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Is the (Catholic) Church Inherently Conservative?
Crisis Magazine ^ | January 9, 2014 | James Kalb

Posted on 01/09/2014 2:12:15 PM PST by NYer

vatican-city-2001

The great issue that separates progressive from more traditionalist Catholics is whether the Church will return to type.

To answer that question “yes” is to say that the Church has an essential nature—a basic structure, set of beliefs, and way of functioning—that is sometimes obscured by corruptions or distortions but can be counted on to reassert itself in a purer and more vigorous form. In effect, it is to view the Church as a living being that retains her identity as she develops, and is subject to occasional infirmities but thereafter returns to health.

People attached to modern ideas of progress don’t expect and don’t want that to happen. Present-day thought doesn’t like types, and it likes the idea of returning to type even less. It rejects organic comparisons for institutions, and prefers to view them as constructions for consciously chosen goals rather than products of essential forms that exist and endure whether we like them or not. We are Church, such people often say, and how we do Church determines what Church is.

Such claims have strong moral overtones. Belief in enduring forms is identified with stereotypical thinking of a kind that rejects change and difference in favor of an imaginary world of eternal essences. That kind of thinking, it is thought, lends itself to a reactionary and oppressive approach to politics and religion that denies human freedom and tries to force an abstract ideal based on an imaginary and idealized past on obdurate reality. Scratch a traditionalist, many people say, and you find a fascist.

On such a view, the Church becomes, if she is true to her vocation, the form taken from time to time by man’s response to God’s action in the world, or perhaps God’s action itself insofar as He acts through willing human instruments. It’s either what people are doing in response to God, or what God is doing through people He’s enlisted. Either way the Church disappears as a continuous and internally coherent institution, and becomes the happenstance outcome of some other force. Progressives say that the “other force” is the Holy Spirit, while skeptics are likely to identify it with various worldly projects that want to make use of the resources and popular prestige of the Church, or perhaps with a spirit that is far from holy.

In any case, the progressive conception means that faith in the one holy Catholic and apostolic Church, and with it the meaning of the word “Catholic,” lose clear definition. The life of religion loses the element of rational public and corporate conviction, and of looking to the past and holding to what has been found good and worthy of love and loyalty. Instead, it becomes a matter of launching into the unknown based on some personal insight or inner assurance, or more likely of following the guidance of prophets claiming special knowledge who say they will help us sing a new Church into being.

Such views may be modern, but they’re not new, since they’ve been held by antinomian visionaries throughout the ages. The twelfth century Calabrian abbot Joachim of Flora, who seems to have been personally holy although his views were officially condemned after his death, is famous for proposing that the Age of the Son, governed by the institutional Church, would soon give way to the Age of the Holy Spirit, based on the Gospel but transcending its letter as well as the need for disciplinary institutions. There have been numerous such figures over the centuries.

Our situation today does of course have features that distinguish it from previous times. One is that the technocratic understandings that dominate social life today promote the view that the world is simply what we make of it. That view undermines organic conceptions and the idea that institutions have essential forms to which they tend to return. Another is that mass higher education, and the resulting spread of modish ways of thought, make the conceptual dissolution of the Church into a loosely associated succession of situations seem normal to many churchgoers.

One result of such tendencies is that the dream of going beyond the authority of the institutional Church has become mainstream and bureaucratic. Instead of twelfth century abbots in rags, barefoot Franciscan spirituals, or Münster-style enthusiasts engaging in total violent revolution, we have conferences of academics and other mild-mannered bureaucratic functionaries with formal certifications and retirement plans.

The attitude toward hierarchical authority is nonetheless similar and must be judged by its fruits. We determine the value of understandings by whether they help us deal with the world, and of visions of the Church by their effect on her and her members. As things are, the Church has lasted 2000 years. It seems impossible to understand how she could have done so, humanly speaking, without a remarkably functional and well-integrated pattern of basic principles. Adaptability has no doubt been necessary for her survival, but if she were a happenstance agglomeration of people, beliefs, and practices she would have disappeared long ago.

Nor does God’s protection and guidance by itself seem an adequate explanation for her survival, since without continuity of basic form and principle there would be nothing distinct to have survived. We would not speak of the survival of the Church, but of a succession of historical situations with some overlapping features but no common identity.

From early times the Church has been hierarchical and authoritative. Antinomian and anti-institutional movements have been episodes in her life, but they haven’t lasted long or turned out well on their own terms, so they’ve evidently been at odds with the nature and necessities of Catholic life. Institutional form and function are not everything, but they are not nothing either, any more than the human body and its constitution, functioning, and well-being are nothing. Catholicism is a religion of incarnation. That means it recognizes without reserve the claims of the spirit, but also the necessity for the spirit to become concretely present in our world through the sorts of things—such as bodies and institutions—that make up the world. Such things may be unruly and backward at times, but they are basic to the world Christ came to redeem, so they can’t simply be rejected and suppressed.

