I was speaking to a woman I know and she said that a man she knows had stopped going to Church months before and that he didn’t believe in many things the Church taught including the Church’s stance on contraception. But he still considered himself a good Catholic. Pretty normal stuff nowadays sadly.
The women is a committed Catholic and she said that she’d told him that she wasn’t a “Cafeteria Catholic” but he reminded her of many things she’d done which are against church teaching throughout her life and he said triumphantly, “See we all pick and choose.”
She said that she’d come to believe what he’d said was true. Now without going into details I told her that her friend was wrong. Very wrong. There is a big difference between sinning and picking and choosing.
We all sin. But that doesn’t make us cafeteria Catholics. The real difference is that cafeteria Catholics simply don’t acknowledge sin.
While we all transgress, a committed Catholic will still judge themselves against an established standard. We will inevitably fall short of those standards but we still strive to achieve it and emulate ourselves after Christ to the best of our ability.
The cafeteria Catholic may act in very much the same manner as a faithful Catholic but simply removes all that striving. When confronted with a discrepancy between their will and the teachings of the Church they simply change the standards based on what they feel is right for them. And let’s face it, when we set our own fungible standards, sin becomes impossible because our decision making becomes the standard of behavior.
We all fall short of the standard. The cafeteria catholic just lowers the standard.