There’s an old song that says, Sign me up for the Christian Jubilee! Write my name on the roll!….I want to be ready when Jesus comes!  But, tragically there are some in Europe who are formally renouncing their faith through a process they call “de-baptism.” In effect they write to the parish where they were baptized and asked that their name be blotted out from the book of life, also known as the Baptismal Register. Of course the Catholic Church does not remove the names, but does make a notation that they have formally renounced the Christian faith, that they have renounced their baptism.

The video below depicts such “de-baptisms.” A young Belgian, named Damien,  is interviewed, and shown holding a document he has signed entitled Acte D’Apostasie A qui de droit. (Act of Renunciation (Apostasy) from the faith). You don’t have to know a lot of French to see the word “Apostasy” in the title. I had an opening and so offered Mass today for this man, for his return to the faith. I hope you’ll pray too for him and the over 1000 Belgians who have renounced their faith this past year.

Apostasy Association? There is actually an organization that exists to encourage and facilitate such renunciations. The head of this organization says many have renounced their faith due to anger over the sex-abuse scandal, though he admits there are other reasons too.

Red Herring – I do not know the particulars in Damien’s case so I cannot assess his personal motives. However, generally speaking, the abuse excuse, serious though the scandal was, is largely a red herring. People don’t usually leave the Church due to the Church’s sin, but rather, due to their own sins. People who leave (as distinct from those who drift away) are usually at odds with one or more of the moral teachings of the Church. And they are usually at odds with such teachings because they are breaking one or more of those moral precepts. They want to live as they please, and so they leave. In pointing to sin in the Church (real though it is) they get to tell themselves they are doing a noble, even conscientious thing. But in the end it is more usually a baser motive rooted in their own sin.

I’ve been re-reading Archbishops Sheen’s book Three to Get Married. In it he writes:

Every rationalization is farfetchedand never discloses the real reason. He who breaks the Divine Law and finds himself outside of Christ’s Mystical Body in a second marriage will often justify himself by saying: “I could not accept the doctrine of transubstantiation.” What he means is that he can no longer accept the Sixth Commandment…..What is important is not what people say, but why they say it. Too many assume that the reason people do not come to God is because they are ignorant; it is more generally true that the reason people do not come to God is because of their behavior. Our Lord said: “Rejection lies in this, that when the light came into the world men preferred darkness to light; preferred it, because their doings were evil. Anyone who acts shamefully hates the light” (John 8:19, 20). It is not always doubt that has to be overcome, but evil habits. (Three to Get Married, Kindle Edition Loc. 149-58).

In Damien’s case the specific reason is said by the interviewer to be anger over sex abuse. But Damien himself is less clear. He states, in effect, he doesn’t agree with what the Church is doing. It is not so clear that the abuse scandal is what he means, since this is not something the Church is “doing” but rather something she did not do. He more likely means he disagrees with some of her moral teachings. He also claims he never chose to join the Church anyway, since it was his parents who had him baptized.

Self-congratulatory apostasy?  - In the end he calls himself a “conscientious citizen” for getting de-baptized. Sadly, there is another word that more aptly describes what he has done and it is right at the top of his own letter: “Apostasie.” One can only hope his ignorance is so great that he does not really comprehend what he has done and will not face the full effects of his ill-informed choice.

Bad Idea! – But for the record, asking to have your name taken “off the roll” is a VERY BAD idea. Scripture could not be clearer;

  1. Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. Earth and sky fled from his presence, and there was no place for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books…..If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire (Rev 20:11-15).
  2. Yet you have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their clothes. They will walk with me, dressed in white, for they are worthy. He who overcomes will, like them, be dressed in white. I will never blot out his name from the book of life, but will acknowledge his name before my Father and his angels. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches!  (Rev 3:4-6)

Someone may object  that a baptismal register is not the book mentioned, and that the image of “the book of life”  cannot be mechanistically reduced to inkblots on the page of some earthly book, etc. True enough. But the problem is not the earthly book, but what the earthly book indicates. It indicates baptism, not just membership. And to renounce baptism is to renounce faith in Christ Jesus. Thus, rejecting saving faith in Jesus Christ DOES affect the true and heavenly book. The earthly book is but a copy but it does point to the heavenly one and it is a very bad idea to go on record renouncing your faith, and asking that your name be “blotted out.” In Scripture Jesus says that the greatest gift is to have our names written in heaven: However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven (Luke 10:20).

And perhaps the scariest thing about all this is that Scripture also indicates very clearly that Jesus will ultimately abide by the decision of those who reject him and ratify it:

  1. If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels (Mk 8:38)
  2. But whoever disowns me before men, I will disown him before my Father in heaven (Matt 10:33)
  3. If we endure, we will also reign with him. If we disown him, he will also disown us, if we are faithless, he will remain faithful, for he cannot disown himself. (2 Tim 2:12-13)

So please pray for this young man, Damien, and others like him. Do not simply presume invincible ignorance on his part. We often rashly presume that adults “don’t know any better.” Well, don’t presume,  pray for him. I offered mass for him today and others like him. Perhaps you might offer the fruits of holy Mass as well?

Pray, this is very serious. It is bad enough to drift away from the faith, but to formally renounce ones baptism is to really ramp things up to a mega-serious level. Pray, pray, pray.

77 Responses

  1. Reginaldus says:

    Msgr., Thank you for the very clear indication of the seriousness of this matter. I especially appreciate that you link the Baptismal Register with the Book of Life.
    Indeed, of all sins, apostasy seems to be the worst — it is the “sin against the Holy Spirit”, for it completely divides us from the Church of Christ and, therefore, from the possibility of forgiveness.

    Today, we need more priests who are willing to speak unequivocally about the “simple and absolute” necessity of baptism (cf. St. Thomas Aquinas, ST III, q.65, a.4). How sad it is that these people would explicitly sever their union with Christ by separating themselves from the Church.

    Interestingly, St. Thomas recognizes three reasons why people leave the Church (this is from his Commentary on Hebrews, 10.3): 1) because of persecutions, 2) on account of wicked pastors who leave the sheep in danger, and 3) on account of pride.
    I suspect that many in the western world today who leave do so because of pride, but also find an excuse in the poor example of many priests.

    Thank you for your priestly witness!

  2. Mary says:

    Our hearts and prayers go out to Damien and all those who have renounced their baptism. God have mercy on their souls.

