The term ‘cafeteria Catholics’ refers to persons who call themselves Catholic but who pick and choose which teachings of the Catholic Faith they will believe, and which they will reject. The problem among Catholics is currently very extensive. Most Catholics do not believe all that the Catholic Church definitively teaches. They combine some beliefs from Catholicism with some beliefs from modern secular society. This situation is analogous to a problem often mentioned in the Old Testament, in which many Israelites combined the beliefs and practices of Judaism with the beliefs and practices of the surrounding pagan societies. God repeatedly rebukes the Israelites for this serious error. And God will strongly rebuke Catholics for the same error, during the tribulation.
But the same problem becomes even worse with cafeteria Protestants. They lack the guidance of the Magisterium, teaching from Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture. They say that their faith is based on Scripture alone, but many Protestants have become thoroughly secularized, so that they adhere first and foremost to whatever secular society teaches. Then they either ignore what the Bible teaches on the same subject, or they re-interpret what the Bible says, so that the Bible is forced to agree, by absurd explanations and unlikely interpretations, with whatever secular society teaches.
Cafeteria Protestants often do not look for guidance in matter of faith and morals to any particular Protestant denomination. They pick and choose which congregation they will attend, regardless of denomination. Often the choice is based on the personality of the Protestant minister who is the pastor of a particular congregation. They choose a pastor who tells them what they want to hear, and who does not preach ‘out of season’, i.e. contrary to the opinions that prevail in his congregation.
Worse still, many Protestant pastors have no real theological training, and are not associated with any Protestant denomination. They simply proclaim themselves to be a minister or a Reverend, and they start a congregation based on their own understanding and misunderstanding of Christianity. The result is that there are many free-standing congregations, where the beliefs and practices of the group are based on the decisions of one pastor.
Is the Sacrament of Baptism valid in Protestant denominations? Generally, the Catholic Church holds that most Protestant denominations have a valid Sacrament of Baptism. When a baptized Protestant converts to Catholicism, he is not re-baptized. But this determination that the baptism of a Protestant denomination is valid is based on the ability to know what a particular Protestant denomination believes and practices concerning Baptism. When a person is baptized in a free-standing congregation, whose beliefs and practices are freely determined by an individual man who makes himself to be a pastor, no general statement can be made about whether or not that Baptism is valid. One would have to know the wording and form used, and the beliefs on the Trinity and on the Sacrament of Baptism. And since such free-standing congregations might not last, or might change pastors, a Baptism in the distant past in such a place is of doubtful validity.