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Liberals, Conservatives, Progress and Tradition

“Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the Kingdom of Heaven is like the master of a household who brings out of His treasure what is old and what is new.”

Matthew 13:52


Dear Family in Christ,

It’s no secret that we live in an increasingly polarised world, and discussions surrounding anything labelled ‘political’ get out of hand easily. In the absence of an obvious dictatorship, the discussion surrounding how to best ‘move forward’ seems to be a constant back and forth between two camps- often under the labels ‘conservative/traditional’ and ‘progressive/liberal’. Whether or not these labels are used in accord with their original meaning, the division is clear, and the contrast is stark.


The Church is not exempt from the politics of Her time. Within the Church, we see similar lines drawn between ‘Right’ and ‘Left’, conservative and liberal, traditional and progressive. The sharper the distinctions get, the easier and more tempting it becomes to entrench ourselves into one camp or the other. It feels safer, especially when things seem so unstable, to back ourselves into our respective corners, rather than to exist in the uncertain tension between extremes.


So what is the answer for the Church? Should a Catholic be a liberal or a conservative? Jesus gives us a profound answer in the Gospel this Sunday, speaking of the need for things which are both ‘old’ and ‘new’. He Himself would have been hard to pin down as being in one camp or the other, for He came “not to abolish the law, but to fulfil it”, and proclaims that He “makes all things new”.


If I may, I believe that the tension(read: not ‘division’) in the Church is necessary and good. We need the stability and continuity of sacred Tradition just as much as we need the dynamic movement of the Holy Spirit. We need the stable rock of the Magisterium as much as we need the fire of the Mystics. The Church at Her best is ordered, but not stagnant; She is stable, but not paralyzed. Within the Church, we ought to love one another- even and especially when we find ourselves in different ‘camps’. As Dr. Jordan Peterson famously said, “We will always need conservatives, because sometimes the right thing to do is what we’ve always done. And we will always need liberals, because sometimes the right thing to do is something new.”


Jesus founded His Church on solid rock of Peter and the Apostles, with Himself as the cornerstone. He also gave the Church the fire of the Holy Spirit. May we love the Church enough to be faithful to our Tradition, and be filled with the courage to follow the Holy Spirit where He leads.

God love you,

Father Corso

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