Pope Francis, the Conservative Liberal

We are used to Popes who transcend categories like “liberal” and “conservative.”  (It almost happens naturally.) Pope Francis seems a little bit different. He seems positively liberal in many of his actions and he seems hardcore conservative in many of his statements.

He’s a conservative liberal.

I hope he will unite the best of both.

Donofrionist Flickr

photo: Donofrionist

The best thing about conservatives is that they hold on to important principles and won’t let got. The right to life is absolute, for everyone and for always. It must not be compromised. The definition of marriage is the bedrock of society. Don’t change it. Jesus Christ is the one way to the Father. We may like that or it may bug us; in either case it’s true.

The best thing about liberals is that they embrace all people. They accept the world bent and broken and they embrace its inhabitants:  Strange people from strange cultures, people who are gay, Catholics who are getting divorced, lovers living together out of wedlock. The good liberal loves them all (and the really good ones even love conservatives, too).

Now consider the soundbites being used to define Pope Francis.

“In Argentina we have the death penalty. A child conceived by the rape of a mentally ill or retarded woman can be condemned to death.”

You can’t get any more hardcore liberal — accepting of all — or more hardcore conservative — holding fast to a principle — than that.

Likewise, when he opposes homosexual marriage he attaches the principle of the thing to the people the principle protects.

“At stake is the identity and survival of the family: father, mother and children. At stake are the lives of many children who will be discriminated against in advance, and deprived of their human development given by a father and a mother and willed by God. At stake is the total rejection of God’s law engraved in our hearts.”

Pope Francis presents a challenge to both conservatives and liberals. The challenge for conservatives is to change their hearts. The challenge for liberals is to change their minds.

Both need to unite devotion to principles with devotion to people, and to unite hardcore morality with hardcore charity.

That’s hard to do. Conservatives like their principles clean and clear; real people’s lives tend to muddy them. Conservatives like their morality uncompromising; charity for all can feel like a compromise.

Liberals don’t see the point in putting a principle in the way of the people. They want a Christian charity that doesn’t discriminate; Christian morality can feel like discrimination.

Pope Francis tells us us how to unite them: “profess the one glory, Christ Crucified. In this way, the Church will go forward.”

Christ on the cross is a hero for both conservatives and liberals.  He is dying for a principle; but at the same time he is saying “Forgive them for they know not what to do.”  He is dying for morality, for sin; but he is also dying for love.

The cross tells conservatives that love means to suffer for others — not to make them suffer to satisfy a principle.  And the cross tells liberals that moral principles really are important. Important enough that the Son of God would die for them.

It’s the cross that unites conservatives and liberals, using the best of both of them for Christ. It’s the absence of the cross that politicizes us and pushes us apart.

“When we walk without the Cross, when we build without the Cross, and when we profess Christ without the Cross, we are not disciples of the Lord,” said Pope Francis. “We are worldly, we are bishops, priests, cardinals, Popes, but not disciples of the Lord.”



Categories:Politics Pope Francis Theology

  • Rebecca Griffo

    I sense the author was trying to make an observation that this pope perhaps embodies what it means to be Catholic, rather than ‘liberal’ or ‘conservative’. However, it is dangerous to use such terms without first defining them… I suggest this read, which I suspect best illustrates a solid Catholic’s understanding of what liberalism is and is not: http://www.catholicculture.org/commentary/articles.cfm?id=568

  • Patrick O’Connor

    Come on Tom! We are neither liberals OR “Conservatives” such as the SSPX. “Liberalism” HAS been condemned by the Church along with socialism which is what today’s modern liberal TRULY is. Take advice from your brother Pat! We are CATHOLICS! Not liberals or Conservatives and we MUST live our Catholicism to the T.

  • Juliane Bertagne

    This article is fraught with so many errors that I suspect it was written with the not-too-disguised purpose of trolling. The author must consider himself a liberal, to write about that label so kindly. Liberals line up with Planned Parenthood’s policy of racist extermination. Liberals believe that a powerful centralized government should re-distribute wealth and keep people enslaved on entitlement programs. Liberals support gays, yet show disdain for traditional marriage. The author thinks that liberals have more “heart” than conservatives? He must accept the liberal belief that Jesus was a socialist, which is more distortion of the truth. And in the end, we Catholics are NEITHER conservative nor liberal – we are either faithful Catholics, or we are dissenters and heretics.

  • Patrick McGuigan

    I think this article is more about left and right within the Church. We Americans are so caught up in our domestic politics that we forget the Church is Universal. I love the lefts need to help everyone, and I love the rights reminder of the foundations of the faith. Both are needed.

  • WISC 53

    There is so much wrong with this article. I will pick on only one line, however. “Christ on the cross is a hero for both conservatives and liberals.” As the division in this country deepens, there cannot be a ‘a liberal Christian.’ Liberals belong to the Democratic Party of which kicked God and Christ to the curb during this last election cycle. Chist is not a hero to the liberal mindset-He has become their enemy. We, as Christians, are called on to love one another as He loved us but that does not mean we have to negotiate on the matters of morality, decency, honor and integrity; all values that seem to be absent from the Democratic (Leftis, socialist, Marxist) Party. We can only pray for the continued freedoms, of which Freedom of Religion is first, to defend our Catholic Faith from the liberal and the Godless
    . One cannot be liberal and endorse what is considered liberal politics in the US today and be considered Christian.

  • Joanne S.

    My definition of a Catholic is someone who believes in the tenets of the Catholic faith and practices it. The Catholic Church is not a political party where one can be more or less conservative or liberal on issues.



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