Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Liberal and Conservative

Two words Catholics need to stop using. Either you are a Catholic, or you are not. To quote author Emily Stimpson:
No matter what the politicians say, no one political party is the standard bearer for the Catholic Faith. Both, in some way, are at odds with Church teaching. Forgetting that is a shortcut to cafeteria Catholicism. It encourages people to think they can disregard some of the Church’s doctrines simply because their preferred political party says they can.

And they can’t. That’s not how it works. Shocking though this may be, the DNC and RNC are not divinely appointed arbiters of the moral universe. If we’re Catholic, we’re supposed to believe that job has long been taken by the Church. So, it’s her voice, not MSNBC’s or Fox News’, to which we should be listening.

Last but not least (really, most of all), attaching words like “liberal” and “conservative” to the Catholic Faith skews people’s understanding of the nature of the Faith itself.

Let’s take a trip to the dictionary. For all its various meanings, the word “liberal” fundamentally means “one who liberalizes.” And one who liberalizes is one who seeks to “reform something and make it less strict.” Likewise, the word “conservative” denotes “one who conserves.” And one who conserves is one who “keeps something from harm, loss, or decay.”

In other words, attaching the terms “liberal” and “conservative” to “Catholic,” implies that Catholic doctrine has the potential to decay or be reformed. It also reinforces the notion that the essentials of Church teaching are as debatable as the details of Paul Ryan’s budget. Which they’re not.

Yes, of course, there’s development in Church teaching. As the years pass and man applies his mind to the Deposit of Faith, our understanding of Revelation can deepen. It can become more nuanced.

But it can’t change. The fundamentals remain, always and everywhere, the same.

The Church, as the saying goes, is not a democracy. It’s not a body politic, and ascribing political terms to various stripes of Catholics feeds the wrong-headed notion that one day the Church is going to say, “Aw shucks, post-modern world, you’re so right: women priests, gay marriage, and free contraception for all is totally the way to go. What were we thinking?

So, back to me. What am I? Conservative or liberal?

Neither. I’m not a conservative Catholic. I’m not a liberal Catholic. I’m just Catholic. If the Church teaches it, I believe it. If she says to do something, I do it. (Read more.)