Spot the Catholic


#1

What’s the recipe for making a Catholic?

On another thread in Family Life, the idea of what a makes a person “Catholic” casually arose. I’d like to address the issue a little more in detail, because there seemed to be a little bit of disagreement.
In the interest of playfulness, let’s make a game out of it. :slight_smile: I’ll list characteristics for a few different people, and you can let me know who you believe to be Catholic, and who isn’t.

1) Alice:
Alice was baptized, confirmed, and received her first communion in the Catholic faith. At the time Alice received these sacraments, she was too young to understand their full significance. Once she was old enough, Alice determined that she did not agree with the Catholic Church’s teachings, and “left the Church.” She did not formally defect, but she does not consider herself to be Catholic. She has not attended mass since, does not follow the rules of the Catholic faith, and does not believe in a God.

2) Ben:
Ben too was a cradle Catholic. He has received all of his sacraments, and he attends mass regularly and is actively involved in the Church. Ben seems to follow all of the rules of the church…at least as far as the visible ones. He does not have sex outside of his marriage, but he’d certainly like to. He tells his mother and father that he loves them, but in reality he believes they’re not worth much to him at all. Ben has never stolen, but would if given the opportunity, without guilt. Ben doesn’t believe in God, or Jesus. For all intents and purposes, Ben is, “terrible on the inside”.

3) Cindy:
Cindy goes to mass every week. She is involved with helping local charities. She gives all she can to those in need. She follows every rule of the Catholic church perfectly. Cindy has never been baptized or confirmed, nor has she ever received communion.

4) Drew:
Drew is another cradle Catholic. He has received his sacraments, and he goes to church regularly. He treats others the as he would like to be treated, which is with respect. He believes in God, honours his mother and father, and is over all, a “good person.” For the most part, Drew follows the rules of the Catholic church, but he also has had, and continues to have, sex before marriage. He uses contraception. He does not feel that he has sinned, is not sorry, and does not seek to be reconciled.

So what does everyone think? Are any of these people Catholic? It would also be helpful to me if anyone could include what they think are “defining features” of being Catholic, if there are any. Also, is there a hierarchy of being Catholic? Are some of these people “more Catholic” than others?

If you’re interested in furthering this discussion, please do. I’d love to hear from all of you.


#2

catholic.com/library/How_to_Become_a_Catholic.asp :smiley:


#3
  1. Alice:
    Alice was baptized, confirmed, and received her first communion in the Catholic faith. At the time Alice received these sacraments, she was too young to understand their full significance. Once she was old enough, Alice determined that she did not agree with the Catholic Church’s teachings, and “left the Church.” She did not formally defect, but she does not consider herself to be Catholic. She has not attended mass since, does not follow the rules of the Catholic faith, and does not believe in a God.

While I would doubt whether or not someone can be Confirmed at too young an age to understand it, Alice technically is still Catholic, until or unless she formally defects by writing to her Ordinary, or joins another religion.

  1. Ben:
    Ben too was a cradle Catholic. He has received all of his sacraments, and he attends mass regularly and is actively involved in the Church. Ben seems to follow all of the rules of the church…at least as far as the visible ones. He does not have sex outside of his marriage, but he’d certainly like to. He tells his mother and father that he loves them, but in reality he believes they’re not worth much to him at all. Ben has never stolen, but would if given the opportunity, without guilt. Ben doesn’t believe in God, or Jesus. For all intents and purposes, Ben is, “terrible on the inside

Ben is Catholic. He has recieved the Sacraments and practices his faith, if only the externals. Since he is Catholic and ought to know better, his Judgement will be severe after his death. There could be a genuine concern about the state of his soul, as if he has mortally sinned (and it sounds as if he has) without repentance, the consequences could be disasterous.

  1. Cindy:
    Cindy goes to mass every week. She is involved with helping local charities. She gives all she can to those in need. She follows every rule of the Catholic church perfectly. Cindy has never been baptized or confirmed, nor has she ever received communion.

I doubt this situation would ever exist in real life (what non-Catholic will attend Mass every Sunday and not use contraception if they didn’t think it was sinful). Nevertheless Cindy is not Catholic. She may be saved by the grace of God after her death, but I dont’ see why she just doesn’t become Catholic if she’s already living (and apparently believes?) as Catholics do.

