Saturday, June 8, 2024

Do-it-Yourself Excommunication


I remember it as a very liberating moment of my childhood. All of us Catholic kids were told that if we didn’t do the things a good Catholic was supposed to do, like go to church every week and put money in the basket, we could be excommunicated.

Excommunicated! That word sounded so scary and painful. I pictured a ritual where I am marched out blindfolded into a yard with my head hanging in shame and my hands tied behind my back, like a prisoner headed for the gallows. A priest rips open my shirt a uses a hot branding iron to tattoo the letter X on my chest. I am then drawn and quartered by four horses.

But then I found out that when you’re excommunicated, all that means is that you’re kicked out of the church and thus you can’t take communion anymore and stuff like that. And I remember thinking, “Is that all that big scary word means? If I don’t do the things a good Catholic is supposed to do, is that all they can do about it? Big deal!”

 You mean, I won’t have to go to church every week? I won’t have to  put money in the basket every week? That sounded more like a reward than a punishment.

 I always resented giving money. I understood that the church needed money to pay for stained glass windows and shit like that. But why did it have to be my money? I mean, if Jesus could turn water into wine, couldn’t he also turn anything he wanted into a pile of cash? So it seemed to me that any priest who could pray worth a damn could persuade Jesus to make it rain dollar bills.

And I never cared much about taking communion either. I thought the wafer tasted like notebook paper.

If I was excommunicated, I wouldn’t have to think about stuff like that anymore. That’s another reason why it suddenly seemed like a pretty sweet deal. So I just stopped going to church, which is how I quietly excommunicated myself.

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