The initiative launched by a group called the National Secular Society (NSS) follows atheist campaigns here and elsewhere, including a London bus poster which triggered protests by proclaiming “There’s probably no God.”
“We now produce a certificate on parchment and we have sold 1,500 units at three pounds (4.35 dollars, 3.20 euros) a pop,” said NSS president Terry Sanderson, 58.
John Hunt, a 58-year-old from London and one of the first to try to be “de-baptised,” held that he was too young to make any decision when he was christened at five months old.
The male nurse said he approached the Church of England to ask it to remove his name. “They said they had sought legal advice and that I should place an announcement in the London Gazette,” said Hunt, referring to one of the official journals of record of the British government.
So that’s what he did — his notice of renouncement was published in the Gazette in May 2008 and other Britons have followed suit.
Michael Evans, 66, branded baptising children as “a form of child abuse” — and said that when he complained to the church where he was christened he was told to contact the European Court of Human Rights.
The Church of England said its official position was not to amend its records. “Renouncing baptism is a matter between the individual and God,” a Church spokesman told AFP.
“We are not a ‘membership’ church, and do not keep a running total of the number of baptised people in the Church of England, and such totals do not feature in the statistics that we regularly publish,” he added.
De-baptism organisers say the initiative is a response to what they see as increasing stridency from churches — the latest last week when Pope Benedict XVI stirred global controversy on a trip to AIDS-ravaged Africa by saying condom use could further spread of the disease.
“The Catholic Church is so politically active at the moment that I think that is where the hostility is coming from,” said Sanderson. “In Catholic countries there is a very strong feeling of wanting to punish the church by leaving it.”
In Britain, where government figures say nearly 72 percent of the population list themselves as Christian, Sanderson feels this “hostility” is fueling the de-baptism movement.
Theologian Paul Murray at Durham University disagrees. “That is not my experience,” he said, but concedes that change is in the air.
“We are in an interesting climate where Catholicism and other belief systems have moved into the public, pluralist arena, alongside secularists,” he said.
De-baptism movements have already sprung up in other countries.
In Spain, the high court ruled in favor of a man from Valencia, Manuel Blat, saying that under data protection laws he could have the record of his baptism erased, according to a report in the International Herald Tribune.
Similarly, the Italian Union of Rationalists and Agnostics (UAAR) won a legal battle over the right to file for de-baptism in 2002, according to media reports. The group’s website carries a “de-baptism” form to facilitate matters.
According to UAAR secretary Raffaele Carcano, more than 60,000 of these forms have been downloaded in the past four years and continue to be downloaded at a rate of about 2,000 per month. Another 1,000 were downloaded in one day when the group held its first national de-baptism day last October 25.
Elsewhere, an Argentinian secularist movement is running a “Collective Apostasy” campaign, using the slogan “Not in my name” (No en mi nombre).
Sanderson hopes rulings in other European countries will pave the way for legal action in Britain, since European Union directives require a level of parity among member states’ legislation.
“That would be a good precedent for us to say to the British Information Commissioner: Come on, what’s your excuse?” said Sanderson.
The bus-side posters that hit London in January sported the message: “There’s probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life.”
The scheme was in response to pro-Christian adverts on buses directing passers-by to a website warning those who did not accept Jesus would suffer for eternity in hell.
Comedy writer Ariane Sherine, mastermind of the British bus campaign that saw a copycat version in Barcelona and other cities, said she backs the “de-baptism” movement but insisted the two initiatives were separate.
Sanderson meanwhile remains resolute. “The fact that people are willing to pay for the parchments shows how seriously they are taking them,” he said.
Gov. Kathleen Sebelius received some good news last week when abortionist Dr. George Tiller was found not guilty of breaking state laws regulating late-term abortion. The relationship between Tiller and Sebelius would surely have played a role in her upcoming confirmation hearings had he been found guilty.
But Governor Sebelius got some bad news as well — something not noticed much in Catholic media or the secular press. The bishops of Washington, D.C., and Arlington, Virginia, confirmed publicly they would uphold the declaration of her ordinary, Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City, stating that Governor Sebelius should not present herself for communion.
A spokeswoman for the Washington Archdiocese, Susan Gibbs, said Archbishop Donald Wuerl would expect Sebelius to follow Bishop Naumann’s request while in Washington. Joelle Santolla, spokeswoman for the Arlington Diocese, announced that Bishop Paul Loverde would expect the same while she was in Northern Virginia.
