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?)