Here’s a puzzling story. According to the Washington Post, a civil court in France has ordered the Catholic Church to remove a disgruntled parishioner from the baptismal register. The parishioner sought the court order after the Church declined to comply with his request to “de-baptize” him:
A decade ago, Rene Lebouvier requested that his local Catholic church erase his name from the baptismal register. The church noted his demands on the margins of its records and the chapter was closed.
But the clergy abuse scandals rocking Europe, coupled with Pope Benedict XVI’s conservative stances on contraception, hardened Lebouvier’s views. Last October, a court in Normandy ruled in favor of his lawsuit to have his name permanently deleted from church records — making the 71-year-old retiree the first Frenchman to be officially “de-baptized.”
“I took the judicial route to get myself de-baptized because of the church’s excesses,” said Lebouvier, speaking by telephone from his village of Fleury, near the D-Day beaches.
The Post article does not say what the cause of action was, or why the civil court believed it had jurisdiction of such matters. It seems baffling. In some European countries, like Germany, church membership has civil law consequences — church members are liable for a “church tax” the government collects on behalf of the religious body. So I could see why German courts would have authority to determine who is or is not a church member for tax purposes — though it’s not clear the court’s determination could bind the church itself, without the church’s consent. No such “church tax” exists in France, though. So why is a civil court getting involved? H/T: Mirror of Justice