  3. Robertlifelongcatholic says:

    It’s almost like watching a modern Shakespearian adaptation of Adam and Eve with his wife or girl friend sitting at his left side as support and encouragement. How prophetically sad.

  4. Mandrivnyk says:

    An excellent post, indeed, with a very important message.

    I do not know, though, that I agree with the wording of an earlier commenter – that apostasy *completely* cuts one off from the possibility of forgiveness.

    It was not so long ago that I completely, publicly and knowingly renounced my Catholic faith, returned to the paganism of my childhood, and spat on Christ’s name in many ways. I never formally asked to be removed from the baptismal registry largely because I did not see the point of it. I did, however, actively work to draw Christians away from their faith, and assisted some in the emotional transition to other forms of worship.

    That changed, miraculously. For a time, I thought it was impossible that I could really come back home. I did though. Nobody living is completely lost to the possibility of forgiveness. Renouncing your faith just makes it very, very, very difficult. I know I will be doing penance for my stupidity for a very long time.

    • Vijaya says:

      God bless you for coming back. I hope you will share your story with others so that they too will find courage to come home.

    • Yes, your distinction is well noted and correct. Thank you for your witness and for reminding us that prayers make a difference and that, as long as we live miraculous conversion is possible. It is wonderful that you have found your way back to Christ and the Sacraments!

  5. jj says:

    CELL PHONES HAVE STRANGE RINGTONES – mine included. My phone rings ‘It’s not over ’til God says it’s over’. Baptism, Oh yes. He chose me even when I didn’t know how to chose Him. It aint over Damien til God says it’s over. Amen.

  6. Vijaya says:

    Oh, no, this is terrible. I would think that baptism changes you permanently in a way that you cannot undo. Even if you fall away or renounce God, you are changed. We lived in Europe for some time in the 90s and the thing that struck me most was the pessimism of the people. Not all, but many. They had no hope nor faith. Many of my colleagues did not want to have children because they did not want to bring children into a terrible world. And many of their beautiful churches were empty. Even though I was not a practicing Christian at the time, I thought it was unnatural — this loss of joy. Oh, they might get their six weeks of vacation, but what purpose was it for? Just their own pleasure.

    Where Christ is, there is joy, even during strife.

    I pray, Father, for Damien and people like him. Many of them I know. But I do not know how to reach them. Just today, I met a woman who said the Catholic church was sexist and immoral. We had a little chat and I asked her to talk to go to talk to a Father, go to confession, because she will learn some truths. You are right — our sins that weigh us down.

    I stlil think people like Damien do not know what they are talking about. He’s so young and easily swayed by what older people tell him.

    Have mercy, Lord.

    • Thanks for sharing your expereince. It is true, as you say that one cannot abolutely undo their baptism any more than they can undo their birth or break their genetic link to their parents. But in the end one can freely renounce and refuse any blessings or connections to baptism and to the Lord who brought them to re-birth.

      Thanks too for your prayers for Damien. I like you hope that he does not really know what he is doing and will one day come to understand and return to the faith Christ died to give him.

  7. Ismael says:

    Unfortunately many atheist associations in Europe (like the UAAR [United Atheist Agnostics adn Rationalist'] in Italy) are making strong campaings to convince people to get de-baptized.

    These days the militant atheism in Europe is particularly ferocious…

    • You are surely right, there are organized campaigns at work here as well. Atheism is becoming increasingly militant throughout the world.

      • gsw says:

        and about time too!

        Witch burnings, torture, institutional rape, support of the nazis during the 2nd. world war, ‘forgiving’ the mafia their murders – supporting blasphemy trials … the list of crimes is long.

        Religions claim to know what god wants in one breath and that god-is-mysterious is the next.
        priests/cardinals etc. claim to know that god does not approve of condoms (they know this how?), while believing that suffering is for some ‘higher’ purpose.

        The rise in number of enlightened people in the world may yet save the planet from over-population and exploitation.

        Thank you militant atheists!

  8. Brenda says:

    When Jesus was baptized, he claimed for us, from the Father, four gifts which we recieve through our baptism: ACCESS to God the Father, ANOINTING of the Holy Spirit, ACKNOWLEDGEMENT…we become children of God and APPROVAL…we recieve santifying grace.

    Let us pray for those who would throw away such gifts of salvation.

  9. jj says:

    This is a rather lengthly video, but it is the Holy Father Benedict giving Baptisms to 21 infants. As always, the Holy Father always is aware that these sacred events are “TEACHABLE MOMENTS”. There are many things in this video that show a “sign” of God’s love and grace. See if you can identify them.

    Mass (ad oreintum)Pope Benedict XVI- the Sistine Chapel-Baptism 2011
    http://gloria.tv/?media=122678

  10. Daniel says:

    Praying for this young man is a good thing, but letting the hierarchy off the hook by claiming it is all about Damien’s sin isn’t fair. The video seems to associate it with the sex scandal, and there’s a difference between disagreeing with a teaching in the Church and being demoralized by a terrible failure of the leadership structure of the Church at large. It’s an astounding statistic that only 8% of Belgians have confidence in the Church. One has to ask why that is, and what the Church (especially the bishops in Belgium) are doing to address this sad situation. Again, prayer is wonderful and efficacious, but analysis, action, and ultimately more effective witness to the faith is also called for. In a way this process of formal renunciation provides at least a basis for determining why the trend is happening–people are expressing their ideas out loud rather than simply fading away and not coming back to Church.

    • But…..but…but…. Pray for him Daniel. You know well that this article isn’t “letting the hierarchy off the hook” and it isn’t claiming it’s “all about Damien’s sin.” Perhaps you you should read the article more carefully and stop engaging in the rash and simplistic judgment you claim that others make.

