Saturday, April 01, 2006

Conservative? Liberal?

I promise, last post for the night. But there has been an interesting discussion apparently at the Catholic Educator's Conference down in LA and one of the main topics at one of the Q&A sessions has been the application of political terminology to the teachings of the Church. So, what terms can we use? Liberal, Conservative, Right, Left, Orthodox? I offer you the following argument from my comment at the dotCommonweal blog on this topic:

I have never been a big fan of using political terms to describe Catholic positions. Political language does not suffice to describe Catholic beliefs because the terms used in political language tend to change.

While it is true that certain teachings of the Catholic Church do refer to political aspects as well, and thus a similarity between the two, the motivation is quite different. In the political sphere, it is one's personal ideals and the party line that enables a person to go towards the right or the left, to be a liberal or a conservative.

The motivations of the Church, however, are not some political ideal, we are not, as Pope Benedict says, Christian's because of some lofty idea or ethical choice. The motivations of the Church are a result of that encounter with Christ that the Church has been participating in for nearly 2000 years. Thus, the motivations are truth, justice, and the good. The motivations are to defend the truth which is Christ, and the truth does not change with the winds of time, but is constant and always present.

For a political party, political ideals can change over time. Furthermore, we must remember, that there are certain teachings of the Church which would be, in the political sphere, be considered conservative, while other teachings (ie the Church's social teaching) are on the more liberal side. But these terms do not satisfy the meaning of the teachings. If we apply these political terms, then the teaches are no longer rooted in the truth, but in the ideals of a society in its current state, able to change over time.

The truth does not change, it is constant, and eternal, and is made known to us through our encounter with Christ. Thus, we have orthodox beliefs in the Church and those who do not follow Church teaching in way that is not good for the sake of their soul are considered to be heterodox. Those are the only terms which we can apply to the teachings of the Church. They satisfy the meaning of the teachings, because Orthodox means, simply, right belief, while heterodox means wrong belief. There is a truth and a falsity, and Christ is the truth, and thus our teachings are based in that truth. If our teachings are based in the Truth of Christ, and we have faith in Christ (that is, we believe in Him), then the only term that can have any meaning with regards to the Church's position is Orthodox.


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