Why Catholic?

This question is promoted by several recent posts here plus my own family members’ issues.

I know that once baptized Catholic, a person is always Catholic. However, why do people with huge issues with the Church still call themselves Catholic? For example, my mom is pro-choice. As this obviously go against a huge tenet of the faith, I’m confused why she still proclaims herself Catholic (she’ll usually start ranting about the Church after she states her religion).

I’ve seen homosexuals in same-sex “marriages” proudly call themselves Catholic.

I suppose I have several questions.

  1. What is a self ex-communicated Catholic called? I know that having an abortion is instant excommunication. What about purposely and unregrettably living a life in sin (e.g. Homosexual marriage, etc)? Is this cause for self ex-communication?

  2. More important than the technicalities, I question why those who are so blatantly against important teachings still call themselves Catholic. I asked my mother this once and suggested she might be comfortable in a religion where she actually believes in it (that didn’t go over well). All I can surmise is that she thinks of being Catholic like being Irish- you just are. Even though I was baptized Catholic and will therefore always be one in a technical sense, if I didn’t believe in the right to life, traditional marriage, the Eucharist, papal infallibility- Whatever- I wouldn’t go around telling people I was Catholic. If I despised or disagreed with a major tenet of a religion, I’d never want to associate myself with this supposed lie or fault. So why do others?

Disclaimer- I’m not attacking anyone here. I am sincerely interested in answers.

God bless!

Well, to be “Catholic”…hmmmm.

It is just a word after all.

For some people it’s like being Italian or Irish. It’s the home or culture they grew up in.

To be against the Church’s teachings and to live a life intentionally at odds with those teachings is to be on shaky ground. I just think of them as “Catholics we ought to be praying extra hard for.”

Thanks for remind me 'cuz I’ve been slipping.

I certainly think that’s true of my mother- she’s Catholic like she’s Irish. It’s a title, an ethnicity, not a prominent identity. I once heard that when you meet a new person, your introduction is quite indicative of your priorities. So if I introduce myself first as a mother, that’s my biggest priority. I wonder how many people would start with, “I’m a Catholic.”

Jesus was clear on exactly what you are saying.
He condemned the Pharisees for teaching the law of God, and then not keeping it at all!

He said we have to be doers of the Word and not hearers only.

All catholic teachings and submission to Papal Authority are mandatory under automatic excommunication under the three conditions.

A person in a state of mortal sin or excommunication is cut off from God and the sacraments. Each time they receive communion under the three conditions is a mortal sin of sacrelige. Dying without repenting is the sin of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit which is the only sin not forgivable in this life and the next.

A person is Catholic that is baptized into the Catholic faith, or that converts to the Catholic faith after baptism. This is permanent. If culpable schism, heresy, or apostasy occurs later, or any other mortal sin then the Catholic is spiritually dead. Yet there may still be hope, even though as St. John wrote in 1 John 3:14 “He who does not love abides in death”. Charity is lost in all mortal sin, and also in some sins, hope or faith may also be lost.

It’s natural to be concerned about your mothers spiritual welfare. She is lucky to have you there pricking her conscience however you do need to be careful here because it may cause arguments or breed resentment and maybe even harden her heart.

Sometimes the best way to bring someone around is to faithfully practice the faith, setting the example and respectfully engaging her only if she brings up the faith with you. Focus on your journey. I know it’s painful to hear but her spiritual journey is her journey alone to take. We are all responsible for our own salvation. All you can do is live your faith and pray for her. :hug1:

Self-identity is a complex issue for many people. There are many strains that come together that make up who we are. These strains are racial, genetic, ethnic, religious, political views, etc. For many cradle Catholics, being “Catholic” is part of a cultural identity. It says I have experienced things in my past that are like you or are different from you. For others, saying I am Catholic is a short hand in language that communicates a certain experience. Asking someone to deny their experience and their past is asking someone to be inauthentic. Perhaps they could say they are no longer practicing Catholics or as others have said “Surviving Catholics”.

The hard part for you to get your head around is that people like your mom do not see a contradiction between their beliefs and calling themselves Catholic. As others have said, once you have pointed out the dissonance all you can do is step away and pray. Ultimately she must find her way to salvation on her own

Now, what would you rather your mother call herself or introduce herself to others – " Hi, I’m Regina’s mother. I condemned myself to eternal damnation because I rejected the teachings of the Catholic Church"

“Hi, I’m Regina’s mother and I no longer believe that Catholic stuff”

“Hi, I’m Regina’s mother. You know Regina, the real Catholic in the family”

Well said.

Yes, I no longer debate her on Catholic theology. My children now do, through no prompting from me. In fact, when my 7-year old made his first confession last weekend, he was able to get both of my parents in the confessional as well (and it had been decades since my mom was there and years for my father). My children innocently ask my parents religious questions, which prompts them to think about their faith. I must say, my innocent children have been far more effective at evangelizing that I ever have.

If by real Catholic you mean someone who believes in all Church teachings and does her best to abide by them (and goes to confession when in error), then, yes, I guess I am a real Catholic. Is this something to be ashamed of?

I would love for my mom to not give a diatribe of why she hates the Church when religion comes up.

I guess what I don’t understand is why a person identifies with something that they dislike or even hate. If my ancestors were Nazis, yes, that is a part of my heritage. But since I disagree with what they did and don’t abide by their ideology, I would not tell people about this (not strangers anyway) or identify myself in that way.