      • Daniel says:

        I think it absolutely does let the hierarchy off the hook. You barely reference the issue from the side of the responsibility of the bishops. If I had ten children and nine of them ran away from home, I would be irresponsible to simply continue with my current parenting style and say “The problem is definitely that they are all selfish unable to see that I am a wonderful parent. I shall pray that they all come to their senses and return.” I would examine REALITY as objectively as possible and be open to the very real possibility (likelihood even) that I have some atoning to do in order to reconcile with my children if I love them. My reading of the text found these passages referring to the sex abuse scandal:
        “However, generally speaking, the abuse excuse, serious though the scandal was, is largely a red herring. People don’t usually leave the Church due to the Church’s sin, but rather, due to their own sins.”
        “In pointing to sin in the Church (real though it is) they get to tell themselves they are doing a noble, even conscientious thing. But in the end it is more usually a baser motive rooted in their own sin.”
        “It is not so clear that the abuse scandal is what he means, since this is not something the Church is “doing” but rather something she did not do. ”
        Unless I’m missing some other references, you in each case admit quickly that something happened (or oddly, in the last quote, that something didn’t happen) but then quickly return to the culpability of the leaver. I fully accept that Damien and others have some culpability for their free choices, but we ought not to underestimate the influence of widespread corruption among leaders to demoralize people. Reconciliation requires humility and reaching out in love and dialogue, not digging in our heels and demanding that the person return to our superior position. This does not require watering down the faith or compromising truth, but it does require facing up to our frailty and having a willingness to be empathetic.

      • Take a breath Daniel. You are surely the court critic at this site. Your arguments almost always come down to something negative you want to say about the Church. But in your reactive mode you usually miss the point of the articles I write. Almost by accident you stumbled upon it in your last response wherein you state: “I fully accept that Damien and others have some culpability for their free choices.”

        Generally what you miss about this blog is that I am stating the rest of the story, or the other side of the case. I am repsonding to a video that explores only part of the problem. I am pulling in the other direction if you will. But I did not let the bishops off the hook as you simplisitically state. The side you represent, was fully depicted by the video and I responded.

        Your rash and harsh judgments always presume the worst intention of me and/or the others who respond. I am also very clear in the article to say that I do not know Damien’s personal motives. But the motives of people who set up shop in Europe to facilitate and encourage de-baptisms, and the motives of the media who produce unbalanced pieces is clearer. It is to them that I respond. But you need to know that I am responding to something that was said and I am supplying the other factors that must be considered.

        You evidently have problems with the Church and the bishops. You are free to have them. But I am also free to respond. Everything that happens is not the fault of the Church and your snide little analogy is not convincing since the Church is not saying “I am a wonderful parent” and you know it. Even your hostility aside, there is plenty of introspection that takes place right here on the main page of this blog, in the comments and in many others Catholic venues besides. But it’s just never enough for you. Indeed, no amount of mea culpa will ever be enough for you it seems. But do not pretend that this blog hasn’t dealt with the internal problems in the Church and how we can improve.

        Physician heal yourself. Consider your statement “Reconciliation requires humility and reaching out in love and dialogue, not digging in our heels and demanding that the person return to our superior position.” Consider taking your own advice Daniel since, in speaking like this, it is you who come off as superior, smug, contrarian and having dug in your heals. Your sed contras usually have a tone that is from from reaching out or humble.

        Most of the rest of the readers here seem to get the point that something very sad is happeneing and that we ought to pray for Damien and others. THey also seem to understand that I was responding to a biased video and pulling in the other direction. Even more they seem to understand that there are many layers to this problem beyond the abuse crisis. There is a ramant secularism and a emergent neo-pagan lifestyle that is both hostile and suspicious to faith ipso facto, before there is any malfeasance to point to. The numbers in Europe were imploding long before the scandals. The Sheen quote I gave was from the mid 60s. The “jouranlistic” video mentioned nothing of this. Doing mea culpas has its place but there is also need for a fuller and clearer diagnosis of the wider cultural norms and personal dynamics that underlie the problems.

      • Daniel says:

        You’ve made it clear that you care for the tone of my responses. Mea culpa if I sound snide- I only try to see the other side, which i don’t think the video did honestly. I don’t presume “worst” intentions, only that you may not be considering the whole picture. But your last line “there is also need for a fuller and clearer diagnosis of the wider cultural norms and personal dynamics that underlie the problems” is exactly the point I was making as well.

  11. jj says:

    OK my fellow bloggers, this is it. No more comments from me today I promise. Msgr Pope makeS reference to a book he is re-reading

    “Three to get married” BY FULTON J. SHEEN

    You can print it out for “FREE” at:

    http://ewtn.com/library/MARRIAGE/3GETMARR.TXT

    IT’S 148 PAGES.

  12. Patrick Fahey says:

    It is I think telling that the de-baptisms mentioned occur in Belgium. There is great unrest there due to the stance taken over the child abuse issue by the Arch-Bishop who has poured water onto the flames by apportioning blame elsewhere. What people wish to see I think is contrition and humility – not what has been shown so the issue has been exacerbated further.
    In the UK our own Bishops have abolished the traditional feast days such as The Epihany and placed them on the nearest Sunday.
    A major issue I think is the ability, leadership and compliance with the Holy See of the Western worlds Bishops that is a major cause of The Church’s decline over the past decades.
    We must all pray to be lead from error and confusion and to follow Christs Vicar more closely.
    In Domino.

  13. Peter says:

    I read this post with a great deal of sorrow but also with the certain knowledge that God can turn any situation around. For many years I had turned my back on the Catholic Church for “intellectual” reasons (i.e. pride) and became an “atheist”. I thought that all religious belief could be explained by psychology. I was absolutely certain that I was right and that all believers were deluded. I was convinced that under no circumstances would I return to any form of religious belief. (An example of what the sin of pride can do to you.)

    God had mercy on me however and led me back to the Church in a most unexpected way – by a Muslim convert. What I realise now is that, although i was a cradle Catholic, my knowledge and understanding of the faith was very superficial. I’m working to change that now.

    A few years ago I went back to the church where I was baptised to ask for a copy of my baptismal certificate. The priest very kindly showed me the original entry in the register with a note beside it that I had also been confirmed “in hac ecclesia”. I like to think that Fr Kevin OFM (now with the Lord) who baptised me had been praying for me. God bless him. (The fact that a Muslim convert was involved in my return to the Church will not be lost on Franciscans!).

    A prayer for Damien Spleeters and all others who have become “de-baptised”.

