Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Opting out of Catholicism (NPR audio)

"A Quest for De-Baptism," NPR.org (Weekend Edition, Jan. 29, 2012); Wisdom Quarterly

(NPR) In France, an elderly man is fighting to make a formal break with the Catholic Church.

He's taken the church to court over its refusal to let him nullify his baptism, in a case that could have far-reaching effects.

Seventy-one-year-old Rene LeBouvier's parents and his brother are buried in a churchyard in the tiny village of Fleury in northwest France. He himself was baptized in the Romanesque stone church and attended mass here as a boy.

"The Voice of God is Government" (Bad Religion)

LeBouvier says this rural area is still conservative and very Catholic, but nothing like it used to be. Back then, he says, you couldn't even get credit at the bakery if you didn't go to mass every Sunday.

LeBouvier grew up in that world and says his mother once hoped he'd become a priest. But his views began to change in the 1970s, when he was introduced to free thinkers.

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"They sent me a copy of my records, and in the margins next to my name, they wrote that I had chosen to leave the church," he says.

As he didn't believe in God anymore, he thought it would be more honest to leave the church. So he wrote to his diocese and asked to be un-baptized.

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That was in the year 2000. A decade later, LeBouvier wanted to go further. In between were the pedophile scandals and the pope preaching against condoms in AIDS-racked Africa, a position that LeBouvier calls "criminal."

Again, he asked the church to strike him from baptismal records. When the priest told him it wasn't possible, he took the church to court.

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Last October, a judge in Normandy ruled in his favor. The diocese has since appealed, and the case is pending.

"One can't be de-baptized," says Rev. Robert Kaslyn, dean of the School of Canon Law at the Catholic University of America. More

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