I will say this about cafeteria catholics, because frankly I am one. At least a little bit.
I went away from the church for a long time. Basically the last 17 years or so. As soon as I got into college I dropped out of the church and never looked back for all that time.
About 7 years ago I started wondering what to do about my faith and belief in God. I spent those 7 years investigating a lot of religions and was never happy. And I really didn’t do anything about my faith or investigate my spirituality during that time either. Finally it came to me this winter that I needed to go back to the catholic church, that the church was what I was looking for all along.
But I was torn. When I left the church part of it was because I didn’t agree with the teachings, didn’t particularly like the religion, etc. But it was what I grew up with. I didn’t know how much of the church or docterines I could accept. But I figured at the very least it was better to return to church, go to mass, learn about God, etc then sit on my butt and do nothing and end up damned and out of God’s grace.
So I went back. And I was very pleased and excited to find out how much I never understood about the church, didn’t know about my religion. Excited and pleased because as I learned these things I could feel my faith growing, feel me becoming closer to the church. It’s exciting to learn what I was doing all those years growing up, understand what my faith is, understand why I have the beliefs I do.
So yes, when I came back into the church I was very much not intending to be in total agreement, and I would probably be described as a cafeteria catholic. But here’s the best thing about cafeteria catholics: there’s ALWAYS room on the tray for them to take more and more of the faith. That’s what I found I was doing, taking more of the faith, understanding more of the church, accepting more of catholicism. And it was/is great to find that these things I thought set up roadblocks in my spiritual growth aren’t that at all, and they fall to the side as I grow in my faith.
This is something that traditionalists and ‘hard core’ catholics should remember. Cafeteria catholics aren’t necessarily picking and chosing because they have some disrespect for the church, or are trying to put themselves above the authority of the church. Some just don’t know or understand the church. And if you have a negative attitude toward them, you’ll push them away and into the arms of protestants. And away from the body of Christ, God’s true church. If you welcome them and help them learn and grow in their faith, that cafeteria tray will become full before you know it.
And that should be your duty to your catholic brothers and sisters.
Just my 2 cents.