Thursday, January 29, 2015

The Myth and Distraction of Liberal and Conservative Catholicism

"Haters gonna hate."
And not for them only do I pray, but for them also who through their word shall believe in me; That they all may be one, as thou, Father, in me, and I in thee; that they also may be one in us; that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. And the glory which thou hast given me, I have given to them; that they may be one, as we also are one: I in them, and thou in me; that they may be made perfect in one: and the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast also loved me. Father, I will that where I am, they also whom thou hast given me may be with me; that they may see my glory which thou hast given me, because thou hast loved me before the creation of the world. Just Father, the world hath not known thee; but I have known thee: and these have known that thou hast sent me. And I have made known thy name to them, and will make it known; that the love wherewith thou hast loved me, may be in them, and I in them. —John 17:20-26

Praised Be Jesus!

I pray and hope that the joy of the Christmas season is still burning brightly in you, and that you are continuing the celebration in your hearts!

We hear it from our pastors. We hear it from our Bishops. We hear it from a multitude of Catholic media outlets throughout the Internet and beyond: The debate between those who espouse either "conservative" or "liberal" interpretations of the Faith. There is not a day that goes by in Catholic media where we do not come across articles, comments, blog posts, and so on that either raise up one side or lambaste the other. In these moments, I wonder: Does any of this have anything to do with the Gospel? Does being "conservative" or "liberal," at the end of the day, make us holy? Do these debates help us in serving each one of our brothers and sisters in love?

The truth of the matter is, the resounding answer to these questions is NO. In the end, holding exclusively to either view doesn't have much to do with Catholicism, nor does it have much to do with following Jesus. I'm not denying that people within the Church do not hold to one or more of these political views, but when we bring them into the realms of our theology, and what it means to follow Christ, have we become distracted about the true meaning of our Christian calling and baptismal vows?

Let's get one thing straight first: Jesus was concerned about truth, he even said, "I am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life." Jesus came to witness to the Truth and to reveal the Father to humanity. His divine mission was for the salvation of souls for all people! We have to ask ourselves: Is this our mission?

Truth has no label. Truth is truth plain and simple, and as Christians, we believe that Truth is not just some abstract idea, but that Truth is a person: The Person of Jesus Christ. We can look at the life of Jesus and see His concern. The Pharisees were orthodox in their observance of the Jewish law, following it without wavering, but this was the group that Jesus criticized the most because their strict observance was for show, and the real meaning of the law, that interior conversion of heart, did not take root. In the same breath, Jesus criticized sin and hastened souls to deep conversion. As Catholics, are we seeking the Gospel in our practice of the Faith?

To self-described conservatives: Does our staunch adherence to doctrine serve as a way to draw closer to Christ, and live in loving relationship with God and our neighbor? Or do we use Church doctrine to shut people out? Does our observance of the Faith serve as a way of distinguishing ourselves from those people we find undesirable?

For those who support a more liberal interpretation of the Faith: Does your interpretation seek to bring people to holiness? Are you using your interpretation to push your own personal agenda? Are you intentionally hiding the truth?

Ultimately, we should be focusing on one thing, one person: Jesus, and His Truth, and His Truth is neither conservative nor liberal. Jesus' Truth is that of love and salvation. In his talk, "Discerning God's Will," Father Larry Richards explains that at first, the Christian is not a moral person to begin with: The Christian person becomes moral as he or she grows in relationship with Jesus: The Christian becomes a person of love.

Everything in the Christian walk has to be based on love, whether we serve, whether we admonish, whether we do good works, whether we seek to welcome others. If we seek to correct others, our main point should be out of love, and if it is not with love, it should not be done at all. We can all learn a great deal from both the conservative and liberal points of view and actually build up the Church instead of tearing it down, as long as we keep our focus on Christ, on growing into more intimate relationship with Him, and growing in His truth and love. We can learn from each other how to be more orthodox in our practice but also how to reach the outcasts among us and how to be pastoral with others; we can better learn to reach all people with Christ's love.

The reason I think so many people are annoyed with our Holy Father, Pope Francis, is that he's not our usual model of what we have become used to what a Pope is. Pope Francis doesn't play the liberal-versus-conservative game. His concern is not that of appeasing certain factions of the laity or hierarchy. What Pope Francis is concerned about is that Truth of Christ and being able to reach those who have been shut out with the love of Christ. I thank the Holy Father for this great example to all of us, an example of balance in our witness to the Faith.

May we all pray that we are transformed by the love and truth of Christ, and may we continue to break down the walls that divide us.

Prayer for the Church

Heavenly Father, look upon our community of faith which is the Church of your Son, Jesus Christ. Help us to witness to his love by loving all our fellow creatures without exception. Under the leadership of the Holy Father and the Bishops keep us faithful to Christ's mission of calling all men and women to your service so that there may be "one fold and one shepherd." We ask this through Christ, our Lord.


1 comment:

  1. Well said. I believe that we need to judge political beliefs by the Catholic faith, not the faith by political beliefs.