A week ago, I decided to try to get excommunicated from the Catholic Church.
Douglas Adams has been playing on my mind recently (I’m 42) and I wanted to do something he would approve of before I hit the far less notable 43.
I have hated religion for a very long time. I was brought up as a Catholic and religiously (ahem) went to church from the time I was baptised by a visibly drunk parish priest, until the age of 16 – when most of us have stopped believing in Santa, the tooth fairy and the notion that a wafer in a Catholic church is actually human flesh to be eaten by the cannibals sitting in the pews.
I thought the excommunication process would involve Latin incantations, a Dan Brown plot and at least a couple of crucifixions.
But in today’s world, getting excommunicated only takes a couple of emails to the right people and you’re done. You’re not even threatened with eternal damnation in the fires of hell, surrounded by devils sticking red hot pokers up your arse forever more.
Here’s how I got excommunicated inside a week.
It’s the best thing I’ve done since I started wearing Nike Free Run 2 trainers last year – and that is saying something.
My first step was a letter to the Archbishop of Westminster, Vincent Nichols – the top Catholic (sheep?)dog in England – telling him why I wanted to be excommunicated from his flock.
I am writing to ask you to excommunicate me from the Catholic Church. I understand there is a vacancy in Leeds – hence me going to the top.
I was baptised at the church of … in …, West Yorkshire in the autumn of 1970.
I utterly renounce the teachings of the church including the the virgin birth, trans-substantiation and the resurrection.
I have been atheist since the age of 16 and have been evangelical in my views, attempting to convince members of my family and others to renounce their views and join the ranks of atheists.
I view the role of religions as a negative force in this world, holding power over people’s minds, discouraging rational thought and encouraging sectarianism.
This is not a flippant request. I simply do not want to be counted among the number of Catholics on this planet. I am fundamentally opposed to your teachings and find my own moral code without need of a religious underpinning.
Please take the necessary steps to take me off your registers and to confirm my excommunication.
If you need any more information please let me know.
I also wrote the same email to the vacant Bishop of Leeds. (This is not a criticism of the Bishop’s mental capacity – there just isn’t a Bishop at the moment.)
I received a very nice but firm letter the ‘Vice-Chancellor’ telling me if I wanted to be excommunicated, I had to go local. (This came as a bit of a shock – I thought my request would have been sent to the Pope in Rome and, through the Pope, on to God in Heaven.)
Dear Mr. Henry,
Thank you for your email of 13th April, which has been forwarded to this department by the Archbishop’s Personal Assistant.
Although there is no Diocesan Bishop in Leeds at present, as you are resident within that Diocese you do come within their jurisdiction and it is a matter which should be dealt with by the Leeds Diocesan authorities.
Can I suggest that you contact the Leeds Diocesan Chancellor, who I am sure will be able to help you:
The Very Rev. Mgr. Canon J. B. Sharp,
62 Headingley Lane,
He does not appear to have a direct email in the Catholic Directory. However, if you would prefer to email, I am sure the Diocesan Administrator’s secretary will pass your request on to him: firstname.lastname@example.org
I am sorry we are unable to deal with your request here in Westminster, but hope this information will be of help to you.
With every good wish,
Brenda E. Roberts MA
LONDON SW1P 1QJ
I wrote to Bryan (not Brian, the ‘very naughty boy’) and included my original excommunication request I’d sent to the Archbishop.
I wonder if you would be kind enough to read the following email chain in which I am asking to be excommunicated from the Catholic Church.
I understand from the Archbishop that this has to be implemented at diocesan level.
Please would you get back to me if you need any further information in order for my excommunication to take place.
Ideally I would like written confirmation once I have been excommunicated.
Best wishes and thank you in advance.
And this morning (18 April) at 9:44am, I received the following note from him.
Dear Mr Henry,
I have received a copy of your email to the Archbishop of Westminster and the reply you received.
By virtue of Canon 1364 of the Code of Canon Law an apostate from the faith, a heretic or a schismatic incurs an automatic excommunication .
This would apply to yourself in view of the statements made in your email to the Archbishop of Westminster.
I understand that you have already been in touch with the diocese of Leeds about this matter and received a promise to have a copy of your statement attached to the baptismal record.
Mgr Bryan Sharp
Chancellor Diocese of Leeds
So that’s it.
Excommunication in under a week
And with a promise that my heretical email will be stapled to my baptismal records.
I think Douglas would be proud.
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