Paul Constant has an enraged plea for excommunication in The Stranger. Constant writes:
I demand to be excommunicated because I do not believe women are second-class citizens. I demand to be excommunicated because your missionaries are informing impoverished citizens of third-world countries that birth control is a sin when it is in fact the single most important thing they could do to gain some small amount of control over their economic situation and health. I demand to be excommunicated because your church has become a hate group as virulent as any this world has ever seen, one that is unnaturally obsessed with the sex lives of good men and women across the planet. I demand to be excommunicated because I do not condone child rape or the concealment of child rape.
I don’t think any sane bishop would excommunicate even the most heretical baptized Catholic these days, simply because they need the numbers. In fact, I wonder just who does get excommunicated these days. What do you have to do, deny the Holocaust? Rape deaf children? Masturbate in private?
There is an easier way, Paul. It’s called debaptism. In Italy they do it every year. There is also a UK version.
Raffaele Carcano of Italy’s UAAR, in an interview with the author of this blog, said:
So-called debaptism is nothing more than the legal translation of a basic human right: the right to change religion, or have none at all. Debaptism (in Italy) makes a break with the Catholic Church, and therefore the right not to be denigrated by the Church for one’s behavior.
Italian law has unfortunately recognized that, in questions of faith, the baptized are “subject” to the ecclesiastical hierarchies and must be “obedient” to them. Debaptism serves to avoid this. One can also debaptize … because one doesn’t share certain attitudes of the Church. […] Anyone can find the reason he or she prefers.
Take heart, Paul. I bet if you write the UAAR an email they will walk you through the process.
Lately I’ve been fascinated by the debaptism phenomenon in Italy, called “sbattezzo.” The numbers of debaptisms aren’t high yet (a few thousand are presumed), and it’s difficult to gauge exactly how many people debaptise themselves (I prefer the reflexive form) because the only records are kept by the Catholic church itself. Being a strictly individual act, there is no association of debaptized persons. The option is, however, promoted by the Italian Union of Rationalist Atheists and Agnostics (UAAR) as coherent with religious freedom and freedom from religion.
Below are three videos about debaptism. They’re in Italian, so get a dictionary out if you have trouble understanding. This is one of the most interesting new developments in Italy in recent years, challenging the widely held belief that “all Italians are Catholics” and, far more importantly, the self-granted authority of the Catholic church over the lives of unwilling subjects.
It’s important, in my view, that people know that debaptism is an option. I’ve never been baptised, so this is not my personal war against the Catholic church (in case you were worried). But it is consonant with human rights and individual freedom to be able to undo a symbolic gesture like baptism. There are also legal aspects related to Canon Law, but that’s Adele Orioli’s job (the woman in the videos) to explain. I’d bet most people don’t even know they have this right, which is why they’ve launched this campaign.
Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.