    “May the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, give you a spirit of wisdom and perception of what is revealed, to bring you to full knowledge of him. May he enlighten the eyes of your mind so that you can see what hope his call holds for you, how rich is the glory of the heritage he offers among his holy people,
    and how extraordinarily great is the power that he has exercised for us believers; this accords with the strength of his power at work in Christ, the power which he exercised in raising him from the dead and enthroning him at his right hand, in heaven, far above every principality, ruling force, power or sovereignty, or any other name that can be named, not only in this age but also in the age to come.” Amen (Ep 1:17-21 NJB)

  14. Piotr says:

    I would like to make two points:
    1.De-baptism shows that the actual baptism means something; otherwise why bother doing it if it does not matter?
    2. How many of these people, who debaptize on the account of sexual abuse, do actual help those who were abused in any meaningful way?

  15. elleblue says:

    As an intelligent and informed Catholic knows a sacrament isn’t something anyone can take back or take away from someone.

    God continues to bless all of us whether we ‘like’ it or not!

  16. Enrique says:

    The section entitled “Red Herring” is superb. I would add that some young people feel that that being “good” (as they define it) is all that any good God would require and that they can accomplish it without the Catholic Church or Jesus Christ. They don’t understand that no amount of good is sufficient to deserve God’s infinite love and that is why we are saved through faith and the good deeds that it produces.

    Additionally, since apostates most likely don’t believe in original sin, they can’t really explain why humans also have a tendency to evil or how they plan to rid themselves of it. Catholics know that Jesus is instrumental in sanctifying us through sacramental graces and otherwise. We know Jesus is also willing to touch and work though those who don’t believe, for example, by presenting Himself as the good choice without revealing it is He.

    But it can be impossible with apostates since they have already taken a stance against much of what catholicism stands for. Thus what they now call “good” is often precisely what Jesus and the church condemn as evil and so they end up deciding against the good moral choices. Thus by separating themselves from the Church and its teachings they are literally embracing and perhaps even committing themselves to doing evil, which they call good.

    People who have never been religious or Catholic would probably male better moral choices than apostates, even if the former never hear of Jesus. For the latter have made a conscious against Jesus and his teachings whereas the former have not.

  17. Richard Paul McMichael says:

    Damien, one day you will understand, as you grow older, What you have done. You will thank all those who have prayed for you……..J.M.J.

  18. Anita says:

    Our thoughts and prayers to all those who have renounced their Baptism. And to others thinking about doing it too, please DON’T. You’ll be losing far more than you’ll be gaining. Stay attached to the VINE. In times of trials and tribulations, it is the VINE that gives us strength, love, and protection, It gives us Life.

    The mind-set of the general public needs to change from thinking that the only thing the Catholic priesthood has ever produced are pedophiles and the bishops who cover up for them. Yes there were priests who committed horrible acts of abuse. But like most Catholics we also know of many humble priests, hardworking priests, priests far above average in intelligence and idealism.

    Staying away from the Catholic Church / renouncing ones Baptism on account of the scandals is foolishness. We must not be upset / give up on the big boss (GOD) or else we lose… EVERYTHING.

    I will offer up a Mass for Damien tomorrow. We must pray and pray some more.

  19. Dealva says:

    It is people who commit the sin not the church. Jesus Christ will be the judge of how people handled the abuse. I have heard this reason for leaving the Catholic faith. Praying to Jesus is the way to get your answer. He does really answer me. I know that Jesus will answer them too. Maybe their faith is not really in these people’s heartlike they say it is. Jesus sweated his precious blood when he saw the sins that the people would commit. Jesus already knew these things would be done along with the many other crimes we would commit. Everyone of us will face Jesus alone then these people will see what they should have done instead of leaving the church.

  20. Andy says:

    Wow what incredible arrogance. Rather than face up to the fact that people have grave concerns about the behaviour of the church you seem to be satisfied that you must be right because you are part of the right club. As an atheist no such comfort for me I’m forced take responsibility for my own actions!

    I suspect the people getting debaptised are fed up with being counted as Catholics just because their parents were. The church is keen to claim how many Catholics there are worldwide but the numbers are of course completely fictitious being based on an old tradition of baptism rather than any actual engagement with the church.

    • But I am not a pedophile Andy, neither are the vast majority of priests. So I am not sure why I have to take responsibility for it.

      Also, It’s not about a club, it’s about a hospital for sinners and the unfortunate thing about that is that Jesus is found in some very questionable company. He ate with sinners and was crucified between two thieves. If you demand a perfect Church, you’ll only find that in heaven. I suspect that for you the Church can never recite enough mea culpas in this matter and the reason is, as I say in the article, it is not just about our sins that you scorn us, there are other things too.

      Think what you want about the numbers, we have been here a long time, endure many problems within and without, and will continue to be here, like it or not. We are surely shrinking in the west. But growing in certain other places. But of course the West in general is in serious trouble, it’s own population shrinkng due to contraception and abortion is and being replaced by Muslims in Europe. Here in America western Europeans are soon to be outdistanced by Latinos. Here thankfully, our immigrants are Christian and Catholic. But as for Europe I suspect difficult days are ahead for Christians AND Atheists since the Muslims are not known for their religious tolerance. Sharia will be difficult. As the Pope has said, a light is going out in Europe.

      By the way Andy, are you aware that you come across as arrogant in accusing people who disagree with you as being arrogant? I’m not sensing humanitarian love, compassion, and tolerance from you. :-)

  21. Mitya says:

    Well said Andy – Our arrogance is staggering . . . . while the RC Church continues to behave as a feudal lord the floods of people leaving or lapsing will continue.
    This is genuine feedback to us and good thing if it will get us sit up and listen.

    Oh, there are in no way a billion Catholics in the world as is claimed. This is only true if you use the bizarre counting mechanism that discounts what mature and consenting adults later choose for themselves.

    • You attribute a lot of power to the Church. Feudal Lord? Really? If that were so then how could people leave our grip? If you are glib and happy that pepole are renouncing their baptism I wonder if your claim is true that you are one of “us.” How can any Catholic or Christian be happy to see people renounce their baptism and faith and sign an act of apostacy?

      As for the number question sicut supra ad Andy.

  22. David says:

    As someone who has recognised the folly of religion and especially the catholic church, some years before the current scandals, I would like to advise readers of the more usual reason that people seek to be debaptised.
    The catholic church in England and probably around the world makes exagerated claims on the numbers of the faithful based on the number of people historically baptised. Anyone can go to a catholic church on sunday and see how few people actually attend these superstitious rituals – most people who were baptised see the church as totally irrelevant to them and their lives. Debaptism is one small act that an individual can make in protest at the church’s dishonesty.

