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Catholic in Name Only

The Christian Martyrs Last Prayer

Have you ever heard that question posed by evangelical Christians, “If you were arrested and charged with being a Christian, would they have enough evidence to convict you?” I like that question.

So, ask yourself, “If I was arrested and charged with being a Catholic, would they have enough evidence to convict me?” Sadly, for most self professing Catholics today the answer is a resounding no.

Catholic In Name Only

We all know them. “Cafeteria Catholics”, “C.E.O.s” (Christmas and Easter Only Catholics), and C.I.N.O.s (Catholics in Name Only). Call them whatever you want, these are individuals who, when asked for a religious affiliation on a survey or form, will unhesitatingly declare themself to be Catholic. For far too many of these Catholics today, however, their religious identity is much more a matter of culture than of belief and practice.

They made all of the Sacraments of Initiation: Baptism, Holy Communion and Confirmation. Many were even married in the Church. When a loved one dies, it is a funeral Mass which they attend. Their faith, however, is one of big occasions and holidays. Mass attendance is irregular at best and their values often reflect those of our hyper-secular society. Their Catholicism is much more an adjective than it is a verb. They are neither hot nor cold.

In the Revelation to St. John our Lord addressed these Catholics, and others like them, when he said:

So, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew you out of my mouth. (Rev. 3:16)

In some translations, such as the Douay Rheims Bible the above verse reads, “I will vomit thee out of my mouth”. In this day and age when so many Catholics, both laity and clergy alike, seek not to offend or truly challenge the faithful in their complacency, our Lord’s illustrative language hits you like a hammer.

How is this lukewarm Catholicism often manifested today?

Mass Attendance
What was once a given for Catholics, the idea of fulfilling your Sunday obligation to attend Mass, has been lost for at least an entire generation. The days of 78 percent weekly Mass attendance in 1958 (according to Gallup), has dropped to only 23 percent in 2013 (Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University). Even worse, a 2008 study by CARA found that nearly 6 in 10 Catholics who miss Mass DO NOT believe it is a mortal sin to do so.

Real Presence
There are few dogmas of the Church which require greater faith than the belief in the Real Presence of our Lord in the Holy Eucharist. This is fundamental to our beliefs as Catholics. In Session 13 of the Council of Trent, in it’s Decree Concerning the Most Holy Sacrament of the Eucharist, the Church stated:

First of all, the holy council teaches and openly and plainly professes that after the consecration of bread and wine, our Lord Jesus Christ, true God and true man, is truly, really and substantially contained in the august sacrament of the Holy Eucharist under the appearance of those sensible things.

Sadly, this fundamental belief of the faith has also been lost among so many self-professed Catholics. The same previously mentioned CARA study found 43 percent of Catholics agreeing with the statement, “Bread and wine are symbols of Jesus, but Jesus is not really present.” Not surprisingly, this is most common among those who attend irregularly.

For those Catholics who only make it to Sunday Mass once or twice a month, only 65 percent believe our Lord is really present in the Eucharist. And how about those Catholics who only manage to make it to Mass a few times a year? 6 out of 10 stated that the Eucharist is only symbolic of our Lord.

Birth Control
The final example of this phenomenon of the lukewarm Catholic is the intrinsically evil practice of contraception. To understand just how vast this scandalous plague is among Catholics we can look to the research once again. The numbers don’t lie.

In 2012 the Gallup organization surveyed Americans about the moral acceptability of using birth control. Catholic respondents were nearly identical with non-Catholics in their beliefs on the issue. A staggering 82 percent believed birth control was morally acceptable, with only 15 percent adhering to the teaching of the Church.

Intrinsically evil, fundamentally in opposition to a people of Life, contrary to the 2,000 year consistent teaching of the Church, and yet 82 percent of professing Catholics side with pagans, hedonists and atheists in support of contraception.

Just as disheartening was the recent admission by an archbishop of a major American archdiocese that he could not even recall the last time he had personally preached on the topic. This deafening silence from the ambo is nothing short of spiritual malpractice. It is an oncologist looking out at a waiting room full of patients but being afraid to say the word “cancer”. Unfortunately, the lukewarm Catholics aren’t always just in the pews. It is equally tragic when they are in the sanctuary and in the confessional too.

“I will vomit thee out of my mouth.”

Our Lord makes it perfectly clear in the Book of Revelation: He literally has no stomach for the lukewarm. In the explanatory notes for this verse, the New American Bible comments, “Half-hearted commitment to the faith is nauseating to Christ”.

The picture at the beginning of this post is the famous painting The Christian Martyrs Last Prayer by the French painter Jean-Leon Gerome. Our troubled times require martyrs, not more lukewarm Catholics who profess to be one thing while rejecting the very tenets of the faith. Challenge yourself and evangelize those around you to reject lukewarm Catholicism and to embrace the beauty and joy of fully living their Catholic faith.

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