Is Nick Clegg a Catholic?

A couple of days ago, Clegg was being interviewed by Eamonn Holmes on Sky TV, about apprenticeship, or some other politics-by-numbers topic. At the end of the interview, given the previous evening’s events, Holmes asked the sex-crazed cactus hater what he thought about the election of Pope Francis.

In the course of the usual bland answer, Cleggy confirmed that his wife and offspring were Catholics – hence his now famous choice of a ‘local’ state school, and so was his mother, but he wasn’t.

Is this correct?

The reason, presumably, that the children were baptised as Catholics, is because of their mother, the fragrant Miriam. Surely it is likely that Clegg’s Dutch mum, Eulalie Hermance van den Wall Bake, would have done the same thing?

The Knife doesn’t know, but it seems likely.

If that was the case, then in order to not be a Catholic now, there would have been two possible options, I thought initially:

1. Get yourself excommunicated, although surprisingly perhaps this doesn’t actually remove your baptism, you’re barred, as the name suggests, from the sacraments. So that’s out.

2. Go for the actus formalis defectionis ab Ecclesia catholica, which was a formal act of departure, externally provable, and done for legal reasons, such as tax receipts in countries like Germany. However, this was removed from Canon Law in 2009, and did not in itself confirm that someone was no longer part of the church.

So as far as I can tell, cribbing from Wikipedia, the following still applies:

The notification required therefore that the decision to leave the Church had to be manifested personally, consciously and freely, and in writing, to the competent Church authority, who was then to judge whether it was genuinely a case of “true separation from the constitutive elements of the life of the Church … (by) an act of apostasy, heresy or schism.”

If the bishop or parish priest decided that the individual had indeed made a formal act of defection from the Catholic Church – making a decision on this matter would normally require a meeting with the person involved – the fact of this formal act was to be noted in the register of the person’s baptism. This annotation, like other annotations in the baptismal register, such as those of marriage or ordination, was unrelated to the fact of the baptism: it was not a “debaptism” (a term sometimes used journalistically): the fact of having been baptized remained a fact, and the Catholic Church holds that baptism marks a person with a seal or character that “is an ontological and permanent bond which is not lost by reason of any act or fact of defection”.

Of course, lots of people get very irritated by the claim that once baptised, that’s you, whatever you personally want. But if you accept the ‘mystical’ concept of baptism, which is very longstanding, and  not exclusively Catholic, then it seems reasonable to me that God calls the shots here.

So, unless a Canon Lawyer can correct me, or in the event that Eulalie Hermance van den Wall Bake can clarify the neonatal Nick’s situation, we may actually have a Catholic Deputy Prime Minister.

He’s still useless though.'s been 30 years since my last confession, Father...
…’s been 30 years since my last confession, Father…

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