Formally Defected from the Roman Catholic Church?


I was wondering if anyone has had firsthand or secondhand experience with the process of formally defecting from the Roman Catholic Church.

From what I’ve read, as of 2010, the process doesn’t do much other than put a note in your file saying that you formally requested to defect but I can see where a person might want to do that (closure, a kind of protest against the abuse scandals by not giving one’s passive approval of such actions, etc.).

If anyone has or knows someone who has done this please share. I am curious if it has given a sense of peace to leaving the church rather than just not showing up and drifting apart from it. Also I’m curious about any difficulties people might have had with this process.


Formal defection is no longer a canonical possibilty. Pope Benedict XVI amended the Code of Canon Law to this effect in 2013 with the motu proprio Omnium in Mentem.



So this @edward_george1 ?

" The Code of Canon Law nonetheless prescribes that the faithful who have left the Church “by a formal act” are not bound by the ecclesiastical laws regarding the canonical form of marriage (cf. can. 1117), dispensation from the impediment of disparity of cult (cf. can. 1086) and the need for permission in the case of mixed marriages (cf. can. 1124). The underlying aim of this exception from the general norm of can. 11 was to ensure that marriages contracted by those members of the faithful would not be invalid due to defect of form or the impediment of disparity of cult.

Experience, however, has shown that this new law gave rise to numerous pastoral problems. First, in individual cases the definition and practical configuration of such a formal act of separation from the Church has proved difficult to establish, from both a theological and a canonical standpoint. In addition, many difficulties have surfaced both in pastoral activity and the practice of tribunals. Indeed, the new law appeared, at least indirectly, to facilitate and even in some way to encourage apostasy in places where the Catholic faithful are not numerous or where unjust marriage laws discriminate between citizens on the basis of religion. The new law also made difficult the return of baptized persons who greatly desired to contract a new canonical marriage following the failure of a preceding marriage. Finally, among other things, many of these marriages in effect became, as far as the Church is concerned, “clandestine” marriages."

Is there any option for a person to leave the church then?

You don’t solve one error by committing another. Leaving is not the answer. But you have free will.


The idea is that once you’re baptized, an indelible character is left upon your soul, and so you are always united to the Church, even if you cease to practice the faith. So it wouldn’t really be good for law to fail to line up with reality.


Unless you are speaking of something I totally do NOT understand, the Catholic Church is NOT a cult or a prisoner situation. You choose to leave you leave----ALTHOUGH WHY YOU’D WANT TO I WOULDN"T KNOW. As when Jesus asked the Apostles would you leave too. Peter answered , Lord where would we go. You have the words of everlasting life. We have Our Lord present in every Tabernacle and at EVERY Mass Body Blood Soul Divinity, The Sacraments, the Truth, Holy Tradition, Holy Scripture, The Magisterium and a WHOLE LOT MORE! You could NEVER drag me screaming and kicking from the Catholic Church. It IS the Church Jesus Christ Himself established and said the gates of hell would never prevail against her.

NO MATTER what any one member of the Catholic Church does even if it is a clergy member THE CATHOLIC CHURCH IS HOLY AND ALWAYS WILL BE HOLY! Perfect, no because it is made up of flawed human beings. But HOLY YES ALWAYS!

SADLY VERY SADLY we’ve had family members leave some to go to NO other church, some to go to non Catholic Churches. Very very sad. They’ve left the boat to flouder.


I know of some people who grew up Catholic who now attend and are members of different Protestant denominations or are professed atheists now, so pardon my ignorance. Are you saying a Catholic must petition to leave? I think these folks just left and moved on and didn’t seek permission.


No, he just wanted to find a formal way of leaving that would make him feel better.

As Father said, once you’re baptized a Catholic, it’s indelible. You can’t ever truly leave.

People quit practicing all the time and join other churches all the time, but they are still Catholics underneath.


Ok, that makes sense. I just wanted to know if the formal defection process was still an option and it appears it is not. Thanks for answering my questions so quickly. Hope you have a good one.

