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Elliot Miller wrote:

Hi, guys —


I have received great input from you before and I'm deeply appreciative. I'm currently attending an RCIA class and I'm learning tons of information about what the Church teaches.

I would like to be Catholic but I don't know what that means. Philosophers ask what is it and what is it not so in simple terms, I would like to ask a relatively difficult question.

  • What belief(s) or behaviors would bar someone from being a Roman Catholic?


  { What does being Catholic mean and what beliefs bar someone from being a Roman Catholic? }

Mike replied:

Hi Elliot,

Thanks for the question.

You said:
I would like to be Catholic but I don't know what that means.

The Catechism tells us:

830 The word catholic means universal, in the sense of according to the totality or in keeping with the whole. The Church is Catholic in a double sense:

First, the Church is catholic because Christ is present in her.

Where there is Christ Jesus, there is the Catholic Church.

(St. Ignatius of Antioch, Ad Smyrn. 8,2:Apostolic Fathers,II/2,311)

In her subsists the fullness of Christ's body united with its head; this implies that she receives from him "the fullness of the means of salvation" (Vatican II, Unitatis Redintegratio 3; Vatican II, Ad Gentes 6; Ephesians 1:22-23) which he has willed: correct and complete confession of faith, full sacramental life, and ordained ministry in apostolic succession. The Church was, in this fundamental sense, catholic on the day of Pentecost (cf. Vatican II, Ad Gentes 4) and will always be so until the day of the Parousia.

831 Secondly, the Church is catholic because she has been sent out by Christ on a mission to the whole of the human race: (cf. Matthew 28:19)

All men are called to belong to the new People of God. This People, therefore, while remaining one and only one, is to be spread throughout the whole world and to all ages in order that the design of God's will may be fulfilled: he made human nature one in the beginning and has decreed that all his children who were scattered should be finally gathered together as one. . . . The character of universality which adorns the People of God is a gift from the Lord himself whereby the Catholic Church ceaselessly and efficaciously seeks for the return of all humanity and all its goods, under Christ the Head in the unity of his Spirit. (Vatican II, Lumen Gentium 13 §§ 1-2; cf. John 11:52)

So for short, being a faithful Catholic Christian mean practicing, by words and deeds, all the Jesus wants us to believe as Christian Catholics.

Now you may have Protestants tell you that none of the Apostles were Catholic but this is what St. Pacian of Barcelona (c.310-375 A.D.) said in the fourth century on this exact topic:

You said:

  • What belief(s) or behaviors would bar someone from being a Roman Catholic?

My colleagues may be able to word this better than I may but here is my two cents.

The Church does not bar anyone from being a Roman Catholic. The Church has a set of morals and values that have been handled down by Jesus to our present day. Those who investigate and confirm the Apostolic history of the Catholic Church and believe in Her teachings, are always welcome to join. The purpose of the set of morals and values that have been handled down to us are for our own spiritual wellbeing, not to make our lives terrible.

Men and women struggle with certain teachings because of their struggle with sin and the consequences of original sin — an inclination to evil that is called concupiscence. Teachings that people have a difficult time with usually fall below the belt.

  • artificial contraception
  • abortion
  • same-sex behavior and other sins of the flesh
  • polygamy, adultery,
  • and others

The goal of the faithful Catholic is to strive for holiness despite how hard it can be. This is where going to Confession regularly can help.

For those that choose to be unfaithful to the Church yet call themselves Catholic, for the good of the faithful as a whole, the Church, either through the pope or local bishop, will occasionally warn the faithful about certain people, places, and/or events that would harm or distort the faith.

In addition, in the past, the Vatican has had a list of forbidden books or forbidden societies that Catholics are not allowed to join. Read this posting for an example of an action one bishop took:

The Church reflects Jesus, who is Mercy Himself.

There is no sin or history of sins that cannot be forgiven through the Church [Jesus established on St. Peter,] so to lapsed Catholics reading this — come on home!

For those who have no interest in coming home or have some hostility toward our faith, in the spirit of Christian fairness, all we ask is one thing:

Please do not distort what faithful Catholics believe.

If you are unsure, just ask us.

I hope this helps,


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