"The church gets its political clout from the number of its members," Vargas explained. "My name and my membership was being used to promote this agenda. I realized that stopping going to church just isn't enough. It's very important to me as a gay man not to be counted as a member of an organization that is actively pursuing my oppression."
So Vargas wrote to Levada June 26, 2002, asking politely for excommunication – that is, for the chief local officer of the church, the pope's representative here in town, to formally declare that Vargas is no longer a member of the Catholic faith.
"As a principled and rational person," his letter states, "it pains me that someone, somewhere might be counting me as an adherent of an irrational superstition which has done, and is doing, irreparable harm to humanity and with which I profoundly disagree."
The letter had at least some impact: the pastor of the church at which Vargas was baptized, Father Oscar A. Mendez of St. Antony of Padua on Cesar Chavez Street, sent him back a note saying that he had recorded in the baptismal records of the parish Vargas's desire to renounce his faith.
But that wasn't what Vargas had in mind. He wants it official. "The last time I checked, only a bishop has the authority to excommunicate someone," he said. ....
....But the archbishop doesn't find that quite sacrilegious enough. "It would not be appropriate to use the term 'excommunicate' in your case," states an Aug. 2 note to Vargas from Monsignor Thomas S. Merson, secretary to Levada.
All of which raises an interesting question: what, exactly, does a person have to do to get kicked out of the Catholic Church these days?