Is Pope Francis Liberal or Conservative?

Thanks to a friend who emailed me this morning, I’ve just read Selwyn Duke’s article at American Thinker, “Is Pope Francis Liberal or Conservative?” I heartily recommend it. While many of his doctrinal observations in that piece are “elementary” to well-formed Catholics, there are a lot of other points he makes that go beyond the basic, for instance, his sage comments on the nature of “conservatism” and “liberalism.” Would that more Americans who call themselves conservative knew this stuff.


The Catholic position is not conservative or liberal, but superior, and you don’t have to be Catholic to understand that this is not a claim born of sectarian chauvinism. The Church does not define itself based on a given society’s political and cultural spectrum, but based on Absolute Truth, which she recognizes to be transcendent, eternal, and unchanging. You may disagree with her conception of Truth, perhaps even profoundly, yet believing that Truth exists is the only rational position.

This relates to a conversion experience I had a long, long time ago. I realized that if there wasn’t something deeper than the political, deeper than the cultural even – if man’s opinions were all there is — then my “conservative” views were essentially meaningless. Sure, I liked them as I liked chocolate ice cream, but if they were just flavors of the day, how could I credibly say they were any better than liberal ones? To thus boast there had to a transcendent yardstick for judging such things. There had to be Truth.

Note that this doesn’t mean a given prelate can’t have what we call liberal or conservative instincts, and I have my reservations about Pope Francis, with his being a South American Jesuit. But the point is that when the media anxiously wait for a “liberal” pope that will deliver the Church to evil, they don’t realize that while such a man could exercise liberal tendencies, he could only do so outside the context of definitive teaching on faith and dogma. There is no “amendment process” for the commandments and their corollaries.

Hint: the second-to-last paragraph is a masterpiece. Please read it!

  • Laramie Stewart

    Conservative political views are based on the idea of a strong attachments to the natural traditions and institutions of our ancestors, which includes the Catholic Church. I can’t imagine a more conservative position than adherence to the truths of the Catholic Faith.

  • Tancred: You are associating conservatism with adherence to Catholic tradition — presumably both Catholic dogma and social teaching. In other words, you are “conserving” that thing most worth conserving on this earth, the true Faith.

    This is in keeping with the image you have chosen for your profile picture: that of the great Joseph de Maistre. In choosing him as your avatar, you have radically set yourself apart from 98% of Americans who call themselves “conservative.” (The 98% figure might be too low!)

    Most political “conservatives” would never define the term conservative that way. They would either fix it to the Constitution, to some fairly recent political ideology, or to the very general notion of attachment to tradition. However, as Mr. Duke points out in the article, most self-described conservatives are willing to pick and choose which traditions and institutions of their ancestors they are willing to preserve.

    I think another comparison can be helpful here. As I understand it, the terms “right wing” and “left wing” originated in the National Assembly of the French Revolution. The question was not whether you were for or against the Revolution, but which flavor of the Revolution you preferred. Obviously, genuine counterrevolutionaries (loyalists, monarchists) were left out of the mix.

    Most “conservatives” are “right wing,” meaning that they’ve digested the Revolution against Christian social order to some degree or another, but are on the “right” side of the Revolution.

    In this respect, they generally “conserve” nothing but the Revolution.

    The traditionalist is a genuine counterrevolutionary. He rejects the entire Revolution.

  • GeneDe

    “Most “conservatives” are “right wing,” meaning that they’ve digested the Revolution against Christian social order to some degree or another, but are on the “right” side of the Revolution.”

    And this is why, I think, that the so-called “Catholic” “conservatives” in the congress and senate can’t seem to integrate their “faith” into the political order. Hence, the oft used phrase: “I’m personally opposed to abortion, but…” And ad nauseam…

  • Marlowe53

    No church’s positions are “superior” when they are arrived at by a single gender. And “absolute truth” cannot be determined from a collection of books assembled by men.

  • GeneDe

    A collection of books? I take it you mean the Bible? Happy Easter!

  • eleonore

    That is one of the most ridiculous statements I have ever read.

  • Laramie Stewart

    Catholicism and conservatism are mutually inclusive and supporting.

  • Laramie Stewart

    Many American conservatives adopt a hodgepodge of positions which are mutually contradictory, but the ones they care most about are the things which lead them toward truly conservative values, like Tradition, Family and Private Property. It’s actually the Saint Benedict’s sensitivity to these American values, as well as its rootedness in the very Catholic British legal tradition, that has attracted me to it and feeds my own faith in the Crusade to convert America to the Catholic Faith. When the Jesuits first came to America, they didn’t try to make Frenchmen out of scratch, they took the good things about the Indians and built upon those things to win them over. I think we’ll make more converts by building on the many Catholic aspects of American culture than by working wholly against the grain.

  • Utique! I recall reading in a Church History book by Mgr. Philip Hughes — who encouraged Belloc — words to this effect: “Catholicism is an inherently conservative religion.”

  • Neihan

    What a fantastically truthful observation. Thank goodness the dogma of the Church is inspired by God and discovered infallibly through the Holy Ghost’s guidance of the Magisterium. Thank God as well that our particular collection of books was also inspired and collected under that same divine protection. Else we might err and turn to such inferior, single-gendered positions like feminism and such groundless, false books as one often reads in universities.