September 11, 2018

How to Leave the Catholic Church

Catholic church

Are you disgusted with the Catholic Church over their opposition to reproductive rights and all the harm it has caused? Is your head still reeling over the latest in what seems like a never-ending series of scandals involving their priests raping children while Church hierarchy covers it up and various spokesmen find creative ways to blame the victims? Yeah, me too. In fact, I'm not sure "sick" even begins to describe how I feel about it. It is difficult to comprehend why anyone would want to remain a member of the Catholic Church these days.

If you were ever baptized in the Church, they still count you as a member. It does not matter that you've been an atheist for years. As far as the Catholic Church is concerned, you are still one of them. It also does not matter whether you were so young at the time you were baptized that you had no idea what was happening. They'll keep counting you until you make your "defection" official.

The good news is that it is possible to leave the Catholic Church. They do not make it easy, but it can be done. The process involves the following steps:

  1. Complete a declaration of defection.
  2. Send it to your local diocese.
  3. Realize that they may request a meeting to discuss your decision. You don't have to comply, but you do need to respond to the request or they may use this as an excuse not to process your request.

Maybe if enough people leave the Church, they will be persuaded to make some necessary changes. Then again, maybe they'll just continue to find new victims in Africa and South America. Perhaps leaving the Catholic Church is one of those things one should do for oneself and one's own piece-of-mind rather than primarily as an attempt to send a message to an organization that does not seem to be interested in listening. If nothing else, it would be one way to make sure that one is not complicit in their crimes.

Update: Here is a relevant and discouraging story from 2018 that was recently brought to my attention. This makes it sound like the Catholic Church is determined to count anyone who was ever baptized and deny them a way out.

An early version of this post appeared at Atheist Revolution in 2010. It was updated in 2018 and 2020 to fix broken links, improve clarity, and provide additional information for those interested in cutting their ties to this corrupt organization.