Formal Defection from Roman Catholicism in Canon Law has Social and Legal Implications

As membership in the Roman Catholic Church implies tacit approval for the lies and damage the Church does it is important for people of integrity to consider leaving the Church - defecting. Critics of the Church still tacitly approve in the sense that they don't consider the harm bad enough or the threat great enough to consider going.  Formal defection was abolished in 2009, but as Church law says religious freedom is a right it follows that it may still be morally possible to defect.  The current law says you can defect by converting to another religion.

Membership of any religion or organisation requires:

1 That you have your name listed as a member.

2 That you believe in what the organisation stands for or are on a journey to believe. This means you must not deliberately repudiate what the organisation believes in. It means you know it is at least possible that the beliefs are true. If Catholicism is false and you know it, you cannot be a real member of the Catholic Church.

3 That you work for the ideals of the organisation.  Ideals are not about who or how many lives up to them.  Being in a religion that has no ideals or bad ones is an absolute no no.  It means you are not even trying to be good properly in the first place.

If your name is listed that does not necessarily make you a real member but merely one that is listed as a member. It's legal membership. It's membership according to the rules. It's nominal membership. But reality may be different. For example, you can be considered married in the eyes of the law but for some reason the marriage might not be valid or real. Number 2 is essential for real membership. If you do not fit requirement number 3 then clearly you may be a member but not a good one.


Defection from a religion is ceasing to be a member of that religion. A religion that believes in religious freedom will recognise your departure.

Baptism and confirmation confer membership in the Roman Catholic Church. If you've been baptised in the Roman Catholic Church the church counts you as a member for life even if you stop attending and giving it money. The only way to cancel the membership is by formal defection or by defecting to another religion. Formal defection involves notifying the bishop of the diocese you were baptised in that you want to leave the Church and to be officially regarded as having left. The end goal is to have it recorded that you are no longer a Roman Catholic. Such a procedure is only valid if the person leaves freely and without coercion.

Some Catholics say that this formal defection is only a recognition by the Church that you refuse to obey the Church. Rather than giving any right to disobey, the Church through Canon Law is just like a parent letting a rebellious child have it his own way. But what would the Church need to engage in a formal recognition for? Why not just let the child go? If your rebel daughter walks out of the house giving her her own way only means you let her go not that you declare that she has defected from the family.

The recognition of formal defection by Canon Law then means that you can leave the Church in principle even if current Church law does not provide for formal defection. It sadly doesn't provide.

Also the Church claimed the abolition of formal defection was retrospective. This is obviously invalid. It is like the law of the land decreeing suddenly that marriages are no longer considered valid and that this applies to marriages that have taken place in the last ten years. This retrospective law would be unjust for the law recognised such marriages until recently.

We conclude that formal defection in principle is still valid.  A law letting you leave and remove your Catholic "citizenship" cannot be retrospectively revoked.  You legally leave or you do not - there is no limbo.

If it is true that if a baptised Catholic becomes say a Hindu and is still in reality a Catholic no matter what he or she does to try and become an ex-Catholic, it follows that the conversion should not be taken seriously by the Church, society, family or state. And the person is to be judged as one who fights his true identity and is to be judged as devoid of integrity. It denies the right of the person to suffer no disadvantage due to religion. Faith should never upset or violate anybody - the case of those using faith as an excuse for getting upset is a separate one. It denies the right of a person to take on a new religious identity.

To refuse to facilitate defection opens the door to forcing a Catholic burial on a defector, It is forcing a person to pay taxes to the Church in countries which send a cut of the Catholic's taxes to the Church.

Catholics say that it is pointless to defect for it is not going to do you any obvious harm in this world. For example, it will not happen that a Catholic who divorces and remarries without annulment will come home one day to find Church police blocking the doorway and forbidding them entry because they are living in sin. Or that a Catholic parent who fails to have their child baptised will come home one day to find that the child has been dragged to the nearest Church by the local priest and forcibly baptised in their absence. Thousands of examples could be created. But the fact remains, that if we claim that baptism binds you to the Church as a member forever these behaviours are to be required and expected. If you believe baptism binds to the Church forever that goes a little bit of the way towards legitimising such behaviour. After all the question arises because of religion and that says something! The doctrine of people necessarily being Catholics forever is insulting.


Formal defection is only making your departure from the Church official. You do not need a defection decree to depart from the Catholic faith.  But because the Church is an organisation you need with withdraw from it as in being a part of the organisation.

To allege that baptism makes one irrevocably Catholic makes a mockery of free conscience and also of the faith of those who choose to belong.  At no point does the Church say when you are subject to its law.  A baby baptised Catholic but raised Muslim is regarded as outside of canon law.  That illustrates the point.

It is important that Catholics who have departed the Church cease to be registered as a member of their parish.

Dioceses may still be "accepting" formal defection letters and acting as though canon law still includes such a process. But, it doesn't. Nevertheless, people are still able to send in such a letter. What can the diocese do, other than regretfully accept it? I'm not sure what, internally, the diocese would do after that. Another fact is that dioceses sometimes act a little behind the times as far as the law goes....

Formal defection results in de facto excommunication from the Church. Another way to get this excommunication is to renounce or abjure the faith. Excommunication is based on the concept that even if you are a member of the Church you are now a semi-member and out of communion with the Church. Excommunication puts you out of the visible Church structure.


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