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Have Conservatives Become Cafeteria Catholics?

Father Dwight Longenecker

Father Dwight Longenecker

I generally like Fr. Dwight Longenecker’s blog; but this morning I read one that is just off base.  Called “The Rise of Conservative Cafeteria Catholicism,” it attacks conservative Catholics for being critical of Pope Francis, saying that they have now become “Cafeteria Catholics.”

Fr. Longenecker defines a liberal cafeteria Catholic as among other things “a liberal who picked peace and justice issues but was silent on abortion….picked up on the fellowship of the Lord’s Supper but declined the idea of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass….[they] liked the authority of the individual conscience but put Humanae Vitae on one side.”

“Now,” says Fr. Longenecker, “with Pope Francis the cafeteria Catholics are the conservatives.  They splutter and fume at Pope Francis….they disagree with him about this and reject his words about that just as avidly and with as much fervor as the liberals used to reject Pope Benedict.”

First of all, I see precious little in the conservative Catholic press critical of Pope Francis.  Second, I know of no conservative Catholic who would disagree with Pope Francis on matters of faith and morals.

Cafeteria Catholics who are liberal are not generally just “silent on abortion.”  Those who are politicians actively support pro-abortion laws and regulations like the HHS Mandate.  Those in the general public vote for these politicians.  Such actions put one on the road to hell.

If we conservatives are critical about Pope Francis for his remarks, say, on homosexuality when talking to reporters on the way home from World Youth Day, it is because they were ambiguous about the moral issue of homosexuality in a time when Catholics are fighting same-sex “marriage” in countries throughout the world.  We have all had those words used against us.  However, no one suggests that Pope Francis is pro-same-sex “marriage.”

Being critical of Pope Francis’s words in this case will not put one on the road to hell.  Nor will disagreeing with his emphasis on what issues are most important in the world today.

Except on matters of faith and morals, no pope is above criticism – from liberals or conservatives.  All Catholics, liberal or conservative, must abide by the Church’s teachings on matters of faith and morals.  A cafeteria Catholic is one who picks and chooses which of those teachings he follows.  I don’t think conservative Catholics do that.

Maureen Williamson

Comments 6

  1. eddie too wrote:

    I guess it all depends on how you define the term “cafeteria catholic”.

    Posted 02 Aug 2014 at 11:22 am
  2. Gabriel wrote:

    Dear Maureen, You make a good point about your own attitudes which are reasonable and within the Catholic fold. However, as you must know, there are a number of Catholics who are absolutely hysterical about Pope Francis. You can find, for example, some of them on the Catholic Herald (UK) website, but I am sure there are others as well. Reading them, there comes to mind the phrase, “the sky is falling” which we all remember from our childhood

    Posted 03 Aug 2014 at 6:18 am
  3. Vincent Chiarello wrote:

    You touch here on an issue that has plagued believers for decades: prudential judgment.
    According to my understanding of the Magisterium, to claim that the pope and the hierarchy have judgments that are infallible is risible. The problem is that the post-Vatican II Church, as Fr. Longenecker notes, has sought the principle of “social justice” over dogma in effect for millennia. For example, the Magisterium says nothing about seeking amnesty for illegal aliens in the country; the hierarchy does, much to the chagrin of many a devoted follower of the Church. But those who question and/or criticize the pontiff or hierarchy about their political stands do not offend the Magisterium, for in the matter of social justice, they are offering an opinion which we, after reflection, can reject, on the basis of “prudential judgment.”

    Posted 03 Aug 2014 at 11:59 am
  4. Vincent Chiarello wrote:

    I misspoke …or better, I miswrote: instead of writing, “According to my understanding of the Magisterium, to claim that the pope and the hierarchy have judgments that are infallible is risible,” I should have written” the pontiff and the hierarchy are not infallible outside the areas of faith and morals; that is, that one is not obligated to follow the pope or hierarchy’s judgment regarding illegal immigration.

    Posted 03 Aug 2014 at 5:42 pm
  5. Gabriel wrote:

    A further thought comes to mind in the light of the phrase “prudential judgment.” Although it is true that when we speak of infallibility we are speaking of faith and morals, it is also true that the Pope is the supreme shepherd of a Church which deals with all kinds of situations that call for some practical action on his part. The actions of Pope Pius XII before and during World War II are an example that comes to mind. Clearly, a convinced Catholic should be willing to humbly give the Pope the benefit of the doubt in pastoral decisions without saying: this is not a matter of faith and morals. The Pope, after all, is given the Holy Spirit to help him in his practical decisions, whether or not this involves “infallibility,” and this should be taken quite seriously. I am reminded of the day of prayer that Pope called for Syria. Within a few days the plan to bomb Syria was abandoned because an idea “just popped into the mind” of Kerry which he had not even discussed with the President on that occasion.

    Posted 04 Aug 2014 at 5:27 am
  6. Don wrote:

    Libertarian Catholics are ‘cafeteria Catholics,’ I guess–that’s why William F. Buckley Jr. wouldn’t let any fans of Ayn Rand write for National Review–he was a conservative Catholic but not a radical libertarian.
    But we should be careful not to let liberals twist what Pope Francis says just as they did what Vatican II said.
    I can remember being screamed at by a liberal who insisted that the bishops insisted that “we have a moral obligation to love and trust the Soviets”–something which St. John Paul II, the future Benedict XVI, Cardinal O’Connor, and our own bishop Thomas J. Welsh did not.
    I was not a ‘cafeteria Catholic’. He was a liar.

    Posted 05 Aug 2014 at 7:03 am

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