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Times columnist considers ‘why conservative and liberal Catholics can’t escape one another’

May 08, 2024

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CWN Editor's Note: Writing in The New York Times, columnist Ross Douthat argues one of the lessons of the current pontificate is that “the liberal tendency in Catholicism can be resilient even if it isn’t a major source of dynamism and growth.”

Douthat cites those who observe that there has been “no big return of lapsed or disaffected Catholics, no revitalization of Catholic institutions, no wave of Francis-inspired vocations to the priesthood and religious life. Instead, under his liberalizing leadership, the Church’s decline in the developed world has arguably accelerated — making it easy for conservative forms of Catholic faith to regard themselves once again as the only bulwark against secularization, and thus the only Catholic future.”

However, strong cultural temptations to compromise Catholic teaching will ensure the continued existence of what Douthat describes as liberal Catholicism.

“The basic reality is that as long as the ambient culture is broadly liberal, any Catholics trying to live in the world as well as in the Church will find themselves cross-pressured, and there will be enduring incentives to find a middle ground between traditional teachings and contemporary mores,” he writes.

Thus, Douthat believes that “the entanglements between American Catholicism and American culture writ large all but guarantee that conservative and liberal forms of Catholic faith will persist together — undoubtedly in tension and conflict, but ideally in charity as well.”

The above note supplements, highlights, or corrects details in the original source (link above). About CWN news coverage.


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