    I do not expect this email to last long as you do not seem to tolerate disent (democracy not being exactly popular in the church!) but I would hope that the moderator will not send me abusive emails. I would also ask that you do not make statements about praying for me – keep these activities to yourself – such claims are offensive.
    Peace
    David

    • As I was reading your post I almost thought this must be from Pat Condell who posts a lot of videos on youtube. You have a very similar lexical style to his. Though I disagree with him, he is quite effective as an orator.

      As to the numbers question: sicut supra ad Andy.

      Sorry you find prayer offensive, but its odd you should use the word offensive after using words like folly, superstitious, abusive in reference to my faith. I’m not feeling a lot of humanitarian love here David.

      Peace? Really? Is that what you offer here?

  23. Gordon says:

    I renounced my baptism because I did not share the faith of your church and so you had no right to claim me.

    The fact that your record of abuse, disrespect for human dignity and equality, and general lack of morality disgusted me helped. It meant that debaptising myself was seperating myself from those awful practices.

    I think we all know why the chuch claims its numbers by baptisms rather than by church attendance. It is because a big number sounds more impressive than a tiny number, and to hell with honesty.

    • I see that your departure has left you with a cheerful disposition toward your perceived opponents.

      But in the end you seem to agree with my main point that the Abuse scandal alone did not lead to your departure. but the it was the teachings of the Church that was the foundational problem, the other issues, perceived and real, “helped.”

      As to the numbers question – sicut supra – ad Andy.

  24. Alan Urdaibay says:

    There are very many who believe that religious observance leads to immoral conduct. In some ways this is relatively mild in Christianity, much softened in its tone by the secularism of Greek philosophy and the Enlightenment. Nevertheless much of Christianity still holds morally objectionable views on women and homosexuals. Christian thought also fails on matters such as animal rights and the environment except where it has in reality been displaced by secular viewpoints. It is notable that Wilberforce used not one religious argument in his long parliamentary speech against slavery – it was the pro-slavery lobby who used the ample religious arguments liberally supported by references to the old and new testaments. Besides slavery, Christian teaching is inadequate when it comes to determining moral matters not anticipated by the writers of the New Testament (the Old Testament is self-evidently immoral e.g., no-one can condone mass rape as a punishment for a wayward daughter). In the case of the Catholic church the perversion of the sex instinct is promoted in so far as men are encouraged to live a life of celibacy. This is evil indeed.

    It is not surprising that many become angry at the continuing influence of these old barbarisms. It is offensive to say that people only object to the church’s teachings because they disobey them. I am not a woman but I object to the attitude of the church towards women. I am not a homosexual but think the church’s attitude profoundly immoral. I am not an animal (or even an animal rights activist) but find the church’s failings on matters of animal rights represent a moral black hole. I am a human being and find there is little in any religion to promote the welfare of the whole planet.

    And, of course, it is offensive to offer to pray for those ‘afflicted’ with moral thoughts of their own. The religious have no moral high ground to look down their noses from. The self-interestedness of the Catholic church over matters of child sex abuse shows this most clearly in their case.

    • You have crossed a wide range of issues that I don’t have time to address individually. Part of the problem is that they are such a mish-mash of moral and cultural issues. In some cases you aregue tha the church does NOT have a teaching. in other cases you object that we do have a teaching. THe bottom line seems to be your agenda and that the Church somehow validate it. They are not on the same plane per se. It is clear to me however that you have not really studied most of these matters in terms of what the Church teaches or why. . For example, not everything in scripture is cited with approval, sometimes the text merely reports what happened rather than to condone it as you say. There is also a progression to scripture and its moral teaching that yanking a quote out of the whole body of the text does not respect.

      Homosexual activity IS a moral teaching hence I would hold therefore that those who reject it do fall into the category of wanting to condone sin and not live according to biblical norms of purity.

      In this country anti-slavery forces were predominated by religious objectors to the practice. Here too, the slavery of biblical times was not the same as the slavery practiced in colonial times and hence scripture does not address it. However, this is a rather old argument and was resolved a long time ago. The Church does not teach that slavery is moral.

      As for women, not sure what your objections are. It could be lack of women’s ordination which is not a moarl issue or it could be our teaching against so-called reproductive rights Abortion and/or contraception which are moral issues.

      There is nothing “perverted” about celibacy. It may seem crazy to a sex-saturated culture but Jesus commends celibacy as does Paul and both of them lived it. This is just your opinion, likely influenced by a culture of out of control sexual promiscuity. Calling it evil and perverted says alot more about you than the Church.

      So again, in the end, it IS ultimately about what the Church teaches that is really at the heart of these departures. But the Lord told us that the gospel was to be preached in season and out of season. Sadly though, this is not just a problem for the Church. The wide rejection by Europe of its Catholic and Christian Faith will ultimately run its course and likely lead to the death of Europe as we know it. The unbleievers will be largely replaced by Muslim beleivers. But ultimately there cannot be a culture for long without a unifying cultus. It is folly to think that Europe or America can continue without faith. No other culture has done so.

      In America the dynamics are a bit different, but if we continue to follow the european model our future is trheatened as well.

  25. Stuart says:

    Perhaps it is not just the covering up of child rape, but morally confused papal preaching against contraception which has allegedly led to the deaths of millions, and the fact that the dictator of the Vatican suburb of Rome behaves like he is a sovereign head of state and arrogantly signs Concordats to his advantage with other, real European governments despite not being elected by the taxpayers whose money he seeks to control, and dodges accountability for spurious reasons of “diplomatic” protocol which also cause people to want to renounce their membership. This morally bankrupt institution arrogantly treats the world like it is Fourteenth Century Europe. This Pope even criticises the secularism that would defend his freedom of speech.

    • Another cheerful and respectful litany. My my such anger. The anger of course leads to wild exaggerations and ad hominem argumentum. The Church is not impecaable but she is not the monster you describe. Neither is the Pope as powerful as you suppose.

      As for secularism, beware, for through it the Europeans are increasingly handing their culture over to another culture that will not so cheerish the freedom of speech to which you point. In terms of the culture question history demonstrates that the culture that no longer believes is shortly replaced by another that does. THis is because a culture must be united by something outside and bigger than itself. Hence the word culture is from the Latin “cultus” referring to those united by common belief.

