"Cafeteria Catholics" and the recent New York late-term abortion bill.
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Maybe you've heard the term before. A "Cafeteria Catholic" is a member of the Catholic faith who chooses to ignore certain aspects of Catholic doctrine, or to interpret established doctrine in a way which doesn't agree with Catholic moral teaching. As a general rule, people don't use this term to refer to themselves, because "Cafeteria Catholic" is a uncomplimentary phrase which is meant to imply disapproval.
In ways both large and small, the concept is something that can have frightening implications. Recently, on the 46th anniversary of the passage of the infamous
Roe v. Wade
Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion-on-demand, we saw in New York state the passage of the ironically-named “
Reproductive Health Act
”, a bill that essentially justifies murder of the soon-to-be born until just before birth. What is all the more shocking is that a major proponent of this bill, New York governor
, is a Catholic.
Unfortunately, this is not an isolated case. We live in a time in which many Catholics betray key teachings and values of the Faith. Of course, our age is not unique. There have always been such Catholics—including very public Catholics. But in our age, mass communication means a lot more people notice them and are able to discuss what they do.
Are such people still Catholics? To answer this question, we need to look at the Church’s official documents. According to the Second Vatican Council: "He is not saved . . . who, though part of the body of the Church, does not persevere in charity. He remains indeed in the bosom of the Church, but, as it were, only in a 'bodily manner' and not 'in his heart'” (
14). By losing the gift of charity, such a Catholic ceases to be a member of the Church “in his heart,” but he remains in it “bodily.” So the Church recognizes that there is a sense in which a Catholic who has chosen to reject fundamental teachings ceases to be truly or fully Catholic, but there is another sense in which he still is Catholic.
This brings to mind the old saying, “Once a Catholic, always a Catholic.” There’s a sense in which that’s true, since the obligations we are subject to by virtue of our Baptism into the Church continue to exist, even if we renounce the Faith and no longer regard ourselves as Catholic.
An important question, one that has been discussed often in the aforementioned New York issue, is: in instances of egregious rejection of Catholic doctrine, should such people be
(deprived access to the sacraments)? It is important to consider that excommunication is never meant to "curse" a person and is not to be used as a weapon against that person. It is a
, an effort by the Church to persuade the offender to seek the humility to recognize their error and to repent for the sake of their eternal salvation. In the case of a public offense, such a step may also serve the purpose of addressing the issue of
Even when excommunication is imposed, it is still possible to be reconciled with the Church through contrition, reaching out to competent Church authority and availing oneself of the sacrament of Reconciliation. While in some instances the lifting of an excommunication must come through
direct appeal to the Pope
, most excommunications can be lifted through by a bishop or, in cases such as direct, knowing and willful involvement in the
procurement of abortion
, by a priest (as this has been generally delegated in the United States.)
However, as difficult as it may be, it is clear that someone who still professes to be Catholic—even unfaithfully—remains so, even if it is purely in a “bodily” way and not “in his heart.” Although there is no doubt that high-profile Catholics — as well as private individuals— may severely compromise their relationship with the Church (and ultimately their salvation) when they reject key Catholic values, this doesn’t mean that they cease to be Catholics. "Cafeteria Catholics" — whether high-profile politicians or private citizens — are still Catholics. And that just makes their betrayal of the faith worse. Jesus gave his Church, and its members, the authority to teach and to witness to the faith until the end of the world; if we want to be Jesus' followers, we can't simply pick and choose our beliefs.
Almighty, ever-living God, in whose hand lies every human heart
and the rights of peoples, look with favor, we pray,
on those who govern with authority over us,
that throughout the whole world the prosperity of peoples,
the assurance of peace, and freedom of religion
may through your gift be made secure.
Through our Lord, Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Collect/Opening Prayer of Masses for Civil Needs, Those in Public Office
A humble soul does not trust itself, but places all its confidence in God.
St. Faustina Kowalska, mystic
Our FORMED Recommendation for the Week
Audio (59 mins) -
The New Conversation: Changing Hearts and Minds on Abortion
Stephanie Gray is a passionate and uncompromising defender of the Catholic Faith, as well as an advocate for those who cannot speak for themselves. She frequently travels across Canada and the United States speaking on issues related to the humanity of the unborn, utilizing her unique ability to speak to people on either side of a pro-life issue. In this presentation given at a Students for Life conference, Stephanie talks about the dignity of the human person through a biblical lens as she seeks the truth regarding today's pressing life issues.
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on Friday, February 1 at 3:00PM