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Yes. Once a Catholic, always a Catholic. Sometimes I pray for those who fall away. Lord, have mercy for they do not know what they are doing :pray:



I wasn’t aware of this aspect and find it very interesting. So these friends of mine who used to be Catholic who have attended my Methodist church for several years and became members, and have no intention of going back according to them — are they considered more in trouble or “in error” than a garden variety Methodist like me who never has been Catholic? Just curious.


We are responsible for what we know, the choices we make and how we live it. That applies to ALL Of us!

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That depends on each case. Not for me to know. God knows the heart. After death, comes judgement, which is between that person and God.


I believe your question has been answered well. I’ll just add that in the protestant church I was a member of for 22 years, I just told them I wasn’t coming back. That was in 1996. There was nothing formal about it and no paper work to fill out. “We’re done here” was sufficient for me. No one ever called to see what was going on or to try convincing me to return.


I’m not saying anything. I was just curious if this was still a thing and if it was, what was people’s experience with it.

There used to be a formal defection process that essentially left a note in your “file” saying that you left.

It would be like if a person joined any other organization and later decided that they didn’t want any part of it, not that I explicitly stated that I wanted to do that here. Say John Doe joins the masons and then decides that he disagrees with what they practice or even believes after learning more after joining that they didn’t disclose during his masonic formation (whatever that is). Maybe he doesn’t want to be associated with anything they do or practice anymore. Maybe the masons in this hypothetical situation abuse children and cover it up (I don’t think the masons do this.). So maybe John no longer wishes to formally associate himself with such a situation and would like the official record to show that he does not support such actions.

Sure John could just move on but his association with this hypothetical masonic group but his past history catch up with him.

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Luke 12:42-48, which happened to be last Sunday’s Gospel, covers this:

42 And the Lord replied, “Who, then, is the faithful and prudent steward whom the master will put in charge of his servants to distribute [the] food allowance at the proper time?
43 Blessed is that servant whom his master on arrival finds doing so.
44 Truly, I say to you, he will put him in charge of all his property.
45 But if that servant says to himself, ‘My master is delayed in coming,’ and begins to beat the menservants and the maidservants, to eat and drink and get drunk,
46 then that servant’s master will come on an unexpected day and at an unknown hour and will punish him severely and assign him a place with the unfaithful.
47 That servant who knew his master’s will but did not make preparations nor act in accord with his will shall be beaten severely;
48 and the servant who was ignorant of his master’s will but acted in a way deserving of a severe beating shall be beaten only lightly. Much will be required of the person entrusted with much, and still more will be demanded of the person entrusted with more.

So if you were never baptized Catholic nor brought up Catholic, and were instead raised in some other faith tradition that you were taught was the right one, then you are like the servant who is ignorant, because you were not raised or otherwise taught to believe Catholicism is the right way.

Likewise if you are baptized Catholic but no one ever teaches you the faith or takes it beyond just baptism, you’re probably still pretty ignorant.

However, if you were not only baptized Catholic but raised Catholic and practiced as a Catholic and then voluntarily decided to leave, you’re more like the servant who knew or should have known his master’s will, that will being to have people follow Catholicism as God’s one holy and apostolic Church. So you are indeed more “in error” because you had a chance to take the right path and you rejected it.


You are right in a sense. It sure would feel better to leave in such a way that is more final than just drifting and allowing the RCC use non active Catholics (including those baptized and confirmed but no longer practicing) to boost their statistics.

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As far as I’ve ever heard or read, only the LDS Church has a formal process for leaving and they don’t make it easy. I was unaware that Catholicism at one time did have a formal process. Do to the belief of what a Catholic Baptism does, it makes sense that they dispensed with it.

I do know that it was popular at one point in time for some atheists to undergo a debaptism. It was just a public demonstration to declare their own formal(ish) statement of leaving religion behind. Some claimed it gave them a great feeling of closure. I haven’t heard of any being done in several years. It was…interesting.

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I think most of us in the RCC are not interested in artificially pumping up our statistics with people who don’t practice. What we would prefer is for you to make a whole hearted return to the Church. The only interest we have in keeping you attached to the Church even by a tiny thread is the hope that you would not fully leave, or that you would come back, because we care about your soul. Not statistics.

It’s sometimes just as frustrating to Catholics that they can’t kick the nonpracticing Catholics out of the clubhouse, but Jesus says no, so we try hard to practice charity.

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