Who is a (Roman) Catholic?


I have heard that there are more than 33000 Protestant denominations, but only one Catholic Church. But is everyone baptised Catholic a Catholic?

I read that there are over a billion Catholics in the world and 67.5 million in the US, but are all these, even the ones that have rejected the church, to be considered Catholics.

Recently I attended a course by a Roman Catholic priest (once a priest always a priest – tu es sacerdos in aeternum) who did not believe in the divinity of Christ, the virgin birth, original sin or the Trinity, but he believed all would be saved. Is he really a Catholic, as he claimed he was?

He was asked what the students should call him. He replied that when he was teaching in Berkeley he was given a tee-shirt with “The Best B-Y Theologian in America” written on it.

We hear of Catholics for Choice (an oxymoron), many Catholics reject Church teaching on contraception, do not attend mass on Sundays and do not really believe in marriage. Are such people Catholic?

If not, how many Catholics are there in the world, in the US?


Rejecting the divinity of Christ was deemed a heresy long ago. That invalidates anything else he might have to say theologically in terms of what the RCC teaches.


Hi Noel, when you need answers it’s easiest to ask one question at a time.

First of all there were 33,000 Christian denominations, not Protestant denominations. The number comes from the World Christian Encyclopedia, published by Oxford University Press. You can find a discussion of the 33,000 here:forums.catholic.com/showthread.php?t=249551

There are over 1.1 Billion active Catholics worldwide. Does not include those who have rejected the Church.

Hard to believe, but I’ve met people who think landing on the moon was staged. Is he still an active RC priest? I would somehow doubt it.

I don’t understand.

If your question is are there “Bad”, ignorant, sinful Catholics, the answer is yes.


The priest is not Catholic as he has not only rejected the teachings of the Catholic Church but most of Christianity. Everyone that is baptised is a Catholic unless they then reject the teachings of the Church. Otherwise your figures are correct.


No, some were not raised in the faith, so they don’t even understand what it means to be CAtholic. I think this is the case for most who join Protestant communities.

No, he is an apostate. Not only has he endangered his own soul, but that of a lot of other people as well.

Poorly catechized, or rebellious subjects of the Roman Pontiff. I think that most people don’t understand the Church’s teaching on these matters, and don’t try to find out. Personally, I used to think that the Catholic Church was backward and did not keep up with the 'times". I thought that the rules were made by a bunch of celibate men who did not understand modern society. It took many years for me to finally get on board with these teachings. Now my whole mind has changed, and I am appalled at the way I used to think. There was a time in my life that I drove a friend to an abortion clinic, and never tried to disuade her from what she was about to do. :eek:

May the Lord not hold this sin against me.



Thank you for your clear and concise reply.

From your reply it seems that the litmus test for Catholicism is belief in the divinity of Jesus and not Humanae Vitae.

Are all those who believe in Christ’s divinity members of the Church?

The present Dean of the now-Anglican Christ Church Cathedral in Dublin, who discovered he had a vocation to the priesthood and to marriage, is the first Catholic priest to be in charge of this Cathedral since the Reformation (ireland.anglican.org/index.php?do=news&newsid=2125)).

However is he still a Catholic and a priest?

At the beginning of the year of St Peter and Paul may I quote St Paul:

because if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved, The Holy Bible : New Revised Standard Version, Ro 10:9 (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1989).


According to St. Ambrose ( I hope I am not mistaken), anybody baptized Catholic who commits mortal sin CEASES to be a Catholic.


If Catholics commit a mortal sin they are Catholics fallen into sin but still Catholic.


What in the world does Humanae Vitae have to do with the subject?


The Anglican Church is not the Roman Catholic Church. Was this priest ever a Roman Catholic priest?


In name only, and they’re al la ca-rte catholics, and the priest is an al la ca-rte priest, and what this priest believes in is heresy.


From the Church’s standpoint, a person who is baptized into the Catholic Church is a Catholic. Forever. Period.

“Baptism is an ontological and permanent bond which is not lost by reason of any act or fact of defection.” (quoted from the document linked below)

Even a person who holds heterodox positions is still a Catholic, although they may be censured or excommunicated through the laws of the Church, and if a priest removed from the clerical state. Excommunication and censure restrict what Catholics may do within the life of the Church, it does not sever the bond or make one “not Catholic.”

In the case of thoese who defect, the Church distinguishes between two kinds of defection-- formal defection and “public” or “notorious” defection-- in Canon Law. But, in both types the person is still a Catholic.


So, to answer the question-- if you are baptized a Catholic you are always a Catholic and nothing you do can change that.


Thanks to all who contributed to this discussion.

I am still confused.

I see in 2005 a similar discussion occurred - forums.catholic.com/showthread.php?t=90004.

I believed that baptism, confirmation and holy orders give the soul a character or spiritual mark that cannot be removed, hence once a priest always a priest (tu es sacerdos in aeternum).

Similarly is once a Catholic always a Catholic correct?

One may sin, but yet remain a Catholic. I consider myself in that category – a Catholic sinner.

It reminds me of the idea of Fr Luther OSA Simul Justus Et Peccator.

So the original problem I have has not been removed.

Can all those who reject Catholicism be considered Catholics?

I think I agree with Thistle.

If Catholics commit a mortal sin they are Catholics fallen into sin but still Catholic.


The man was ordained a (Roman) Catholic priest. I mentioned *Humanae Vitae *as this is often considered the litmus test for Catholicism.


If they were baptized into the Catholic Church, yes they are a Catholic forever.

If a person was baptized into another Christian denomination and has not sought full communion with the Catholic Church, they are incorporated into the Church but are not Catholics in the sense that Church law is not binding on them (of course, divine law is binding on them, but not ecclesiastical law).

There is one Church, so anyone baptized is baptized into it. They are in imperfect communion. The Catechism covers this in its discussion on the Creed-- One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic.


Yes, this is correct Church teaching.

NO! You may not sin! Be perfect as your heavenly father is perfect. Cut that out!
:wink: :stuck_out_tongue: :smiley: .

I guess they would be more properly called schismatic catholics, apostate catholics, lapsed catholics, excommunicated, etc, etc. Not in good standing. Because they have been permanently marked, their last state is worse than their first.


Belief in the divinity of Jesus is not the litmus test for Catholicism, but perhaps rather the first one. There is much to follow.

The man in question, if once a Catholic priest, will always be a priest. As you correctly note below, those 3 sacraments do give the soul an indelible mark, an ontological change.

So, there are several ways or modes of “being” Catholic.
Of mos interest, i think, ontologically, everyone baptized and/or confirmed in the Catholic Church is Catholic and will always be so. However, to be theologically Catholic, you must hold everything that the Church holds. So, “former” Catholics are still Catholic, ontologically, but not theologically.


Read my signature… …it expresses how one should believe all things the Church teaches. St. Thomas A. - a great guy, huh? He knew what he was saying.

**There should never be such a person as a
"pick and choose" Catholic.

For if one is Catholic, he or she should believe the Church to be
One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic - as the Apostles believed it to be. And this belief was not mere opinion, but an authentic outlook at the biblical view of the Church.**

There is “one…faith” and that faith is universal, and it is apostolic. That one faith has been handed down through the holy Church.



By virtue of the indelible mark imprinted in the baptism, yes. They are baptized Catholics.


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