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Quote of the Day – ‘Liberal’ and ‘Conservative’ in the Church

We hear much about the imaginary case of Conservatives v. Liberals in the church… The labels are misconceived, misplaced, and misleading.

Today’s “conservatives” are mostly clinging to convictions and habits developed mainly after the Council of Trent; rare among them are those familiar with the church of the first millennium, and even rarer those who wish to return to its practices.

They who in common parlance are called “liberals” hardly form a cohesive group. Many of them are simply searching honestly for the correct practical implementation of the conciliar vision. Others are “free thinkers” of sorts; they want to propagate the Council’s vision but do not have enough knowledge to do so within the balancing parameters of the Tradition; they easily fall into unacceptable excesses.

With some simplification it is fair to say, though, that the contemporary fight between the conservatives and the (faithful) liberals is between the “Tridentines” and the followers of Vatican II.

Ladislas Orsy, Receiving the Council: Theological and Canonical Insights and Debates. Liturgical Press: 2009. p.87, footnote 22

(Responses welcome, as always! What do you think?)



  1. Wil Juare says:

    While Trent may be a catylst for the genre of label making; I think enough time has gone by that other events have intervened in the process. Modernity for one, pre-Vat II thinking and post-Vat II interpretations by those who wanted the council to address their concerns with more enthusiasm than it did, according to their views. The same-sex issue is another driving force among others. I think the topic is just too vast to dwindle it down to Trent, as significant an event as that was.

  2. Sue Cirba says:

    I have been a right to life leader since the 1980’s. The division between liberals and conservatives in the American church surrounds the abortion issue. Liberals think the right to life of the unborn chlld is just one of many issues and do not make ending abortion a priority. Conservatives tend to think some sort of involvement in defending the right to life of unborn children is essential. Defending traditional marriage between one man and one woman is also a high priority issue for conservaties.. .

  3. […] former parishioner of mine, Colleen Walsh, shared this reply to my quote from Fr. Ladislas Orsy on ‘Liberal’ and ‘Conservative’ in the Church. I would like to see continued conversation on this idea, and will add some of my own thoughts […]

  4. […] loosely connected on the topic of partisan labeling, in the Church especially, started with a quote from the famous canonist Ladislas Orsy, and followed by a former parishoner’s […]

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