Can you be Catholic but not Christian?

September 9, 2020 (Edward J. Barr) – We live in an age where self-definition supersedes reality.  Hence, a man can say he is a woman, and the government defends his right to maintain his personal delusion, and also forces others to accede to the insanity. The question of self-definition emerged as a result of a discussion on the “non-negotiables” that should be considered by Catholic voters (see What to do when individuals claim to be Catholic but oppose all or most of the “non-negotiables,” while those who are not Catholic support them.  Do labels really matter in 2020 politics?  Perhaps not.

The issue of religious self-definition has occurred in the past.  Most recently, when Mitt Romney ran for president in 2012 some questioned whether a Mormon is a Christian.  After all, the full title of the religion states it is the church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.  If it says so it must be true, right?  Alas, any cursory examination of the tenants of the Mormon church reveals that their beliefs are not Christian; most importantly that Jesus was a man before he was a “god”.  The Trinity and other Christian beliefs are also rejected.  Yet during that presidential campaign numerous commentators and political allies and opponents alike agreed that if one says they are a Christian it must be true.  Who are we to judge? 

So, if someone adheres to beliefs contrary to Catholic teaching but calls themself Catholic, are they?  What is “Catholic teaching,” anyway? It can be found in the Catechism. The Catholic Church was created in part to guard and present the deposit of Christian doctrine.  The Catechism provides details of what it is to be Christian, beginning with the profession of faith, the Creed.  This is the basis of what we believe, and the Catechism provides greater depth in subsequent parts, incorporating the celebration of the Christian mystery (sacraments), living a life in Christ, and Christian prayer. 

What about non-Catholic Christians.  Where do they look to determine who is a Christian?  You’ll probably get as many difference answers as they are Protestant denominations.  Many of the creeds of the traditional Protestant denominations have elements of the Nicene creed, but some churches have vastly different interpretations of what it means to be a Christian.  What this means is that it is easy to be a “Christian,” given the numerous different meaning of the term by followers of Jesus Christ.  Just pick a Church that agrees with your viewpoint.

Is being a Catholic more difficult?  It appears to be, in that the Catechism is so detailed.  Yet the Catechism contains all the guidance necessary to live a life of abundant happiness – which is living one’s life in Christ.  In some ways it is easier to be Catholic than any other Christian denomination since the Church is truly the body of Christ, being one, holy, catholic and apostolic.  It will not and cannot teach error.  We can be confident in following its teaching.

Therefore, the answer to the opening question is no, you can’t be Catholic and not a Christian.  If you are Catholic you are a Christian.  But, if I call myself Catholic but violate most of its most important teachings, including on non-negotiable issues, am I a Catholic?  If I act as a pseudo-priest for a homosexual wedding, and promise to use taxpayer money to pay for abortion on demand, and seek to force Catholic institutions to fund abortion and contraception, am I a Catholic?

At least as much a Catholic as Mitt Romney is a Christian!

Edward J Barr is a Catechist, an attorney, an intelligence officer, a Marine, and a university faculty member. He has just completed his studies for a Master’s degree in theology from the Augustine Institute. Mr. Barr is a contributing writer for the Roma Locuta Est blog (

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