The election of Joseph Ratzinger to the Papacy wasn’t really a surprise, but even in the less than 24 hours since the Cardinals chose him, his ascension has sent out a lot of shockwaves among Catholics and non-Catholics. For people like myself, it was an affirmation of what we already knew: the Church is determined to keep backing away from the progressive reforms it made in Vatican II and enforce a strict, reactive moral view as broadly as it can. My feeling is that this is the worst thing the Church could do for itself right now. Already, the faithful are falling away left and right, and attempts to enforce moralities that run counter to the reality of everyday life aren’t going to bring people back to the Church.
The effect of Ratzinger’s ascension to Pope Benedict XVI on Mambotaxi, one of my friends at PeoplesForum, was immediate, forceful, and poignant. She had already withdrawn from the Church years ago, becoming an agnostic, but upon hearing about the new Pope, she wrote a letter to her local parish and diocese, expressing how final and irrevocable the choice of Ratzinger made the gap between herself and the Church:
I was baptized in Saint Joe’s in 1968, given First Communion there in 1975 and Confirmed in 1982. My parents were Robert E. M___ and Mary Ann B. M___. My three younger brothers were also baptized at St. Joe’s, all of my siblings received First Communion there, we all attended CCD there, and my older siblings were also Confirmed there (we moved to Connecticut the year I was Confirmed).
I write now to ask that I be apostasized and no longer considered a member of the Catholic Church. I drifted away from the Church in my teens and ultimately became an agnostic. As I grew older, I developed fundamental disagreements with the Church and its doctrine, and eventually they became irreconcilable. When I found out in the 1990s that Father Hanley, who had presided over both my First Communion and my Confirmation, had not only molested young boys in my CCD classes but that the Diocese had simply moved him to another parish, I knew that I would not return to the Church that had betrayed my trust.
However, despite this, I never formally requested that my relationship with the Church be severed. Now, however, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger has become Pope Benedict XVI. I can no longer be associated with or counted as a member of the Church of Rome when it has so clearly decided to abandon the reforms put in place by Vatican II and Pope John XXIII. Accordingly, I respectfully request that you apostasize me.
I have never been a Catholic, and no longer believe in any gods at all. But I think that Mambotaxi’s letter says it for all of us, believers or no. If there was any reason to believe that the Church would move towards a moral view that confronts the twenty-first century rationally and humanely, the choice of the Cardinals eliminates it completely.