This process became popular in Belgium back in 2010, the wake of the Priests’ child abuse scandal and, according to National Public Radio, has now made its way into the courts of France, which has ruled in favor of Rene LeBouvier; a seventy-one-year-old man who received the Sacrament of Baptism as child in tiny village of Fleury (northwest France), but since the 1970’s has been an atheist. In LeBouvier’s case, he sent a letter to his Diocese asking to be De-Baptized and, in response, they sent him a copy back of his records – and in the margins of which, next to his name, wrote that he had chosen to leave the Church. But that wasn’t enough for the old atheist. His wish is for the Church to strike his name completely from Baptismal records – to annul his Baptism as if it never even happened in the first place. When he was told by the Church’s officials that that wasn’t possible he took the Diocese to court and in last October (2011) a judge in Normandy ruled in his favor. The Diocese has since appealed, and the case is pending.
From Paragraphs 1213, 1257 and 1272 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church (click here to read the whole section) |bold text added for emphasis|:
1213 Holy Baptism is the basis of the whole Christian life, the gateway to life in the Spirit (vitae spiritualis ianua), and the door which gives access to the other sacraments. Through Baptism we are freed from sin and reborn as sons of God; we become members of Christ, are incorporated into the Church and made sharers in her mission: “Baptism is the sacrament of regeneration through water in the word.”
1257 The Lord himself affirms that Baptism is necessary for salvation. He also commands his disciples to proclaim the Gospel to all nations and to baptize them. Baptism is necessary for salvation for those to whom the Gospel has been proclaimed and who have had the possibility of asking for this sacrament. The Church does not know of any means other than Baptism that assures entry into eternal beatitude; this is why she takes care not to neglect the mission she has received from the Lord to see that all who can be baptized are “reborn of water and the Spirit.” God has bound salvation to the sacrament of Baptism, but he himself is not bound by his sacraments.
1272 Incorporated into Christ by Baptism, the person baptized is configured to Christ. Baptism seals the Christian with the indelible spiritual mark (character) of his belonging to Christ. No sin can erase this mark, even if sin prevents Baptism from bearing the fruits of salvation.83 Given once for all, Baptism cannot be repeated.
Succinctly – Unless you have received the Sacrament of Baptism, no other Sacraments of the Church, including Anointing of the Sick, are available to you. Baptism is necessary for Salvation for those to whom the Gospel has been proclaimed and who have had the possibility of asking to receive it. Baptism, once received, is permanent; that is you cannot have your Baptism – you enrollment into community of Christ’s body annulled. You can choose not to participate in that community and accept it’s graces, but you cannot undo your Baptism.
That is why Rene LeBouvier’s demands are outright ridiculous and gravely errant. Perhaps it’s understandable why some Europeans ask to be removed as members from the Catholic Church, because in some countries the citizenry are required to pay a tax to the Church that they are a member of. They aren’t asking necessarily that their Baptism be annulled, but simply that they no longer be considered as members of the Catholic Church. While their withdrawal doesn’t allow them to receive any further Sacraments from the Church, for many of them De-Baptism is a legal action, not a spiritual one. In contrast, what LeBouvier is asking the courts of France to do is to help him blaspheme against God, by rejecting the grace of Salvation that Christ died to give Him, and that Church freely shared with him as a child. The atheist Rene is truly in need of our prayers and a special visit from our Blessed Mother. Pray for him! On a side note, I can’t wait to find out what LeBouvier is going to do after he is dead and he finds out that the Mormon’s baptized him posthumously. Uh Oh!
Yet, there is a teachable moment for us all here. I think the vast majority of us fail to take full advantage of all the graces that are afforded to us from God through the Sacrament of Baptism, and perhaps we also fail to always fully consider the true depths of what it means that we were Baptized into the death of Christ Jesus when received our Baptism (Cf. Rom 6:3-4; Col 2:12). So what Rene LeBouvier offers us really is a wake up call, because what he is doing legally, many of us do spiritually everyday; that is, not cherishing the greatest and most powerful gift that was given to us.