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A reader posed this question to CRUX magazine and obtained an answer.

This question is seeking the Catholic Church's answer to whether one is really Catholic if they pick and choose in what they believe in.

A comprehensive answer will state what the Church teaches on the matter and include what the Church Fathers have said with arguments from scripture.

What is the status of the Catholic when the picking and choosing involves faith, and when it involves morality?

  • The irony in this question is that Catholics are baptized as infants and don't get to choose whether they accept the Church's teachings to begin with. – ShemSeger Nov 7 '14 at 22:30
  • cf. Heresy | New Advent. – user13992 Nov 8 '14 at 6:36
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The official catholic teaching is that a person who is a Catholic by virtue of having received the Sacraments of Baptism or Confirmation in the Church remains a Catholic unless or until he or she deliberately and voluntarily repudiates the Church. As a separate matter, a Catholic is bound by Canon Law

to follow with Christian obedience those things which the sacred pastors, inasmuch as they represent Christ, declare as teachers of the faith or establish as rulers of the Church. [Can. 212 §1.]

To the extent that they fail to comply, or deliberately violate that to which they are bound, they are in impaired communion with the rest of the church, but remain Catholics. A consequence of the impaired communion may be liability to certain penal consequences as laid out in the Code of Canon Law, and there are some consequences that have automatic consequences. Failing to accept, adhere to, and promote the Church's teaching on abortion, for example, carries the penalty of automatic self-excommunication by the individual. Ex-communication, however, simply bars a Catholic from all sacraments, except confession, but does not mean that the person is considered by the Church not to be a Catholic.

I am not sufficiently familiar with the writings of the Fathers to discuss which of them might have written on this matter, but in general my understanding is that most of the current teaching on this matter developed after the time of the Fathers, and thus, after the time of Scripture. Given my lack of knowledge of the Fathers on this matter, I welcome any who might be able to write definitively on this matter to edit this answer.

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