Conservative vs Liberal


I understand the differences in views/values when it comes to liberal and conservative in the political arena. But could someone outline the differences between a liberal and a conservative Catholic?

Just trying to see where I fit in.


In a nutshell: Liberal Catholics believe that dogma can evolve. Because of this, it’s pretty hard to pin them down on definitions of things.


The term Liberal has a precise meaning in Catholic theology. It is essentially a movement that sought to place reason above faith. It also sought to do away with the supernatural or at least absorb it into the natural. For this, Liberalism is often calle Naturalism or Rationalism. It reduced divine revelation to mere human opinion. A “Liberal Catholic” was and is one who either keeps his religion a completely private matter, not allowing it to control or often even influence his public life, or it is one who believes it to be acceptable to disagree with Church teaching on one or more matters of faith or morals. Just like it is fine to disagree with other human opinions, to the Liberal, Catholic doctrine is no different.


Not quite. Liberals tend to reject the idea of dogma completely.

Modernists are the one’s who believe it evolves. They believe dogmas eminate from the Church’s consciousness or collective psyche in response to various external stimuli. As times and circumstances change, the Church’s consciousness should react and evolve the dogmas to reflect those changes. According to a Modernist, rather than timeless truths revealed by God, dogmas are practical devices invented by the Church.

Of course, both Modernism and Liberalism have the same effect of rejecting authentic divine revelation and making it into something human.


Genesis hit it and I’ll add that such people don’t believe dogmas evolve, but that they actually* change, *and this justifies just about anything. Don’t like the Church’s teaching on contraception? Not to worry, since it is going to change anyway (according to them), you can go ahead and start contracepting now, and that will help the Church change it as if it were not dogma, but policy.


From a moral theology perspective, Liberal Catholics nearly all subscribe to the flawed theological concept of “proportionalism.” Proportionalism is the theory that the morality of an act can never be defined without viewing the act as a whole inclusive of all circumstances AND that there is no such thing as an intrinsically evil act. It is quite problematic because it allows a theologian to create scenarios where abortion, contraception, homosexual acts, indiscriminate bombing of civilians, etc. are all moral in some situations when clearly we know from moral theology these acts are intrisically evil and can never be done. The proportionalist position is condemned in Veritatis Splendor by Pope John Paul II.


This is true; I was stating it in a more reserved manner. Ultimately, suggesting dogma can change or to reject it is to deny the Divinity of Christ because if Christ is God and He said “it,” then “it” is inerrant and it’s never going to change. Or as a priest I know puts it: God isn’t going to learn anything, He’s not going to forget anything, He isn’t going to have any newer or better ideas, and He doesn’t need our input on how to run the universe.


You fit in the Catholic Church. There is no such thing as a liberal or conservative Catholic. This is terminology which has been invented to divide and discredit Catholic teaching.

We are One Holy Apostolic Catholic Church. That’s it.


Father Trigilio on EWTN summed it up nicely once. He said that you might as well just say orthodox vs. heretical instead of conservative vs. liberal


A liberal Catholic would be one who is more focused upon the human/experiencial side of things than the heady/doctrinal aspects. As such, they tend to be heavily into matters of social justice, equalities, toucy/feely expressions (including in the liturgy), the struggle of faith with all of it’s questions and that which life’s challenges pose. They tend to like a lot of the developments which they perceive as having come about due to the Second Vatican Council (which they understand more as a social movement than in it’s formal pronouncements) and are heavy into democratic or collegial models of ecclesiology.

A conservative is just that. One who wishes to conserve the traditions. Sometimes, ironically, this will go up against political conservativism in the U.S. seeing as how some of these ideas are more ancient in outlook than the kind of pattern which has developed in social culture of conservative U.S. ideology.


I thought in the eyes of the Church a liberal Catholic was called a Protestant?

However viewed from the eyes of the liberal Catholic, they are still Catholics but they believe that many ‘opinions’ of the Church are wrong.


Liberal Catholics mirror liberal citizens - they are mostly humanists, moral relativists and subscribe to the cafeteria system of believing (pick and choose.) I believe they stay in the Church because they like to say that no one is going to tell them what they can or can’t do. So I guess one could say they are also very stubborn. :wink:


Here’s a great article from “This Rock” magazine on this topic:

The Spectrum Virus


Exactly, which is why St. Pius X called Modernism the synthesis of all heresies. While Liberals see themselves as free to think and act independently of dogma and Modernists seek to actively change it, both result in the same end result–apostacy. :frowning:


I think that is a bit harsh. Those of a more liberal (or even “modernist”) mindset may not necessarily agree with the perspective and conclusions that traditionalists or conservatives do but they may well manage to maintain a modicum of fidelity with merely a differing emphasis or take on things. Given, there have not infrequently been extremes which are disconcerting or problematic. But merely approaching the faith in this way does not necessarily lead to a break from the Church. Indeed, some may well suggest that it emphasizes certain aspects which brings us more deeply and practically into the mystery of faith.


I was going to wade into this thread, but my friend Chicago said it perfectly.

BTW, what was much of what was “modern” to Pius X is mainstream today. Some would say it heresy; I would call it development of doctrine.


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