Wednesday, March 31, 2010

"Liberal" and "Conservative" Don't Work for The Church

The Church is not a political entity and to use such politically-loaded phrases such as "conservative" or "liberal" is the wrong way in which to describe anybody in the Catholic Church.

The general usage of these words derives from the political spectrum and so they have a lot of baggage associated with them. Even in Catholic circles, they are tossed around.

For a prime example, see Richard McBrien, who goes after "conservatives" and the Pope - saying the time of conservatism may be over because of recent scandals. This is a horribly argued article, because McBrien fails to mention (among other issues) that most of the problems came from those that would never describe themselves as "conservative". Also, his agenda is obviously one of opposing all that he attacks in the article, so that he comes across as petty and angry.

Don't get me wrong, you can mess up in any direction. Some examples are found in the Legion of Christ (suffering a purification from scandal), the Society of St. Pius X (which has seperated themselves from the Church over Vatican II and liturgy - among other issues), in addition to other groups that some consider "conservative".

Being an "extreme" Catholic can be deadly in any direction.

Thus, the Church is too big to be caught up into political language. We lose the mystery and make it a purely human enterprise.

If someone asks me if I am conservative or liberal, I answer -
"I am Catholic. I believe what the Church teaches, proclaims, and professes."

Liberal and Conservative don't fit into such a view.

One other point. Be wary of getting good commentary out of articles such as the one linked to above. To many people have agendas to push - McBrien's agenda is just one of many, and one that is old, failed, and stale.


tour86rocker said...

Do you favor a different adjective than liberal/conservative?

I've heard the term "observant Jews", which is communicative because you know that the person described keeps Kosher and observes other old testament laws, rites, etc.

Referring to somebody as an orthodox (definition: right-believing?) Catholic doesn't always get the point across, but it's the best I know.

The Ironic Catholic said...

If someone asks me if I am conservative or liberal, I answer -
"I am Catholic. I believe what the Church teaches, proclaims, and professes."


(and I say the same thing)

√Čamonn said...

"There is no need of adding any qualifying terms to the profession of Catholicism: it is quite enough for each one to proclaim "Christian is my name and Catholic my surname," only let him endeavour to be in reality what he calls himself." - Pope Benedict XV: Encyclical Letter Ad Beatissimi Apostolorum 24, 1 November, 1914.

George @ Convert Journal said...

I think you make a good point on the use of these terms, particularly that they may be viewed as synonyms for Democrat / Republican (which they certainly should not in the context of the Church).

The problem is that there is a "liberal agenda" from outside the Church present to various degrees inside too. I imagine a point in the past where saying you were Catholic said everything. Now that needs qualification - faithful Catholic, practicing Catholic, conservative Catholic, devout Catholic. Even your answer included such a clarification.

One the other side there are cafeteria Catholics, cultural Catholics, liberal Catholics, and Catholics in name only.

It saddens me that the problem is big enough to even need such distinctions in common discussion.

Back to liberal / conservative terms - in the context of the Church - for me liberal means flexible, changing faith and conservative means holding true to the unchanging word of God.

The real solution is not coming up with these adjectives but working much harder to insure Catholics know their faith and correcting organizational lapses (e.g. certain colleges, religious orders, hospitals, charities, etc.) who deviate from Church teaching. There is only one truth and it does not change.