‘Once a Catholic, Always a Catholic’?

Can you quit the Catholic Church? Can you be kicked out of the Church? Or is the old saying “Once a Catholic, Always a Catholic” literally true?
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There’s an old saying, “Once a Catholic; always a Catholic,” but what does this mean?

It could be taken to mean that a person raised in a devout Catholic family and culture will always carry aspects of this heritage, even if he stops practicing his faith.

For example, in Ireland, there are accounts of people being asked whether they’re Catholic or Protestant, and when they reply, “I’m an atheist,” the response is, “Yes, but are you a Catholic atheist or a Protestant atheist?”

Although the saying could be understood in terms of the culture one belongs to, it is often understood another way—that it’s literally impossible to stop being a Catholic even if you renounce the Faith and adopt another.

Is this true?

The matter is more complex than you might think.

Religion concept. Catholic symbols composition: monstrance, The Cross, Holy Bible, rosary and golden chalice. sacrament stock pictures, royalty-free photos & images

In 1943, Bl. Pius XII released the encyclical Mystici Corporis, in which he articulated membership in the Catholic Church this way:

Actually only those are to be included as members of the Church who have been baptized and profess the true Faith, and who have not been so unfortunate as to separate themselves from the unity of the body, or been excluded by legitimate authority for grave faults committed (22).

This directly contradicts a literal interpretation of “Once a Catholic, always a Catholic.” If you can separate yourself from unity or if legitimate authorities can exclude you for grave faults so that you no longer qualify as a “member” of the Church, then you can obviously cease to be Catholic.

You would still carry the indelible marks on your soul of baptism and confirmation (CCC 1280, 1317), but you would no longer be a member of the Church and thus not a Catholic.

Holly Communion It is a Holy Communion, studio shot composition.    sacrament stock pictures, royalty-free photos & images

In its 1964 constitution Lumen Gentium, the Second Vatican Council took a different approach. Instead of speaking in terms of membership, it spoke of “full incorporation”:

They are fully incorporated in the society of the Church who, possessing the Spirit of Christ, accept her entire system and all the means of salvation given to her, and are united with her as part of her visible bodily structure and through her with Christ, who rules her through the supreme pontiff and the bishops.

The bonds which bind men to the Church in a visible way are profession of faith, the sacraments, and ecclesiastical government and communion.

He is not saved, however, who, though part of the body of the Church, does not persevere in charity.

He remains indeed in the bosom of the Church, but, as it were, only in a “bodily” manner and not “in his heart” (14).

The council also stated that catechumens are already “joined” with the Church (14), that baptized non-Catholics are “linked” with the Church (15), and that the unevangelized are “related in various ways to the people of God” (16).

Lumen Gentium thus articulates multiple ways in which one can be linked to the Church. If you have all the links (including the virtue of charity that corresponds to the state of grace), then you are said to be “fully incorporated.”

This is another way of covering the same basic ground that Pius XII did, for he also acknowledged a variety of things that linked one to the Church.

However, Lumen Gentium does not identify a particular set of conditions needed to be met for “membership” and prefers to put the accent on degrees of incorporation and linkage.

As a result, in the post-Conciliar era, magisterial documents have tended to speak in terms of degrees of communion with the Church rather than membership, with those who have committed offenses like heresy, apostasy, and schism not being in “full communion” with the Church.

Now let’s take a look at heresy, apostasy, and schism. According to the 1983 Code of Canon Law:

Heresy is the obstinate denial or obstinate doubt after the reception of baptism of some truth which is to be believed by divine and Catholic faith; apostasy is the total repudiation of the Christian faith; schism is the refusal of submission to the supreme pontiff or of communion with the members of the Church subject to him (can. 751).

Anyone committing these offenses would gravely injure his status with respect to the Church and certainly would no longer be in full communion.

But would he cease to be Catholic?

Certainly, the person himself might no longer identify as a Catholic. For example, if a person decided to reject the dogmas that the Church has defined and joined a Protestant church, he would no longer consider himself a Catholic, but a Protestant.

Ceasing to identify as a Catholic would be even more obvious in the case of an apostate, for to commit apostasy, one must entirely renounce Christianity and be willing to say, “I am no longer a Christian.”

