Cleansing Fire

Defending Truth and Tradition in the Roman Catholic Church

Liturgical Liberalism vs. Theological Liberalism

June 11th, 2010, Promulgated by Gen

About two weeks ago, I was blessed with the chance to talk liturgy with one of the administrators from St. Mary’s Downtown. While I was busy pulling in pieces of wisdom from Sacrosanctum Concillium and Summorum Pontificum, he countered every point with the notion of “You can be a theological conservative but be a liturgical liberal at the same time.” At the moment I just blew past that, but I’d like to revisit that notion.

First of all, one should never be able to say “Oh, I’m a theological moderate/conservative/liberal/anarchist.” If you are Catholic, you should have the same theology as everyone else in the Church – that’s what “catholic” means. What really gives anyone the right to create a personal theology, and then to defend it as if it’s God-given. The only God-given theology on the Earth that is genuine and true is the theology of the Catholic Church. (Every faith has varying degrees of truth, but we won’t get into that.)

And so, this brings us to “liturgically liberal.” Again – there should be no variation in liturgy from one corner of the world to another, save language (and that wouldn’t be a problem if more Latin/Gregorian Chant were used). Liberalism is, at its heart, a mental disorder where the individual thinks that anything he or she can conceive mentally is right and equitable for his or her soul. This is a dangerous notion, and has proven to be the ruin of souls, not just in Rochester, but worldwide. St. Mary’s is just an example of what a warped notion of free will liberals have. “God gave us free will, so I’ll do whatever I want, and if God doesn’t tell me ‘no,’ I must be doing His will.” How messed up is that, friends? That is the reasoning of evil, not of grace.

So when someone tells you that it’s fine you like the Mass celebrated reverently, “but personally, I’m a liturgical liberal,” just look at that person and say, “No, you’re supposed to be liturgically Catholic.” These liberals are all for feigned diversity and worldwide fellowship, but they fail to realize that, worldwide, the “trend towards orthodoxy” is for more ingrained than their self-promoting theology and self-praising liturgy.

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9 Responses to “Liturgical Liberalism vs. Theological Liberalism”

  1. praedicator says:

    (Warning: My comment got a little rambly, but the Lord is full of mercy… so you should be, too 😛 Good topic, Gen!)
    Thank you so much for this post! I’ve found it’s entirely wrong to divine the Church into the paradigm of “liberal/conservative” or “left/right”. When even good Catholics identify themselves as “conservative,” they warp all discussion of the matter into the typical banter that plagues most political talk shows. Similarly, the self-identified “liberal Catholics” use their moniker as an excuse of expressing individualized beliefs, which — naturally — ought not to be imposed upon.

    I’ve heard more than one priest advise Catholics to be neither left, nor right, neither conservative, nor liberal. (A popular metaphor is a pendulum that swings back and forth to represent the trend in the Church, which at this point is leaning a little too far “right”.) But I would say, there is no such thing as a “conservative” or “liberal” Catholic, because the Catholic faith is not about political opinions, fads, and fashions — but about the Truth, Who is unchanging.

    The ordination of women, for example, is not wrong because “It’s liberal, and I’m conservative, and I don’t like it, and so I’m angry right now, gripe, gripe, gripe!” It’s wrong because it runs contrary to our Lord’s command AND the whole theology and essence of the priesthood, that of the spiritual father, who begets divine life in the faithful. That’s not the “conservative” position, that’s just the truth.

    So, in conclusion to a long and rambling post comment, good: faithful, orthodox Catholics, do not call yourselves “conservative” and others (you know who) “liberal”. It’s a cop-out, and, worse, it’s not true. Don’t like the Latin Mass with the same sort of affection as you do Sarah Palin. Love it wholeheartedly because it is good, beautiful, and true — not to mention reverent, conducive to prayer and our salvation, solemn, faithful to Christ and His Church, grave, mysterious, and divine. Pax!

  2. Gen says:

    Bravo, frater, bravo. Well said.

