Catholicism: All or Nothing


All too often, I have come across many young adults caught up in the “cafeteria Catholic” version of living the Catholic faith out in their lives. But I would like to dive deeper into the supporting philosophies, church doctrines, and teachings that disprove the notion that the faith is “make it your way” buffet. I am specifically interested in the arguments made to support that the church’s doctrines are an “all or nothing” deal.


One thing that forces one into deciding to be fully a Catholic is attending Mass. Most people do not realize it is a mortal sin to miss mass for no reason if the three conditions for a mortal sin are met. Also many people do not know that one has to be in a state of grace to receive communion. Those two things combined force people to decide to go all in or not.


I am an ALL OR NOTHING Catholic. For me I say there is no gray area. Yes we MUST have love, concern and care for others and show charity when dealing with them but on Faith matters is not a negotiable. If the Church says it, I believe it comes from Father Son Holy Spirit and that settles it for me. Our Catholic Church has been here for over 2000 years and will be here until the end of time and that in itself speaks volumes to me. If this Catholic Church had not been instituted by God with all of the heresies, the scandals, the attacks by satan would have done it in a LONG time ago. All the other churches came much later and many come and go even today with the whims of the world. The Catholic church is the One True Church and She will be here until the end of time because She is THE CHURCH!


Here’s how the Church defines faith:


143 By faith, man completely submits his intellect and his will to God. With his whole being man gives his assent to God the revealer.

By only accepting what we agree with, we cease to have faith in God, but transfer it to ourselves. Even if you agree with it all, if you believe it because you happen to agree and not as a submission of the intellect and will to God (who does not deceive and cannot be deceived), then it is not divine faith.

This is why heresy–from the Greek word meaning choice–is a sin against faith.

Here’s another explanation of this from a famous old book:

[Such a Catholic] assumes as the formal motive of the act of faith, not the infallible authority of God revealing supernatural truth, but his own reason deigning to accept as true what appears rational to him according to the appreciation and measure of his own individual judgment. He subjects God’s authority to the scrutiny of his reason, and not his reason to God’s authority. He accepts Revelation, not on account of the infallible Revealer, but because of the “infallible” receiver. With him the individual judgment is the rule of faith. He believes in the independence of reason. It is true he accepts the Magisterium of the Church, yet he does not accept it as the sole authorized expounder of divine truth. He reserves, as a coefficient factor in the determination of that truth, his own private judgment.


Thanks for the great answers thus far. Some context for this forum discussion may be in order – I am currently dating someone who is a member of SSPX. Although there’s no shortage of radical members of that Society claiming that Rome has no pope, the Church is ridden with communists and whatnot, she tends to be more on the side that preserves tradition while still recognizing the infallibility of the Pope, the validity of the New Mass, etc.

She and I have had various discussions about differences in the faith post-Vatican II. In all areas of contention, we found out that although we have the same viewpoints on controversial changes (such as Eucharistic ministers, female altar servers, tabernacle position, sacred music modification, etc.) she seems to believe that some such allowances cause PARTS of the Church to be heretical whereas my views remain merely as personal preferences, knowing at the end of the day that I follow the Church in all aspects.

My question rephrased is this – what theologic or philosophical basis can I use as a supporting argument in our debate to explain that the Church cannot be only partly heretical according to the judgement of the pick-and-choose layperson and believing that the rest of it is perfectly acceptable, as opposed to following its direction in totality?


Only Priests can be members of SSPX. Laity cannot be members.


I apologize for the wording mishap. By member I meant someone who actively attends SSPX masses, regularly, and supports their mission, values, and work both in personal belief and in attendance to the congregation.


How about the seamless garment argument? That Christ wore a seamless garment (John 19:23) ) and likewise the Church’s teachings are seamless. If you start to take away one thread or another, the whole thing begins to unravel.


How would you have different in reality? The reality is that we do not live in a highly restrictive world where conformity is enforced anymore. There are many things that are good about that. These people are at least engaged with Christianity in an increasingly secular world. By calling one person cafeteria you are defining your faith as one and above. Be careful in being obsessed with other’s faith, that’s between God and themselves.


In my experience there are two types of people who are grouped together as cafeteria Catholics. One group they have faith and accept the magisterium, they don’t go around promoting doubts or debating dogma, however they fall often meaning they have a very hard time living sinless. Another group they want to live in sin, and go around promoting doubts and dissent in the Church so they can justify their life choices. These two groups are very different and should not be grouped together.


I think most people are cafeteria Catholics to some extent, it’s just a question of where on the line they start. A lot of people who think contraception is wrong, for example, disagree with the Pope on the death penalty. People may be anti abortion but think we can ignore migrants, both in this country and others. The Church says altar girls, communion in the hand, and EMHCs are OK, but many people protest. I’d say the Creed is pretty much all or nothing, but people disagree on many other issues.


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