Let’s suppose for a moment that there are Caths and Olics, and then there are Catholics, that there are Chrises and there are Tians, and then there are Christians.
All Catholics would be Christians, recognizing the authority of the Church Jesus established through Peter. They would not subscribe to the Sola Scriptura mentality, especially if they are deep in history, knowing that the Church preceded the Bible, knowing that the Bible benefits from authoritative interpretation, just as the Constitution of the United States benefits from the Supreme Court. It would be hard to argue otherwise, as the evidence for this consists in simply noting that there are 6000 denominations that have grown from the Church since the Protestant Revolution, in spite of the fact that our Lord earnestly prayed that His disciples would remain united and be known by their friendship.
In contrast, few Christians would be Catholic; to call themselves so would involve knowing God’s Word well enough that they would already conform to the teachings of the Catholic Church, in which case they’d just call themselves Catholic. Sadly for the Catholics however, the Christians seem to know their Bibles much better, having feasted upon God’s Word more regularly than some who would call themselves Catholic… feasting upon Him only on Sunday, if that. Whether Catholic or Christian, both are like trees, judged according to the fruit they produce.
Some might call themselves Catholic Christians, but they only do this to help lessen a sense of division between the Catholics and the Christians, the Cath and the Chris, knowing they have more in common than not, though there’d be argument over the importance of those things.
Now, it’d be better to call myself a Cath or an Olic than to say I’m Catholic if I only accept half of what the Catholic Church teaches, or only take the time to learn about half and disregard the other half. Likewise, it’d be better to call myself a Chris or a Tian than a Christian when I only take half of what the Bible teaches, especially if I don’t apply the teachings to my life. This way, I’ll avoid misrepresenting what the Church or Bible teaches by saying “I’m Catholic” or “I’m Christian” and then living a different way due to my ignorance over what the teachings actually are or my disagreement with the teachings or my failure to apply them to my personal life. By doing this, I’ll help build the trust of others by not taking credit for a name I don’t really deserve, which will help avoid leading others to have less trust for those who do deserve the name.
Of course, this is not to say that even at my best I deserve to call myself a Catholic or a Christian in a way that suggests I’m not constantly in need of God’s mercy, to do so would indicate the need for it all the more. My attitude should always reflect my need for God’s love and mercy, even if I were to approach the level of perfection of the saints, who many would argue lived perfect and holy lives. But, to say I’m a Catholic or Christian if I don’t even agree with the model of perfection proposed by the Church or the Bible (though there are many interpretations of the Bible outside the Church), I would be doing an injustice to the Body of Christ.
As an example, suppose I consider myself Catholic but don’t fully agree with what the Church teaches in regards to the following:
1. The Pope holds the keys of Saint Peter and Christ endowed the Church’s shepherds with the charism of infallibility in matters of faith and morals. Thus, when the Church through its supreme Magisterium proposes a doctrine for belief as being divinely revealed, and as the teaching of Christ, the doctrine must be adhered to with the obedience of faith.
2. Abortion is always wrong, even in cases of rape or incest. All life is sacred and each life, from the moment of conception to the moment of natural death, has a right to life, and therefore abortion, or any other method of barring a new life from implanting in its mother’s womb or terminating a pregnancy is inherently wrong.
3. Contraception is never permitted. God designed conjugal love between a husband and wife to be a total giving of one to the other, and open to the transmission of life. Since acts of contraception are not selfless, not a total giving of one to the other and are not open to the transmission of life, contraception is inherently wrong.
4. Christ is really present in the Eucharist. The Holy Eucharist is the real Presence (Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity) of Jesus Christ and that when one receives Holy Communion, Jesus comes into the heart to dwell.
5. Premarital sex is a sin because God has exclusively given the gift of intercourse to a man and woman who have pledged their lives to one another in marriage as a way of fully giving oneself to the other, being fully open to the transmission of life should God so choose to bestow this blessing.
6. Mary was Immaculately Conceived. The most Blessed Virgin Mary was, from the first moment of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege of almighty God and by virtue of the merits of Jesus Christ, Savior of the human race, preserved immune from all stain of original sin.
7. A woman, though potentially very priestly, cannot become an ordained priest. Only a baptized man can validly receive sacred ordination because the Lord Jesus chose men to form the college of the twelve apostles, and the apostles did the same when they chose collaborators to succeed them in their ministry. Therefore, the Church recognizes herself to be bound by this choice made by the Lord himself, and for this reason the ordination of women is not possible.