  3. Anonymous says:

    There is only one administrator at St. Mary’s Church, downtown and that is Anne Marie Brogen. You refer to “him” so I would imagine you are talking about Kevin Mannera who is the Pastoral Associate. That is not the same as the Pastoral Administrator. And as for everyone having the same “theology”, I’m not sure. Theology understood as the academic study of scripture, doctrine, history, sacraments, etc. is rich and varied. It always has been. The various theologians publish their research and debate one another. Questions are asked and the theologians debate. The Magisterium or teaching office of the Church is the ultimate “decider”, if you will, of what is authentically Catholic and what isn’t. The very reason our body of theology grows is because of this. If it were all the same, then all we would have is regurgitation of the same over and over. The very teaching that God’s revelation continues through Sacred Tradition is at the very heart of theology – that it is ongoing. Those who believe that revelation has stopped are more like fundamentalists or evangelicals who think that it only scripture and nothing else. As Catholics, we believe that Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition is how God communicates His revelation to us.

  4. Gen says:

    We are Catholic – the Church gives us its theology and we are obligated to follow it and to love it. To do anything less is to be Protestant. I’m talking about approved theology, the doctrines and canons that are integral to the faith. The ones that, when you deny them, you deny the Church, the bride of Christ.

    I didn’t say that he was a Pastoral Administrator – just “an administrator.” His role is not *supposed* to be liturgical. He works in the administration of the parish and so, thus, is an administrator. We wouldn’t have these problems of ambiguity if we actually had parishes run by priests . . .

  5. Nerina says:

    praedictor, As someone who identifies myself as “conservative” I would only say that I do so because that this is the label applied to me regardless of my explanations. I agree that the label leads to political assumptions, but I don’t use it in a political sense when talking about my faith. What I mean when I say “conservative” is more accurately put as “traditional.” However, if I say I’m a “traditional catholic” I am automatically assumed to be a political conservative. Again, you are right that political paradigms don’t fit in the Church. The Church transcends right/left, conservative/liberal. Mostly, I am adrift in our current political landscape.

  6. John F. Kennedy says:

    I prefer to use “orthodox,” “heterodox,” “licit” and “illicit” to describe how Christ’s teachings are being followed and implemented.

  7. LarryD says:

    The very teaching that God’s revelation continues through Sacred Tradition is at the very heart of theology – that it is ongoing.

    I’m not sure what to make of this statement. The Church teaches that public revelation ceased with the death of St. John. It seems as if you are implying that God has more to reveal to us of His plan for salvation through Sacred Tradition. Sacred Tradition reveals to us what God’s plan is – but there isn’t “more to the plan” that has to be revealed.

  8. Anonymous says:

    From the Catechism:


    One common source. . .

    80 “Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture, then, are bound closely together, and communicate one with the other. For both of them, flowing out from the same divine well-spring, come together in some fashion to form one thing, and move towards the same goal.”40 Each of them makes present and fruitful in the Church the mystery of Christ, who promised to remain with his own “always, to the close of the age”.41

    . . . two distinct modes of transmission

    81 “Sacred Scripture is the speech of God as it is put down in writing under the breath of the Holy Spirit.”42

    “And [Holy] Tradition transmits in its entirety the Word of God which has been entrusted to the apostles by Christ the Lord and the Holy Spirit. It transmits it to the successors of the apostles so that, enlightened by the Spirit of truth, they may faithfully preserve, expound and spread it abroad by their preaching.”43

    82 As a result the Church, to whom the transmission and interpretation of Revelation is entrusted, “does not derive her certainty about all revealed truths from the holy Scriptures alone. Both Scripture and Tradition must be accepted and honored with equal sentiments of devotion and reverence.”44

    Apostolic Tradition and ecclesial traditions

    83 The Tradition here in question comes from the apostles and hands on what they received from Jesus’ teaching and example and what they learned from the Holy Spirit. The first generation of Christians did not yet have a written New Testament, and the New Testament itself demonstrates the process of living Tradition.

    Tradition is to be distinguished from the various theological, disciplinary, liturgical or devotional traditions, born in the local churches over time. These are the particular forms, adapted to different places and times, in which the great Tradition is expressed. In the light of Tradition, these traditions can be retained, modified or even abandoned under the guidance of the Church’s Magisterium.

  9. The bottom line, I’m just Catholic, neither conservative, nor liberal. I’m in union with Our Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI. The Mass should be done exactly by the ritual, no creativity needed

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