Non-Believers who Identify as Catholic, and their effect

I know quite a few “Catholics” who disbelieve much of our body of faith, but who proclaim themselves to the world as being Catholic. Personally and as a matter of logic, I see them as Non-Catholic, but at the same time I don’t mean to judge them. I mean. . . I can identify as a lion or a tiger, but that doesn’t make me feline. . . instead it would seem to make me delusional.

An example is a close member of my family who doesn’t attend Mass (not even on Christmas), doesn’t believe in the Sacraments, doesn’t believe Jesus died for our sins, and doesn’t believe in the Real Presence at Holy Communion. For the sake of anonymity, I’ll call him “Rico”. Rico says Jesus was not God, did not perform miracles, did not rise from the dead, but that He was merely a wise, moral, human preacher. Rico strongly believes that earthly death is final, and that there is no such thing as eternity or life after death. Rico coerced two of his wives into having multiple abortions, and believes a fetus is not human but merely a lump of tissue not unlike a tumor or any other biological “growth”.

I’ve known many, many “Catholics” like Rico, who disavow most if not all of the tenets of the Catholic faith while loudly proclaiming themselves to be Catholic. I also know several practicing Catholics who actually do go to Mass, and receive the Sacraments, but who strongly believe in “Pro-Choice” as a basic woman’s right.

Then finally, I know many Protestants who tell me that the most immoral people they have ever personally known were Catholics.


I was with you up to this sentence. I could just as well say that many of the most immoral people I have ever personally known were Protestants, or nonbelievers.

If one lives in a majority Catholic area, there will be a percentage of people who live immoral lives, and they are likely to identify as Catholic because that’s what most people there identify as. If one lives in a majority Evangelical area, same thing - the percentage of immoral people is more likely to contain Evangelicals. Same for LDS or any other religion that is concentrated in certain areas.

Setting that aside, I can see why you’d be frustrated with a family member who acts the way yours does, regardless of whether they are Catholic or not. Any man that would “coerce” his multiple wives into having abortions is not acting like a good guy.

I suggest we simply keep setting a good example and praying fervently for sinners.


Who granted you that faculty? Why would you take it upon yourself to decide who is Catholic or not? And on what basis beyond your own personal beliefs and interpretations?


Some people continue to call themselves catholic because they were raised that way, because the rest of their family is, or because it’s most common in their community.

While it’s not a good reason to stay in the Church, it can still lead them to the holy spirit and back into faith.


You’re right. Whether or not someone is Catholic is something only God can decide, and indeed when I was studying for my confirmation one of the things I was taught was that once somebody is baptized they are always Catholic in the eyes of God.


Nobody granted me any faculty.

I don’t decide who is Catholic, I only said that personally I see those who disbelieve the tenets of the Catholic faith as Non-Catholic. We all are compelled to discern what we see.

No basis beyond my own understanding of our Catholic faith.


As an agnostic, I’m baffled, too! If you don’t practice the religion and even behave antithetical to it, why continue to falsely label yourself. Proclaim what you actually are!

I personally don’t particularly want an immoral person being counted in the atheist/agnostic camp either but if that’s what you are, be honest. Maybe that the problem…they lost all honesty?


In the case of the people I’ve known, I don’t understand why they would proclaim their Catholicity, when they forcefully assert their disbelief.


Tis_Bearself, I completely agree with you. As a Catholic living in the South, I have many Protestant friends, and I don’t see any one group as being particularly immoral (or moral for that matter). But I have also run up against many “Catholic Bashers” who use people like “Rico” as as indisputable proofs that Catholics are an immoral people.

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Thank you for your kind input


I guess there are people who seem to be Catholic in name only.
And then there are people within the church who seem to be working against the Church.

Yes, and both of these things are celebrated by those who would see Her fall

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@Jbrady, I’m trying to understand what point you are making here. Do you want a person like Rico to identify himself in public as Catholic or not?

I understand not judging a persons heart and I also understand that once baptized catholic, always a catholic. But, I also understand the OPs concern on how Rico is harming the perception of the Church. He made clear it was his opinion and everyone is certainly allowed to have them. So, I ask, am I misunderstanding you and the point you were making? Thanks…


Does that hold even if someone is not baptized by a Roman Catholic priest?

Well, just pray for the bashers too. If your brother wasn’t acting up, they’d just find some other basis on which to bash. It’s sad that they lack confidence in their own faith to the extent that they need to go around pointing out the flaws of others and saying “See how unholy that is.” I believe the Lord knew some people like that who were called Pharisees and Sadducees.

What business is it of mine? Jesus told a parable specifically about this. It’s called the parable of the wheat and tares (tares means weeds):

“The kingdom of heaven may be likened to a man who sowed good seed in his field. While everyone was asleep his enemy came and sowed weeds all through the wheat, and then went off.

When the crop grew and bore fruit, the weeds appeared as well. The slaves of the householder came to him and said, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? Where have the weeds come from?’

He answered, ‘An enemy has done this.’

His slaves said to him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’

He replied, ‘No, if you pull up the weeds you might uproot the wheat along with them. Let them grow together until harvest; then at harvest time I will say to the harvesters, “First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles for burning; but gather the wheat into my barn".

I know what you mean. I think this is why the phrase “devout Catholic” has such currency, because it distinguishes Catholics who actually believe in Catholicism from cultural Catholics who believe abortion is a sacrament.

For my part, I think the best thing you could do is invite them to try to bring them back to the church in any way you can. Try to get them to mass!

The church does teach that heretics and schismatics are not members of the church as they have fully separated themselves from it. The church also teaches that in order to be in communion with the church, all doctrines and church teachings must be believed and practiced. If one denies even a single doctrine, they completely remove themselves from communion and if one isn’t in communion, how can they be a member?

I think some people get confused in that Baptism can’t be received again. If one is baptized and fully separate themselves from the church and then repent and come back, they are not re-baptized. Baptism is not merely a symbol of joining or being a member of the church. It wipes away Original Sin. It seems many people look at baptism merely as a rite of “joining the church” and once joined, you can never be separated. This is entirely false.

Yes, it seems logical to me that “a Catholic” would be someone who believes in and promotes Catholicism. I think it is worse than unfortunate to have the need to distinguish between “devout” and “cultural” Catholics. My impression is that abortion is nothing less than a modern day version of the Slaughter of the Innocents, and no less wrongful. I did actually succeed in dragging Rico to Mass a couple months ago, and he was glad we went (for old times’ sake). I pray for him often, and not because I am better (I am a sinner in desperate need of God’s mercy), but because I want him open to receiving God’s abundant Grace.

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Very cogently stated

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