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. 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.
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.
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”.
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.
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.