Skip to content

Cafeteria Catholic? Not!

You may have heard the term “Cafeteria Catholic” (Protestants would say Cafeteria Christian) and wondered what it means.

We go to a restaurant and order what we want. If we don’t like something, we don’t have it. The strongest example of this might be a buffet. You can pick and choose everything you eat. It’s great for that one meal in terms of personal satisfaction but is it good for our long term health?

That would depend on what you choose to eat. Do you pick a balanced meal? Certainly, only eating cake is not healthy. Would you only eat meat, say chicken wings? Would you pick any vegetables? Fruit? If we want to live a long and healthy life, we need to make good choices about the food we eat.

So what’s a Cafeteria Catholic? Our faith offers many teachings. Do we embrace all of them or just the teachings we like? Yes, some teachings are harder to understand and accept.

Here I think of the Bread of Life Discourse in chapter 6 of the Gospel of John. Jesus tells his disciples, “I am the Bread of Life” and that we must eat his body and drink his blood. Many find this difficult. In John 6:66-71, we hear that many disciples left Jesus because his teaching was teaching to understand. Jesus asked the Twelve if they wanted to leave also. Peter responded, “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.  We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God” (John 6:68-69). We may not always understand but we can believe. After all, the word “faith” means to believe in what cannot be proven.

We can believe Jesus. We can trust him. Why? Remember the words of Matthew 7:28-29, “When Jesus finished these words, the crowds were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as their scribes.” Jesus has authority from God. How do we know we can trust him?

Because He was willing to die for us on the Cross. “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13).

When they pick and choose what they believe, some say the Bible is outdated. If that is true, would it mean that God’s offer of salvation through Jesus’ Crucifixion and Resurrection is outdated? Is salvation no longer possible?

Absolutely not! Jesus’ sacrifice on the Cross is still valid. God is still willing to forgive us if we repent and seek to follow his teachings.

We hear many different voices telling us different things about right and wrong. Some of those voices, the relativists, even say there is no “truth,” that there is no universal right and wrong. One might rely on psychology to justify their behavior. Others might rely on biology to explain their preferences.

Some separate moral behavior from faith. They profess a faith in God spiritually but see no relationship with God and moral behavior. (See my article, “God’s Commandments” or my video presentation, Are They Rules or a Way of Life? for more on how the Commandments are good for us.)

We need to rely on experts for guidance in living good lives but with many different opinions, where do we go for truth? (see my video presentation Where Do We Go for Truth)?

Of course, the answer when we want Truth, Truth with a capital “T”, is that God is the one we go to. God’s Truth is not a burden. In fact, God’s “truth will set you free” (John 8:32).

We have a conscious. In paragraph 1782, the Catechism of the Catholic Church says we must be free to follow our conscious. Paragraphs 1783-1785 go on to speak of having a well-formed conscious. Have we studied church teaching? Have we sought out how God calls us to live?

Jesus is “the way and the truth and the life” (John 14:6). Jesus is the gate (John 10:1-10).

In the Lord’s Prayer, we pray “thy will be done.” Do we mean it? Are we willing to make what has been called by some, a “genuflection of the will”? Are we willing to set aside human will and desire to submit to the Father’s Will?

As I mentioned in my homily this Sunday, during our current Coronavirus shutdown, some people are finding their faith stronger. There are others who haven’t been to church in a while who are watching Mass now. The Coronavirus is leading us to realize that, in our humanity, we do not have all the answers. So, we turn to the one who does have all the answers, God.

It is not always easy to believe, especially when we don’t understand. Yet, knowing how much God loves us, we can count on him to lead us to the Truth. In faith, we believe. We believe all that God teaches us.

Let us conclude with an old traditional prayer known as an Act of Faith (taken from USCCB –

O my God, I firmly believe
that you are one God in three divine Persons,
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
I believe that your divine Son became man
and died for our sins and that he will come
to judge the living and the dead.
I believe these and all the truths
which the Holy Catholic Church teaches
because you have revealed them
who are eternal truth and wisdom,
who can neither deceive nor be deceived.
In this faith I intend to live and die.


Fr. Jeff


  1. Donna Falkner says:

    I liked this a lot Father and hope the Cafeteria Catholics read it

  2. Fr. Jeff says:

    Thank you. I hope and pray they do.


    Fr. Jeff

Leave a Reply