I occasionally get an message from someone who explains in self-righteous high dudgeon that she is leaving the Church because of [INSERT FLIMSY EXCUSE HERE].
Over at his excellent blog, Ed Peters looks at a case of someone who said he left the Church.
This is instructive.
Is Magdi Allam still a Catholic?
by Dr. Edward Peters
Magdi Allam, “a prominent Muslim-born journalist baptized by Pope Benedict XVI” has now blogged about “leaving the [C]hurch because it is too ‘weak with Islam.’” Maybe it’s just me, but this modern proclivity to parade one’s spiritual angst in the blogosphere is wearing pretty thin. [It's not just you, Ed.] Besides, as Chesterton remarked, there are a thousand reasons to leave the Church and only one reason to stay: It’s true. So, Magdi cited two or three reasons to leave the Church, and not reasons especially high up on the “Top 1000 Reasons To Leave the Catholic Church” list at that. Whatever.
Still I don’t know why some folks are so quick to assume that (a) Allam was not ‘really’ a Catholic, or (b) he was not adequate catechized, or (c) Allam’s abandonment of the Faith must be an embarrassment to Abp. Fisichella who shepherded Allam into the Church. If my sins cannot be laid at the feet of my parents or pastors why should Allam’s be charged to Fisichella? God has no grandchildren.
In particular, because of the indelible character conferred by Baptism (c. 845, and I’m presuming Confirmation, as Allam was baptized as an adult, c. 866), Allam will, for all eternity, be marked as a baptized and confirmed Christian. Now, one’s canonical identity is not easily turned on or off and nothing in the reports I’ve seen so far suffice for, say, schism or even formal defection. All I glean so far is one man expressing contempt for his obligation to conduct himself in accord with the requirements of communion (c. 209). But that does not make one a non-Catholic, that just makes one a bad Catholic.
Ultimately, Allam’s sacramental seal will either be a source of greater joy to him in Heaven (as, hopefully, he will repent of his deed) or of greater suffering for him in Hell (if his act is sufficiently imputable to him, as only God would know), but either way, Allam is, on these facts, still Catholic and should be regarded as a Catholic whose need for prayers is just a little more obvious than is ours.
The Second Vatican Council’s document Lumen gentium at par. 14 has sobering words for those who think they want to leave the Church or who refuse to join it, knowing and believing the Church’s divine origin and claims.
This Sacred Council wishes to turn its attention firstly to the Catholic faithful. Basing itself upon Sacred Scripture and Tradition, it teaches that the Church, now sojourning on earth as an exile, is necessary for salvation. Christ, present to us in His Body, which is the Church, is the one Mediator and the unique way of salvation. In explicit terms He Himself affirmed the necessity of faith and baptism and thereby affirmed also the necessity of the Church, for through baptism as through a door men enter the Church. Whosoever, therefore, knowing that the Catholic Church was made necessary by Christ, would refuse to enter or to remain in it, could not be saved.
“… could not be saved”.