By Sechavar

Disclaimer: I will make fun of the Catholic church in this article. I also do not deny that portions of this article are motivated by my rebellion against my father. I do not give a fuck either way.

I recently read this article that informed me about some super dubious goings on in the Miami Archdiocese. I was pleased to learn that parishoners weren’t putting up with their shit, even though they were definitely the David to the Holy See’s Goliath. Except the original David wins. Blessed are the meek, bitches.

After a long long list of hypocritical behavior, I reached the comments section where I learned that in order to leave the church one simply cannot throw up a peace sign as they exit the premises and never return, just as one cannot simply walk into Mordor. You can’t just give up communion, participation and attendence. You have to formally resign yourself. Like a public figure or something. And I didn’t know this. I doubt my mom knew. It’s possible that my dad knew. Church workings are most definitely his thang.

I left the church when my father left us. Not to get into a “look how awful my parents’ divorce was” because I’ve heard worse than what I went through. Quite simply, my father was the main antagonist when it came to my family unit showing up for spiritual inspection every Sunday morning at 10 am. As well as every night during holy week. And numerous other church functions and feast days. He was a lectern and a sacristan (read scripture to half asleep people and helped to hand out holy Jesus wafers with watered down zinfandel). And with his “insistence” my younger brother and I were altar servers, underwent first holy communion, confirmation, and later I even started to read scripture to half asleep people and hand out Jesus wafers and discount wine. I was actually pretty complicit in it. I liked the sense of purpose it gave me and knowing I was participating in ancient rites being similarly enacted around the world. The dark side was that I certianly felt holier than thou in the face of other Christians because I thought being Catholic was the one true faith and everyone else was wrong, and I was important and special because I took an active role. Obviously, none of this was cancelled out by the fact that I’d made out with another altar server behind the altar during mass on more than one occaision. You see, as long as we didn’t actually have sex it wasn’t a sin!

It wasn’t until my mom kicked my dad out for being an overbearing, emotionallly terrorizing and abusive wanna-be patriarch, only to have him move back to California after a failed attempt at enrolling my half-brother (by the baby sitter he banged while my mother was pregnant with my aforementioned brother) at my high school and quitting his job so he wouldn’t have to pay child support, that I learned what it was like to wake up late on Sundays and not feel guilty about it. Without the presence of my father to make me hate myself at home instead of just in public like a normal developing teenager, I started to come to terms with who I really was and realized you only feel like being yourself is wrong when you’re surrounded by people constantly reminding you that it’s worng.

My mom still goes to church because she enjoys it and I think that’s a healthy spiritual outlet, attending a service you enjoy and feel that you benefit from it in some way. For my brother and I, it started out as “Fuck yeah, no more church!” and then slowly we came to realize it’s a good thing we weren’t going anymore because it fostered resentment and more cognitive disonance than a teenager should be made to swallow when they’re already feeling like the world is against them just because they have acne or still wear three year old sports bras. But my mom never “made” us go like our father had. She never threatened punishment or displayed violent disapproval. She certainly prodded us, though. I think “Jesus gave his life, the least you can give is one hour a week,” was one of her favorite quips. But her version of spiritual responsibility was mild and reasonable compared to my father’s, who hit my brother in the face once for not being ready for church when he came to collect us during the months between being kicked out and heading heading, back to cali cali.

One time, I was home in DC from Princeton and my mother wanted me to go with her to the Basilica for the Ash Wednesday mass. I went. I sat quietly. I smiled at the babies facing the back of the church while their mothers faced the altar, absentmindedly bouncing them over their shoulders to keep them quiet. I read through some of the literature. That’s probably what I miss the most. All that epic language. But I remained seated when it was time to receive ashes and again when it was time for communion. As a bisexual, pro-choice, pre-marrital sex havin’ heathen like myself, I felt it would be wrong of me to participate in this most sacred though ubiquitous of rites. That if I was going to be out and proud that I most certainly had to respect the church by leaving it alone and dismissing my self from its indulgences. My mother returned to the pew for a second time, peaceful and meditative, a smear of black ash on her chocolate brown forehead and knelt for her post communion prayer. Some people headed straight for the massive doors after their consumption of the transfigured flesh.

When the service was over we left and spoke amicably and I was doing my best to make my mother believe that I still very much had a personal relationship with my interpretation of god. She protested that I should have at least received ashes. I told her it wasn’t necessary and before I could object she’d swiped her thumb over her forehead and was rubbing the ash over my eyebrows. It was playful and silly and so we both laughed while I started to rub it off. But later, while I’m not in the least upset about this particular happenstance, it does remind me of the lengths others are willing to go to impose their faith on you. How in Catholic communities, your body is never your own, so of course they feel they should have say in regulating it.

This, in addition to abstinence only education, rejection of LGBTQ people, or any person, who has an active sex life not sanctioned by marrige for the purpose of pro-creation, and the aforementioned devastatingly ingrained history and culture of hypocrisy, moved me to leave the church. But apparently I never really left! Catholocism is the gift that keeps on giving. Like fruit cake.

You can’t just stop going. You need to sign an  ACTUS FORMALIS DEFECTIONIS AB ECCLESIA CATHOLICA. Until you do, you’re counted as a member of the Catholic Church. I read that and immediately thought “Oh, shit, I’m an unwilling and ignorant statistic!” So, now I need to get my name off that list for good. It’s a small victory, but I feel like it’s the right thing to do.

The process seems simple enough. It’s a form you can get from your local parish and you fill it out and –Voila!– you are an apostate. But here’s the kicker, the church that has my baptismal records is St. Mark’s of Venice, CA. The church where my sister and I were baptized and the church my father and grandfather still attend.

I’m asking for the form via email:

Hi!
My name is Sophia…, born…
I was baptized at St. Mark’s between 1986 and 1990. I can’t remember as I was very young.
I decided to discontinue Catholic practices around the age of 16, except on the behalf of family, but it wasn’t until today that I knew I had to actively terminate my membership with the church through formal means and learned that there is a form I must fill out and submit to the proper authorities.
Please let me know where I can find this form and to whom or where I must return it upon completion.
I am hoping you may have it available as a PDF or word document that you can attach in response to this email. If not, I can pay the offices a visit if necessary.
I am contacting you as opposed to another parish because I’m assuming you would still have access to my baptismal records and therefore it would be easiest for you to confirm my membership before it can be terminated. I apologize if this is incorrect.
Thank you for your time and help and pelase inform me if there’s anything you need me to do on my part!
-Sophia

I’m hoping it’s a PDF. But if I have to go up there, I will.

I’ll keep you posted?

And one more thing. Last time. I promise…Jesus wafers. Okay, I’m done.