That Archbishop Wuerl and Bishop Loverde would back up Bishop Naumann in regard to the future Secretary of Health and Human Services is a significant development in the effort of some bishops to enforce Canon 915: “Those upon whom the penalty of excommunication or interdict has been imposed or declared, and others who obstinately persist in manifest grave sin, are not to be admitted to holy communion.”
This will send the message to other bishops that if they choose to pronounce members of Congress from their dioceses unfit for communion, their authority will be respected in D.C. and across the Potomac in Virginia. The ramifications are enormous: For example, if Sean Cardinal O’Malley of Boston stated publicly that Sen. John Kerry was in violation of Canon 915, he would not have been able to receive communion at Pope Benedict XVI’s Mass in Washington, D.C., a year ago. Rep. Nancy Pelosi would not have been able to celebrate her elevation to speaker of the House with a special Mass at Trinity College, if Archbishop Neiderhauer had found her wanting according to the standard of Canon 915.
Some will argue that neither Archbishop Wuerl nor Bishop Loverde will attempt, through their priests, to deny Governor Sebelius communion. But this misses the point, and the significance, of how the combined statements of Bishops Naumann, Wuerl, and Loverde have created a new and more vulnerable situation for the pro-abortion Catholic members of Congress. As Archbishop Raymond Burke has explained, Bishop Naumann did not impose a “sanction” on Governor Sebelius; Bishop Naumann asked Sebelius, not the clergy, to apply Canon 915 to herself.
But if Sebelius were to receive communion in D.C. or Northern Virginia, it would likely generate a news story that would mushroom quickly, involving the priest who administered communion and his bishop. This is not news coverage that Sebelius, or the Obama administration, would want to deal with.
No doubt there are priests in both dioceses who would have little compunction about giving communion to pro-abortion Catholic politicians, but whether they want to get into a media-generated spat with their bishop over a high-profile politician is another matter.
A final point: Archbishop Wuerl and Bishop Loverde’s collegial response to Bishop Naumann destabilizes the relationship between pro-abortion Catholic politicians and their bishops back home. The question will arise as to why Governor Sebelius should be the only politician in Washington who has been called to account under Canon 915. What about the dozens of others in Congress who have a 100 percent pro-abortion voting record? What about Vice-President Joe Biden himself?
Will other bishops seize this opportunity to apply Canon 915 to politicians in their dioceses, knowing that Archbishop Wuerl and Bishop Loverde will back them up? Given the determination of the Obama administration and the Congress to roll back all restrictions on abortion, I wouldn’t be surprised.
From Prodigal Daughter:
A friend of mine passed along an article about the Tridentine Mass, “Refugees From the Vernacular Mass.” (New Oxford Review) The author had me with the opening paragraph:
I see there’s a new book out, Why Men Hate Going to Church (Nelson Books). David Murrow, a television writer and producer, decided to write it after years of attending Catholic, Orthodox, mainline Protestant, and evangelical churches. He found that “no matter the name on the outside, there are always more women on the inside.” I haven’t read the book, but according to Peter Steinfels, who wrote a column about it for The New York Times, Murrow cites surveys showing that in most forms of church-related activity women constitute a great majority of participants, generally from 60 to 80 percent, and that most churches are “dominated by women and their values.”
Many years ago, I noticed the very same thing. In fact, I started to call it “the feminization of the culture” before I heard others use the same phrase. Feminism wasn’t satisfied with giving women the right to vote and be paid equally. The agenda seemed to shift toward destroying masculinity altogether. Since men were, as they said, the “enemy,” it wasn’t enough to subdue them but eradicate every aspect of their oppression. The injustice that so many feminists fought against, became the very same tool they used to bludgeon men. The irony was shameful.
There is something about women and spirituality. Women are usually on a quest of one kind or another in order to understand the world around them. For a woman, relationship takes precedence, whether it is the relationship with her friends, her boyfriend or spouse, or God. I believe it is because God built the desire for relationship into women; for instance, Eve was created for relationship with Adam. Adam was first given something to do, which explains why most men would rather pound nails with their bare hands into wood than discuss their “relationships.” Women, on the other hand, can happily discuss relationships until the cows come home. But I digress.
