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What Is a Cafeteria Catholic?

One of the pejorative phrases used when discussing religion and the religiosity of people is “cafeteria catholic.” A cafeteria catholic is a member of the catholic religion who has decided to ignore some aspects of the established Catholic doctrine. It also refers to people who interpret these doctrines in a way that runs counter to the teachings of Catholicism. The term cafeteria catholic does not only refer to individual people. It also refers to other Christian sects – usually substituting the name of the sect for the word “catholic.”

The term itself has its roots to references of cafeteria style dining. This refers to people picking and choosing the food that they want and ignoring dishes that is not to their liking. The phrase basically implies that a cafeteria catholic will only choose certain teachings or doctrines that agree to their own set of personal beliefs or they choose teachings that they find appealing and not take on the doctrine as a whole. This runs counter to the whole Catholic doctrine, wherein followers must embrace everything the religion represents.

The concept itself of cafeteria Catholicism is an issue that has its roots in the very beginnings of the religion. With the large number of Christian sects, differences in teachings will naturally emerge and this has led to the split in the Christian faith. This is evidenced in such historical events as the Great Schism and the Reformation. The problem is exacerbated by the belief of each sect that their own interpretation of Christianity is the one that is correct.

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