In that case, I shouldn’t call myself a Catholic, either a Cath or an Olic, but not a Catholic. If it’s simply a matter of not understanding why the Church teaches these things, then I should first seek to understand, and if I later agree, then call myself Catholic. I may even want to do this even if, say, in regards to premarital sex, I accept the teaching but fail to practice it very well, at least until I’ve gone to confession and made firm amends to not commit the sin again. By doing this, I prevent myself from believing that I’m right with God when in fact I’m not. I should face it –if I don’t agree that the Church has the authority to teach these things, I shouldn’t pretend that she does in order to properly associate with her. Either she’s right and I’m wrong and I shouldn’t pretend that I agree with her by using a name that associates me with her, or she’s wrong and I’m right in which case I shouldn’t want to use her name when identifying myself because I might deceive others into thinking I agree with what she teaches. Moreover, why should I partake in the celebration of the Eucharist, the closest on earth that I can get to Him, through her, if I can’t agree with what she teaches, as it is through her that I would receive this blessing? In St. Paul’s words, to do so would bring condemnation upon me. It would be like marrying the woman of my dreams, whom I love without question, who I would give my life to, but asking another woman to have my child. Why should I confess my sins to God through her children if I don’t agree with what she teaches? Wouldn’t I be living a lie?
It’s important to point out at this point that not only will I be judged according to the fruit I’ve produced, but the fruit I didn’t produce when I could have. If a cherry tree only bears fruit on half its branches, will it be found as worthy as the neighboring tree that produces fruit on all its branches? Which is more likely to be fed and cherished by the owner? If I call myself a Christian or a Cath and don’t uphold that all life is sacred, from the moment of conception until natural death, will I produce as much fruit as a Christian or Catholic that does and actively takes part in pro-life ministries and voting activities?
Similarly, if I’m a Christian or Olic who doesn’t believe that premarital sex is a sin, will I produce as much fruit as a Catholic or Christian who practices abstinence or is committed to celibacy? In this case, my absence of fruit would likely be evident through the consequences, i.e. less practice in self-control that could have led me to greater self-development and charity, as well as preparation for marriage, honoring my future spouse, if not choosing celibacy. I may also have contracted an STD or had an unplanned pregnancy, possibly leading me to choose an abortion, which would be murder. I wouldn’t want to admit it would be murder, I might try to convince myself that my child wasn’t really a child at all, in which case I’d be further from the truth and further from God. If I refused to turn from sin and towards repentance, I would likely still know deep down that I’m wrong, then I might find myself struggling with guilt, which could lead to a host of other problems, mentally and physically.
Allow me to repeat at this point that I’m a huge sinner. Consider the Saints for a moment… most of them went to Confession daily. If they went to Confession daily, surely I must have something, no matter how small, that I struggle with. Even if I assume I had a really good day and was able to take all of my thoughts and wild emotions ‘by the horns,’ holding them captive to Christ, the proper attitude would still be, “I’m a wretched sinner in need of God’s guidance and mercy.” I should not forget… He created the Universe, knowing in advance how He desires my heart for His return. So, let me be prepared with oil in my lamp. If I’m at all like the righteous clergy and pastors, I’ll have brought enough to share with others.
Now, if I don’t wholly agree with something the Catholic Church or the Bible teaches, and I might find there is far more agreement between the two than not, then I’ll call myself a Cath, Olic, Chris, Tian, Cathtian or Chrisolic, but not a Catholic or a Christian. By doing this, I give others who might disagree a chance to share common ground and assist me towards a better understanding. How else might someone who is living within the teachings of the Church know that I believe otherwise if I seem to go by the same name and do things the same as they do? Without consistency in thought and action, how can there be trust that leads to friendship? If I’m a Cath or a Tian, and I know I’m not going to change or are apathetic about knowing differently, why deceive someone who is Catholic or Christian, hoping to gain their friendship, without their knowing I’m different? Should the wolf jump the fence and go about in sheep’s clothing?
Again, if I’m one of those who haven’t taken the time to learn more about what I have questions on, and already believe that God’s Word is inerrant in matters of moral teaching, as are, more specifically, the doctrines on moral teaching that are declared infallible by the Pope, , even if I don’t currently understand them all, I should make this change in how I would refer to myself until I’ve have taken the time to research what I disagree with and then make up my mind.
If I simply don’t agree, and honestly believe that no amount of evidence will ever change my mind, which would make me especially closed minded, like some atheists I know, then I’ll never call myself a Christian or a Catholic. In this case, I might still say that I believe Jesus is the son of God, but I simply don’t agree with any Church or denominations out there. I will feel sorry for myself in this case, because I will be missing out on many blessings, but I will take comfort in knowing that prayers are being said for me.
Even though some doctrines may not bring joy, but blessings in the form of suffering, our Lord desires that I’m perfect as my Heavenly Father is perfect. Thus, if the Church teaches something for my perfection, I’d be wise to heed it, even if it doesn’t always bring the joyful type of blessings.
If I’m a Catholic, and I read my Bible regularly, or know it from memory, then I will likely be found on the highest level of Pure Heart Culture and could proudly call myself, although imperiously, an elite member.
Thankfully, I can honestly say that I can agree with everything the Catholic Church teaches; I can proudly call myself a Catholic. I hope all those who diligently seek the truth can do the same someday.