What Constitutes a "Formal Act" of Apostasy?


I had this discussion with a friend the other day and don’t know how to answer it.

As Catholics we believe that a person is a Catholic, even if he is non-practicing, holds dissenting beliefs, and is a habitual mortal sinner; such a man is a bad Catholic, but a Catholic nonetheless.

Unless he makes a formal act of defection from the faith.

What exactly does this constitute?

This question comes up a lot when it comes to family-weddings; the family is at least culturally Catholic, but the family member in question chooses to not be married “in Church.”

If a person has gone their entire life not practicing their Catholic religion (all they did was receive the Sacraments of Initiation), and don’t practice any religion, but instead are simply “cultural Christians” who don’t even necessarily consider themselves Catholic, but have not formall joined another Church, is such a marriage valid?

I ask because, supposing one of these family members described above marries, and later wants to “re-practice” their Catholicism, can they receive the Sacraments, on the grounds that their marriage was contracted in a period in which they did not really see themselves as Catholic?

In other words, I’m not so convinced that a person has to make a “formal defection” to not be considered Catholic. My parents don’t consider themselves Catholic, but were raised as such; my father’s Agnostic and my mother holds beliefs that amount to Liberal Protestantism. Neither have formally converted to another faith. If they were younger, would they be obliged to marry in Church under pain of invalid marriage?

Seems like a sitcky question. How do we resolve it?



…publicly profess another faith…

…in laymans terms… join another chruch at odds with the catholic church…


What about the example(s) I noted below?


As space ghost says, become a card carrying, active member in another Faith. Or in my opinion make some other public renunciation of the Faith. In the case of your parents make no bones to others that know them that they no longer are or have never been Catholic. I don’t think one has to issue a formal document or put a notice in the paper.


      To all concerned, let it be known that I 
      am no longer a member of the Catholic
      Church. I abjure and deny the teachings
      of Popery and Limitations being placed
      on my right to life, liberty, and the pursuit
      of Mammon. Maggie Smith(former catholic)


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