Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The Irony of "Cafeteria Catholics"

I know many people who attend Mass regularly and identify themselves as Catholic, but regularly decry the Church as oppressive, reactionary, fearful of change, ignorant and prejudiced. They vocally oppose Church teachings on homosexuality, New Age healing, female ordination*, capital punishment, the sacrament of Reconciliation, refusing Communion to some, reincarnation... the list goes on. In some cases, it seems they do not believe that the Church possesses any valid teaching authority.

USCCB Logo
Good place to find what the Church teaches, rather than what some blogger says about it...

Before continuing, let me first acknowledge that the Church has made errors in her teachings in the past. Although she is protected from error on matters of faith and morals, many of her teachings are on less important matters (i.e. whether priests can marry). Also, there have been popes throughout the years who have not upheld Church teachings, fled their responsibilities, and used their position for personal gain. So faithful Catholics are not required to mutely accept all that comes from their bishops and the Vatican.

However.

Many of the teachings people don't like are issues of faith and morals. The Church has spoken with authority on these matters. When people routinely reject the teaching authority of the Church, I begin to wonder why they identify as Catholic. One reason people often give for staying despite all they despise about the Church is the Eucharist. They value the Real Presence of Christ that is not found in Protestant churches.

The irony is that some Anglican churches (and possibly other denominations) do believe in transubstantiation and the Real Presence. The reason Catholics do not acknowledge the validity of this claim is that, from a Catholic perspective, these churches have broken unity with the Church founded by Christ and so their priesthood is not valid. Without a validly ordained priest, the miracle of transubstantiation will not occur.

See the problem? The reason these churches are not considered valid is because the teaching authority of the Catholic Church has declared it. So, if you don't accept the teaching authority of the Church on "modern" issues, why would it matter what is taught about Protestant churches? My goal here is not to drive dissenters out of the Church, but to call people to think critically about the teaching authority of the Church and what it actually means to them. Intentional faith, if you will.



*I read an article in passing recently that cited Blessed Pope John Paul II's writings (particularly about the valued role of women) as evidence in favor of female ordination. Allow me to point out that he specifically said this issue is resolved and not open for further discussion. Check your sources, folks. :-)

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