Catholicism: This is Not a Cafeteria

Never in the history of my blogs have I ever commented on political matters. It simply isn’t my realm of expertise and there are normally about a million things I would rather talk about.  That ends today.

Have you ever heard of the term “Cafeteria Catholics”?  It is a term commonly used to describe Catholics who pick and choose which teachings of the Church they want to follow and which ones they do not.  I may catch a lot of flack for saying this, but I would question whether Cafeteria Catholics are really Catholics at all.  In fact, I’d probably call Cafeteria Catholics Protestant and I wouldn’t be that far off the mark. Luther and Calvin picked and chose what they believed to be “truth” and went on their merry ways, they didn’t go around pretending to be Catholic.  This isn’t to say that I don’t love my Protestant brothers and sister because I do, but they aren’t Catholic, and they don’t pretend to be.  Cafeteria Catholicism isn’t the same as straight-up Catholicism (some might say orthodox Catholicism instead of “straight up”) it is kind of like saying you got an A on a paper when you really got an 88%.  You were close to an A, but you didn’t actually get an A.

Have you ever heard of the term “Cafeteria American”?  Probably not, because I just invented it. It is a term I use to refer to President Obama, Kathleen Sebelius, and any one else supporting the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) ruling that all religious institutions must provide contraception and sterilization free of charge in their health insurance coverage, or else face hefty fines.  Make no mistake, there is no middle ground on this ruling. The HHS mandate says that either companies must provide FDA-approved contraception (including known abortifacients) or offer no health insurance at all, and that companies who fail to provide health insurance must pay large fines (a company employing 100 people would be forced to pay $140,000 annually.  And yes, that is my Alma Mater). Why Cafeteria American?  You can’t just pick and choose which laws and amendments you will follow and which ones you will not. That is against the law of the land, just as being a Cafeteria Catholic is against Catholicism (see John 6:26-69, especially verses 60-66).

You may not have heard of the term Cafeteria American, but I bet that at some point you’ve heard of the First Amendment:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

In case you didn’t know, Catholics are, and have always been, against the use of contraception, abortifacients and sterilizations.  The rule from the HHS flies in the face of the teachings of Mother Church (thanks, Kathleen Sebelius, self-proclaimed Catholic).  Giving religious organizations a year to “adapt” to this rule does not, in any way, shape, or form, “strike the appropriate balance between respecting religious freedom and increasing access to important preventive services” (read the full statement here).  As Cardinal-designate Timothy Dolan said this delay in implementation means that “we have a year to figure out how to violate our consciences.”  (And since when is pregnancy a disease that needs to be prevented, practically at all costs?)


There are a myriad of things to be said about this issue (and if you are interested, I’ll link to a few articles at the end of the blog), but it all boils down to this: we are NOT in a cafeteria.  If you are a Catholic, then the HHS mandate violates our own consciences and we cannot sit back and let the government force us to do so.  If you are an American, then the HHS mandate violates the first amendment and we cannot stand for such a flagrant disregard for the laws of the land, the ideals set forth by our Founding Fathers.  Either way, we aren’t in the cafeteria anymore.  It is time to get out and stand for what it is that we believe in: religious freedom and the ability to follow our own well-formed consciences.  It is time to stop picking and choosing what we believe in, it is time to take a stand.

Pray for Kathleen Sebelius, President Obama, and all the Catholics in Congress who accept and applaud this mandate, to come to an understand of the Truth, or, if nothing else, a respect for the true practice of religious liberty.  Understand the flaws in the reasoning behind the HHS rule. And please, sign the petition to rescind the HHS mandate!


Learn more about the issue from the USCCB (United States Conference of Catholic Bishops).


Discover why the HHS rule is a slap in the face for Catholics.

Stand with the Bishops who have spoken out against the HHR rule.  Read their statements.  Share their words.

Realize that it is only going to get worse as the Army silence Catholic chaplains from reading statements from their Bishop.

More on the debate between Obamacare and Catholics here.

Here’s another link because I’m so proud of Belmont Abbey College, my Alma Mater, for standing against the HHS rule.

Watch the video from Cardinal-designate Timothy Dolan, president of the USCCB.  Share it.

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First and foremost, Amanda is a woman after the Eucharistic Heart of Jesus. Amanda is also a Colorado native, who graduated from Belmont Abbey College in North Carolina in 2009 with a B.A. in Theology, as well as minors in Psychology and Philosophy. Amanda is a youth minister and author of "Worthy", available now on Amazon, Kindle, and CreateSpace. She is also an Associate Editor at Catholic Lane. Her blog can be found at worthy of Agape.

5 Responses to “Catholicism: This is Not a Cafeteria”

  1. avatar Pam says:

    Loved this! I hate politics too, but it is time to enter the arena (of the Colosseum)!

  2. avatar Cathy says:

    Great post; thanks!

  3. avatar Michael Love says:

    Great post…..we need to start marching through the streets if this gets forced on us…we have been fortunate in th US….only one institution has lost more in this war between good and evil throughout the history of humankind….not even the tragedy of world war comes close to those that have been lost in the name of our beloved church….it does not surprise me that we are under attack…we are the only thing that stands between total government rule and seperation from that rule…Orthodox catholism is the strength of the church because it is based on obediance to Christ…Cafateria catholics…sad to say…..are so cut off from the teachings of the church…..Thank God for the growing strength of the Catholic Media….we need to strengthen the likes of EWTN and other great outlets…all and all….we need to start showing how tough we are!…..we need to aggressively respond to the bigotry that is displayed towards are church…..its the Body of Christ…..if that doesn’t motivate Catholics than I don’t know what will….God Bless….

  4. Amanda,

    Thank you for your thoughtful post. Let me first just say that I am not a Roman Catholic, but I completely agree with your argument. I would simply like to suggest one thing that might really be the issue: poor ecclesiology.

    In other words, people feel like they should have the right to decide whatever they think is best, and that the government should then support their freedoms to do so. For Catholics in America(and I would say the same think about all Christians, but that would be a different discussion), many feel that they are more defined by American values than Catholic ones. Their convictions and values are learned to be independently verified and not subject to the rulings and the teachings of the overall church community they claim to be a part of.

    Let me just also say that your term, Cafeteria Catholic, is right on target. That is because, in a cafeteria there are multiple choices but your own choices don’t limit who you fellowship with. One thing all Christian communities need to learn to do is take our religious communities seriously enough not to check our values at the door just because we find ourselves in situations where we want to fellowship (dare I say, be in communion with, or eat sacred meals) with each other.

    All of this is just my way of saying, keep up this conversation in your community. It is promising and well worth it to have people who really think about what it means to take their faith identities seriously. (And one last suggestion, you should read William Cavanaugh’s “Theo-Political Imaginations.” He is a Catholic theologian whose ecclesiology is dealing with exactly the type of issues you are bringing up.)

    Michael Anthony Howard

  5. avatar JG27 says:

    One aspect of this issue that is overlooked:

    Most health insurance plans cover fertility treatments. These almost always involve embryos.
    Why is the Catholic hierarchy neglecting this aspect of health insurance? Catholic employers shouldn’t be paying for fertility treatment for anyone.
    I have yet to hear this mentioned.

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