Fr. Mark Massa, S.J. was the speaker last night at NDS' annual Msgr. Tekippe Theological Forum.
His lecture was titled, "A Pox on Both Your Houses: Moving Beyond Conservative and Liberal Labels in the Church."
Fr. Massa argued that the use of secular political labels to describe ideological parties within the Church is not only historically and theologically inaccurate, it's destructive as well.
He pointed out that using labels like "progressive," "traditionalist," etc. to denote one's posture toward change in the Church suggests that change is somehow an option for us, something that we can legislate or avoid. He surveyed the use of partisan labels in our history, noting that only in our very recent history have we adopted secular labels to denote ideological differences.
Part of the reason for this adoption of secular partisan labels has to do with the introduction and development of historical consciousness in late 19th and early 20th century theology (esp in Biblical scholarship). Though historical consciousness helped the Church to better understand how our faith has responded over time to various cultural-political challenges, its introduction into ecclesial life wasn't pretty. The modernist crisis in the European Church after the French Revolution was largely the result of the historical consciousness of change crashing into an institution unprepared for its challenge.
Our current ecclesial polarization results from the Church "putting off" dealing with the inevitability of change. VC2 gives us the tools for recognizing and managing ecclesial change; however, because we put off dealing with the inevitability of change for so long, what could have been a renewal post VC2 became a revolution instead.
Generally, I agree with Fr. Massa's view. It seems to me that change is inevitable and that a historical consciousness of how we respond to various challenges both inside and outside the Church is here to stay.
1). Though he didn't argue the point directly, it would seem reasonable to suggest that using secular partisan labels also places our anxieties about immediate change at the center of the Gospel rather than seeing these worries as peripheral to Christ's charge to go out and preach. In other words, as a Church, we risk damaging the Gospel message in this century by failing to think in centuries as the Church always has. The use of secular partisan labels stunts our ability to think in centuries.
2). Whereas historical consciousness is primarily a way of describing changes in the Church, it came to serve as an argument for prescribing particular changes. In other words, that the Church changes to meet various secular challenges has become an argument that the Church ought to change to meet various secular demands. This strikes me as a non sequitur. So, I wonder if those in the Church who advocate for particular changes using historical consciousness as their warrant recognize this is/ought fallacy as a fallacy?