Friday, November 6, 2009

Who's a Cafeteria Catholic, then?

The phrase "Cafeteria Catholic" is a disparaging term that is generally applied to liberal American Catholics who ignore Church teaching on birth control, sex, and divorce. The general theme behind it is that good Catholics adhere consistently to ALL the Church's teachings, unswayed by cultural whims.

Or do they? This excellent article from Religion Dispatches argues that the Cafeteria Catholics are actually the conservatives, who ignore the Church's traditional liberal views towards the poor, health care, capital punishment, and immigration reform.
Catholic bishops in this country have shown that they are only willing to speak out politically in support of deeply conservative causes associated with the culture wars (i.e., abortion and same-sex relationships). They are not willing to stand up for the liberal principles that have shaped the Church’s official teaching and the work of its theologians. In other words, the bishops are picking and choosing at the cafeteria of Church teaching and behaving like right-wing political ideologues.....


While the New Jersey bishops offer their theological musings on the importance of marriage and the need to defend it, we need to ask them to prove to us why heterosexual marriage needs to be defended against same-sex marriage. First, sacramental and civil marriage have been distinguished by the church for centuries, and civil marriages that do not comply with sacramental marriages have never been seen as a risk to Catholic marriages. Second, if heterosexual marriage is threatened when same-sex marriages are allowed, why do Massachusetts and Connecticut have the lowest divorce rates in the United States? These are two of the states that allow gay marriage, and marriages there (both same-sex and otherwise) seem to the most stable in the country.

The Catholic bishops in New Jersey and in the rest of this country have decided to align themselves with right-wing politics. The bishops in Washington DC recently launched a campaign similar to the one now being waged by their counterparts in New Jersey. This stance by the bishops goes against the tradition of American Catholicism and suggests that Catholics should decide their positions on social issues based on their political alliances and not their core principles. While conservative Catholic leaders have bemoaned “cafeteria” approaches to Catholicism, they are now prime examples of this behavior.

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