What makes a priest liberal, conservative?

What makes a priest liberal, conservative?

Do you mean, what drives a priest to be liberal or conservative, or do you mean, how do people define those terms?

If the latter, it depends who’s using and defining the terms. I think the way most people apply those labels to clergy, conservatives are generally perceived as being obedient to the Holy See and wanting (more or less) to maintain ecclesiastical traditions (some would call this traditional); whereas liberals are perceived as wanting change and novelty, even (from a conservative point of view) at the expense of one’s communion with the Church, or at least of the Church’s dignity and patrimony.

But in my opinion, we should avoid using political labels for clergy. A priest is not finally “a conservative” or “a liberal”; he is an alter Christus, an ordained of God, deserving our obedience and respect.

Would you say that absolute obedience to the Holy See is necessary for salvation?

A conservative response:

A conservative priest is one who says the black and does the red. Orthodox. If he disagrees with anything in the Catechism it’s the part about states limiting their use of capital punishment. Understands the value of the EF, Gregorian chant, Latin, and tradition.

A liberal priest is one who ad libs the Mass. Wants women priests. Likes folk music, liturgical dancing, lots of EMHCs, clowns, and holding hands during the Our Father. To him, the rubrics are mere suggestions. What’s important is the feelings of the faithful.

A liberal response:

A liberal priest is one who is deeply concerned with social justice. He understands that the rubrics are not rules for rules sake like the Pharisees understood the law but at the service of God and his Church. He understands that the Mass is supposed to bring the community together in worship not to separate the people from God.

A conservative priest is one who loves the law over the spirit of the law. He values tradition over individual salvation. He mocks genuine expressions of faith just because they take a form he doesn’t like, like in the form of guitar music. He diminishes the importance of the universal priesthood of believers, the sense of the faithful, and social justice.

I have known priests who have told people in confession that it’s OK to use birth control. :eek:

Sadly, I have too.

A priest must recognize the teaching authority of the Church. Liberal and conservative are inappropriate labels. In the end, priest or lay person, we should do the will of God.


I guess it might be more appropriate to use the term “dissenter” to refer to a priest who tells his parishioners anything that contradicts the teachings of Rome.

I was at a theology event tonight, and we were discussing the social requests of the Catholic church. Some may pin some of the things as more liberal in thought, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that. It basically means being “a good Catholic” without any political leaning. I am doing my best to split out my political beliefs (as to me, they are basically set up as a way to gain power, a way to split people and help their own cause…which is not God-like) and act like a good Catholic. Being a “Good Catholic” encompasses both liberal and conservative thoughts together, IMO…

I would say that disobeying when it’s not grave matter is probably not in itself a mortal sin, but an attitude which spurns the authority of the Church is very dangerous indeed to one’s salvation. And of course if one were commanded to do what is sinful, in that case the law of God would take precedence; but one had better be morally certain.

With regard to politics, no doubt that is true. With regard to our holy religion, however, I do not think the same can be said.

Christ built the Church on Peter and gave him the keys to bind and loose. As Catholics we cannot pick and choose which teachings we wish to obey and which teachings we do not. There can only be one version of the truth.

In the end it is not about being liberal or being conservative, it is about accepting all the teachings of the Catholic Church (every single one of them). As Catholics (whether we are clergy or laity) we are obliged to accept all the teachings of the Church, without exception. As a priest (or a catechist, or a Catholic school-teacher, or a parent, or when evangelising) we are obliged to teach the faith adhering 100% to all Church teachings.

I think the quibbling over terms is fine and good (really I do) in principle but since nobody can really come up with terms that 1. are accurate and 2. have staying power in the memory and cultural milieu, lib and consv. are fine enough. Most Catholics know what you mean.

In the United States, the answer to the OP’s question depends on whether you are referring to theology or politics.

In the United States, political liberalism generally means support for programs created and sustained by the government, specifically the federal government. Political conservatism generally means support for programs created by local governments and private corporations and individuals.

E.g., political liberals would support Government programs like Food Stamps, while political conservatives would support local programs like Food Pantries.

In the United States, theological liberalism means rejecting or modifying many of the traditional and orthodox teachings of the Church. Theological conservatism means accepting and implementing the traditional and orthodox teachings of the Church.

E.g., theological liberals would reject the literal virginity of Mary and the literal resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ, while theological conservatives would embrace both of these teachings.

Many people also believe that theological liberalism includes a rejection of traditional disciplines and practices, and theological conservatism includes an acceptance and implementation of traditional disciplines and practices.

According to people who believe this, a theological liberal would discourage women from veiling in the Presence of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, while a theological conservative would encourage women to veil in the Presence of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.

The above are just a few examples.

I know priests who are “liberal” when it comes to politics, but totally conservative when it comes to theology, and vice versa.

The majority of priests in our diocese are politically conservative, and theologically conservative when it comes to accepting and teaching all the traditional and orthodox teachings of the Church, but “liberal” when it comes to propagating the traditional disciplines and practices of the Church. These priests accept all that Catechism teaches, and adhere to the rubrics for the OF Mass, but do not believe it is necessary for Catholics to adhere to the practices of decades ago (e.g., women veiling).

In the United States, it is becoming more difficult, especially for Christians, to mix and match political views. E.g., it used to be possible for a person to be “liberal” when it comes to helping the poor and “conservative” when it comes to abortion. This is very difficult nowadays.

E.g., often, a liberal solution to poverty includes easy access to abortion for any reason, and those few liberal politicians who try to get the abortion clauses removed from pieces of legislation end up ostracized by their party and without any money to continue to stay in office.

The burden of proof, in my opinion, is upon the Christian who claims to be a political liberal to prove how that viewpoint is not opposed to traditional Christian teaching.

The Church does not teach this. If this were true no one would find salvation.

However, one has to be careful because God knows the heart and knows the degree to which one turns his or her back on the gift of salvation. I can not judge anyone. But God can. He knows what is in our hearts. He knows our journey. He knows where were are at and why. He knows the direction we are following. He is merciful. He is love. But He is not stupid.

One needs a sliding rule to deal with this question. From “10” a devotee of Pelosi to “1” a devotee of Lefebvre.



I told a priest one time that I struggle with understanding the Church teaching on ABC and he responded that it was very common and that many good and holy priests also struggle with that rule. Lets face it, most people who use NFP use it as contraception even if they do protest that they don’t. Why would one need to use NFP if they were not trying to prevent pregnancy?? When I think about liberal vs conservative and the Church, I tend to equate conservative with SSPX rubrics and liberal for the rest of the 99.9% of Catholics.

In my experience, a conservative priest has more traditional homilies,.He would mention hell, purgatory etc. His congregation would have on their Sunday best clothes, and dressed modestly. Confession would be encouraged for more than 2X per year. It seems that the focus is God and reverence. Hymns are the traditional ones too.
There is one type of homily said for all age groups.

For a liberal priest-the mass homilies are more about sharing love, and hell is rarely mentioned. Children are blessed in the communion line, and there are children versions of almost everything-yes, and guitars, and other non traditional hymns are heard as other posters stated. There seems to be more relativism in terms of how the homily is said-ie: a children’s mass, teen mass and so on.
Just my two cents–

Reading many of these posts reminds me of how badly we have managed to stereotype and label our priests.

Says more about us than them. And I am NOT singling anyone out, or saying I haven’t been guilty of some of this. Just a thought.

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