This is an advocacy piece as to why you should get yourself excommunicated if you have not already done so. Most of the advice herein is in regard to RC excommunication. If you need advice for some other church my address is:
email@example.com (Greg Erwin) President, Humanist Association of Ottawa
The Roman Catholic church apparently does not excommunicate its members easily. They say that the reason for this is to leave the way open for reconciliation. However, their thinking is based on irrational belief and is motivated by fear, and they assume that you are the same. They believe that you will react as they do to the fear of death, and wish to deny reality and embrace an illusion. Even more important, by never giving up a member, the church is able to claim millions as members, who do not accept its doctrines, who never attend, who never contribute money or time and who are, in fact, opposed to what it stands for. This greatly enhances its power.
If you were ever baptised a Roman Catholic, and have not been excommunicated, you are still counted as a member. If you do not wish to contribute to the power of the Roman Catholic church, you may want to get yourself excommunicated.
Why should I get excommunicated? Four good reasons. The Roman Catholic church is misogynistic. Although they may talk about 'cherishing' or 'adoring' womanhood, they mean a master's appreciation of an obedient and docile servant. They do not believe that women are the equals of men. The church funds and works for anti-woman legislation around the world. The Roman Catholics and the Mormons were the primary sources of the funds and lobbying which helped defeat the Equal Rights Amendment in the United States. The church has crippled international development, especially in the neediest countries, by refusing to allow any form of birth control to be discussed. Ireland and other Catholic countries do the church's dirty work by blocking meetings unless all countries submit to Catholic doctrine in matters of birth control. Historically, the church has fostered wife abuse by promoting cultures where any marriage, no matter how bad, was better for a woman than living alone.
The Roman Catholic church is homophobic. In fact, it's worse than that, the proper description of its position is 'pro-natalist'. Any form of sexual behavior that doesn't raise the birth rate is forbidden. Sex as an expression of love and sexual activity for simple pleasure are prohibited or subordinated to the production of little Catholics. Even within marriage the loving exchange of pleasure is a sin. The church will also refuse to marry couples if the union cannot be fertile*, which has caused untold anguish to couples wherein one partner was handicapped or otherwise infertile. Through the ages, of course, men have had little trouble getting their pleasure from sex. The burden of this policy falls on women, whose bodies and health are destroyed by endless childbearing. Homosexuality is completely prohibited and is condemned with unusually intense loathing and disgust. (Although priestly pedophilia was very lightly punished, if at all, until recently.) The church has never objected to any punishments, up to and including death, which a society has wished to impose on homosexuals, quite the opposite.
The Roman Catholic Church is antidemocratic, authoritarian and intolerant. Americans, Canadians and others from secular or otherwise non-Catholic countries may refuse to believe this. However, like every religion, the Catholic church, when it is in a minority position, is all in favor of tolerance and democracy. However, when it is in control, as in Ireland or Poland, it shows its true colors. The church is much more comfortable with authoritarian right-wing governments and has historically allied itself with them. If the people in 'Catholic' countries who do not accept the homophobic, misogynistic and intolerant doctrine of Catholicism would take the step of leaving the church, especially in a positive direction towards humanism, the church's power to do harm would be greatly lessened. Historically, the church saw Mussolini and Hitler as bulwarks against atheistic communism and actively supported Spanish dictator Franco. Hitler, although a Catholic, never committed a grave enough sin to merit excommunication. Such an action on the church's part might have saved millions of lives.
When politicians make their decisions, they consider what they think are the demographics of their area: if they perceive that everybody is Christian or supportive of a religious agenda, that is how they will tend to vote. Many of the proselytizing churches' influence is based on the number of members they claim. You will note that the Mormons, for instance, constantly mention their numbers; and, in press releases they like to be referred to as 'fast-growing.' The fact is, that a large percentage of these members are 'inactive,' a church euphemism for people who have stopped coming. Their theory being that although they do not attend services, contribute no time or money, and no longer practice Mormon ways, in their hearts they are still Mormons, and can still be counted as members. The same with JWs, Moonies and Scientologists. Typical 'conversion' enthusiasm lasts about three years, and then cools off.
How do you get excommunicated?
As of 1983 there are nine canons under which excommunication can take place. Five of them only apply to priests or bishops. One of the others is physically attacking the pope, and criminal acts can hardly be recommended. Another is 'violation of sacred species', normally called desecrating a consecrated host. It is hard to imagine doing this without committing a criminal act and it would certainly deeply offend almost everybody. Next to last is procuring of abortion'. Excommunication for this is supposed to be automatic, but it only applies to the doctor and the woman involved. I am told the church does not seek out such cases. In any case one would hardly choose an abortion solely for the sake of excommunication.