Some schismatics might no longer identify as Catholic (e.g., someone who joined an Orthodox church), but others might still claim to be Catholic (e.g., sedevacantists).

Would they still be Catholics from “the Church’s perspective”? The answer is not clear.

Under the membership definition articulated by Pius XII, the answer would be no, for they would have “separate[d] themselves from the unity of the body.”

On the analysis used following Vatican II, they would not be fully incorporated, but the council did not provide a precise definition of who is and is not a Catholic.

On either analysis, it would not be possible to say, “The Church teaches you’re still a Catholic.”

At best, that would be an opinion, but it would not be Church teaching.

Is there anything that would allow us to think of a former member of the Church as still “a Catholic”?

It would not be the indelible marks of baptism and confirmation, for people who have never been Catholic have those (e.g., Protestants are baptized, and Orthodox are both baptized and confirmed/chrismated).

However, there is one thing that might allow us to think of an ex-Catholic as in some sense a Catholic. According to the 1983 Code of Canon Law:

Merely ecclesiastical laws bind those who have been baptized in the Catholic Church or received into it, possess the sufficient use of reason, and, unless the law expressly provides otherwise, have completed seven years of age (can. 11).

According to this canon, “merely ecclesiastical laws” (that is, laws created by Church authority) bind those who been baptized or received into the Church—provided they are at least seven years old and have the use of reason.

There are no exceptions to this. There used to be a possible exception, but it has since been eliminated. So even if a person leaves the Church, Catholic canon law still applies to him.

And if someone is subject to Catholic law, we might in some sense consider him still a Catholic.

However, this is a slim reed on which to base a literal interpretation of “Once a Catholic, always a Catholic.” In the first place, canon 11 is itself a merely ecclesiastical law and could be altered (e.g., to include a new qualifier like “unless they have committed heresy, apostasy, or schism”). More fundamentally, as we’ve seen, the Church after Vatican II does not say an ex-Catholic is still a Catholic, and if we apply the analysis provided by Pius XII, an ex-Catholic (as opposed to a merely inactive Catholic) would not still be a member of the Church.

We thus should be on our guard against interpreting “Once a Catholic” in a literal way.

6 Challenges for new leaders

By Kevin Eikenberry


Over the past few weeks high schools, colleges and universities have been going through their annual commencement exercises. I love that term as opposed to “graduation” because of its emphasis on beginning. Yes, graduates should be proud of what they’ve accomplished. At the same time, they need to be excited about their future prospects and what they can accomplish.
So today, I want to offer my own “commencement address.” Here are six lessons new leaders will need to learn as they begin their path toward Remarkable Leadership.
Have high expectations of yourself and be humble.
Personal experience and loads of research show that when we have high expectations and belief in ourselves, we nearly always perform better in the moment (and always will over time). So yes, set your sights high and expect the very best for yourself.
And . . .
Be humble, open and self-aware of your weaknesses and fallibilities as well as your strengths. Remember that self-confidence, when overdone, is cockiness – a trait that won’t often aid you in your efforts to work with others.
Keep a sense of urgency and be willing to wait.
Time is a finite resource. Developing a sense of urgency for getting things done, whether large goals or small tasks, is a consistent trait of top performers.
And . . .
Sometimes rushing isn’t the right answer either. Sometimes we need to stop and think. Stop and let the dust settle. Stop and smell the roses. There are times to let things unfold in their timetable, not ours. Perhaps the legendary coach John Wooden stated this best when he said “Be quick, but don’t hurry.”
Be proud of your accomplishments and give others the credit.
You will accomplish many things worth being proud of, and you should be proud. Allowing yourself to be proud of them bolsters your confidence, which we have already determined is a good thing.
And . . .
No one is an island. All of your accomplishments have contributions large or small from others. When we recognize this we will have a healthier self-image and a gracious spirit. And when we recognize them for their efforts, everyone wins.
Be likable and don’t worry about being liked.
Because you operate in a world filled with other human beings, you will be far more effective if you are a likable person. Strive to be likable and to find ways to support and be interested in others. Doing this will make your life richer and more successful.
And . . .
Don’t make it your goal to be liked. That will lead to bad judgment and bad decisions. Besides, to achieve anything close to what you are capable of will likely lead some to like you less (at best) than you might hope for. You can’t please everyone all of the time and still make a difference for yourself, your business, or your world.
Stand on what you believe and be open to learning more.
Know what you believe in and what your principles are. Having this clear compass will help you make decisions and help you lead others too.
And . . .
See the world in Technicolor, not black and white. Yes, there are some things in life that are black and white, but it is a relatively small list. Know that list, and then focus on principles rather than absolutes. When you keep your mind open to learning and change, you will be more flexible and adaptable.
When you do these five things you will be a happier, healthier and more productive employee and person. And when you do these things you will set an example and lead others in a positive way, whether you have a job title that “proves” it or not. Taking these five challenges in total leads you to a sixth challenge – a profound truth of life:
Life (and leading) is a balancing act – not a static point or destination.
The most successful people and leaders are always balancing these ideas, and may, like the high-wire walker, lean one way or the other at any given moment.
Whether you’re a new graduate (or if you’re just commencing your leadership career) I hope you take these ideas to heart and put them to work. When you do, you will help create a better world for you, those you lead and everyone else.