      • Yes it does occur but expereince shows it is rare. The rejection of truth and of God is largely self-serving since no inconvenient truths outside oneslf need intrude into a slef invented morality and vision. It is also convenient to never have to render an account to someone higher, mightier and wiser than I.

  26. Mitya says:

    For those brothers and sisters whose classics education is shaky; “sicut supra ad Andy” means something like “as has been explained to Andy”. There is nothing like speaking in a high prestige and dead language in order to win friends and influence people (forgive me for being ironic). I wonder if our Lord used such strategies to awe and brow-beat his contemporaries? In my opinion the explanation offered was in fact a non-explanation – only a lament and a description of what is happening.

    This speaks to the feudal mind-set that I mentioned above (as well as the arrogance and seductive non-speech of power) but I should think we will be told that we are, in fact, a church of humble sinners (who also, by the way, have The Truth). If a “light is going out in Europe”- which it is – it is possibly for a reason. Some people here have suggested why it might be happening in terms of actions for which the Church should itself be taking responsibility but what I am hearing from the faithful are the same old evasions and apologetics. This is, in my opinion, an inadequate response.

    • Well actually if you read the scriptures Chirst was pretty tough on his opponents and didn’t leave them off the hook when it came to faith. He laid it out pretty clear that they had to believe in order to be saved. And he said many things that often puzzled them. Sicut supra (meaning “as (said) above”) is a common editorial note. Not sure one needs classical education, just college term paper stuff is probably sufficient. By the way Mitya do you think your readers all know what feudal means? Just asking since I don’t want you to come across as speaking in high prestige or something.

      As for the humble church of sinners, you apparently don’t read this blog regularly but probably dropped in through a link but that aspect is well covered here. The Church’s contributions to the loss of the culture have also been well disucssed here. Everything from poor catechesis to a lack of fraternal correction, to internal dissent and a lack of evangelical spirit. All these things have been discussed. So it seems your point is not founded on having been a regualr reader here.

      Finally the paradox in terms of accusations of arrogance is that it often displays a kind of arrogance on the part of the accusor. Maybe you should just stick to the issue and avoid the ad hominem stuff. You have your opinion and are entitled to it. You think you are right. I am not sure this is arrogance. Neither am I sure that it is arrogance for me or for the Church in general to beleive what we have received from God is truth and that the opposite of what we teach is thus false. Even those who claim there is no truth violate their rule by making that very claim. Everybody thinks some things are true and that the opposite it thus false. In the end we all have a position that we think is generally right. I don’t know if I think you’re arrogant becuase you accuse us of a “feudal mindset” (The pope and bishops probably think that shepherding the Church is a lot more like herding cats). I just think you’re wrong. Why not just leave it at that? Why all this “arrogance” stuff? It takes two tough minded people to have a debate. That’s you and me, Mitya.

  27. AlisonS says:

    Does it never occur to the Church that people leave not because they want to live sinful lives, but because they want to live truly moral lives based on reason and not ancient, contradictory and, in large part, very vicious texts. Adults who believe there is a God who cares about them, are in fact behaving like self-centered adolescents who tend to think the world revolves around them. When we grow up, we need to take responsibility for our own actions and our treatment of our fellow human beings. People who don’t go through the growing up phase, continue to believe in fairy tales spread by organized religion. Unfortunately most religions are all about making people feel miserable about themselves and then purporting to offer the solution. This is not a healthy way to live. The bottom line is that adults are behaving in a perfectly rational way in deciding to leave the Church. In going through de-baptism they are, in their own way making a statement that they have reached emotional maturity.

  28. Anita says:

    It’s sad to read some of these posts from such angry individuals. Sicut supra ad Msgr – no amount of mea culpa will be enough for them. If you want a perfect Church you’ll only find it in Heaven.

    The Catholic Church will always be around. We’ll be here to welcome you back when you’re ready to return..

  29. Stuart says:

    Charles Pope: “My my such anger. The anger of course leads to wild exaggerations and ad hominem argumentum. The Church is not impecaable but she is not the monster you describe. Neither is the Pope as powerful as you suppose.

    As the expression goes, that’s what they all say! This Pope, your boss, has just enough power to tell African men what they want to hear, that they should not wear condoms, but not enough power to convince them of the other aspect of the unnatural lifestyle he would like them to lead. I guess his salvation means that his responsibility for all this is abandoned to the human sacrifice of Jesus. How very noble.

    He also has the power to fire you, of course. So should we expect a balanced analysis from you? I wouldn’t blame you of course, but does it not pique your conscience just a little? Because Ratzinger almost certainly covered up for abusers all priests’ reputations are sullied. By reporting the few abusive ones by picking up the phone and calling the police, all the innocent priests would have remained with their dignity intact.

    As regards to ad hominem, I didn’t, and you did, actually.

    Charles Pope: “In terms of the culture question history demonstrates that the culture that no longer believes is shortly replaced by another that does. THis is because a culture must be united by something outside and bigger than itself. Hence the word culture is from the Latin “cultus” referring to those united by common belief.”

    This is very true I think, and in fact an insight from your perspective into how religious belief probably came to be an advantageous adaptation in humans. The problem could be that the tribal unity that benefited from subsuming the ego to a higher power might have been useful in a tribe living on the Savannah, competing for resources with other tribes, but in a global situation it is disastrous. I assume you allude to the effects of the greater influence of Islam in Europe. Indeed that is a major problem. While the Pope just rails on against secularism in his very Anglican way and disrespects humanity in a limited number of ways, those who dream of Sharia Law appear to have little respect for any aspect of humanity.

    I have never seen a good defense of Josef Ratzinger’s comments on secularism, and you didn’t provide one either.

    “Today, the United Kingdom strives to be a modern and multicultural society. In this challenging enterprise, may it always maintain its respect for those traditional values and cultural expressions that more aggressive forms of secularism no longer value or even tolerate”
    -Josef Ratzinger 16 September 2010

    “…religious freedom is the essential element of a state of law – you cannot deny it without, at the same time, undermining all rights and fundamental freedoms.”
    -Josef Ratzinger, 1 January 2011

    Apparently he confuses secularism (his much affronted friend the promoter of freedom of expression and freedom from others’ religions) with atheism (those who realise the emperor is naked!).

    Stuart

    • Well OK Stuart your opinions are very clear but they also illustrate my main point in this blog post that it is the teachings of the Church and people’s unwillingness to accept them that is at the heart of why people either leave or dislike the Church.

