The New Pope - Hardliner Conservative?
Question from Steve on 4/20/2005:

There has been quite a bit of rambling on about how Pope Benedict XVI is a "hardliner conservative" in the press. I explained to my roommate (whom thinks religion is ridiculous) why a Pope would always be considered such from would in secular eyes. He didn't buy it and said that not all Cardinals are conservative. Is there such a thing as a liberal Cardinal and if so how much room is allowed for his thinking within the confines of orthodox teaching? I know we may be talking semantics here (Christian liberal vs. Secular Liberal).

Answered on 5/4/2005:

Distinctions such as liberal or conservative do not translate well to the Church. The Church has a defined doctrine to which one either adheres or doesn't adhere, believes or doesn't believe. (There are also matters not yet defined which do not come under supernatural faith.)

Doctrines that are of the faith (de fide) do not admit of degrees. As St. Thomas Aquinas pointed out, it is impossible to hold some by faith and reject others. The minute we do so, we have not only rejected some teachings because they do not please us, but we now accept the ones we haven't rejected because they DO please us. That is not faith anymore. In other words, we either have supernatural faith and accept defined Church teaching on God's authority, or we do not. There is no intermediate state.

So, the truly significant categories are orthodox, or faithful, versus heterodox, or unfaithful. Could some Cardinals be unfaithful? Certainly, but I think for the most part it would be rare that a Cardinal would knowingly and willingly reject a teaching that is obliged by faith. More often than not the differences among the Cardinals that come to public attention concern matters other than the truth of teaching. An example would be the question of the degree to which the Pope or the Roman Curia should intervene in local Churches, and how the Pope should collaborate with the other bishops. I have not heard any Cardinal deny papal primacy, any more than popes would reject collegiality. Both are taught by the Church. Rather, different Cardinals may state their own views of the balance that ideally should exist between the exercise of primacy and that of collegiality. The perception may be that favoring collegiality is progressive, and favoring primacy is conservative.



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