Don’t Call Me a Conservative Catholic Anymore!

By Deal W. Hudson

Labels in politics and religion serve a purpose: There are discernible groups and coalitions within and between the worlds of the Church and government. Words used as labels serve the purpose of enabling us to distinguish between one group and the other.

But I don’t want to be called a “Conservative Catholic” anymore. In the last few months, I’ve read two headlines beginning with the phrase “Conservative Catholic” which contained comments that have effectively made the label, if not meaningless, represent a group of Catholics who are now spreading the virus of an identity crisis.

First, there was a former editor of First Things who broke with Church teaching on homosexuality because of lessons learned from a gay friend who pressured him on the subject.

Then, on Tuesday, there came a story in the Washington Post quoting “Conservative Catholics” who have become critical of Pope Francis. The Holy Father is charged with not being “accurate” in some of his recent interviews with and comments to the media.

Having read and pondered these “controversial” statements, I’ve defended them — which is what “Conservative Catholics” used to do — and I’m prepared to explain all of them.

Take one example: Pope Francis made the comment that every person seeks the Good as he or she “conceives” of it. St. Thomas Aquinas said precisely the same thing.

The will is naturally led by the vision of the Good — meaning what appears desirable — towards mental and physical action. That vision of the Good may be wrong, or incomplete, as Pope Francis knows, but that is how the human person operates.

By pointing out that all persons seek the Good as they see it, he is providing all Catholics with the secret of effective evangelism: Start with how people “see things” and work on converting that, and you will reveal the wisdom and beauty of the Church.

Pope Francis is a Jesuit. That makes him a highly educated and intelligent theologian who knows about one thousand times more about the subjects of the Church, God, faith, and salvation than any of the media.

What’s remarkable about this Jesuit Pope, the very first, is that he speaks and acts in the spirit of true evangelism. He’s not an enthusiast, a cheerleader, or a screamer. Pope Francis is the embodiment of the New Evangelization that has never gotten off the ground.

Instead of spending our days policing, and fretting over, his statements, I suggest we sit at his feet and learn from him.

Published at Catholic Online, October 17, 2013

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