      The Gospel will be in season and out of season according to our scriptures. Currently it is out season in most parts of the Western World. But our mission is to keep preaching it whether in or out.

      As for the Pope and the Church’s concerns for Europe, you obviously disagree but in the end Europe is in serious trouble and Europeans are simply being being replaced. It is sad, but largely self-inflicted it would seem. Historically the Church lost the entire north African Church in the 6th Century as Muslim armies conquered the area. But at least they had the dignity of going down with a fight. The Church in Europe however doesn’t even have that dignity, they are committing suicide it would seem through contraception and abortion they are simply going out of existence. When the proper tipping point is reached those who reamin, I fear, will end up under the shackles of Sharia law and an increasing lack of tolerance for things western. It won’t just be churches that will close, museums, librarys, universities etc, will all be either closed or severely stripped of what makes them wha they currently are. THis seems increasingly inevitable but it is very sad. I think that even from a purely secular perspective one has to conclude that, one by one, lights are going out all over Europe and because of it difficult and far less tolerant days are ahead for that region.

  30. Angela UK says:

    The arrogance of people thinking that they have to pray for people like me who wish to be de-baptised is breathtaking! I was brought up as a roman catholic but became totally dis-illisioned with all the hokus pokus and the fear inducing beliefs. I live my life, respectful of other human beings, travelling to Africa in an attempt to save the lives of pregnant woman and their babies, seeing first hand the terrible consequences of what the church has created with its policy on condom use. My life is totally fulfilled with my family and my work in Africa. I do not need or welcome any prayers or sympathy. I find it insulting that you should think that this is necessary. It is all of you who still follow this outdated secret society.. yes secret in that the Vatican will not release the names of the priests who violated children, ruined their precious childhood and lives including that of my brother over 50yrs ago. Mgr Charles Pope.. Europe is not is serious trouble.. just going through an awakening from the dark ages of the church. I was privileged to be in London to demonstrate against the pope’s visit on Sept 18th 2010. The visit cost this country millions of £s that we do not have. I object to my taxes paying for this hypocrite to visit our country.

    • Angela UK: There’s that word again, “Arrogance” but then you go on to use words like hokus pokus and the fear inducing beliefs, hypocrtite And then you go on to say how you live your life respecting other human beings. Apparently there are some excpetions to this respect? My sincere belief is that you do need prayers, I also need prayers and am grateful for the prayers of others who lift me up and pray for my own on-going conversion. I understand that you don’t agree and that you find this offensive, but the use of words like hokus-pokus etc is not necessary and indicates that the physician (you) is in need of some medicine as well.

      THe Church has not caused AIDS and frankly has no power to impose the an anti-codom policy. Promiscuity caused AIDS and helps it spread. If condoms are not being used in 3rd world countries that is not the Vatican, it is personal choice. The Church prefers that everyone observe biblical norms on sexuality and this will end a lot of problems. But I guarantee you most people ignore church teaching on Condoms and this means the source of the problem is not some Vatican power to impose a policy you find unwise. The problem lies elsewhere.

      Again, you too illustrate the point of my article, that it is CHurch teaching, which really offends and causes people to either leave or excoriate the Church. The sins of the Church are an irritant to many but not the chief cause of their disdain.

      I am grateful for your work in Africa. Time will tell where Europe is headed but I suspect Europe is in for some tough days ahead. THe low birth rate alone indicates that Europeans are simply being replaced. And they are bing replaced by a people whose culture is far less tolerant. You are surely entitled to your view as well.

  31. Stuart says:

    Mr. Pope you seem to be telling people that it is disrespectful to you personally that they challenge what you have written in this blog, or other aspects of your church’s doctrine. This is exactly the same problem Islam has. You have made your identity into this absurd set of ideas you carry in your head; you have “submitted” too. At the end of the day, they are just ideas and you could be converted to a different set of ideas just as your church would seek to convert others to their ideas. Can you not see the difference between playing the man and playing the ball?

    • It’s not personal Stuart. We have not met. But I would just avoid using words like “absurd” and many of the other terms you have used that bespeak ridicule and scorn on believers. It really isn’t necessary. It is clear that you are angry with the Church for many things. That is OK but ridicule and manifest hostility are unbecoming to a man who is at peace with himself. As for the rest of things you say in this particular comment, they are rather speculative don’t you think. Afterall we have never met. But I’ll say that my faith isn’t just in my head it is also in my expereince. You don’t need to know my whole life story but be assured that I have struggled in my own faith. I am not, as you suggest, merely submitted in a simplistic sense. I have thought for over 50 years on my faith faith and find it both compelling and coherant. But that journey was not easy. I was once agnostic and quite doubtful. But I have worked through those things. You seem to suggest that I could easily be converted to another set of ideas. In so doing it seems you think I and perhaps other believers are just pushovers. I can only speak for myself and asure you that I am nothing of the sort and that I have fought for my faith and carefully studied the intellectual tradition of the faith.

      Hence, I can distinguish the man from the ball but I don’t really think you know this man (me) at all and have serious doubts that you really know much about the ball either. In calling the Christian faith absurd you show more ignorance than knowledge. For example, I am not a believer is Islam but I would not call it absurd. It too has an intellectual tradition of centuries and had important roles in preserving the teachings of Aristole and Plato. It had an important cultural role in many parts of the world too. Sadly they do not have a tradition of tolerance where they are in the majority and have experienced very little persecution to help them expereince the need for it. FOr this reason I have concerns for western culture. But I would never call Isalm, or Bhuddism etc, absurd or use many of the other names you do Stuart. Ancient and long-living traditions deserve respect and at least a thoughtful critique. I disagree with many teachings in Isalm but respect that it is ancient and widely held. It deserves respectful dialogue.

      Do you see my point, Stuart? Your disrespectful tone is not in the fact that you disagree or want to “play the ball” but in some of the unnecessary terms and descriptions you use that make you seem sneering and small-minded.

