Before I start this, I want to say that I am being very mindful of this not turning into a "The Catholic Church is perverted, corrupt and evil" rant.  This goes far beyond that.

The ongoing (and yes, apparently systemic) sexual abuse scandals again high up in the media spotlight is of truly grave concern to so many these days (and society in general).  That is only obvious, and only right.  I am saddened beyond words for those hurt by the actions of these offending people; not only those people who have suffered directly at the hands of abusers, but also for those of true faith and piety who must now experience the degradation of their deeply-held faith not merely -via- the actions of a few, but of the unconscionable and deceitful behavior of pastoral leadership that looked the other way (or tacitly enabled the offenders to continue on in pastoral duties behind the veil of a vast and secretive church bureaucracy).

As so often is the case when one decides to follow a new spiritual path or practice, one simply stops attending an earlier congregation or church, and begins to attend or pursue another.  While this is of no true practical issue for most (very few spiritual organizations require you to formally or practically denounce or condemn a former faith to begin practice with them, although formal rites of initiation into a new faith often does, if not at least implicitly), it may be a tacit point of contention for the practitioner once they truly understand a few points.

Many (if not most) churches count their size (that is, the "official" size of their congregation) by their historical membership rolls.  What this means in a practical sense is that if you do not "un-enroll" yourself, you are being counted as a supporting member of said church, and as an implication, a supporter of the church hierarchy and its leadership.  Further, that means if you were merely baptized by a given church, and never even went to so much as a single service, you are still counted as a full and supporting member of the church, and its leadership.  So, you are de facto still a supporting member, even if in name only.

Many, many people are now estranged from (if not disaffected and wholly offended by the actions of) a number of formal dogmatic churches due to sexual scandal and pastoral impropriety.  They want nothing to do with a given church anymore, so typically they simply stop attending.  But they invariably do not take the proper steps to totally sever ties with the offending church, mostly because the mechanism for such a formal severing of ties is not something most churches make abundantly clear.  As such, they still are being counted.  For many, this "latent affiliation" is not something they can have rest comfortably with their conscience either.


  • To be fair, the Roman Catholic Church is not the only organized religion that has suffered sexual impropriety.  Buddhist traditions all over the world, and throughout history, have suffered them also, as well as any number of other faiths east and west.
  • Any time a person of good conscience leaves a formalized and institutionalized spiritual organization (read "religion") due to any number of reasons (not the least of which should be an apparent or obvious pattern of unethical behavior within its ordained practitioners and/or leadership) they should take the time to have their name removed from the pastoral rolls and record.
  • One should take time to do so especially if the ethical issues in question seem to be systemic and/or have been actively hidden from public view.
What to do?

In the Roman Catholic Church (and the Anglican/Episcopal churches, as well I believe) there is a formal mechanism for completely leaving the corpus eclesiastica.  It is called defection.

To defect, you simply need to write a letter to the archbishop of the diocese you were baptized in stating that you no longer wish to be counted as member of the church.  You need to include:
  • the date you were born
  • the date of your baptism (if you have it)
  • the reason(s) why you wish to defect (incongruity of beliefs, church impropriety, etc)
  • an example of actions you have taken to distance yourself from the church (non-attendance, lack of tithe support, public denouncement of church dogma or public demonstration of another faith)
  • a statement of "sound mind" (that is; "I am making this decision with a sound mind after careful and rigorous consideration")
  • a statement that your decision is unilateral, final and irrevocable
  • a line that states that you appreciate the gravity of your decision and fully understand what your decision means, including its ramifications (if any)
  • an unequivocal denouncement of the "trappings" of the church in question
  • a demand to be removed from all pastoral records
  • a request to have your removal confirmed in return correspondence from the archdiocese
  • a signature and date
Depending on the church or the completeness of the information you provide, you may have to take one or two more steps.  They may ask you for proof of baptism.  There are mechanisms for that.  You may or may not wish to comply with that request.  The diocese may offer to have you speak with a priest.  That is totally optional, and you can simply say that you respectfully decline that offer, and demand to have your unilateral defection recognized immediately.

As an example, below is my letter of defection:

I do this not as a way to either lash out at the Catholic Church, or encourage people towards any given spiritual direction, but simply as a way for all people of good and mindful deliberation to be able to act upon their desire to have their spiritual affiliations be either counted or not counted in accordance with their hearts and their conscience.

May those hurt find peace.

May those who have caused hurt find a way to make amends.

May all beings be free from suffering.

May all beings be at peace.

All evil karma ever committed by me since of old,
On account of my beginning-less greed, anger and ignorance,
Born of my body, mouth and thought,
Now I atone for it all.

May your life go well...

I used to have a recording of one of my old bands and I performing this, but I can't find it, so you'll have to suffer the original.  Always fabulous irony that Stevie Winwood looks like he's 11 years old in this.  Still a stunning musician, but to think he was (literally) 18 or so when this was filmed.  The Finnish (I believe) subtitles are simply icing on this YouTube kakusta.

