What exactly is meant by a "liberal" priest?

What exactly is the definition of liberal when it comes to the priest ? I saw it mentioned in another thread but I didn’t want to derail that thread. It didn’t appear they were referring to his political views.



I would like to know too! Once in a while it seems that any priest who delivers a thoughtful homily is considered “liberal” on these forums. I, for one, don’t need a 20 minute homily on pleninary indulgences:eek:

“Liberal” priest of course isn’t an official Church term. It is commonly used to describe a priest who does some or all of the following:

Preaches or writes about things opposed to magisterial authority (dogma, doctrine, etc.).
Celebrates consistently poor quality liturgy, if you’re grading on a scale according to the traditional practices of the Church.
Is enamored with something called the “spirit” of Vatican II but has no real definition of it.
Is of the kind who would or has rip(ped) out altar railings, statues of the saints in churches, paint everything beige, and so on.
Promotes social issues to a degree out of proportion to their importance to the Church. For example, he might be huge on immigration reform and other “liberal” agendas but is conspicuously silent on or actively opposed to working against opposing the scourge of abortion and contraception. Yes, immigration reform is an issue for the Church in America, but the slaughter of the innocents is undoubtedly vastly more important.

Disclaimer: I wrote this without the slightest ounce of sarcasm.

It doesn’t have to describe a priest. It could be used to describe any Catholic, or anyone’s religious views.

It has a relative definition based on the attitude of the person making the description. It could mean someone whose views you don’t agree with. It could mean a person who espouses social justice goals contrary to the beliefs of the Republican party in the USA. Or it could mean a heterodox person who holds beliefs contrary to the teachings of the Catholic Church.

I agree that “liberal” is a political term and confusing to use in a context of faith. People using the word should describe better what they actually mean when they sling it around.

In common parlance it means one who does not believe and profess all that the holy Catholic Church believes, teaches, and proclaims to be revealed by God.

“Liberal Priest” = “Priest I don’t like”


I wouldn’t presume that everyone is using the term in the same way. I think it’s unfortunate that we use the same adjectives for politicians as we do for priests and theologians.

On these fora, I think the term is used most often to describe a Catholic that believes and/or teaches something that goes against Catholic teaching. For example, someone who advocates for women priests, gay marriage, etc.

When discussion turns to the liturgy, sometimes the definition changes somewhat to refer to any priest who doesn’t follow the rubrics (or at least the poster’s recollection of what he thinks the rubrics say).

Frankly, I see no reason to use the adjective for a priest unless he chooses to self-identify as such. It is generally more useful to stick to whatever the discussion at hand is about.

“Liberal Priest” = “Priest I don’t like”

THIS WAS AWESOME (and true!):thumbsup:


And so true.

I can’t count how many times someone uses that term, then goes on to say why. But their why is totally in line with Church teaching.:rolleyes:

There are always central beliefs but shades of opinion are perfectly normal. What was liberal for Pius X was not for Benedicy XV and the same for Paul VI and the present Pope. I remember Father Ratzinger was considered dangerously liberal when he was adviser to the German hierarchy during Vatican II.

When I hear the term “liberal” misused in that context in real life, it’s typically by an ignorant and often angry person who is trying to find a source for all they dislike. Some have created this huge, hideous and terrible monster they call “liberals.” No matter what’s wrong with the Church they blame it on “liberals.”

Now if they used a word like “dissenter” I could understand what they meant. But often times those they attack as being “liberals” are not dissenters, at least based on the teachings/rules of the Church.

Use of words like “liberals” masks precise thinking and expression. Is the person you’re labeling actually a dissenter or do you simply disagree with their preferences? And why the label “liberals?” Is it because they think differently than you? What exactly makes you a “conservative/traditionalist?”

In the end it’s a pretty sad label used most often by some pretty sad people.


Go to other forums and they might define “traditionalist priest” as a priest they don’t like.

People need to think and express themselves more accurately. Labels like “liberal” are a catch-all pejorative slur. Do they really dissent from Catholic teachings? They they are dissenters not “liberals.”

Eh, people change.

Yeah, sometimes it just meant to be a catch-all phrase, where you don’t have to be too specific. Its a problem when any form of political terminology is transposed to religious discussions. I mean, pro-life is considered by many to be a ‘right-wing’ position. I mean, how the **** did that happen considering Nazi association with aborting and euthanising ‘undesirables’?:confused::confused:

A liberal priest is one that I love to talk to and they are like unicorns, a legend and hard to find.


Usually however it is the polar opposite to the similarly used, and similar in ‘number’ epithet of "old-fashioned’ (or even more often, “hopelessly-out-of date”) label applied to priests who insist on observing ‘all the rules’, being ignorant of the fact that The Spirit of Vatican 2 has called us to go beyond Christ.

The “HOOD” (Hopelessly out of date) priest might have some politically ‘liberal’ views but they are views that the modern liberal now considers either going not far enough, or ‘normal’. The idea that women should have an education is a liberal view of the HOOD priest, or was once. But women’s education is now seen by conservative and liberal politics as ‘neutral’ or ‘normal.’ Nobody argues over it any more; it is now part of the ‘norm’ of society.

And the “HOOD” priest might have some politically ‘conservative’ views as well but they ALSO are views that are now seen as normal and neutral. Responsibility for one’s actions --whether that involves living within one’s means, stewardship of our resources, taking pride in one’s work by doing the best possible–are all conservative politically, or were once. Now they are ‘normal’.

The “HOOD” priest wants social justice, but he wants it the ‘old’ way. . .one-to-one, mutual respect, with both the ‘giver’ and the ‘receiver’ working together. He frowns on the idea of simply having groups claim ‘victimhood’ and DEMAND remuneration, just as much as he frowns on the ‘giving’ group trying to ‘reward’ themselves by simply ‘throwing money’ and then forgetting about addressing the root causes of the problem.

And he ALSO frowns at the idea of treating every person as though they were ‘at fault’ for not ‘pulling themselves up by their bootstraps’ or just weren’t trying HARD enough, while just as above, not addressing the root causes of the problem.

Lots of people don’t like ‘liberal’ priests who are trying to fit the CHURCH into 'addressing secular problems in a secular way". . .and lots don’t like “HOOD” priests who are, in their view, ‘ignoring society’ by trying to have the Church act like THE CHURCH and not a social work agency.

Labels aren’t really helpful because first, just because “Father Call-Me-Don” doesn’t like to wear his clericals and is big on ‘social justice’ doesn’t mean he is ‘liberal’ through and through. Because “Father Call-Me-Don” might also be the one who is going out and saying the TLM. He might be the one who is also working on getting a Schola going. IOW, ‘some’ of his work might involve things which are dear to the ‘liberally minded’ and some dear to the ‘conservatively minded.’

Also, they aren’t helpful because some people do not change – many of the ‘older priests’ might have started off ‘gung ho’ to be ‘relevant’ and now they are just as ‘hide bound’ in their insistance on saying the Mass 'just as we did in 1971" as any supposed 'hide bound conservative!"

But others do. the priest today who is faithfully carrying out Father Tie-Die’s 70s Mass (dear to the hearts of the politically liberal). . .may a year or two from now find himself carrying out Father Z’s “say the black, do the red” Mass which would be recognized and welcomed by those of the politically conservative view.

So then sedevacantists, those holier than the Pope, and YouTube professional scandalizers are liberals.

I think they are more cafeteria catholics than anything else. They seem to think they can pick and choose what to accept – and foist their choices on others because they ego is greater than God and His Church.

Absolutely not. That’s not true. It’s a catch-all phrase used by ignorant and often angry people to label those they dislike or disagree with.

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