  1. Drew:
    Drew is another cradle Catholic. He has received his sacraments, and he goes to church regularly. He treats others the as he would like to be treated, which is with respect. He believes in God, honours his mother and father, and is over all, a “good person.” For the most part, Drew follows the rules of the Catholic church, but he also has had, and continues to have, sex before marriage. He uses contraception. He does not feel that he has sinned, is not sorry, and does not seek to be reconciled.

Drew is Catholic, and the lingering attractions and stains he has of sin on his soul would have to be judged by God, not me. He is Catholic, however.

Whether or not someone is Catholic is very simple. There are no ‘secret, spiritally-I’m-a-Catholic’ as there may be to Protestants. If someone has recieved the Catholic Sacraments, they are Catholic, unless they formally defect. It may bug some who’ve left the Church and do not feel they are Catholic anymore, but it’s true. The Church is like a family; once you’re in, you’re in, and you can’t be kicked out very easily either.


#4

“Catholic” is not a term of approval or reward for certain behaviors.

A “bad Catholic” is still a Catholic.

C. S. Lewis said something similar about the word “Christian” in his book MERE CHRISTIANITY.


#5

Yes, even “good” and “bad” are subjective terms and depend a lot on the individual making the ‘judgment’.

A, B, and D are all Catholics who will be judged by God but whose actions may be ‘perceived’ (Not judged but noted objectively) as being actions which are either ‘for’ or ‘against’ authentic Catholic teaching. While we don’t know how ‘culpable’ each individual is in the actions they do which are ‘against’ Catholic teaching (only they and God know), we can at least say that the action itself is ‘against’ Catholic teaching (if it is). Contraception, fornication, etc. are all ‘against’ Catholic teaching --whether it is a Catholic or a nonCatholic ‘doing it.’

C is a nonCatholic whose actions appear to be ‘for’ authentic Catholic teaching. Yet she is still a nonCatholic.

While I think I can see the reasoning and the ‘worth’ of the idea behind the post, I do think that it is open to a lot of misunderstanding on people’s parts.

As another poster said, a Catholic is a Catholic whether his/her actions ‘agree’ with Church teachings or not. And a nonCatholic is a nonCatholic, whether his/her actions ‘agree’ with Church teachings or not.

The nebulous idea (and I may be wrong so please correct me if so) that the OP seems to be trying to put forth is that ‘Catholic is as Catholic does’ – meaning, if a ‘nonCatholic’ is acting in a much more ‘Catholic’ way than a nominal Catholic is, then that person is the “real” Catholic.

But to me, that is a misunderstanding of what Catholic is.

Catholic does not refer to the ‘actions’ of a person. . .but to that person’s status as a baptized member of the Catholic Church.

So we don’t play “spot the Catholic” by looking to see which person’s ACTIONS are ‘most in line’ with Catholic teaching and ‘reward’ them with the title of "well, no matter what your faith, YOU are the REAL Catholic.’


#6

Thank you to everyone who has responded so far. Here are a couple of my comments:

To Rawb:
“While I would doubt whether or not someone can be Confirmed at too young an age to understand it,”
As I’ve just learned from a poster in another forum, baptism and confirmation can take place at the same time, while still an infant. :shrug: This is just “what I’ve heard” so feel free to verify this info for yourself.

To bpbasilphx:
"‘Catholic’ is not a term of approval or reward for certain behaviors."
Thank you. I agree, and yet I feel that sometimes it is erroneously used as such.

To Tantum_ergo:
“The nebulous idea (and I may be wrong so please correct me if so) that the OP seems to be trying to put forth is that ‘Catholic is as Catholic does’ – meaning, if a ‘nonCatholic’ is acting in a much more ‘Catholic’ way than a nominal Catholic is, then that person is the “real” Catholic.”
I see your point, but I had no intention of “pushing” a certain answer. This question stemmed from genuine confusion regarding what makes one Catholic.


#7

As I’ve just learned from a poster in another forum, baptism and confirmation can take place at the same time, while still an infant. This is just “what I’ve heard” so feel free to verify this info for yourself

:blush:

You’re right.

LoL, in my defense, however, this is rare in the Western Rites (it’s par for the course in the Eastern Rites). I have the common arrogance of the Roman Rite, in that I, by default, assume the Roman norm. I’m working on this all the time.

But you are right. It is possible for a Catholic, even a Western Catholic, to be Confirmed as an infant.

This question stemmed from genuine confusion regarding what makes one Catholic

Having recieved the Catholic Sacraments and having not defected formally by writing your bishop. It’s simple really. God bless! :thumbsup:


#8

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