Monday, February 9, 2015

Self-Identified Cafeteria Catholic

There are certain phrases used among Catholics that are very subtly equivocal. Let me identify two for example.

Some Catholics reject the use of Latin because it is a "dead language." Calling a language dead, strictly speaking, refers to the fact that a language is no longer natively learned. Is there anything in such a description that leads to the conclusion that Latin should not be used anywhere, least of all in liturgy? Of course not. But when people call Latin a dead language, they do so not to point out that no one natively learns Latin but that Latin is a useless language, a backward language, an outdated language, and even a harmful language. They rely on the connotations of dead language and assert these connotations as denotation; hence the calling of Latin as a dead language is an ideological move per se. But liturgy should not be determined or changed by ideology but only by consideration of what is truly beneficial to the Church and in light of the Church's living tradition. Therefore, an ideological proposition has no place in rejecting the use of Latin (or even the vernacular), and thus Latin cannot be rejected solely because it is a "dead language."

A second example. Lukewarm Catholics, modern Catholics use the phrase "practicing Catholic," but this phrase is problematic precisely because it is descriptive in an equivocal way. It describes the alleged fact that a certain Catholic does certain practices, and the performance of these practices form a sufficient condition for the identity of "practicing Catholic," the implication being that the individual is an active Catholic and not a lapsed Catholic. But there is a significant problem: being Catholic means more than doing certain practices. Catholic is an identity that one cannot simply give to oneself as one sees fit, but it is an identity conferred by the Church. In other words, Catholic is a juridical identity firstly, an identity that of course presupposes ontological and behavioral bases but nevertheless is juridical. This point could be drawn out by the distinction that some in a state of grace are not Catholic, and not all Catholics are in a state of grace; in other words, to be Catholic requires more than being a child of God renewed by valid Baptism. To be Catholic is not even determined by whether one is confirmed in the Catholic Church or not. The Code of Canon Law shows what is required to be a Catholic:
Those baptized are fully in the communion of the Catholic Church on this earth who are joined with Christ in its visible structure by the bonds of the profession of faith, the sacraments, and ecclesiastical governance. (Canon 205)
The three conditions are: the profession of the same faith as the Catholic Church; the participation in the Church's sacraments; submission to her governance. Notice that "practice" falls only under the second condition. Going to Church on Sundays is necessary but not sufficient.

If a Catholic self identifies as a so-called "cafeteria Catholic," then that Catholic is not a Catholic according to the Church's standards for two reasons: 1) the acceptance of Church doctrine, practice, and submission to governance is to be wholly accepted by the will, not vitiated by distinct choices of this or that practice or doctrine; 2) there are only two possible variants on the Catholic identity: those in full communion and those not in full communion

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