The term “cafeteria Catholic” has been around for a while. Many of us, myself included, might have even worn that label proudly for many years before embracing fully the church’s teachings. You know how it works. You go down the cafeteria line of teachings, and just like at the local salad bar or brunch buffet, you pick what you like and leave what doesn’t seem appealing.
Now, there seems to be a new version of cafeteria Catholicism that has developed concerning Pope Francis — and not only among Catholics.
How many times have we heard political pundits and various lawmakers praise Pope Francis for his concerns for the poor, the outcast, the plight of refugees in Europe and around the world, as well as his efforts to raise awareness about the environment? When it comes to those issues, these folks can’t say enough good things about the pope. But when it comes to areas pertaining to such hot-button issues as marriage and gender ideology, those same political leaders act as if the pope and the church don’t exist.
Case in point is the bullying tactics of the Obama administration regarding public schools and bathrooms. The federal government recently said public schools must allow transgender students to use the bathroom of their choice. In a letter to school districts across the nation, Attorney General Loretta Lynch insisted there is “no room in our schools for discrimination of any kind” and that schools that don’t comply with the new guidelines could risk losing their federal funding.
Lynch, of course, is part of the same administration that welcomed the pope with open arms during his historic visit to the United States last year. The president and a long list of other top politicians couldn’t say enough about how much they admired Francis.
But that was then and this is now. Apparently, they only take him seriously when it suits their interests. Even a quick glance at the pope’s latest apostolic exhortation, Amoris Laetitia (“The Joy of Love”), reveals his concern about who we are as human beings is being torn apart by misguided and dangerous thinking. He spells it out clearly and even calls out policy makers for enacting laws that go against human nature:
“Yet another challenge is posed by the various forms of an ideology of gender that ‘denies the difference and reciprocity in nature of a man and a woman and envisages a society without sexual differences, thereby eliminating the anthropological basis of the family. This ideology leads to educational programs and legislative enactments that promote a personal identity and emotional intimacy radically separated from the biological difference between male and female. Consequently, human identity becomes the choice of the individual, one which can also change over time’” (No. 56).
Pope Francis knows the truth about embracing and understanding male-female complementarity is one that keeps not only Catholics but all men and women for generations to come healthy — spiritually, physically and emotionally. It is akin to major food groups needed in our daily diets. But apparently in the arena of particular political agendas, Francis isn’t so popular anymore.
Numerous commentators and elected officials bypass those unappealing dishes and completely ignore what Pope Francis and church teaching have to say. The wisdom of church teaching he is trying to impart is treated like the unappetizing creamed spinach or liver and onions and conveniently passed by on today’s cultural cafeteria line, which can only lead to a really bad case of societal indigestion.
Teresa Tomeo is the host of “Catholic Connection,” produced by Ave Maria Radio and heard daily on EWTN Global Catholic Radio, Sirius Channel 130, and Channel 88.1FM KFHC, Sioux City and KOIA, Storm Lake.