What is a Cafeteria Catholic and what are consequences?


Can someone clarify what the term “Cafeteria Catholic” means and some examples of what kind of things gain someone that label? I assume it means picking and choosing which Catholic doctrines you want to follow and not follow but I don’t know for sure.

Can such a Catholic receive the sacraments like the Eucharist? Just curious. Thanks.

Also, are Cafeteria Catholics more apt to be found in the USA or elsewhere?


Your thoughts on what a Cafeteria Catholic may be matches that I found at thecatholicthing.org/columns/2013/on-faith-and-cafeteria-catholicism.html. I would imagine that they can receive the Eucharist, however, we would not know whether they received it worthily and it is not be for us to judge. I do not know or understand why anyone is or would want to be a Cafeteria Catholic it seems so lacking. Through God’s loving mercy, everyone, no matter where they are on their journey of faith, has the opportunity to grow in faith and understanding, so there is always hope.

On a final note, Cafeteria Catholics are probably found throughout the world and if people are honest, the term Cafeteria can be applied to all faiths and churches.

The above is simply my initial thoughts.


Thanks for the reply, Avila123. I agree that “Cafeteria” can be applied to protestants and other faiths, too. I was just curious as to some examples of what kind of things would constitute that behavior in the USA and elsewhere. For example, is it contraception and gay marriage and that sort of stuff or would it also include doctrinal issues?

I am not a Catholic but if I were, I would hope to follow its teachings completely or not be a Catholic at all. .


Here are some examples of Cafeteria Catholicism:

  1. Believing in women priests
  2. Believing in contraception


When I use that label or hear it used it means that the person who is called a cafeteria Catholic is someone who picks and chooses what they want to believe and what they don’t of the Church’s teachings. Like a person going down a cafeteria line they choose what they like and leave what they don’t.


Another example of cafeteria Catholic, not seeing regular mass attendance as necessary.


It’s a word used it is generally a derogatory term used to describe Hetrodox Catholics who disagree with one or more points of Catholic Doctrine or Dogma, a pick n’ mix approach if you will. These could be any points, but points of disagreement are usually women priests, infallibility, divorce, the position of protestant churches, homosexuality and contraception.

Seeing as there are several elite theologians and priests such as Hans Kung who reject doctrines like Papal Infallibility yet have not been formally excommunicated (and in the case of Benedict held regular meetings with them) it is fair to say that he, and those like myself who agree with his opinions can still nominally at least be considered Catholics.

I think I am fairly typical Cafeteria Catholic. I have no qualms with the vast majority of church teachings such as the real presence, the leadership of the Pope. the importance of the sacraments or the role of Mary but I reject infallibility and the teachings regarding contraception and homosexuality. Upon divorce I’m more ambivalent, but am increasingly finding more merit in the Orthodox theology on the topic. I really am not well versed enough upon debates raging over female ordination to hold an opinion either way.

If anything I’m more on the conservative end of the scale if there is one. But this is a fairly typical example.

I have not received the Eucharist for about two years(?) because I am led to understand that to take communion I must attend regular confession (I do not consider rejection of infallibility and such to be a sin but I do sometimes do other things that are) but because of those doctrinal disagreements I am not eligible for absolution (I could lie to obtain it, but that would be rather pointless). That said, I would say the vast majority of them still do, because they believe they are in the right and the current teaching is incorrect (hence why would they abstain).

I would hazard a guess that around 80% of Catholics in France are of this variety, even higher in the UK (in all my meetings with Catholics and tours of schools there I have only met one who could be considered an “Orthodox” Catholic, and he was a Bishop). The largest concentration of them seem to be in Germany.


What are the consequences?

I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot; I wish that you were cold or hot. So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth.
Revelations 3:15-16


There is a difference between being lukewarm (non-practicing) and heterodox (practicing with deviations, because they are believed to be correct).