The claim that belief in essential forms and natures is oppressive is odd. If such things don’t exist, the world becomes the shifting outcome of conflicting forces and there is nothing in it that is distinct enough to be oppressed. It is not possible to oppress a momentary configuration of eddies in a stream. Or if such things do exist, but they continually transform themselves, then politics becomes something for experts or visionaries who have a special gift for reading the signs of the times. It loses the connection to settled ways of thought needed for rational cooperative self-government. In either case politics becomes something that properly belongs to the few with little possibility for legitimate criticism by outsiders, and is likely to become oppressive in the usual manner of successful radical political movements.



TOPICS: Catholic; Religion & Culture
KEYWORDS: conservative; crisismagazine; jameskalb

1 posted on 01/09/2014 2:12:15 PM PST by NYer
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To: Tax-chick; GregB; Berlin_Freeper; SumProVita; narses; bboop; SevenofNine; Ronaldus Magnus; tiki; ...

Ping!


2 posted on 01/09/2014 2:12:36 PM PST by NYer ("The wise man is the one who can save his soul. - St. Nimatullah Al-Hardini)
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To: NYer

If by “the Catholic Church” you mean the average Catholic soccer mom, that would be a “no.”


3 posted on 01/09/2014 2:15:07 PM PST by E. Pluribus Unum (Who knew that one day professional wrestling would be less fake than professional journalism?)
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To: NYer

I don’t know about the WHOLE church...but form the Publications and other ideology that run rampant in Catholic schools and parishes I’ve been in...I would say leftest and progressive with a belief that Islam can be understood and appreciated...I’ve seen more elitism and right out rudeness of basic rights towards disabled people at certain “private” Catholic schools where the consensus is that they are better than most...and I’m Catholic - and having a tough issue at the moment on whether to stay...actually...will probably move to conservative Christian church until The Church cleans house with all this... my .02 cent anyways....


4 posted on 01/09/2014 2:22:20 PM PST by BCW (Salva reipublicae)
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To: NYer

Is the (Catholic) Church Inherently Conservative?

No. Just No.

See voting records.


5 posted on 01/09/2014 2:31:47 PM PST by Responsibility2nd (NO LIBS. This Means Liberals and (L)libertarians! Same Thing. NO LIBS!!)
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To: All

Is the Pope Protestant?


6 posted on 01/09/2014 2:33:25 PM PST by Alex Murphy ("the defacto Leader of the FR Calvinist Protestant Brigades")
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To: Alex Murphy

LOL.


7 posted on 01/09/2014 2:38:33 PM PST by Dutchboy88
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To: BCW
Monsignor Ronald Knox: "...And it does seem to me that one of the reasons why our Lord chose Judas to be an apostle was because he wanted us to be prepared, from the first, against every possible shock to our consciences. If Judas could be described as our Lord's apostle, I don't quite see why Alexander VI should not be his Vicar".
8 posted on 01/09/2014 2:46:06 PM PST by BlatherNaut
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To: NYer

In a word: No.


9 posted on 01/09/2014 2:47:51 PM PST by FredZarguna (Das is nicht richtig nur falsch. Das ist nicht einmal falsch.)
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To: NYer

I this a trick question? No, is my answer.


10 posted on 01/09/2014 3:14:35 PM PST by HANG THE EXPENSE (Life's tough.It's tougher when you're stupid.)
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To: HANG THE EXPENSE

Is


11 posted on 01/09/2014 3:15:19 PM PST by HANG THE EXPENSE (Life's tough.It's tougher when you're stupid.)
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To: NYer
Just for disclosure, I'm what many would call a lapsed Catholic. Went to a Parochial school and all that.

I don't see how anyone could consider the Catholic Church to be least bit conservative these days. From priests breaking into US draft offices and burning records to attacking local governments all around the world, the organization has proven time and again to be at least "Progressive".

Locally, the vans used by Catholic Social services push a message of "Social Justice". Not my idea of conservative.

Does the Church stand against abortion? Yes. In this singular issue, they seem to project a conservative image.

Otherwise, I fail to see any long term conservative actions... A conservative organization, one that allows "Caesar his due" would have turned the many pedophile, rapist priests over for trial as the criminals they are.

So, no. Not conservative. YMMV.