The writer of the article goes on to point out how men, generally, do not attend church. However, he noted that plenty of men were in attendance at a Tridentine Mass. I’ve noticed the same thing. Here are a few reasons why I think men like it.
Men are not distracted. During a typical church service, there is often too much going on. Whether it’s an overly eager worship team that “wants everyone to join in” or constant flow of people assisting at a service, it produces a flurry of activity that often causes a man to think, “Now why did they have to go and do that?” Many times, there seems to be no rhyme or reason to the actions. There are also times when it is obvious that someone didn’t get the memo.
At a Tridentine Mass, it doesn’t seem as disjointed. Everything is flowing toward the same point. The priest, deacon, and servers are engaged in a beautiful liturgy that has been around for hundreds of years. There is deep and profound meaning to each rhythm of the Mass.
Man’s role as the spiritual head is confirmed with the Tridentine Mass. I don’t want to step on the toes of the ladies, but I have to say it. When women take the lead within a worship service, very rarely will a man step up to the plate and join them. I’ve seen it over and over again. Within the last ministry I was involved with, about 80% of the church service activities were completed by women. Did that mean there were few men present? No. Although I’d say the percentage of women was higher than the men, we still had plenty of men. But they didn’t do anything. It was mostly the women who greeted, acted as ushers, took up the collection, and worked the bookstore.
Within the Tridentine Mass, men see men completing the sacred tasks. In the Old Testament, only men were allowed to be priests. There was no such thing as a female high priest. Men are validated in their role when they see only young boys and men assisting at Mass. There are no altar girls, a sure sign that the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass has been politicized, which is a tragedy. Worshipping God is not an issue of “fairness” or “justice” as though we’re talking about worldly systems such as corporations or sports. There is a pattern God has initiated and men instinctively know when it’s awry. I think women do, too.
Then the author, Tom Bethell, said this:
But there is a much stronger argument for the restoration of Latin. It is well suited to ecclesiastical purposes precisely because it is a dead language. A language that is no longer in use is inherently an obstacle to all innovations and feverish updating. The Church is concerned with the permanent things, and a language without even a vocabulary for modern things is a natural barrier to every fad. You can see why Latin, and the Tridentine rite in particular, do not appeal to those who are working for a politicized Church that keeps abreast of the latest cultural trends.
Men appreciate substance. This isn’t to say that women don’t appreciate substance, but women can become distracted by the bells and whistles of the culture. Men usually ask the deeper questions. My father instilled this in me when I was a young girl. He would constantly challenge me by asking, “why?” Why did I do something? Why did it matter? Why did I concern myself with what others thought? Why did I allow myself to be taken advantage of? Sometimes I thought the questions were overbearing, but they taught me a great lesson: Know yourself and ask questions.
Within the Tridentine Mass, men see the value of tradition which expresses itself by staying true to the purpose of Mass. It isn’t to entertain us or be used as a pawn in some cultural power play. It is holy and the less men and women tamper with it, the better.
Finally, I think men appreciate the Tridentine Mass because they see women understanding the role God has given to them. Many women wear a veil during the Tridentine Mass. The practice is explained in St. Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians in chapter 11. Women wear the veil to show their submission. I know firsthand how much this blesses men when they see it. At first I wasn’t sure about wearing it, but then remembered that I loved a prayer shawl I had bought from a woman, who had brought it back from Israel. I love Judaic tradition and have a high respect for Judaism. I would often drape the shawl over my head as I prayed in private, feeling a special connection to God as I did so.
Wearing the veil has the same effect on me. But I’m going to go out on a limb and make a supposition. I believe the reason it blesses men so much to see a women veiled isn’t because he thinks that now “she knows who’s boss.” It because as a woman embraces her role, so a man may embrace his. Very few men enjoy a power struggle with women. Most will relent because they simply don’t want more aggravation at home, which to them is to be a place of refuge. When a woman understands what God has called her to be, there is peace. The woman feels it and so does the man. This, is what I believe happens when a man looks at women at a Traditional Latin Mass. It is radical in its counter-cultural approach and God blesses it.
There is a strength in the Tridentine Mass, an unwavering stance that provides stability in the relentless storm of fickleness which exists in the world. There is security and peace within the old liturgy, untainted by human ego. May God continue to protect and nourish the Tridentine Mass, and may it bear fruit for the universal Church, and the world.