Police Identify Tulsa Hospital Shooting Suspect, Reveal Likely Motive

By Jack Phillips June 2, 2022

A 45-year-old man shot and killed four people and himself at a medical office in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on June 1 after he complained about back pain, officials confirmed on June 2.

The gunman was identified by the Tulsa Police Department as Michael Louis. Police on June 1 initially identified the suspect as a black male between the ages of 35 and 40, saying that he had a handgun and rifle.

Louis bought a rifle on the same day as the attack before killing St. Francis Hospital doctors Preston Phillips and Stephanie Husen. The other two victims were identified as receptionist Amanda Glenn and patient William Love, Tulsa Police Chief Wendell Franklin said during a June 2 news conference.

Franklin told reporters that he targeted Phillips following a recent surgery, “On May 19, Michael Louis went into the hospital for a back surgery.”

Officials discovered a letter on Louis in which he said he came in to kill Phillips and “anyone who got in his way,” Franklin said, adding that he blamed Phillips for ongoing back pain.

The suspect was released on May 24 but “right after release, Louis called several times over several days complaining of pain and wanted additional treatment,” the chief stated. “He blamed Dr. Phillips for the ongoing pain following the surgery,” Franklin said.

On May 31, Louis was evaluated by Phillips, an orthopedist, again for additional treatment. But on June 1, Louis called his office “complaining of back pain and wanting additional assistance,” Franklin said.

“We grieve with the families after this senseless tragedy. We grieve with the co-workers,” Franklin said. “And we pray. We pray because we all need prayer.”

Louis’s family also confirmed his identity to The Daily Beast.

“Tulsa Police called me and verified that it’s my uncle,” Louis’s niece, who wasn’t named, told the outlet on June 2. “We are so distraught. I don’t even want to be associated because I’m so disgusted.”

Our Narrative of Mass Shootings Is Killing Us

Stories are where people have always gone to find meaning. We need to tell a new one.

An assault rifle encircled by an infinity symbol
The Atlantic; Getty

About the author: Elliot Ackerman is a contributing writer at The Atlantic and author of the novel Red Dress in Black and White. He is a former Marine who served five tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Civilization’s oldest stories are war stories. From the Epic of Gilgamesh to The Iliad and The Aeneid, our attractions to war and to storytelling have often been entwined. We tell ourselves stories to impose order on chaotic events in our lives, to force a narrative onto the inconceivable. And what’s more inconceivable than slaughter, whether it arrives in the form of the Trojan War, the Holocaust, or the murder of 19 children by a teenage gunman in Uvalde, Texas?

Mass shootings in America have started to adhere to a predictable—even ritualized—sequence of events. We see the headline; there’s an initial estimate of the dead, which creeps upward as more details emerge; and we learn the name of the devastated community. Perhaps a day passes, maybe two, but the familiar argument soon surfaces as to whether the solution to the scourge of mass shootings is stricter gun laws or better mental health (as though the two are mutually exclusive). Simultaneously, we learn the grim details of the shooting itself, and at the center of those details is the protagonist: the shooter.

