Six reasons why I want to be excommunicated
OPINION:The anger among survivors of clerical sex abuse at the failure of the Catholic Church to deal adequately with the issue has prompted some formally to leave the church. This is my letter to Archbishop Diarmuid Martin seeking excommunication, writes BERNICE DONOGHUE
Dear Archbishop Martin,
I AM writing to request the amendment of my details in the baptismal register for the Parish of Mount Merrion in the Archdiocese of Dublin, where I was baptised. I made the decision to leave the church over 30 years ago, but recently have discovered that I continue to be included in the church’s internal statistics. I strongly object to this inclusion as I do not consider myself to be a member of the Catholic Church, hence I am asking you to amend the baptismal register to reflect this fact. In short, I wish to be excommunicated from the Roman Catholic Church.
My reasons for leaving the Catholic Church are as follows:
1I do not want to be a member of a church that aided and abetted a paedophile so that he could rape and sexually abuse me for four years of my childhood. I was abused by the Norbertine priest Brendan Smyth. When he was finally arrested and tried for his crimes I was horrified to learn how the church had handled over four decades the allegations against him. Time and again, his victims were ignored or silenced in order to preserve the church’s position, and so he was able to continue his crimes against children with impunity. After Brendan Smyth’s trial and conviction in 1997 (I was one of the sample cases used in the trial), I attempted to sue the Catholic Church for its criminal behaviour and was badly hurt by the experience. In fact, it was so damaging to my mental health that finally, after four long years, I could take no more of their denials and delaying tactics and settled for a paltry sum just so I could preserve my peace of mind and get on with my life. I’m sure the hierarchy were delighted – another trouble-maker silenced and no great dent in the coffers!
2I do not want to be a member of an institution that facilitated, and whose members engaged in the physical, sexual, emotional and psychological abuse of children. Moreover, I do not want to be a member of this same institution that to this day refuses to truly repent for its actions.
3I do not want to be a member of a church that operated gulags for children.
4I do not want to be a member of a sexist organisation. I have always been appalled by the church’s attitude towards women, and, frankly, I initially left the church because of this. I had no wish to be a member of an institution that did not accord me the same rights as men. At the time my attitude was, if I could not become a priest (let alone pope), why would I stay in that organisation? In later years, exposure to other women’s lives through feminist groups that I was involved with made me realise how glad I was not to be a member of a church that had locked up women for becoming pregnant outside of marriage, that kept women in poverty and damaged their health by denying access to contraceptives, and that told women they must accept rape and abuse at the hands of their husbands because it was their marital duty to stay put and obey.
5I do not want to be a member of a church that practices gross hypocrisy and intolerance. I don’t know how many times I have been sickened to hear the church preach about sexual abstinence, sexual purity and all the rest of that claptrap, while officers of that same organisation carried on affairs with women (and many were clearly abuse of power situations and not equal partnerships by any means) and some even fathered children (whom they never acknowledged). The very fact that the church still preaches intolerance towards loving same-sex couples beggars belief considering the past and present behaviour of so many of its clergy.
6I do not want to be a member of an institution that is so intent on holding on to power that it has to be dragged kicking and screaming to admit any wrongdoing on its part. The Catholic Church by its actions in recent decades has shown clearly that it is incapable of any real meaningful change. It is, in my opinion, composed of a power-hungry, arrogant, corrupt and morally-bankrupt hierarchy and a spineless clergy and laity who will not stand up and be counted.
I enclose a completed and signed “Declaration of Defection”, along with my personal details. I look forward to receiving confirmation of my excommunication in the near future.
The writer lives in Dublin and is awaiting a reply from the archbishop