Twice in recent memory I’ve been accused of “being” Catholic. The first was, oddly, in a work setting–and I blogged about it here. The second was just a couple months ago when my brother informed me, “You’re Catholic because you were baptized Catholic.”

Now my brother is not religious, and he certainly knows my attitude toward organized religion (quite unfavorable)–so you can imagine my surprise! In any case, the experience spurred me to think about what exactly “being baptized” means, and more importantly, if I was counted as one of the “billion Catholics worldwide.” So I called up the church where I was baptized and asked for it to be undone.

Guess what, it can’t.

Once you’re baptized, you’re baptized. As my source tells me: “Baptism produces an indelible mark or character on the soul.” I guess it’s like getting married, even divorce won’t erase the fact you once were.

The good news, so I am told, is that Catholics are not counted by baptism, but rather through a periodic, informal census conducted at the parish level. While it’s true the names of the baptized are kept in the baptismal registry of each individual parish, they are not given to a centralized database.

So then–how do I become officially un-Catholic?

Well, to leave the church one must formally renounce one’s faith in a letter to the local bishop. As it turns out, this might be “important” to do–consider the following scenario:

If a non-practicing Catholic marries in a civil ceremony, the Church won’t recognize the marriage. But if you renounce your faith first, then get married, it will. Why? Because the church recognizes marriage for non-Catholics without going through their silly marriage rituals.

How does all this affect me? Well, I never wrote that letter, so my brother is right and in the eyes of the church, I’m Catholic after-all–but in a strange twist, I guess I’m no longer married! (Please don’t tell my wife)…