re: excommunication

As the direct descendent of individuals excommunicated from the RC Church back about 1520s - 1530s, when this actually meant their lives were at risk, I find it odd that this type of question would seriously be asked in the 21st Century. Just don’t go to church or participate in the sacraments anymore, pretty simple, right? Or are people still in the grip of this superstition?

In fact, it was asked and answered in the previous century: How do I go about getting excommunicated? – dated January 16, 1998.

Notice his/her name, Bobby Jo Wojtyla–probably a play on words about the birth name of John Paul II, which was Karol Józef Wojtyła.

Have a fine day. FatherGeorge

Bobby Jo is probably asking about apostasy, not ex-communication. There are cases when this is or might have been important.

In Spain, in Franco’s time, the only registry for births, marriages and deaths was that of the church. Though these functions have long gone to the secular domain, those old books still remain and, arguably, their existence is in violation of current personal privacy laws. However, not a month ago there was a case in the news of a guy, born in Franco’s time, who asked a judge to order the local church to erase him from its records and had his request denied since, it is now assumed that being in those books does not involve ‘membership’ of the association (the church) but are simply an historical artifact. Of course, the church does believe you are still a member, one of so many absurd beliefs they hold true, but that has no legal value in any sense. The state does not keep count of your religion so it doesn’t care if you have or don’t have one. Besides, the procedure of obliterating the requester name would damage the registry book which nowadays has historical value.

Okay, so I get the candle part of the procedure. And the phrases probably come from a book. But where does the bell part come in?

Presumably from the ringing of bells in the church during the ceremony.

If you want to see this in action, go rent Becket, in which Richard Burton gets to excommunicate Lord Gilbert, one of Henry II’s buddies, and sets himself up for a rather unpleasant end. The ceremony is performed in all its awesomeness, and you get to hear Burton recite the necessary words, which is worth the price of rental all on its own.

Yeah, there’s something about a curse invoked in a Welsh accent that can make the blood run cold.

Speaking of which, am I the only one reading this bit:

As implying something rather SFX-ey? It sounds like you get summoned to the sacristy, standing alone until, "VVWHOOOOMP!!! thirteen lances of blinding light stab down around you. When your vision clears, you find yourself surrounded by…

old guy in gowns. What a let down.

I’m not sure about the US, but my family has been officially excommunicated from the Catholic church in Australia for a few months now - there were just a couple of forms to fill in. We hadn’t been to church in years and were unhappy about the fact that our names could still be included in the church’s lists to make up their membership numbers. There are lists kept, but I’m not sure at what level (local, state, federal, probably not global, but who knows?). If you’re fed up with the church, fill out the forms. I imagine that the church’s membership figures are incredibly inflated with non-practicing/believing people who haven’t been bothered to have their names struck out - don’t let them use your name too!

Generally, the catholic church believes in a policy of once a catholic always a catholic. I don’t think most people go for excommunication to get out of it, though. Usually you can send a letter of resignation to your bishop and they’ll take you off the rolls as well as include a copy with your baptism certificate at whichever parish performed that ceremony so that your descendants can’t get you a catholic burial.

You were definately not officially excommunicated. Instead you were removed from the membership list of your local church. If you went to a Catholic church you’d be allowed to recieve communion.

Yeah, it sounds like to me Cassandra’s family was just removed from membership of the local parish. Cassandra, do you know what they did about your Baptismal & Confirmation certificates that might be on file? Does the parish still have those, in case anyone changes their mind and wants to, say, get married in the Church or have the Last Rites or anything like that?

In any case, that’s not the same thing as excommunication.

In the Netherlands census data is kept on a county level, including religious flavor.
Although this information is highly confidential, exceptions are made for nazis looking for Jews during WWII, and churches.
In addition, both the Catholic and the Protestant church have central administrations keeping track of the flock.
The first to welcome me to my new home after a move is always the Catholic Church.
In effect, it is the county that does the church’s administration here.

A growing number of people is unhappy with this situation (for various reasons, but I guess most noticably the fact that they don’t want to be associated with a religious movement). A popular website even offered a “cancelation service” for a while.

More serious is the site that provides a six step roadmap for “ending your membership”:

  1. Request the county to treat your personal data as “secret”.
  2. Request the central administration of your church to remove you from their files.
  3. inform SILA, the (private) organization that apparently uses the county data, of your intentions. Do not even attempt to reach them by email.
  4. Cancel the membership at your local church community. This is the most important step they say, and again it is advised to use ye ole mail.
  5. Get yourself removed from the baptism register. This one is tricky because the church holds to the dogma that you cannot be unbaptized (see Cecil’s column on baptism). However, in spain they made some progress on this issue, so keep pushing.
  6. Get removed from the “whatever-the-English-word-is-for-the-area-over-which-a-bishop-resides”.

Having succesfully done all this, you will have erased any affiliation with the (catholic) church, and there is no need to go through further trouble getting yourself excommunicated, which, as Cecil mentions, isn’t going to make you an ex-catholic anyway.

Personally I don’t think either one is worth the trouble. Specially not if your motivation is the bad rep the church is getting lately.
I hear a lot of bad things about the government, but how many people actively attempt to cancel their citizenship?

That’s called a “diocese”.

Or maybe, if you’re dealing with political rather than ecclesiastical history, a “bishopric”.

The usual phrase is “bell, book, and candle” and besides the recitation and candle dashing the Perfect Master mentions, the bishop rings a bell to signify a death knell and closes a Bible to signify the separation from the church. I’ll leave it to Cece to explain why he left those bits out of the description.

Bell Book and Candle is also the name of a 1958 comedy. I remembered seeing it as a kidlet and rented it thru Netflix. With Jimmy Stewart, Kim Novak, Jack Lemmon, and Ernie Kovacs, how could it go wrong? It hasn’t aged well.