Unlike most Protestant denominations, Catholics, like Mormons, keep an official list of all current church ‘members’, and I am not proud to count myself among them. I have toyed with the idea of attempting to officially excommunicate myself from the Catholic church before, but I’ve been hesitant. Would doing so be childish? Why would it be necessary? I already don’t believe, don’t practice, don’t give money, and don’t attend services. What does it matter if my name is on some list?
For one thing, it has symbolic power. The very act of taking this proactive step is liberating and exciting.
My religious upbringing was not anywhere near as bad as some of the horror stories I hear from conservative Christian evangelical and baptist communities in the United States. Though Catholicism was the dominant religion in the city where I grew up, and this certainly helped shaped the minds and homophobic attitudes of the people there. I went to the strange hybrid of public and Catholic schools that are for some reason allowed to exist in Canada. When my current partner told me that his high school had a gay-straight alliance – I couldn’t relate. At all. You meant that there were out gay people in your high school? And support for them? The word ‘gay’ was mentioned as something other than a derogatory term? This was completely outside my experience. The only thing we learned about gay people in school was the official Catholic party line – ‘it’s okay to have gay desires, but if you act on them, it’s a sin and you go to hell unless you repent.’
Obviously this is intensely personal for me, which is why I questioned my motives for writing this letter and for posting it publicly here. Is it some kind of vengeance? I think that has something to do with it, but more than that it is an emotional purging. It is a symbol of my withdrawal of any support – even just on paper – for an institution that has wronged me, and many others. This isn’t just about my personal distaste for Catholic anti-gay bigotry, the church has a strong history of being anti-human in quite a few areas.
Enough introductions. I will let the letter speak for itself.
Bishop Frederick Henry,
I was baptized in St. Patrick’s cathedral in Medicine Hat, Alberta, on Nov 13, 1988, and I was confirmed in that same church in a ceremony which you attended in 1999. I write seeking excommunication from the Roman Catholic church, in accordance with canon law: “1364: an apostate from the faith, a heretic, or a schismatic incurs a latae sententiae excommunication.” I request that my name be removed from all Catholic records, baptismal, confirmatory, or otherwise – and that I no longer be counted among official Catholic membership numbers or statistics.
I am an apostate. I do not believe that Jesus was the son of God. I have, and will continue, to publicly speak out against the church, whose authority I reject wholeheartedly. This letter, and all updates regarding it, will be publicly posted on my website. I am not certain that anything which could be called a god exists, but if it does, I am certain that the Roman Catholic clergy are almost entirely ignorant of its nature. There are few people I would trust less.
My faith, if it was ever there, never meant much to me. It always seemed irrelevant. I chose ‘Aaron’ for my confirmation name out of laziness and apathy. The two times I participated in confession, I lied, and made up ‘sins’ to confess, because I did not feel comfortable sharing my true wrongdoings with old men who were strangers to me, and whom I perceived as greedily wishing to know my darkest thoughts.
While we have many theological and philosophical differences, if I felt that the Roman Catholic church was simply a neutral institution of misguided, yet well meaning people, I could perhaps be content to simply not attend church (I haven’t for years) and privately not practice the faith. However, that is not my feeling or my conviction.
I, of course, recognize the wonderful efforts of various Catholic charity organizations around the world and the good works they do. However, as we are both well aware, your organization has a darker aspect to it that I would be remiss to ignore.
The systematic cover-up and implicit condonement of child rape committed by many catholic officials (not least of the whom is the former pope, Benedict XVI) is monstrous. To aid and abet these criminal rapists by firstly, not turning them over to the police, and secondly, allowing them to continue practicing as priests, is a moral evil so high that I scratch my head at how any of your churches still bring in parishioners. Any person who continues to support the Catholic church is complicit in these crimes, and by continuing to allow my name to be listed as a Catholic, I would be as well.
Your church is actively anti-human in its condemnation and suppression of the rights of homosexuals. This one hits closer to home for me, as I am gay. I attended Catholic schools. The positive effect the church could have had on my school life by simply accepting and advocating for gay youth is immeasurable. I might not have lived hidden and in shame for over 20 years. Luckily, I had enough moral sense that when I was told the official Catholic teaching on homosexuality, I did not question myself, I questioned the church.
In the future, I am planning to have children and raise a family, though I know that I will not be able to adopt through a Catholic organization. If they had their way, I would not be allowed to raise children at all. Unless I agreed to lie to myself and my loved ones, and make some unlucky woman my unfulfilled wife, your organization says I am unfit. I believe women deserve better than a husband who does not want them, and I deserve the kind of sex and love that fulfills me. To stray from my own truth would make me unfit.
Unlike what your bible says, I believe women are equal to men. I don’t believe unprepared straight youth should be rushed into marriage and parenthood because the church has a grudge against condoms and premarital sex. I believe women should have the right to make what I imagine is one of the most difficult decisions they may ever have to make – having an abortion – without resorting to the alleyway coat hanger affairs that are prevalent in areas where choice is illegal.
The knowledge that on some list somewhere, my name is being counted as a member of your criminal, hateful, misanthropic, misogynist and homophobic organization eats away at my soul. I ask that I be removed from all registries or lists which count me as a member of your church.
I will keep everyone updated on any responses I receive.