  32. Angela UK says:

    I do not regret any of my earlier comments. In fact I would add to them in saying that the USA allows 18,000 of its citizens including children to die every year because they cannot access a basic human right.. that of good healthcare. Please do not waste your time praying for me.. as I mentioned I neither need nor welcome your time. Use your time on people who still believe in a divine being, something I no longer do. We make a heaven or hell for ourselves and those around us while on earth.. when we die, that is it. We live on in our children. In London yesterday, 3 married bishops were ordained priests.. married!! Where is the vow of chastity that so many ignore? Is the church that desperate for priests that they have to bring in men whose lives are so totally different from men ordained taking a vow of chastity. The hokus pokus??… purgatory, kneeling down to worship other human beings and even worse.. statues, kissing rings (what about worshipping false idols), fear of dying and going to hell before confessing sins, the devil, angels.. I could go on and on. I am angry at the wasted years of fear.. very angry at what my brother endured and desperate for the children whose bodies have been violated by people in positions of trust. It makes me sick.

    • Yes, Angela well you’ve given a pretty good portrait of your anger here. Too bad that there has to be all the name calling and ridicule, it isn’t necessary, but in the end I understand that you are angry and opposed in regard to a lot of things in the Church. But as I say, that is really the point I was making, people leave the church for a lot of reasons, not just one. You do not want me to waste my time praying for you so I’ll just say auf widersehen.

  33. Maureen says:

    God love you Father. You bring a mighty joy to my heart.

  34. Anita says:

    God Bless you, Msgr!. You do us proud! Your parents and grandparents particularly your mom and grandma are smiling from heaven. Rest, dear father.

  35. Angela UK says:

    My last comment…the posts from Anita and Maureen worry me as much as yours. To think that people need this drivel to bring joy to their hearts! There are more practical and fulfilling things that can be done to save humanity which would bring joy to one’s heart. If there is a heaven (and I don’t believe there is, but my parents did) imagine what my catholic parents and grandparents are thinking about the abuse my brother suffered. Sadly because there is no hell either, the perpetrator and others like him will not rot there. I am now actually wondering whether this is all a front.. a Msgr who cannot spell “bless”! Surely not! Well acted..

    • Angela, you are demonstrating that you are an unkind woman and that anger has claimed you. I am sorry for the abuse your brother suffered but that does not condemn a whole faith. And the women you have disrespected do not deserve your wrath either.

  36. Lewis Reed says:

    Monsignor,

    I too can find no more fitting a term for the tone of this piece than “arrogant”. Take, for instance the following: “One can only hope his ignorance is so great that he does not really comprehend what he has done and will not face the full effects of his ill-informed choice.”

    A grown man makes an informed, mature choice which he has obviously given much consideration to – a moral decision to leave the Church – and you deem it ill-informed, grounded in ignorance and pretty much say he’s off to Hell. That is extremely arrogant and deeply disrespectful.

    At one time I found the idea of “de-baptism” a little ridiculous, but as someone who was raised Catholic and now wholly rejects the Church, does not believe in God and finds religion quite worthy of contempt (I am from Belfast, Northern Ireland, where we have had rather more experience than many of the baleful influence of religion), I am extremely uncomfortable about being used to plump up Church numbers because my name remains on this or that parish register.

    I am quite sure, Monsignor, that you thought you were preaching to the choir in this blog entry, but you have just pushed me past tipping point. I shall be forwarding my notice that I wish my name to be formally removed from Church records forthwith.

    Yours Sincerely,

    Lewis Reed

    • You interpret ignorance pejoratively whereas it is used only descriptively in that it describes one who does not fully understand either fully or partially what they are doing. From the Latin: ignorantia – to be unknowing in some matter. In civil law there is the maxim: Ignorantia juris non excusat (Ignorance of the Law does not excuse) but in Church law ignorance does excuse either paritally or fully depending on how significant the lack of knowledge is.

      Hence two possibilities exist: either he (or you) do not fully understand the implications of what is done and thereby may escape the full implications of their choice, or they DO understand and cannot escape the ultimate consequence of what they do (i.e. eternal seperation for God in Hell by their (your) own choice). Only God can really know the answer to this question of ignorance and whether it is invincible ignorance. Thus I cannot be his judge in this matter. Hence your statement you deem it ill-informed, grounded in ignorance and pretty much say he’s off to Hell is incorrect. I cannot deem it anything and that is what my use of the term “hope” means. It is my wish that he will not be lost utterly. And the same is true for you. I am not your judge, God is.

      Neither am I your “tipping point.” I am not that powerful, we have never met. You ought not let others, especially strangers, have such power over you. If you attribute this to me, that is giving me too much power which is surely not the sign of inner strength. You ought to do what you do based on your own freedom. Of course that requires you to take personal responsibility for what you do and not seek to blame others for choices you make. God will ultimately be your judge in these matters in terms of how strong or weak you were, how knowing or unknowing you were, how influenced you were or not. But meanwhile I would avoid blaming others for what you do, it is not a sign of maturity nor of having accepted personal responsibility for what you do. In a way this gives me hope that you DO act without sufficient knowledge and may avoid complete culpability. But I wouldn’t risk it Lewis, and it is usually not good to act out of anger.

      I intend no offense in this post and regret you took offense, but your conclusion is exactly the opposite of what my quoted statement means. What it means is that I cannot say how responsibile he is for what he does before God. It is my hope that there are factors that mitigate his understanding as God sees it and thus lessens the eternal consequences of what he does. In the end I cannot know this, so I pray and ask God’s grace for him and you. As far as I can see there is nothing arrogant in hoping that someone will will change their mind in a matter that I have been taught by God is very serious, or, barring conversion, perhaps hoping he or you may have decided in such a way (in this case by ignorance or by the weakness of being excessively influenced by others) that is exculpatory at least partially.

  37. Steve says:

    Msgr. Charles Pope,
    God has truly blessed you, as I lost my temper a few times in reading the posts here, but you responded, and did it well. So many arrogant people, but then again they may just be ignorant … of earlier posts. And so many people that don’t grasp that de-baptism is a profession of faith, because if they don’t believe in baptism than what is the point of getting un-baptized? For me it is difficult to grasp, it is like getting un-circumcised. Which I guess would be next after being un-baptized. Relatively may the odds be with, absolutely go with God,
    Steve

  38. Alan Urdaibay says:

    I notice you have not the courage to post my replies – in particular the one which explains why it’s a good idea to de-baptise here in Europe as a way of reducing church funding. It would require too much humility to confess to being unaware of conditions in Europe, in much of which the state finances Catholic education. As for your general hypocrisy isn’t it true that your Washington diocese faces bankruptcy due to the volume of compensation claims made by alleged victims of child abuse?

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