Wherein I Learn The Meaning of Forever [Hyperbolic Tendencies]
When you actually think about it, forever is a concept that’s tough to get your head around. Even if you believe in an afterlife, forever is still a bit of an abstraction.
This came into startling clarity when, several weeks ago, I decided to officially break my ties with the church in which I was raised, a task that’s been cluttering my to do list for about 25 years. My decision to finally take action came after learning that I am counted as an “active” church member in statistics used by religious lobbyists in Washington.
No, thank you.
I called the church at which I was ceremoniously dunked in the water at the age of four months (and as I never let my father forget without my consent!). The priest insisted that only the bishop could judge if I genuinely intended to leave the Church, despite my assurances that my intentions were indeed such.
He explained that single acts of apostasy, heresy or schism (which can be repented) do not necessarily involve a decision to leave the Church, and so “do not in themselves constitute a formal act of defection if they are not externally concretized and manifested to the ecclesiastical authority in the required manner.” I assured him that my heresy was indeed, a formal act of defection, which would not be repented.
I then asked him to nutshell this for me.
Loosely translated, he said, I needed to write a letter to the bishop and tell him why I wanted to defect. Then in a hushed voice (I could picture him checking to make sure he was alone) he told me that I should make sure my letter was a bit derisive of the church to ensure my intent was clear and unwavering.
I hung up, a little perplexed at having been advised by a priest to deride the church. But hey, this is the group that came up with the Crusades and transubstantiation. I shouldn’t be surprised by anything.
So, I penned my letter:
Dear Bishop Zubik,
This letter today is to inform you of my defection from the Roman Catholic Church.
I was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and baptized at a very tender age at St. Mary of the Mount without my conscious agreement. At 14, I was confirmed into the Catholic Church at St. Valentine under intolerable pressure from my family, peers, and the local priest.
As a committed atheist I strongly regret both ceremonies. I believe I was brainwashed at an early age and I am deeply grateful that I found sense, reason, and logic before the age of twenty. I now understand that formalized religion is responsible for untold suffering in the world and believe it to be the single largest impediment to humanity achieving its potential as a species.
I have made this decision – unilaterally, irrevocably, and finally – in sound mind after years of deliberation, meditation, and study. I appreciate the meaning and gravity of my decision and its ramifications, and hereby affirm that I have no desire to participate in the Catholic sacraments, including Last Rites and funeral services out of respect for those who sincerely believe in its truth and power.
I acknowledge that I make this declaration under solemn oath, being of sound mind and body, and in the presence of a witness who can testify as to the validity of this document.
Can you please tell me exactly what steps I need to take to become un-baptized and unconfirmed? I am happy to pay a small fee to have my name removed from whatever records are in existence – especially if you can provide a certificate that verifies my new non-church member status.
Thank you in advance for your time and assistance in this important matter. I look forward to receiving official confirmation of this action at your earliest convenience.
Should you require further information to proceed, please advise accordingly.
Very Truly Yours,
I received a letter from the bishop indicating that he did, in fact, believe I had made a formal act of defection from the Catholic Church and that this act would be noted in the baptismal registry just like other “events” such as marriage (oh, the irony).
Victory! I began to uncork the champagne. Until I read the next paragraph…
He was clear to point out that my defection was unrelated to the fact of the baptism: it was not a “de-baptism.”
“The fact of having been baptized remains 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”.
Of course the event of being baptized took place, I don’t dispute that. There are embarrassing pictures of baby-me wearing a white dress proving it happened. Despite the fact that I reject everything the church believes, and even believe that there’s no higher power to bond me to in baptism, I am unable to undo this thing I didn’t ask for in the first place.
In other words, according to the Church, I’m stuck with them forever.
We’ll see about that.
Planning out what to do for eternity a bit too daunting to tackle today? Instead, read a copy of Hell House: The Awakening. It’s guaranteed escapism as its finest! That’s not enough fodder for procrastination? Then follow me and my hyperbolic tendencies on Twitter.
featured image credit: MetalRiot