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Is the Catholic Church Conservative or Liberal?

July 18, 2012
Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament

photo: Adoremus in æternum by Father Lawrence OP

Bishop Farrell of Dallas wrote a great piece “The Church and Politics” that ought to be read and shared with Catholics and non-Catholics alike. At this time we are in a quagmire due to President Obama pushing forth the HHS mandate on Catholic private businesses and institutions to provide contraception, sterilization, and abortion-inducing drugs. This is against the First Amendment and one’s conscience.

The media and others would like to frame this issue as political: conservative versus liberal, Catholics for contraception (I can do whatever with my body because it is my right) versus Catholics who respect the body as a gift (Blessed Pope John Paul II’s Theology of the Body, anyone?).

However, as any intelligent person living in objective reality can see, the HHS mandate is against religious freedom. Certainly there are people on both sides of the issue that politicize the HHS mandate for power, control, and what have not–Bishop Farrell points to this. The Catholic Church remains, neither Conservative or Liberal, always proclaiming the Gospel, as Bishop Farrell witnesses:

Catholicism is neither conservative nor liberal. It is committed to proclaiming the saving message of Jesus Christ contained in Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture which flow from one sacred deposit of the word of God. (Dei Verbum 10)

 During the more than 2000 years since its establishment by Jesus, the Church has lived under myriad political systems, sometimes thriving, sometimes suffering, but never compromising the sacred message with which it is entrusted.

Because the Gospel compels the Church to concern itself with respect for the dignity and freedom of all people it addresses itself to the human condition particularly in the areas of “marriage and family, human culture, life in its economic, social and political dimensions, the bonds between the family and peace.” (Gaudium et Spes 46) When the Church addresses violations of human freedom and dignity or Gospel principles in these areas it is not engaging in political action but fulfilling the mandate of Jesus “to love your neighbor as yourself.”(Mt 22:34-40). And who is our neighbor? Anyone who needs our help and whom we can help. (Deus  Caritas Est 15)

At different times and in different places political movements have co-opted various elements of the Church’s message to further their own ends, and members of the Church, weakened by their human condition, have distorted and even betrayed the Holy Gospel for personal or political gain. Such occurrences have frequently been used to subvert, misrepresent and negate the efforts of the Church.

Nevertheless, as the Church continues its pilgrim journey, in spite of vilification and persecution and always in need of purification, it will continue to proclaim the Good News to all men and women in season and out of season.

Can we have an “Amen”? And if you have not done so already, please read the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty document on Our First, Most Cherished Liberty A Statement on Religious Liberty.

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