In its plain and general understanding, to be “eclectic” means to be selective, to be choosy – such that the reality eventually formed and held is mixture in nature or assorted in content. Someone is wherefore considered “eclectic” when the same makes his or her own options, chooses his or her own preferences to hold, to observe, and to adhere to. On the other hand “catholic” means whole or integral, universal or encompassing.
Question: Who then are the “Eclectic Catholics”? Answer: They are “Catholics” who profess and observed the beliefs and practices – the articles of faith and the norms of morals – they have personally chosen and individually lived by. Conclusion: They deny, reject, and discard items of faith and/or elements of morals they do not agree with according to their personal belief and/or individual persuasion. In other words, for “Eclectic Catholics,” it is not all or nothing – but only these or those, not the rest.
As far as the official teaching of and formal practices in the Catholic Church are concerned, there is but one integral and integrated – whole, full, complete – Catholic faith and morals. Catholics they are precisely for professing one set of beliefs and mores in whatever place in the world, at whatever time. And “Eclectic Catholics” they are when the faith they profess and the morals they practice are different from place to place, from time to time according to their likewise different convictions and persuasions.
“Eclectic Catholics” are in the sphere of freedom of religion but out of the realm of Catholicism. Everybody is at liberty to have a religion or not. Anybody is free to embrace this or that religion, or free even be the founder of his or her religion, his or her own church. But one is a Catholic or not, i.e., he accepts and observes what is pleasant or burdensome, what is beneficial or sacrificial, what is agreeable or otherwise in one and universal Catholic faith and morals.
Let it be noted that the Catholic Church has and keeps her own duly recognized and authorized Teaching Office. This is her Magisterium headed and exercised by the Holy Father who is assisted by the pertinent Vatican Congregations manned by carefully chosen and identified illustrious scholars in faith and morals. When anybody or some individuals dare assume the office or authority to teach the faith held and the morals lived in the Church, this phenomenon is exactly the fertile origin of schisms in the Church. This is the loud and standing lesson of Church history.
Let it be also said that academic freedom is applicable to philosophy and ethics – among other scholastic matters – not to faith and morals.