Should Cafeteria Catholics Leave the Church?
“For those Catholics who cannot bring themselves to believe the formal teachings of the Church on life and family matters it would be more honest to leave the Church rather than betraying Her.”
Pope Benedict XVI (via letmypraise)
Pope Benedict did not say this. Msgr. Barreiro said this. Here’s one link of many if you want to verify that.
Msgr. Barreiro was giving his take on these words, which is what Pope Benedict actually said:
“Judas,” said Pope Benedict, “could have left, as many of the disciples did; indeed, he would have left if he were honest. Instead he remained with Jesus. He did not remain because of faith, or because of love, but with the secret intention of taking vengeance on the Master.”
You can find a full text of Pope Benedict’s words several places, including at Fr. Z’s blog and at the link in the quote I gave.
Why do I care? I care because many people take these words to mean that Cafeteria Catholics should leave. Just google it. You’ll find those discussions everywhere.
Yet neither the Pope nor the Monsignor said this was about Cafeteria Catholics. They talk about people who stay with the intent of taking vengeance, or doing harm. Many people who just read the headlines or the Monsignor’s quote take only the first part and think those who cannot believe the teachings of the church should leave.
There is a difference between people who stay in the Church with the intent to lead it towards doctrinal changes and those who just don’t agree with things but don’t intend any harm. There are many who we call “Cafeteria Catholics” who do, in fact, stay out of love.
I was once a Cafeteria Catholic. If I had been asked to leave during those days, it is very possible I would never have come back. Instead, with the grace of God, I have become ardently Catholic.
There are the ripple effects to this. I have a wonderful daughter. If I had been asked to leave the Church when she was young, she might also not now be passionately Catholic. My mother-in-law, who was raised Lutheran but didn’t go to church for about 30 years, was received into the Church almost two years ago, at age 85.
My daughter has a friend who defined himself as agnostic. He was received into the Church at Easter Vigil 2011. She has another friend who was raised with an anti-Catholic bias. He is now in RCIA.
None of this would have happened if I had been asked to leave. I explained this to some people who think this quote applies to Cafeteria Catholics. I have asked people if my soul didn’t count in those days. You might be surprised at how many people replied that yes, I should have left. They also seem to think that the Pope had no concern for our souls. From everything I have read of the Pope, I don’t believe that. Some individuals had no concept that maybe it was God’s will that I stayed, even after seeing the fruits of that.
We encourage Protestants to learn more about us. We need to do the same with Cafeteria Catholics. Many of them lack understanding, like I once did.
It is certainly possible that people on tumblr posting this quote are only referring to those who would harm the Church. I do find it very intellectually dishonest when, for example, politicians claim to be Catholic and then claim that certain ideas they have that go against Church teaching are, in fact, informed by Church teaching. These individuals need counseling by their priests or bishops, and if they persist, then they would in fact be more honest by leaving.
Be careful, though, not to generalize too much into this. There is no doubt in my mind that Pope Benedict would rather have everyone understand and belong to the Church.
Be kind to those Catholics who do not believe some of the teachings but still have love for the Church. It is much better to pray for them (and, if you can, gently persuade them or find someone who can) than to have them leave. Treat them like non-Catholics who do not yet understand the faith. Show them the truths and joy of Catholic teachings.
I do not want to have to answer to God for losing souls by telling people to leave. I do not want Him to one day say, “You see this person who you persuaded to leave My Church? I was trying to convince Him to stay.”