Culture

How to Get Excommunicated Without Hurting the Pope or Desecrating the Host

Holy red tape!
IMAGE Life of Martin Luther and the Heroes of the Reformation (c. 1874) by H. Bruel c/o Wikimedia Commons
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Centuries ago, the very thought of excommunication terrified Catholics. They believed that the only way to attain salvation in the afterlife was through the Church. Getting kicked out of the House of God meant that their souls would burn in Hell. They'd be toasted for eternity. 

Giving them Hell

When science gained a foothold in our consciousness, the horror of excommunication lost some of its intensity. Because, when you think about it, all the claims about Hell is—technically—hearsay. Although Dante Alighieri did a stellar job of describing the Hell of every Catholic's nightmare in Inferno, there's no way for us to confirm if Hell is real. 

French philosopher and playwright Jean-Paul Sartre, though, already located Hell. In his celebrated play, No Exit, Sartre declared: "Hell is other people." For disgruntled Catholics, make that, "Hell is other Catholics." Because, really, it's not Jesus they object to, it's the Catholics who give the Church a bad name.

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These days, those who have become disillusioned with the Catholic Church say that they'd rather be excommunicated than be forced to listen to a priest deliver yet another fire-and-brimstone sermon to justify the Church's condemnation of divorce, condoms, same-sex couples, Lady Gaga, Madonna, and Halloween. There's also the issue of people who use religion to justify their frighteningly despotic leanings.

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Chucking the Church

But how does one get excommunicated anyway? We all know it takes more than tearing up one Pope's photo on Saturday Night Live or cursing out another Pope for causing traffic to get kicked out of the Church. 

Excommunication is a complicated thing—although it doesn't seem to be as tedious as getting a Church annulment. In a way, it's easier to sever your spritual ties to God than someone you used to love. 

There are a number of acts that would get an ordinary person instantly excommunicated.

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From 1738 until 1983, becoming a Freemason would be enough to get you excommunicated. Now, the Church only issues an interdict that prohibits the people concerned from participating in certain Catholic rites such as communion.

So, now, the quickest way for you to get excommunicated is if you harm the Pope. This isn't only wrong in so many levels, it's also close to impossible as the Pontiff has bodyguards. Besides, even if you manage to pull it off, you'd get arrested for it. That is, if millions of devoted Catholics don't kill you first. 

Instant excommunication is also dished out to any person who throws away the consecrated host or uses it for a sacrilegious purpose. In the event that you manage to get away with this, you could get arrested and charged with malicious mischief. 

The only non-confrontational or non-violent way to get excommunicated is through apostasy, which is your abandonment of the Catholic Church. Playwright Allan Lopez has actually attempted to get himself excommunicated this way.

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Excommunication in progress

Lopez recalls that he decided to go on the excommunication route after getting fed up with the Church's pronouncements on issues such as reproductive health. He revealed, “Naiirita ako tuwing may nagsasalita sa TV na nagsasabing, 'Millions of Catholics stand by this (I get irritated each time someone speaks on TV declaring, 'Millions of Catholics stand by this.'” 

Lopez couldn't stand being part of the Church anymore. Thus, on July 9, 2012, Lopez sent an email to Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) seeing guidance on how he could get himself kicked out of the Church. He wrote: “First of all, let me apologize for sending this inquiry to all of your offices (Media, Research, and Legal) at the same time. I am unsure where to send this question. I am a baptized Catholic but I do not wish to be counted as a member of this Church. The baptism occurred when I was an infant, when I have no choice over the matter.”

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The CBCP Secretariat replied to Lopez on July 11, 2012, saying, “[We're] sorry to inform you that there is no formal process to discredit your baptismal record. But if you want to be clarified on the said matter, just approach the parish priest of your place or any priest whom you know. God bless! 

Lopez thanked the CBCP Secretariat for replying to his excommunication query. However, in his July 12, 2012 email to them, he also pointed out: “Will the local priest be able to give me details on what steps to take? What I essentially want to achieve is disassociate myself from your religious organization, even on paper. I find it quite difficult to believe that there is no way to take me out of your list, since I was signed up for this as an infant (without my consent).”

Lopez's follow-up email got a reponse from the CBCP secretary general at that time, Msgr. Joselito Asis, who provided a step-by-step guide on how he could have his name removed from the roster of Catholics. With Lopez's permission, we're sharing what Asis explained to him below:

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1| In every Catholic parish, there is a baptismal register, wherein all the baptized are listed and that is the proof that the one is baptized Catholic. There is a column in that book "Observanda" or observations. If the baptized Catholic has left the Catholic Church, a note is written in that column. In your case, it can be noted there.

2| The problem is there are more than 5,000 parishes throughout the country. We need to locate what parish you have been baptized. Thus, there is need of the baptismal certificate in order to identify the exact parish, and then make the necessary annotation in the Baptismal Book. Now, if you cannot produce a baptismal certificate, how can we know that you are really baptized Catholic. If there is not proof of baptism, no need for you to be delisted in the book.

3| In case, you have a copy of the baptismal certificate, it is indicated there the place of the church of baptism. You may directly request the church, presenting the certificate, that you wish to be delisted in the Book of Baptism.

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Divine red tape

Enlightened by Asis' straightforward guide, Lopez then went to the parish where he was baptized. He thought it would be easy to pull out the record of his baptism but—for some reason—the keeper of records told him that the documentation on his baptism couldn't be found. Despite this, Lopez persisted in looking for his baptismal record.

It's been five years since Lopez got the ball rolling on his quest to be excommunicated. He disclosed, "Nagdaan ako sa parokya nun. Pinabalik ako after some months. Naka-tatlong balik na ako, di pa rin nahahanap ang record ko. Nung pang-apat na balik ko patay na yung kausap ko the first three times (Initially, I was asked to go back to the parish after some months. The first three times I was there, my baptismal record wasn't found. On my fourth visit, I was told that the person I had been talking to during the first three times that I was there had already died)."

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Despite this, Lopez said, "Hindi ko pa sinusukuan 'yan. I-fo-follow-up ko pa rin (I haven't given up on it. I'll still follow up on it)."

We can't help but wonder if Lopez's baptismal record is really lost or if it's simply being kept by people who can't bear the thought of his soul burning in Hell. Perhaps, they think they're doing him a favor—never mind if he has already expressed his desire break away from the fold. That's essentially the problem with so many misguided Catholics—they like playing God way too much.

 

Note: The author—a lapsed Catholic who has also entertained the thought of being excommunicated despite being a big fan of Jesus—thanks Allan Lopez for sharing his emails.

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