I think we all of us know at least one cafeteria Catholic. Some of them are our friends, family members and fellow parishioners. These are people who identify as catholic but yet don’t seem to follow anything that the Catholic Church teaches. They pick and choose elements from the catholic faith that work for them and reject the teachings that are too hard to follow.
Most of these individuals are grossly under-catechized, and so in the hopes of educating some of the cafeteria Catholics in my life, I put together 10 false ideas that seem to be common with these individuals.
1. “I personally would never get an abortion, but I believe that every woman should have the right to choose.”
By saying you would never get one yourself, you are proving that you recognize the value of that unborn life. Having said that, would you knowingly let a woman kill her newborn child? Probably not. So why would you sit idly by, and let a woman kill the life that you clearly see as worthy of value, whether that life is in your womb, or another woman’s womb or out of the womb?
2. “My husband and I use contraception because we don’t believe the Church should be telling us how many children we should have.”
The Church is not telling you how many children to have. God is. And part of having faith, is trusting that God will not give you more than you handle. Furthermore, there are natural methods of planning pregnancies that are recognized and encouraged by the Catholic Church, namely Natural Family Planning (which is actually just as effective-if not more-than the birth control pill).
3. “I just don’t see the problem with homosexual marriage. They love each other, so they should have the right to get married. Didn’t Jesus tell us to love each other?”
When Christ came to earth, he permanently established marriage as a sacrament between a man and a woman. The purpose of marriage is twofold. First, by joining together in a covenant, man and wife become each other’s vocations, in other words they will lead each other to heaven. Second, through their sacramental love, a new life is conceived (a reflection of the Holy Trinity). Since two men and two women, do not have the physical attributes necessary to conceive a child, it is unnatural for them to be united in the covenant of marriage because the twofold purpose will never fully be achieved. Let’s keep in mind however, that even if the marital act does not end in the conception of a child, the act is still sacramental as it has the possibility to create a new life, without that possibility, the act is invalid.
4. “I don’t need to go to confession because God knows all my sins and forgives them without me having to tell a priest everything. It’s not like the priest needs to forgive my sins.”
During his public ministry, Jesus himself forgave sins (the story of the adulterous woman, the story of the woman washing his feet with her tears), so clearly we should be asking God for forgiveness when we sin. Jesus himself also established Confession as a sacrament. He gave the apostles authority to act in persona Christi (in Jesus’ Name) and that authority is passed down through the Church to all priests. When you go to confession the priests acts as Jesus, therefore it’s not the priest forgiving your sins it’s Jesus himself!
5. “Only God can judge me”
You are absolutely right, only God can judge you. However, God left us some pretty firm rules as to what we will be judged on. When you break one of those rules, it is our Christian duty to point out, with love, that you have done something wrong. Also, God being your sole judge is not an excuse for bad behavior.
6. “I think that if you are a good person, and you do good things then you don’t need to go to church every Sunday and follow every rule to get to heaven.”
If I had one of those game show buttons that make an “EERRR” sound, I’d press it every time I hear this. First, Jesus said that the only way to the Father (i.e. heaven) is through Him. Cool, so to go to heaven you just need to believe in Jesus? Well that’s true, but you also need to listen to what He says and follow His commandments. So unfortunately, just being a good person and doing good things does not buy you a one way ticket to heaven. The good news is that Jesus left us a Church to guide us so that it can help us know what to do to get into heaven.
7. “We were both raised catholic and still consider ourselves catholic, but we won’t be baptising our children because we don’t want to impose a religion on them. We want them to choose by themselves.”
If you are telling me this, than you better be bringing your kids to church, to temple, to the mosque, etc.. How can your kids choose if you are not exposing them to any type of religion? Sure you don’t want to impose religion on your kids, because they might feel suffocated by it, but it is your duty as a catholic parent to raise your kids according to the teachings of the Church. By having your child baptized, you are ridding him/her of original sin and letting God give this baby all these spiritual graces in order to help them grow in faith. Why wouldn’t you want that from the very beginning of your child’s life?
8. “Women should definitely be allowed to become priests. I mean men and women are equal.”
The Church definitely views men and women as equals. However, just like all humans have different vocations, God has called men and women to have different purposes/roles within the church. Married men are called to be the head of the household and to lead their wife and children to God. Married women are called to let their husband lead their household and support their decisions. And so, just like married men and women, men and women who choose the consecrated life are called to different purposes. Consecrated men are called to priesthood in order to lead the church community, and consecrated women are called to support the church through prayer and acts of charity. Both of these purposes are very different but equally as important within the church.
9. “My fiancé and I are getting married in a catholic church because that’s where our parents expect us to get married.”
If you don’t participate or believe in what the Catholic Church teaches, then please don’t get married in a catholic church. The catholic sacrament of matrimony is so much bigger than a quick ceremony at city hall. The sacrament binds you with that other person for the rest of your life. From the moment you say your vows, God will see you and your spouse as ONE person. That’s why the Catholic Church requires that couples take pre-cana classes before they get married. Therefore, if you don’t understand the immense significance of a catholic marriage, don’t get married in a catholic church. After all, you can always get your marriage blessed by the Church if you come to understand its true meaning one day.
10. “We take communion to remember what Jesus did at the Last Supper. It’s more symbolic than anything else.”
I was going to answer this, but I think this verse from John 6: 53 – 66, answers it way better than I ever could.
53 Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. 54 Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day. 55 For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. 56 Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them. 57 Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. 58 This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your ancestors ate manna and died, but whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.” 59 He said this while teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum.
60 On hearing it, many of his disciples said, “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?”
61 Aware that his disciples were grumbling about this, Jesus said to them, “Does this offend you? 62 Then what if you see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before! 63 The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you—they are full of the Spirit[e] and life. 64 Yet there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus had known from the beginning which of them did not believe and who would betray him. 65 He went on to say, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled them.”
66 From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.”