Lukewarm does not mean “non-practicing” completely, but not being fully invested in the faith. Picking and choosing beliefs means someone is not fully invested in Catholicism. The non-believer rejects Catholicism outright, but the lukewarm person is only partially invested. Of course, people can be lukewarm in other ways (I should know, I’ve been guilty of it…)

Sorry, I realize my blunt post sounds quite judgmental. I’m not trying to condemn people, but that is the danger which results from being lukewarm. We risk losing Jesus completely.

God Bless


A Cafeteria Catholic is a by word for Protestant in denial :stuck_out_tongue:


A cafeteria catholic is a person baptized as catholic who is not in communion with the catholoc church. Pretty much I think that is the easiest definition. I think they are more common in the US and Europe but it is growing in other parts of the world.


cafeteria catholic = protestant


You had it right, a cafeteria catholic is a catholic that picks and chooses what he/she wants to believe. Giving into heresy with full knowledge and full consent will put that person in the state of mortal sin. If someone is in the state of mortal sin they cannot receive the Eucharist, if they do receive the Eucharist in the state of mortal sin, then they commit sacrilege, which is another mortal sin. If someone is in the state of mortal sin then they are at the threat of eternal damnation if they die in that state. They must repent by going to confession, and if they do give a valid confession, they will return to the state of grace and be able to receive the Eucharist.


This is pretty good :thumbsup: I would also add that most cafeteria catholics today are Episcopalians in denial


So…They don’t have to agree? They just have to nod and pretend they do? That sounds…Sort of weird.

You can’t force people to believe something, we don’t have any control over a belief like that. Having sex is something you can pull back from, you can’t do anything about being educated enough to know say that Adam and Eve weren’t a literal couple.

Yeah, check out the science people. It’s not even remotely possible but knowing that is a mortal sin?..:shrug: Boy, and I thought that council in the 17th century that condemned the theory that the earth orbited the sun as heresy was silly.


Cafeteria Catholics are those who pick and choose what they want to accept as the teachings of Christ, the Doctrine of the Church and what appeals to their own sensitivities. So such a person might reject the teachings on birth control for example, but submit to all other teachings, or they might accept abortion as having a place in some instances and totally reject the Churches position on this matter. I have found they are usually folks who are more inclined to accept the status quo within the secular world and a easily persuaded that the Church is out of touch with reality.

They might still think it is OK to receive Communion, and most do. Our pastors have no way of knowing who does what or who is guilty of a mortal sin when going up to receive the Eucharist. They can only act on good faith that those who are approaching the altar are “right with God.” What some folks fail to realize is one can condemn themselves by doing this if they are guilty of a mortal sin.

When we reply with our “Amen” we are literally stating that we agree with the teachings of the Church. To do this, while at the same time living in a way contrary to those teachings, is not a good thing. As scripture tells us: “A divided house shall not stand.” I am one who repeatedly molests children, or kills others for pleasure, steals all the time, or commits adultery all the time, and then goes up to receive our Lord with no intention of changing or remorse I am condemning myself when I say my “Amen.”


Thank you all who have responded. I especially thank Cricket2 and Johnnyt3000 for elaborating very understandably and to all others who helped with your explanations and examples.

In my opinion, “Cafeteria style faith” is probably more prevalent in Catholicism than in Protestantism. However, before any of my Catholic friends get bent out of shape over that statement, let me explain.

When a Catholic disagrees with a Catholic doctrine, they become a “Cafeteria Catholic” but it sounds like they usually stay affiliated with the Catholic Church. On the other hand, when a protestant disagrees, he or she simply moves to another denomination who believes as they do. If no denomination believes as they do, they form yet another one (like Baskin Robins, over 31k and counting).

I don’t know which is worse (rhetorical question) :confused:.


Pretty much. The main difference here is though that a Cafeteria Catholic (Like womenpreists.org) seeks to reform church teaching and does not want to break into schism (you do get the odd ones like the SSPX, yes, they can be considered “Cafeteria” on the far right of the schism scale but for most this is the very last resort to be avoided at all costs).

A protestant will just move, and not care what the denomination he left behind then gets upto or about creating schism.


if believing in birth control = cafeteria Catholic would not the majority of Catholics in the USA be of the cafeteria variety?


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