Conservatism versus Catholicism

When any theological question or controversy arises, certain conservative bloggers and authors put forward the conservative position as if it were necessarily the correct Catholic position. I consider myself to be a conservative Catholic, yet my position on some theological issues is sometimes moderate, sometimes liberal. Conservatism is not Catholicism. I’ve noticed a certain tendency on various “conservative” Catholic blogs, specifically that the conservative position is treated as if it were necessarily certainly correct, even as if it were a near-dogma, despite being an open question. And the theological opinion of certain few Saints who are favorites of conservatives are also treated as dogma. They are putting conservatism above Catholicism.

When Jesus preached, sometimes his “theological position” (if we could speak in this manner) was conservative (no divorce at all), sometimes liberal (Jewish priests sometimes violate the Sabbath without blame), sometimes moderate (fasting versus eating and drinking, wisdom is proved right by all her children). So it is also with the Popes of the Church: some are conservative, some are liberal, some are moderate — all are Catholic; each and every valid Pope is the Vicar of Christ. If you rejoice in conservative Popes, and shake your head at liberal Popes, you are a very faithful Conservative believer (in something). But you are not a faithful Catholic. Every faithful Catholic, without exception, must put Catholicism above conservatism, liberalism, feminism, and various other philosophical systems.

Conservative Catholics have been spoiled in recent decades by having two conservative Popes successively, Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI. (Then there are those Catholics who are so ultra-conservative as to consider Pope John Paul II to be a liberal.) I am certain that, sooner or later, the Church will have a liberal Pope. Perhaps Pope Francis will turn out to be liberal; perhaps it will be some future Pope after him.

But whenever it happens, conservative Catholics will be put to the test. They will have to decide between Catholicism and Conservatism. From the way that some conservatives talk about Pope Francis and the body of Bishops and various theological and liturgical questions, I can see that some of them will reject the next liberal Pope and will depart from the one true Church — the verdant pasture of the sheep of Jesus Christ — for the barren but uniform pastures that they prefer.

Ronald L. Conte Jr.
Roman Catholic theologian and
translator of the Catholic Public Domain Version of the Bible.

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1 Response to Conservatism versus Catholicism

  1. John says:

    It’s amazing how history repeats itself. Each and every Ecumenical Council the Church has held has seen the formation of splinter groups which have departed from the Catholic Church because they clinged to a ‘conservative’ view of catholicism. In the case of Vatican II, ultra-conservatives have become heretics claiming absurdities such as the vacancy of the See of Peter since Pius XII or openly criticize and reject the teachings of Vatican II (SSPX). All that because they hold conservative ideas to the point of rejecting all the popes since Vatican II and rejecting its teachings claiming they contain errors, etc.

    I agree with you, most conservative Catholics will be put to the test and will have to choose between Catholicism and conservatism. If they choose conservatism, they will join the ranks of those conservative heretics that have split from the Church after Vatican II.

    Liberal catholics, on the other hand, mostly reject Church teachings on morals (contraception, etc.).

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