I'm currently in the process of writing up a plan to form a men's dharma cohort for my sangha.  We have had a very active women's cohort for well over a year.  When I heard of it, way back when, I immediately felt something rise up inside me.

Hey.  What about me?

An experience I had yesterday was very validating to me, or at least to my idea of this cohort.  I was grabbing some things at my local grocery mondo-box ("mondo" is an interesting choice of words here).  Anyway, I was there in line at the check-out, and I heard a low voice say "Zen Trixter" (yes, seriously that was said: some people do jokingly refer to me by my internet nom de keyboard.)  It was a good friend from sangha, and we started chatting about sanghaish goings-on.  I'd mentioned that I was working on this men's cohort idea.  As we finished checking out, we continued to chat outside, and he mentioned a moment recently at a hosan (essentially a "group interview") where one woman in the sangha who was a member of the woman's cohort vocally validated another woman from that group, essentially saying "right on, sister!"  He immediately felt something click in him; something they could do that he apparently could not.  "I felt that I was being shown something that's missing.  Something I can't do.  Something I don't have access to."

Right on, brother.

And this brings me to what I've been working on.  I have been doing reading in a number of different areas, including psychology, sociology, spirituality and religious investigations, on male roles and archtypes.  The conclusion I have come to, at least for now, is this:

I have absolutely no idea whatsoever what it means to be a man--let alone a male dharma practitioner--in the early 21st Century.

There are a number of things that I do know.  I do know that it's HARD being a man now.  Probably harder than it's ever been.  We suffer from a sh!tpile of bad press, terrible public relations and a history that is hard to live down.  As many women rightly shout (or wear quietly on t-shirts) "The Patriarchy's The Problem", and to a great degree that's true.  Whether or not that should be in the past tense, I don't know, but we as men are still bearing the karmic load brought on by--essentially--the sins of our fathers; the men that have built our cultural paradigm, designed our political machine, and insisted upon the institutionalization of a heteronormative operational model.  Almost all men find themselves under this umbrella, at least in the modern west.  We don't have much of a choice.

Or do we?

I believe that we do.  But at the same time, how does a man in 2010 celebrate being a man without looking like he's reveling in the oppressive patriarchy of the last three millenia or so?  Forgive me for being blunt (and awfully punny) here, but the nut of it is: how does he safely identify with the core of his manhood without coming off as a complete dick?

I don't know.

I'd like to.

I'm going to try...

But not like this...

And now, to close this very special episode of "Shaking Off The Weirdness":

Girls on Trampolines!

Thanks to Ludo for the outro. You can read the silly lyrics to this silly song here. I won't try.

Please go support xkcd by visiting, worshiping and buying stuff.

“Where do you end
And I begin?”

It sounds so

Until it’s
A dead cat
In the road.

Then it is
Most intimate…

As I Develop The Awakening Mind I Praise The Buddha As They Shine
I Bow Before You As I Travel My Path To Join Your Ranks,
I Make My Full Time Task
For The Sake Of All Beings I Seek
The Enlighted Mind That I Know I'll Reap
Respect To Shantideva And All The Others
Who Brought Down The Darma For Sisters And Brothers
I Give Thanks For This World As A Place To Learn
And For This Human Body That I'm Glad To Have Earned
And My Deepest Thanks To All Sentient Beings
For Without Them There Would Be No Place To Learn What I'm Seeing
There's Nothing Here That's Not Been Said Before
But I Put It Down Now So I'll Be Sure
To Solidify My Own Views And I'll Be Glad If It Helps
Anyone Else Out Too
If Others Disrespect Me Or Give Me Flack
I'll Stop And Think Before I React =
Knowing That They're Going Through Insecure Stages
I'll Take The Opportunity To Exercise Patience
I'll See It As A Chance To Help The Other Person
Nip It In The Bud Before It Can Worsen
A Change For Me To Be Strong And Sure
As I Think On The Buddhas Who Have Come Before
As I Praise And Respect The Good They've Done
Knowing Only Love Can Conquer In Every Situation
We Need Other People In Order To Create
The Circumstances For The Learning That We're Here To Generate
Situations That Bring Up Our Deepest Fears
So We Can Work To Release Them Until They're Cleared
Therefore, It Only Makes Sense
To Thank Our Enemies Despite Their Intent
The Bodhisattva Path Is One Of Power And Strength
A Strength From Within To Go The Length
Seeing Others Are As Important As Myself
I Strive For A Happiness Of Mental Wealth
With The Interconnectedness That We Share As One
Every Action That We Take Affects Everyone
So In Deciding For What A Situation Calls
There Is A Path For The Good For All
I Try To Make My Every Action For That Highest Good
With The Altruistic Wish To Achive Buddhahood
So I Pledge Here Before Everyone Who's Listening
To Try To Make My Every Action For The Good Of All Beings
For The Rest Of My Lifetimes And Even Beyond
I Vow To Do My Best To Do No Harm
And In Times Of Doubt I Can Think On The Dharma
And The Enlightened Ones Who've Graduated Samsara