Just guessing because I do not know any one well enough to begin to discern why they claim an affiliation without demonstrating reasonable adherence to the standards of the group they claim.

Guess 1: Deep down they acknowledge that the Catholic Faith is what they should live. They just find it hard to live up to standards.

Guess 2: They never learned the real reasons for being Catholic, having been sidelined by popular opinions that criticize Catholic teaching. They want to be accepted by the majority of the worldly group they aspire to.

Guess 3: Inertia. As said in Steel Magnolias, “I’ve just been a foul mood for forty years.” Something bothered them way back when, and they did not know how to resolve it and got stuck in holding and re-enforcing the long held view without any serious re-examination.

Guess 4: The eternal struggle of “Why?” versus “yea, but . . .” I accept 90% but that other 10% requires me to reject the 90%. I know better and I have not studied nor tried to understand what the Church teaches.

Guess 5: I am a nice person. People like me and like me more when I show compassion, my style. It is all about Mercy. Justice before Mercy has no place. Therefore I do not sin and I should not have to confess my sins to any but God Himself, so Confession is not for me.

My point: we have to listen carefully to their objections. Try to get them to provide more detail about why they think the way they do. “Just because” is not very logical. In getting them to provide more detail they may see the errors in their own thinking. When we think we have a good understanding, then we can find a good solid response that can help them think more clearly. Patience and prayer.

Speak the Truth in the Spirit of Love.

I know what the OP is saying, My dad has belonged to the same parish since he went there for 1st grade, all the way thru 12 grade in high school, rarely misses a sunday mass to this day, he is 59 yrs old, but when I recently asked him some questions about the Nephilim and some other topics, he said he had never once heard about this…this is coming from someone that went to catholic school and attend mass each week?LOL Something is definitely wrong somewhere along the line!

If he did not learn about this, Im sure there are other biblical topics they did not teach as well…kinda makes you wonder when someone calls them self a catholic.

Nephilim are not very significant so there is no emphasis in Catechesis, however those that read Genesis would encounter them in the common translations as Giants (Gigantes, γίγαντες).

Great answers everyone! Thanks for responding!

I can think of a friend of mine who is culturally Jewish, observes the major Jewish holidays, even got married in a Jewish synagogue. But if you ask him what his actual religious beliefs are, he’ll say he is agnostic.

Now, that isn’t exactly the same because the OP is referring to people who still call themselves Catholic. But I think many Catholics (especially those of certain ethnic backgrounds, such as Irish) certainly see “Catholic” as more of a cultural moniker than a religious one.

Others consider themselves “Catholic” because they have been baptized, Confirmed, etc., in the faith, and perhaps show up for Mass once in a while. To them, it is participation in certain rituals that make them “Catholic”, more than actual assent to the beliefs of the Church.

Others (many on CAF) have no disagreements with what they see as the core Church teachings regarding the divinity of Jesus, truly believe that Jesus is present in the Eucharist, acknowledge that the Eucharist is only available in the Church, etc. To them, issues such as abortion, contraception, same sex marriage, etc., are mere peripheral issues, and there’s no conflict at all between dissenting on such issues, and still calling themselves Catholic.

Yeah. I disagree with a number of church teachings but I dont call myself Catholic. Even though I was baptized into the church. I either just identify as Christian or heretical catholic.

I agree with you that its wrong of people who disagree with the church to call themselves Catholic.

You have identified yourself as Catholic on here.

I know. Ive been meaning to change it. Sorry about that.

I dont want to derail the thread, but I do want to say I disagree about them being insignificant, they were Satans first attempt to corrupt the human seed, so Jesus could not be born into our world, I think it is very important, as it gives us some indication how Satan goes about things, and could give us insight to other methods he may use against the human race.

Like I also said, there was other topics he was not aware of (which should be common catholic knowledge), my father also said he had never been taught about all the instances of God instructing people to kill in the OT, in fact, when I first asked him about this, he thought I was joking…he wanted the bible verses to prove this! He was pretty shocked when I showed him all the different OT verses to this effect, This is pretty sad, since he had went to catholic school from 1st to 12 grade…in all that time, they never taught the kids about these verses? IMO, this speaks volumes about the curriculum.


If one believes that God exists.
If one believes that each of us has an immortal soul and we will spend eternity in either Heaven or Hell.
If one believes that Jesus Christ is the Living Son of God and ,as God, Christ cannot lie.
If one believes that is most prudent - given eternity - that we should do our best to know what Christ said and did.

Then it is most important to understand at least these few passages:

Matthew 16: 15-19
Matthew 22: 36-40
John 6: 51-56
Luke 22: 19-20
John 20: 19-23
John 14: 23-26

These are key things Christ said. “Yea, buts” are not allowed.

As for accepting, or not ,various Church teachings, I think we have to first and always keep in mind the above. I note that all Church teachings are referenced to various passages in the Bible.

To me, as a Catholic, it is not a question of accepting or not. It is a question of acknowledging that I find some things difficult and acknowledge my weak acceptance and continually ask for forgiveness and grace to come closer to Christ. It helps to read the Catechism and Encyclicals and other Catholic writings to gain a better understanding.

I see no useful point in claiming a non-acceptance as good justification for keeping myself away from the loving relationship Christ offers us.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.