When is a Catholic no longer a Catholic?

This is an off-shoot of another thread, in which various posters discussed what part of their religion’s dogma they do not personally follow/believe in. A few posters called themselves Catholic, but said they didn’t believe in Mary’s virginity, original sin, and several other basic Catholic tenets. At what point does a disbeliever in some tenets become a non-Catholic?

So far as I am aware, you remain a Catholic until such time as the Church excommunicates you.

You may self identify in any way you wish, however. Disagreeing with some of the tenets of the Church does not absolve you of your baptismal privilege or your confirmation into the Church.

If, while lying upon your death bed, you receive the Last Rites and full absolution of your sins, regardless of how you conducted yourself in life, your spot in Catholic Heaven is assured. :slight_smile:

I would suggest that the Catholic hierarchy decide who’s a member. Obviously they don’t want to excommunicate *everyone *who ignores their dictates (someone has to pay for all those gold hats), but if they’re still willing to pass out the grape juice and crackers to you that has to count for something.

I guess I might have asked the wrong question, then. In the other thread were a lot of posters that still considered themselves to be Catholic even though they didn’t follow some of the basic teachings of their church. At what point do they no longer self-identify as a Catholic?

When they don’t consider themselves to be, pretty much. And not because selective believer Santorum says someone isn’t true.

Not quite. Excommunication is intended as a warning to change your ways. It doesn’t change your religion by default, you are now an excommunicated Catholic. The excommunicated are forbidden certain sacraments and privileges. It can be reversed if you petition for it. But if you have no desire to reverse it, then maybe you wouldn’t. I remember that HRE Frederick II was excommunicated twice, IIRC. His penance was to go on a Crusade. His reason for being excommunicated was not going on a Crusade… Nowadays it is more reserved for religious disagreements, not political.

Presumably, when they start identifying as something else, instead. When that comes depends on why they identified as Catholic to begin with. If they’re Catholic because of the theology, then presumably when they find their personal beliefs drifting, they’ll eventually switch to some other church. If, however, they’re Catholic because that’s what their family is, then they might never switch regardless of how much their beliefs diverge, or might only switch after Grandma dies, or whatever.

I think that a good rule of thumb is if you don’t believe in any one of the Catholic dogma, then you shouldn’t call yourself Catholic. As Catholic, you ARE required to believe those things: immaculate conception, original sin, etc. If you don’t, you’re not Catholic. As regard homosexuality, condom use, etc - you can disagree with your local priest all you want. It’s fair game.

I think, at least in the case of Catholics, it’s becoming for a significant number of people more of a social label than a firm belief system (I’d be one of them).

At the risk of being offensive, I think you can draw a fairly good comparison between CEO (Christmas/Easter only) Catholics and non-observant Jews. I consider myself Catholic mostly because my family is Catholic. I get annoyed with some of the random Catholic bashing (but have at the pedophile priests, please), but don’t care much beyond that.

Oh, and I also go to church when mom visits (although the last couple of times, I swayed her to my heathenish ways).

While I agree with you that it is possible to be reinstated into the Church following an excommunication, and that it has been used historically as a warning, while you are living in a state of excommunication, you are, as far as the Catholic Church is concerned, no longer a member.

At least, that’s my recollection from school. Are you suggesting that excommunication is not a full severing of the person from the Church, but simply a limitation on your privileges within the Church?

Excommunicated basically means you can’t take communion (simplified, but to the point). From wikipedia:

For me, the sole criterion for being a Christian is the belief in the divinity of Christ. Once you clear that hurdle, then the rest of the teachings that make up Catholicism are, as a whole, optional. I didn’t say I disbelieved in the virgin birth, I just don’t find it necessary to believe that Mary and Joseph never had sex. I don’t find it necessary to believe that a man who routinely spoke in parables was speaking literally when he said “This IS my body which shall be given up for you”. So in my opinion, one can accept or reject any church teaching except what’s covered in the Nicene Creed and you’re still Catholic.

  1. The hierarchy may decide to revoke privileges (such as the right to celebrate Mass, for a priest, or the right to teach, or to receive communion) but they do not have the authority to remove anyone from the Church. That’s the way it is, and the way, in my opinion, it should be. The Church is a mystical body beyond the authority of any human member of it.

  2. There is no grape juice involved. That’s Protestant. We use wine. I’ll grant you the crackers, as the bread must be unleavened.

I’m with you, except I do include transubstantiation. Otherwise I think you are just a Christian not a Catholic.

Is it even possible for a person to be made “un-Baptized”? That is, beyond excommunication, but revoking a Baptism? I don’t think so, but I could be wrong.

You remain in the Church, from the Church’s standpoint, even if you are in a grave state of sin.

In the end, I’m not sure how significant this is. Jesus said, “do this in rememberence of me” so if we remember him as we receive the host, i’m not sure how important it is whether we think we’re eating real flesh or a symbol thereof.

I’m not sure that a mystical body is something that actually exists. I do agree that someone can call themselves Catholic even if the Pope personally threw him out a window. I disagree that they are meaningfully a Catholic, but if that’s the Church’s stance, then I suppose they get to make the rules. Although, I’d add that if someone actually wants to not be a Catholic, they stop being a Catholic in my opinion, no matter what the church says.

Wine is just rotten grape juice and yeast… which is weird, because the bread doesn’t have any. :eek:

This is only my experience, and when I realized that I was no longer Catholic, after years of being raised as one, in Catholic schools, and with a family that only knew generations of Catholicism. I was at mass one Sunday, kneeling and repeating after the priest, “Lord have mercy…Christ have mercy” when it occurred to me - that I did not put Jesus in the same category as a God.

Ah, well there you go. Ignorance of the intricacies of my own religion fought! :slight_smile:

I mentioned the virginity of Mary specifically, but I also specified that what I reject is the specific phrasing. I’ve discussed that with a couple of prominent theologians (one of them had just published a book glossing that specific dogma, both were involved in writing the current Cathecism) and they didn’t jump up and start shouting “heretic”. They basically took it as a “food for thought”.

You don’t have to believe in every single dogma so much as not reject them; faith is a personal gift and it varies from person to person. Rejecting specific phrasings isn’t a problem at all; after all, the phrasings “suffer from humanity’s efforts at putting the sublime into words”.

Some flavors of Lutheran do transubstantiation also (there Woody and Kelly had a fight about it on Cheers (now that’s a cite)) - I’m sure there are others (Church of England I’d think for starters).