This leaves canon 1364, section 1 'Apostasy, heresy, or schism'. This involves automatic excommunication, if you can convince the church that it applies to you. The most common usage of this canon is when a former Catholic embraces another religion. Obviously, if you are now a Muslim, a Mormon or a Jehovah's Witness, you are automatically no longer a Catholic.
It is your task to convince the church that you, as an atheistic secular humanist, are in the same 'non-Catholic' category as a Muslim or Buddhist.
In your favor is a nineteenth century ruling which stated that 'those who make a public renunciation of all religion may be subsumed under this category [apostates].' You will need to write a letter to your current parish. It should include the necessary information to meet all of the criteria for deserving to be excommunicated.
The church's criteria for meriting excommunication. The church is patronizing to atheists. They can easily recognize another superstition, but, being unfamiliar with rationality, they have difficulty accepting the decision to renounce all mumbo jumbo. They have, however, officially established these criteria for judging all cases of excommunication:
You must act. Mere thought is not enough. You should be able to cite memberships in freethought and humanist groups. You should cite actions you have taken, such as, letters written, demonstrations attended, meetings attended, magazine subscriptions, etc.
You must be persistent. This must take place over a long period of time. If at first you don't succeed ... Cite long commitment, and keep trying and keep writing.
You must be contumacious. As in: I am firm, you are contumacious, he is pig-headed. Do not waver or indicate any hesitation. It is not necessary to be impolite, but do not be unclear in your condemnation of Catholicism in order to avoid offence.
You must be aware that this involves excommunication. For them, ignorance of canon law is an excuse. State in your letter that you are aware of this, that you know what the consequences are and that this is what you wish to happen.
You have to be a Roman Catholic. Obviously. In your letter, make them aware of this by telling them the parish where you were baptised and the date.
They have a duty to other Roman Catholics. Your mental state is something that no one knows except you. You are the only expert on your own non-religious status. They have a duty to inform other Roman Catholics about this change in you so that they do not mishandle their dealings with you. In terms of marriage, communion, death and so on, you should be treated as a non-Catholic. If they fail to do this, they are not dealing fairly with the Catholics in their charge.
You can probably start by sending in a polite written request. Simply write and give the information about the place and date of your baptism, state that you no longer consider yourself to be a Catholic, (or Lutheran, or Methodist) and wish to have your name removed from the church records. This has worked in the case of the Lutheran Evangelical Church. If they write back, refusing to remove your name, you can reply, using the example below to convince them that you really deserve to be excommunicated.
Fill out the handy form below and send it in to your local priest. This may only get things started. Be prepared to continue for a long time. Remember: each person who does this makes it easier for the next person. The point is to take power away from the churches, and to convince politicians to take the views, needs and requirements of atheists and humansists into account.
I am an atheist. I hereby renounce all the trappings of religion. I renounce all blessings, benefits, graces, sanctification, and advantages supposedly conferred on me by any religion or by any religious act done by me or on my behalf in the past, present or future. I condemn as monstrous the idea of original sin, and renounce any baptism done on my behalf to wash it away. I reject as ridiculous the idea of an atoning sacrifice and spurn its presumed benefits. I do not believe that any god, supernatural realm or afterlife exists, and will not act as if they did. I do not believe that any book, building, place, person, thing or action is holy and will not pretend that they are. I do not think that praying is anything more than talking to oneself and will not make believe that it is. I do not believe that any person is more sanctified than any other, or that any human being should be elevated above another in any way, due to ancestry, race, gender, occupation, belief or for any other reason and will not feign that I do. As a principled person and a rational being, it pains me that someone, somewhere may be counting me as an adherent of an irrational superstition which has done and is doing irreparable harm to humanity and with which I profoundly disagree. Please remove my name from the roster of the church, and record that I am no longer a Roman Catholic. Please send me confirmation of this action. Please do this as soon as possible.
* The following update was received from Fr. Rob Dye, a Catholic priest who's been known to post to a.r.c. I've quoted his note in its entirety:
"The church will also refuse to marry couples if the union cannot be fertile, which has caused untold anguish to couples wherein one partner was handicapped or otherwise infertile."
This is innaccurate, and you may want to correct it in the interests of accuracy.
More accurate is that a couple cannot be married if the man is impotent (Offhand, I cannot think what the equivalent condition for a woman would be...whatever would make her incapable of intercourse). Fertility or lack of same is not at issue.
The summary, as it used to be put (crudely) by seminarians was :"You have to be able to get it up, get it in, and get it off."
This goes to the theology of the Church regarding the unitive nature of sexuality, rather than the procreative nature of sexuality, which appears to be the contention of your argument.
I offer this to you, not as argument, but as an opportunity for your criticism to be based on accurate statements.
Robert M. Dye