

I think he just wants to send a message, rather than seek sactioning. I think.

/not him
posted by jikel_morten at 11:23 AM on April 21, 2005

Do you really want that?

It makes me want to join Catholicism and then get ex-communicated, personally.
posted by angry modem at 11:26 AM on April 21, 2005 [1 favorite]

Since you would like to send a message, and the Catholic church is all about "once a Catholic, always a Catholic", perhaps you could set up a group similar to Al-Anon for other recovering Catholics?

That isn't meant to be funny. Quite a few people I know introduce themselves as "a recovering Catholic" when the topic of conversation turns to religion. I am one too.

I made a break with the Catholic church in 1992. I take both my spirituality and politics pretty seriously and went "denomination shopping." But, having grown up NYC Irish Catholic, as much about culture and community as it is about religion, I still have baggage.

I'd love to just "get over it." And I don't condemn those who are Catholic...I have issues with the Catholic leadership and elements of its history. I feel conflicted because my family is still VERY Catholic and I know a few Catholics who I have admired over the years (Cardinal Bernadine, my cousin the nun, etc.) But I often find solace in talking to other "recovering Catholics".
posted by jeanmari at 11:45 AM on April 21, 2005

Do you really want that?

I can't believe that any so-called Christian would have the temerity to suggest that they can decide who is or is not going to hell.
posted by norm at 11:49 AM on April 21, 2005

You could accomplish more or less what you want by getting together with a group of other people of a like mind and placing a newspaper ad. I would suggest some form of ceremony, but you don't seem to require a sense of closure so much as a way of publicly expressing your displeasure.
posted by anapestic at 11:58 AM on April 21, 2005

I made a break with the Catholic church in 1992. I take both my spirituality and politics pretty seriously and went "denomination shopping."

Why don't you go around to all the religious institutions and have them make a case, with evidence, for the legitimacy of their beliefs. Once you've been presented with zero evidence, your choice should be dead simple.
posted by jikel_morten at 11:58 AM on April 21, 2005

An article by Gord McLaughlin, who tried to do the same thing you're doing. McLaughlin writes in eye magazine of Toronto. A reader then wrote in with this helpful site, and said he's been officially declared an apostate after a five-month effort. Worth it? That's up to you.
posted by greatgefilte at 12:13 PM on April 21, 2005

I'm lost why you need the church’s help other than the church itself will force this on you and have a control over your volition. Seems like saying I don't believe in God so you pray to Him telling Him.

Maybe you could buy rcade’s pope domain and do it there.
posted by thomcatspike at 12:35 PM on April 21, 2005

Since you seem to want most of all make your displeasure known to your church, maybe you should make some kind of explicit statement. If you can write well, draft a letter or essay and send it to as many Catholic officials as you like, or find a way to publish it - in whatever publications will take it, or on its own web site.

You could have it printed up in leaflet form and scatter thousands of copies from a helicopter, but that might get you charged with littering:-)
posted by orange swan at 12:43 PM on April 21, 2005

You could dedicate your life to making the pedophilic priests accountable for their buggery. I'm pretty sure that once you start laying into Bishop Lay, hidden over in the Vatican, that the Pope would be pissed enough to excommunicate you.
posted by five fresh fish at 12:55 PM on April 21, 2005

Maybe you could just email the new pope and tell him:

posted by govtdrone at 12:55 PM on April 21, 2005


Because we just know he wants all those Viagra ads.

Seriously, I'm a Catholic who has various probably similar issues with the church. It seems to me that it'd be more productive to try to work within the system for change. There are *plenty* of people that feel the same way, it seems.

Or, you could just leave--I've considered it. It does seem to be a bit hypocritical to belong to a religion that does not entirely fit with my worldview. I try to focus more on the good parts.

I imagine this will be a future ask.mefi of mine.
posted by RikiTikiTavi at 1:15 PM on April 21, 2005

But what if the system doesn't want to change? It's not like amending company policy on casual Fridays.

Some systems are worth working from within for change; others are explicitly set up not to allow that, especially from rank and file members without formal power.
posted by amberglow at 1:50 PM on April 21, 2005

It seems to me that it'd be more productive to try to work within the system for change.

are you serious? don't you realise that the last made things more autocratical, so that any such attempt would have even less chance of working than before? and that the new guy is going to follow the same line? am i wrong about this? i thought this was the biggest complaint against him and his legacy!
posted by andrew cooke at 1:55 PM on April 21, 2005

Well, to be fair, the Catholic Church operates on a different time scale than the rest of us, so you can "work within the system for change" with the expectation that the change might happen in, oh, say 300 years. You won't be around to see the result, but on the other hand, you might be beatified!

And I agree with those who don't see the point in trying to get excommunicated. You want to go to hell, go to hell; you don't need the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church to officially send you there.
posted by languagehat at 2:04 PM on April 21, 2005

Asking to be excommunicated means that you're accepting the Church's power to determine you membership. If you're in such disagreement with them and don't want to acknowledge their power, maybe conversion to another religion would be an appropriate protest.
posted by Jon-o at 3:02 PM on April 21, 2005

I'd write a letter to the pope based on the second link provided by substrate. Add your explicit reasons for leaving the church. The reality is that the pope will most likely never see the letter, but I know it would make me feel better.

And what Jon-o said. You don't want to give them permission to kick you out - you're kicking the church out of your life.
posted by deborah at 3:30 PM on April 21, 2005

You could start attenting an Episcopal (Anglican in Canada, I reckon) church and see what they can do for you.
posted by willpie at 3:43 PM on April 21, 2005

You can't really leave the Church because you are the Church - no more so than our pedophile priests, no less so than Mother Theresa. We've always been one body composed of grieviously flawed individuals. As such, the Church will always take joy when you're near and be sad when you're distant. (and like Riki said, there's a lot of us really struggling.)
posted by klarck at 3:46 PM on April 21, 2005

You cannot go against Catholicism
Because, when you do
Go against Catholicism
That's part of Catholicism too
posted by bingo at 7:45 PM on April 21, 2005

now you're going to hell

(no new tale to tell - nice love and rockets reference)
posted by angry jonny at 8:35 PM on April 21, 2005

This is back in the 40s or 50s, but family lore says that my great grandfather wrote a letter to the pope asking to be excommunicated. A few weeks later, a letter came back from some vatican secretary saying right-o. Clean & simple.
posted by armchairsocialist at 10:16 PM on April 21, 2005

Don't count on joining/abandoning the Mormon church as an easy way out. We know a woman who tried for years to leave the Mormon church; she joined the Methodists with her formerly Baptist husband. Every place that corporate transfers took them, the local Mormons contacted her.
Btw, you can fail to attend church, write letters, march with signs, but if you were baptized Catholic, you have an indelible sign on your soul. To find your own peace of mind you might remember that none of us gets things his/her own way all the time.
posted by Cranberry at 10:54 PM on April 21, 2005

Boy, back in the good ol' pre-Vatican 2 days, my father got excommunicated for unrepentantly visiting a mosque. Pope Johnny Paul the Deuce was lauded for doing the same thing, years on. I wonder if that means they'll recommunicate Pops... I should gall him with the query.
posted by klangklangston at 12:11 PM on April 24, 2005 [1 favorite]

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