Cafeteria Catholics

One of my pet peeves (which is nothing like my pet dog) is Catholics who call themselves Catholics but aren’t really Catholics. They pick and choose what parts of the faith they want to follow. Like being at a Chinese buffet, I like crab rangoons, let me take four, I don’t like egg rolls, I won’t take any, in other words, Cafeteria Catholics. 

Photo by Benjamin Ashton on Unsplash

I used to be one. I called myself a Catholic, but only when it suited me. When I didn’t like something the church said I just didn’t follow it. I couldn’t understand why I had to tell a priest everything I did wrong, so I didn’t. I didn’t know why the Catholic Church was opposed to contraception so I ignored it. But I still considered myself Catholic. I guess I should have paid more attention to the Creeds. 

In the RCIA program I am co-facilitating, a big part of it is going over the creeds. They are the professions of our faith. Catholics are probably more familiar with the Apostle’s Creed, the shorter version. The other is the Nicene Creed, the one usually said at Mass, right after the homily. If you wish to consider yourself a devout Catholic you need to believe and follow what the Creeds profess. 

As I was preparing my thoughts for this Sunday’s RCIA session, one line really stood out to me. 

We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son.
With the Father and the Son he is worshiped and glorified.
He has spoken through the Prophets.
We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.
We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
We look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.

Catholic Church. (2000). Catechism of the Catholic Church (2nd Ed., p. 50). Washington, DC: United States Catholic Conference.

Let’s quickly take this line apart to see what this means and why it is important for Catholics. There are four words know as the four marks of the church.

  • One – This means the internal unity of the Church derives from the unity of God, the unifying work of Jesus Christ and of the Holy Spirit
  • Holy – Holiness flows from an essential unity with the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit. 
  • Catholic – The word catholic means “Universal”.  It is universal because Jesus is present as the head of the body. 
  • Apostolic – This means the Church was founded on the Apostles who were sent on a mission by the risen Christ to spread the gospel and unify the people. Peter was appointed by Jesus to lead the church and the teachings were handed down through the pope and bishops.

Did you notice one word that came up in all of the four marks of the Church? Unity. Unifying. Universal. The Catholic Church is unified and is the same throughout. One of the participants in the RCIA program mentioned how she had been in Africa for some time and even though she couldn’t understand the language, she still knew exactly what was going on in the Mass. But it’s not just the Mass that is universal, it is also the teaching of the Church, the Tradition, the deposit of faith, all given to us through the Magisterium. If you want to consider yourself a devout Catholic, then you must be in unity with what the Church believes.

I guess this is why it bothers me when someone insists they are Catholic and then goes on to say they are pro-choice, or support Planned Parenthood, as so many politicians do. This goes against the teachings of the Church. If you want to be Catholic, you need to be unified. 

You don’t need to agree with the teachings of the Catholic Church to be a Catholic, you only need to follow them. 

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