The term “cafeteria Catholics” has been used over the years by Catholics on the Right to criticize those who pick and choose among the Church’s teachings on issues such as abortion, birth control, divorce, women priests and homosexuality.
But I have noticed a new trend: Catholics on the political Left are now using the term as well. They apply it to conservative Catholics who refuse to toe the line with the hierarchy on capital punishment, the war in Iraq, immigration and the social programs favored by the Democratic Party.
Is this a case of turnabout being fair play? I say no. There is a difference. Catholics who dissent on abortion, birth control, divorce, homosexuality and women priests contend that the Church is in error on these teachings. Those who dissent on capital punishment, immigration, the war in Iraq and the welfare state do not take that position. Their disagreement centers on how the Church’s teachings, which they accept, should be applied in particular circumstances.
There's another difference as well: the issues some conservatives disagree on are usual not defined domga of the Church. Issues such as those lsited above as liberal disagreements are settled teachings. Even the death penlty is up for discussion since the Catechism says that it can be used when there's no other way to protect society. While it goes on to say those situations are "very rare, if not practically nonexistent." (2267
) There's a strong statement against it, but there's a little wiggle room. No such wiggle room exists on the issues where liberals dissent.