A few years ago when the term “fake news” began being spread, Donald Trump was quick to use it against his shameless enemies in the media — particularly CNN. The media reacted as you would expect and stopped using the term because it was immediately turned on them and very effectively.
I’ve had conversations with Catholics before about the labels we give ourselves. There are plenty to choose from including: Conservative Catholics, Orthodox Catholics, Traditional Catholics, Devout Catholics and Faithful Catholics. Someone I know responds to such labels with, “why not just Catholic?” They have a point. You see people who accept and endeavour to follow the teachings of the church faithfully don’t need any extra adjectives to describe what they are. They are simply Catholic.
On the other hand there are plenty of other types of Catholics. There are some who view their inherited faith as an ethnicity and identify strongly with it despite having nothing to do with it. There are those who are somewhat more invested but one wonders why as they constantly seek for it to change to suit them and not vice versa. Then there are the lukewarm who have got their children baptised and occasionally attend Mass for Christmas or a wedding but are otherwise not living the Faith in any meaningful way. There are also the wolves within who are actively to hostile to the church but are clothed in enough wool to fool all but the most vigilant sheep. As you could expect, there is a lot of crossover in all the groups mentioned.
Now I want to be clear that while one can easily split the Catholics who are faithful to church teaching into different groups, it is really not necessary in this case. None of these groups are deliberately breaking or rejecting church teaching as are the others so it is not necessary for my purposes in this post to distinguish them.
One group observes the Catholic Faith and the others do not. The others are therefore not Catholic in any meaningful sense and are thus; fake Catholics. Dr. Taylor Marshall who was influential in my conversion has recently described Joe Biden as exactly that. There is nothing controversial (or shouldn’t be), about him making such a statement. Joe Biden is a public figure who professes to be Catholic but who holds quite a number of views that are directly opposed to church teaching. This is mortally sinful for any Catholic but made worse because of the position he holds in society. In earlier times he would have been excommunicated and should be. It is deeply shameful that he and the many Catholics like him, haven’t been.
Recently there was a popular video by a Fr, James Altman pointing out that due to the platform of the Democrats in the United States, nobody who supports them can be considered Catholic at all. Everything he said in the video is true yet his Bishop has now told him he can’t post homilies online.
This provoked an indignant response, especially by Fr. James Martin who is best known for his advocacy of a sin that cries out to Heaven for vengeance. He is also another fake Catholic.
Until recently, those who picked and chose what they wanted from Christ’s church were called “cafeteria Catholics” but even that gives them too much credit. They simply aren’t Catholic at all. Even thinking the church can change, is out of date or that certain rules don’t apply is evidence of a lack of faith on their part. Pointing this out is as important for them as it is to everyone else.
One of the benefits of these times is that it has truly begun to separate the wheat from the chaff and that may be God’s purpose for allowing it. I think it is time to stop being “nice” about people who clearly don’t believe what they profess to. They are fake Catholics and that’s what they should be called. Being “nice” is what got us stuck with these people in the first place.
Catholics who hold on to the faith shouldn’t adopt different labels to distinguish themselves as if they are somehow outside the mainstream. Doing this has inadvertently given the wolves legitimacy and made the battle to root them out all the more difficult.