In war, the victors write the history, placing themselves in the middle of the story as the good ones, the heroes. In narratives surrounding mass shootings, this dynamic is turned on its head. In Columbine and Sandy Hook, the bad guy sits at the center of the narrative. In Uvalde, we already know the name of the shooter. We know about his grandmother, about the truck he drove to the scene and crashed in a ditch, about the Facebook messages he posted before the attack, and about what his peers thought of him. We know more about the AR-15 he carried to the scene than the team of Border Patrol agents who killed him. We don’t know those agents’ names, but photos of the shooter have already graced the front pages of some newspapers. In a nation that worships celebrity (and infamy is a form of celebrity), the stories we tell ourselves about mass shootings contribute to the phenomenon.

What story does someone tell themselves when they decide to become a mass shooter? Grievance and alienation seem common themes. A classmate described the Charleston, South Carolina, Baptist-church shooter as having “a darkness to his life,” while a classmate said of the Newtown, Connecticut, shooter that “he just didn’t really connect.” The unmet desire on the part of many of these murderers to be at the center of a narrative, as opposed to on its periphery, is a unifying thread. Yes, easy access to firearms and a national mental-health crisis contribute to the incidence of mass shootings, but we’re already debating those issues vigorously. We pay far less attention to the ways in which our culture metabolizes narratives and makes sense of them.

In Poetics, Aristotle defines stories as acts of imitation. He explains that storytelling comes naturally to people from childhood because imitation “is how we learn our earliest lessons in life.” The reason we delight in storytelling, according to Aristotle, is “that we all enjoy understanding things.” But the link between storytelling and imitation has created a contagion of mass shootings across America. The next potential mass shooter is, right now, surely watching the coverage of Uvalde.

In 2015, researchers from Arizona State University and Northeastern Illinois University conducted a study of contagion in mass killings and shootings. The researchers found a measurable increase in the likelihood of a second mass shooting for 13 days after an initial mass shooting. (The Uvalde shooting occurred 10 days after the shooting in Buffalo, New York.) They also determined that an individual school shooting, on average, incited 0.22 more shootings; that is, for every five school shootings, a sixth would take place that would not otherwise have occurred. Both social and traditional media were also found to drive this contagion. Some activists are trying to highlight this problem, which falls outside the typical left-versus-right ideological debate about mass shootings. Groups like No Notoriety, which was founded by the parents of a victim of the 2012 mass shooting in Aurora, Colorado, advocate for “responsible media coverage for the sake of public safety.” The group’s website promotes a six-point media protocol that includes “Recognize that the prospect of infamy serves as a motivating factor for other individuals to kill and inspires copycat crimes.”

Young people—particularly young men—often have a strong desire to be heroes. During the height of the Syrian civil war, the Pentagon stood up a task force to study and counter the Islamic State’s online recruitment strategy. At the time, U.S. officials were struggling to understand the potency of these efforts, not just in the Middle East but also in Western Europe. Despite the cultural isolation that many aggrieved Muslims felt in Europe, Pentagon planners were puzzled as to why so many would abandon a relatively comfortable existence to flock to the Islamic State’s banner and take part in a quixotic crusade in the Middle East.

The answer to the question should have been obvious, particularly to American war planners. Despite the risk of death, despite the atrocities, the Islamic State was selling a story, offering young men the chance to be the protagonist, the hero—or even the antihero—in a quest to create a new nation. The breathless and at times befuddled Pentagon statements on the Islamic State’s recruitment practices were remarkable to read, when those practices hewed so closely to those of the U.S. military, which had persuaded an entire generation of young men like me to fight a quixotic crusade in the Middle East after 9/11 to create new democratic nations in the region. Watching the narrative take shape, yet again, around this latest mass shooter, a narrative in which he is the protagonist, is unsurprising. Why an outcast living in a society that prizes notoriety would commit an atrocity that promises it is no great mystery.

Is it possible to change this narrative? To tell a different story?

After the July 2016 Bastille Day attacks in Nice, several French news organizations, exhausted by the string of mass killings in their country, shifted their coverage. They refused to reprint images from Islamic State propaganda or to publicize the name of the murderer. In an editorial titled “Resisting the Strategy of Hate,” Le Monde announced that it would “no longer publish photographs of the perpetrators of killings, to avoid the potential effect of posthumous glorification.”