12 posted on 01/09/2014 3:20:58 PM PST by ASOC (What are you doing now that Mexico has become OUR Chechnya?)
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To: NYer

My wife and many other Catholics I know are very conservative. But by and large, it seems like most Catholic clergy and laity have forgotten the Truth that man is sinful, and needs the redemptive power of Christ’s blood. Many Catholics are too eager to look for new mesiahs on earth, such as the craven enemy of the Church and America, Barack Maobama. Bob


13 posted on 01/09/2014 3:25:06 PM PST by alstewartfan (Old admirals who feel the wind Are never put to sea. Al Stewart)
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To: NYer

In a word...NO


14 posted on 01/09/2014 3:58:56 PM PST by Breto (Stranger in a strange land... where did America go?)
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To: Alex Murphy

TO be fair, that’s questionable these days..... ;-)


15 posted on 01/09/2014 4:04:09 PM PST by piusv
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To: NYer

I have never really liked the idea of labeling the Church with a political description. If we look at Traditional Catholic teaching, I don’t think we could say it reflects conservative or liberal.


16 posted on 01/09/2014 4:07:29 PM PST by piusv
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To: NYer

**In effect, it is to view the Church as a living being that retains her identity as she develops, and is subject to occasional infirmities but thereafter returns to health.**

No other church has stood against
abortion
euthanasia
same-sex marriage
embryonic stem cell research
contracepetion

AND the Obamacare mandate to kill babies

No other church has done this publicly and is still doing it except the Catholic Church!!


17 posted on 01/09/2014 4:30:46 PM PST by Salvation ("With God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26)
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To: Responsibility2nd

We’re not talking about that, we’re talking about the beliefs of the Catholic Church.

Not the way individuals in any religion might vote.


18 posted on 01/09/2014 4:31:47 PM PST by Salvation ("With God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26)
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To: ASOC

You are never a “lapsed” Catholic. The indelible sign on your soul says that you are a baptized Catholic. It doesn’t change.

Get your questions answered by sitting down with a priest.

We aren’t talking about other organizations that claim to be Catholic, but about the beliefs of the Catholic Church.

Those beliefs are very conservative.


19 posted on 01/09/2014 4:34:56 PM PST by Salvation ("With God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26)
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To: NYer
In effect, it is to view the Church as a living being that retains her identity as she develops

If it's "developing," then it can't be conservative, can it?

20 posted on 01/09/2014 4:37:58 PM PST by Zionist Conspirator (The Left: speaking power to truth since Shevirat HaKelim.)
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To: alstewartfan

Oh boy. I should publish some of the conversations/arguments that my Bishop and I have. My bish ain’t conservative. I am.


21 posted on 01/09/2014 5:10:50 PM PST by MarkBsnr (I would not believe in the Gospel, if the authority of the Catholic Church did not move me to do so.)
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To: Salvation; ASOC
Get your questions answered by sitting down with a priest.
I love it! There's the answer for all "lapsed" Catholics.
22 posted on 01/09/2014 5:33:18 PM PST by mlizzy ("If people spent an hour a week in Eucharistic Adoration, abortion would be ended." --Mother Teresa)
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To: BCW

I have major concerns about the liberal socialist US Bishops and their Conference.

And bigger concerns about priests and Bishops looking left, and away from abortion advocate politicians.

But, I won’t consider leaving the Church that Jesus Christ established.


23 posted on 01/09/2014 5:37:35 PM PST by rbmillerjr (Ted Cruz...2016-24 ...A New Conservative Era)
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To: rbmillerjr

Yeah.


24 posted on 01/09/2014 5:50:00 PM PST by MarkBsnr (I would not believe in the Gospel, if the authority of the Catholic Church did not move me to do so.)
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To: rbmillerjr
But, I won’t consider leaving the Church that Jesus Christ established.
Same here; I'd rather be shot than leave Jesus at the altar, because it would be nothing but a dead life without Him. Catholics have it all, but few even realize it. My b-i-l is an RC priest and after I asked him tonight how many showed up for daily Mass when it was -15 in Indiana, he said, "one." And then he said, she never came to daily Mass before, but after her mother died on Christmas day, she started coming.
25 posted on 01/09/2014 5:58:27 PM PST by mlizzy ("If people spent an hour a week in Eucharistic Adoration, abortion would be ended." --Mother Teresa)
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To: NYer

Define “conservative”. If you mean does it try to conserve the faith once for all handed down to the saints, I’d say yes. If you mean politically, no. For one thing, that’s not its job. For another, it existed before modern politics, so it’s not really fair to expect it to conform to them. For still another, as C. S. Lewis said in “Mere Christianity”, there are some aspects of serious discipleship that look more conservative, and some that look more liberal or at least egalitarian.


