Every Mass we recite, “I believe in One Holy Catholic Apostolic Church.” Yet the number of Cafeteria Catholics, who pick and choose what they want to believe about Catholicism, is growing. Some may disagree with the male priesthood. Others may champion the Latin Mass as the correct way to worship. All these disagreements make me sad.
So in the “universal church” is there room for disagreement? What are the defining characteristics of a Catholic?
One Baptism to Rule Them All
Baptism places a seal on our heats. It claims us for Christ.
We were indeed buried with him through baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might live in newness of life.
The Catechism puts it this way:
the person baptized belongs no longer to himself, but to him who died and rose for us (CCC 1269).
Yet baptism demands a response. It requires that we obey and submit to the Church leaders. In other words, we are to obey and submit to the church teaching. In exchange, we receive the benefits of the sacraments. When one fails to submit to the teachings of the Catholic Church, one forfeits their rights to the sacraments.
Likewise, baptism unites all Christians. By their baptism, our protestant brothers and sisters are honorary members of the Catholic Church.
Now, most Catholics did not willingly choose this obligation. Rather their baptism occurred before the age of consent. Yet in reality, obligations are assumed all the time. The most obvious is our obligation to honor our mother and father.
if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved (Romans 10:9).
The Creeds developed to address the problem of how Christians were to be identified. The Nicene Creed and Apostles creed offers the earliest articulations of the Christian faith. The Nicene Creed solidifies the Church’s stance that Christ is fully human and fully God.
Unfortunately, nowadays, it is easy to recite the creed. Christianity is mainstream. There is no shame or social stigma for believing in God. Yet when St Paul writes, “confess with your mouth,” he is asking people to make a life and death declaration.
I don’t know about you, but that makes me pause. I ask myself am I willing to lose everything for the sake of Jesus.
Jesus is not just a nice guy nor your best friend, rather he is king. He willingly lays down his life and asks us to pledge our loyalty.
I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh (Ezekiel 36:26).
God desires to transform us from the inside out. The Sacraments are designed to be encounters with God.
As a convert from evangelical Protestantism, I had to shift my perspective. Confession was difficult for me to accept. I had been looking at Confession as an obligation or punishment for my sin.
Yet God transformed my heart when I began to consider Confession to be a gift. It offered me a chance to hear the words, “you are forgiven.”
When we doubt the teachings of the Church, our job is to dig deeper. Cling to Christ, who works in his Church for the betterment of his people. Christ’s spirit transforms us into who we are meant to be.
Mere assent to the teachings of the Catholic Church without radical change leads to merely going through the motions.
Christ said that we cannot serve two masters. We serve one and despise the other. When we insist that the Church change its teachings to cater to our beliefs, we are refusing to allow the truth to transform us.
We live in a world where truth is often defined by individual preferences. An outsider can view the developing nature of Catholic doctrine and mistakingly assume that the Church operates in the same way.
Yet doctrine doesn’t change.
Even the Church’s stance on capital punishment did not change. The Church has never mandated capital punishment. Instead, such punishment was only allowed if it could be justified under the four purposes of punishment 1.
But I digress.
My point is that a baptized Catholic cannot disagree with or change already established doctrine. Thus one cannot be a Cafeteria Catholic when it pertains to faith and morals.
Yet Catholics are free to disagree.
We can disagree on how to best implement faith and morals in society.
Catholics can endorse different political candidates if they are pro-life.
Finally, we are free to disagree about different Mass rites if we acknowledge both as valid.
Catholics don’t fit in a box. The Church expands beyond culture and race. What unites Catholics is our adherence to a statement of beliefs. Take those away and what are you left with?
Nothing but watered-down feel-good sentiment.