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Are Bad Catholics Still Catholics?

Last week, on the forty-sixth anniversary of Roe v. Wade, New York governor Andrew Cuomo enthusiastically signed that state’s “Reproductive Health Act.”

Many commentators observed that New York now has the most radical pro-abortion law of any state in the country, and criticism of Cuomo quickly followed. Part of the criticism was based on the fact that Cuomo is a baptized Catholic; many were aghast at the spectacle of a Catholic taking such a radical pro-abortion stance.

Others, however, denounced the idea that he is a Catholic at all, and debates on the question ensued. For example, in one such debate on Facebook, comments like these appeared:

  • “Let’s be clear here, he is not Catholic!”
  • “He isn’t Catholic. It’s an insult to Catholics to call him one.”
  • “Of course he’s not Catholic.”

Others responded:

  • “He is based on his baptism.”
  • “Yes, he is by virtue of his baptism! He is a Catholic who has sinned!”

Some sought to strike a middle ground:

  • “He may have been baptized by the Catholic Church, but if he is not practicing his Catholic faith, he is Catholic in name only.”

Unfortunately, Cuomo is not alone. We live in an age in which many Catholics who are public figures betray key teachings and values of the Faith. Of course, our age is not unique. There have always been bad Catholics—including bad Catholics in high places. But in our age, mass communication means a lot more people notice them and are able to discuss what they do.

So, are such people still Catholics? Let’s start with the statement that Cuomo-type figures aren’t Catholics and that it’s an insult to say that they are.

This sentiment expresses a truth. When a public figure uses his fame and influence to betray the Faith, he is acting in an un-Catholic or even anti-Catholic way. And the profound contradiction between what he is doing and what he should be doing as a Catholic generates an objective insult to God. It adds injury to insult, for it wounds the body of Christ.

Read more at Catholic Answers. 

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