26 posted on 01/09/2014 7:33:39 PM PST by RichInOC (2013-14 Tiber Swim Team)
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To: Salvation

“You are never a “lapsed” Catholic. The indelible sign on your soul says that you are a baptized Catholic. It doesn’t change.

Get your questions answered by sitting down with a priest.

We aren’t talking about other organizations that claim to be Catholic, but about the beliefs of the Catholic Church.

Those beliefs are very conservative.”

That would require finding a priest that I would even talk to, let alone ask any kind of liturgical questions.

You are kind to make the statement, but I’m happy with things as they are. Perhaps others could use your ministering to better effect.


27 posted on 01/09/2014 7:51:33 PM PST by ASOC (What are you doing now that Mexico has become OUR Chechnya?)
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To: Responsibility2nd

“See voting records.”

Strange. Catholics have been voting for only 2 centuries, but the Church goes back 20. Wouldn’t it make more sense to look at those other 18 too?


28 posted on 01/09/2014 7:51:46 PM PST by vladimir998
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To: ASOC

Many seem to believe it is the institution of the human church that saves people instead of Jesus.


29 posted on 01/09/2014 7:58:06 PM PST by GeronL (Extra Large Cheesy Over-Stuffed Hobbit)
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To: NYer
The American Revolution has been called a “conservative” revolution - but of course, in reality any revolution is - a revolution.

The reality is that the Constitution is a progressive document:

We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

Article 1 Section 8. The Congress shall have power . . . To promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries . . .

American so-called “conservatives” like us are not that at all - we are actually progressive in outlook, and expect liberty - the freedom to do different things than were done in the past - to be a blessing.

30 posted on 01/09/2014 8:00:53 PM PST by conservatism_IS_compassion ("Liberalism” is a conspiracy against the public by wire-service journalism.)
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To: GeronL
"Many seem to believe it is the institution of the human church that saves people instead of Jesus."

If the 'institution of the human church' becomes so repugnant to many, how will it ever have a chance to carry the Word? If the 'teachers' are viewed as (fill in your favorite cliche) - the same would apply. At some point, the messenger matters, if for no other reason that they are the messengers...

31 posted on 01/09/2014 8:06:01 PM PST by ASOC (What are you doing now that Mexico has become OUR Chechnya?)
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To: vladimir998

That is a true statement. Roman Catholics started voting in the newly established United States.

http://errantskeptics.org/Religious-Affiliation-56-signers-DeclarationOfIndependence.htm


32 posted on 01/09/2014 8:34:34 PM PST by redleghunter
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To: redleghunter

” Roman Catholics started voting in the newly established United States.”

Yes, they were banned from voting in England by law. That law was not overturned until 1832 if I am not mistaken. England still had restricted voting based upon property ownership until the early 20th century.


33 posted on 01/09/2014 8:54:11 PM PST by vladimir998
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To: E. Pluribus Unum
If by “the Catholic Church” you mean the average Catholic soccer mom, that would be a “no.”

But then, one could just as easily say that, "If by “the Catholic Church” you mean the average Catholic bishop/parish priest, that would be a “no.”

A much more unfortunate circumstance.

34 posted on 01/09/2014 9:05:39 PM PST by workerbee (The President of the United States is DOMESTIC ENEMY #1!)
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To: E. Pluribus Unum

That’s another problem just not for Catholics...Why are we putting our young boys in soccer and not football and baseball. Hockey too.


35 posted on 01/09/2014 9:09:24 PM PST by redleghunter
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To: rbmillerjr

I’m not “leaving” the Church - it should be something in side - not a building....and until the leaders of the Church stop this path that leads to darkness and misunderstanding...then I’m not going to support that leadership...and has nothing to do with abandoning Christ...I believe Christ went through and cleaned the temple when it was overrun by a bunch of self serving individuals and priests...the same needs to happen now...that’s all I’m saying...


36 posted on 01/10/2014 4:18:45 AM PST by BCW (Salva reipublicae)
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To: BCW

I understand your point.

Let’s imagine that a great wrong were done by an individual priest or a group of individual priests, in violation of God
s law. They do this in The Church that His Son instituted.

Those going against God’s Plan, may be doing this intentionally or not. That is irrelevant. God knows in the end, hell will not prevail against His Church.

But, if we leave His Church, we lose. Why give these men a victory over you? And you are correct, Jesus Christ cleaned out the temple, but still worshiped there as it was His Father’s House.


37 posted on 01/10/2014 4:41:02 AM PST by rbmillerjr (Ted Cruz...2016-24 ...A New Conservative Era)
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