by Fr. Joe Landi, Editor of the San Francisco Charismatics  

About Fr. Landi Out of the World and Into the Kingdom--His journey to priesthood by Rissa Singson.


Dear Diary... A Couple of times during the local controversy surrounding the latest insult to the Catholic faith, I was dismayed by remarks on television and in the print media attributed to Catholics.  It's bad enough that a brand-X newspaper published a cartoon attacking our Archbishop Levada. We expect that type of flack from pagans, but not from those who call themselves Catholic.

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During our last election for governor of California, both major candidates, Davis and Lungren, claimed to be Catholic but neither accepted the Church's teaching on the death penalty. Moreover, some claim that Davis got elected because of his pro-choice support against the Church's teaching of pro-life. He claims to be a Catholic, yet he believes that the State should condone the killing those waiting to be born?   How can that be?

Moreover, a recent Field Poll indicated a strong support by Catholics against a major teaching of their Church. I could go on for pages about misguided Catholics and their opinions. However, the comment that made me stop and ponder the question, "Who are these misguided Catholics?" was one reportedly made by a minister of a local, non-Catholic (gay and assorted bedfellows) church that "half of his congregation were Catholic."

Who are these misguided Catholics? Why do they call themselves Catholic when they are obviously not in communion with their Catholic faith? Maybe they haven't gotten the message: If you don't follow the Church's teaching and are in fact attending a non-Catholic church, you are not Catholic.

Not only do we have misguided Catholics, breakaway Catholics, and backsliders calling themselves Catholic, we also have Cafeteria Catholics claiming to be Catholic. They pick and choose the Church's teachings that suit their need and whine about those that don’t with little or no attention to the needs of others, or to what is the common good. Perhaps the most often response when questioned about their lack of support of the Church's teachings is, "I have free will". Their interpretation of "free will" being that "as a mature adult" they have the "freedom to make-up" their own minds on matters of faith and morals. Most do not have the goods to do so and do not, or cannot, distinguish between what is moral and what is intellectual self-assertiveness. They have become addicted to their freedom. Peter Kreeft and Ronald K. Tacelli in their Handbook of Christian Apologetics (InterVarsity Press 1994) says that those addicted to freedom spout a self-centered morality and are "acting like a self-centered child and calling it the psychology of maturity." For those who espouse this type of freedom, this message is for you: You are not in communion with your Church. Addiction to freedom is as sinful as an addiction to power, lust or greed. If you want to be a Catholic, get over yourself, and get to the Sacrament of Reconciliation. If you don't like what The Church teaches, start a church of your own. So, stop whining about what the Catholic Church does or does not do, and most of all, stop calling yourself a Catholic unless you are one.

Having addressed the backsliders, whiners, and their bedfellows, I'll attempt to answer the question, "What does it mean to be a Catholic? Before I attempt to, though, first a history lesson: The word Catholic was used as a term applied to the Church first by St. Ignatius of Antioch (circa 105) in writing to the Church at Smyrna. St. Pacianus, the bishop of Barcelona in the fourth century, also used it for an answer to "What does it mean to be a Catholic?" "Christian is my name; Catholic is my surname". Secondly, before I attempt an answer, a Catechism lesson: Catholic today applies to the body of the faithful, the creeds, churches, institution, clergy, and hierarchy who follow the same teachings of Christ as given to the apostles. It is taught and governed by the Successor of St. Peter, the pope, the Vicar of Christ on earth, and by the bishops appointed by him. The task of interpretations to the "Sacred deposit" of the faith entrusted by the apostles has been given to the bishops in communion with the Successor of Peter. Being Catholic, then, means being a member of the Body of Christ in communion with others who are actively working out their salvation with faith, love, and hope--virtues given by the sacraments and the dogmas of the faith. (Dogmas are lights along the paths of faith; they illuminate it and make it secure. (Catechism of the Catholic Church 84 ff.))

The Catholic Church obliges the faithful to take part in the Divine Liturgy on Sundays and feast days. And, prepared by the Sacrament of Reconciliation, to receive the Eucharist at least once a year, if possible during the Easter season. (CCC 1389) Catholics are built up into the Church as a Communion in the Body of Christ. The Eucharist makes the Church. Those who receive the Eucharist are united more closely to Christ. Through it Christ unites them to all the faithful in one body--the Church. Communion renews, strengthens, and deepens this incorporation into the Church, already achieved by Baptism. In Baptism we have been called to form but one body. The Eucharist fulfills this call. So those of us who adhere to the church’s teachings, listen to our Pope and bishops, attend Mass, and receive communion at least once a year have the privilege of calling ourselves Catholics. If you do not fit into the above, you can easily figure out who is not a member of the Catholic Ch_ _ch by filling in the blanks.

Fr. Joe Landi is a Parochial Vicar at St. Cecilia Parish, San Francisco, the Archbishop's Liaison to the Charismatic Renewal, the Editor of the San Francisco Charismatics, and Board Chair of Sierra Point Credit Union, South San Francisco, serving the community, parochial and government schools in San Mateo County, and the Charismatic Renewal. Visit him at the Halo on the Internet,

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