Cafeteria Catholic

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A Cafeteria Catholic, Catholic in name only, or C&E Catholic (Christmas & Easter only Catholic) is someone who self-identifies as a member of the Roman Catholic church and yet picks and chooses which of the Church's doctrines to believe. In particular, those terms are often used to refer to a self-identified Catholic who rejects the Vatican's instructions, Canon law and Papal Encyclicals directing Catholics to abhor abortion as murder.

Catholic Democrats may be associated with Cafeteria Catholics because their party ideology believes in abortion as a right and also in gay marriage. This is in direct opposition to what Catholics are taught.

The biggest peril to Cafeteria Catholics is to incur in automatic excommunication, or "latae sententiae" excommunication, which results in eternal damnation in hell. Among other reasons, abortion, heresy and apostasy are some that results in this kind of excommunication from the Church. According to encyclical "Divini Redemptoris" and edict "DECRETUM CONTRA COMMUNISMUM" by Pope Pius XII, it is declared that catholics that "openly declare the materialistic and anti-Christian doctrine of the communists, and especially (...) defend or propagate them" are to be considered apostates and incur in automatic excommunication, no longer being part of the Church. Pope John XXIII, in 1959, confirmed this position of the Church and further declared that "catholics are not allowed to (in elections) give their votes to parties or candidates that, even not proclaiming themselves communists, support this ideology".

Other examples of the pick-and-choose approach include Catholics who deny there is a Hell, deny the miracle of transubstantiation and the place of the eucharist as the most important of the seven sacraments,[1], deny that Mary was Immaculate,[2], deny fundamental church teachings regarding the creation of the souls of men, or deny other core teachings of the Church (apostasy).[3] By Canon law, a Catholic believing contrary to certain truths taught by the Universal, Ordinary and Solemn Magisteria may be guilty of heresy or worse, apostasy, and should not take Holy Communion. These truths are not defined in a single teaching and may be difficult to discern, which is a false conundrum cafeteria Catholics rely on to deny faith rather than learn and explore. Some Cafeteria Catholics ignore this and take Communion anyway, which is a Mortal Sin. The Church believes that such a person is separated from the Holy Spirit, even without direct excommunication from Church authorities. Alternatively, some cafeteria Catholics are very sensitive to the difficulty their compromised faith presents and in picking and choosing which sacraments and Canons to honor may abstain from defiling the eucharist by feasting in a state of sin.

An extreme form of a cafeteria Catholic is a cultural Catholic. A cultural Catholic is someone who has a strong emotional attachment to Catholic social and cultural identity, but who does not understand Catholicism and does not seriously follow its ethical teaching. The majority of Catholics in the world are believed to be cultural Catholics.[4] Divorce and abortion rates among Catholics are identical to the secular society as a whole, showcasing the effects of the Cultural Catholic.



  1. Mark 14:22-24; Luke 22:14-20; John 6:53–58; Code of Canon Law of 1983 1396
  2. Encyclical Munificentissimus Deus, etc.
  3. Encyclical Sapaentiae Christianae: "to refuse to believe in any one of [dogmas of the Church] is equivalent to rejecting all of them."
  4. Who Is a Roman Catholic? Cultural Catholics

See also