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Examine Christian traditions

Observer Viewpoint | Friday, March 18, 2005

I appreciated Holly James’ Mar. 16 article “Consider it Christian” because she address an important issue within the larger discussion of Christianity (as well as probably most other religions). What I refer to is the conservative vs. liberal debate. I have lately become frustrated with such labels, not because they do not help you to gauge where someone may stand on a particular issue but because they seem to me to be somehow irrelevant. The much more important question to ask is whether the stance is Christian or not, and to look closely at many of the discussions and people here at Notre Dame, is the stance Catholic or not. This change in semantics brings the discussion to questions of orthodoxy and heterodoxy which get much more to the heart of the matter.

Also, the labels of conservative and liberal do little to help us understand if the stance (or for that matter the person) is adhering to an orthodox view or a heterodox view because heresies (yes, I used that nasty, forbidden word) can go both ways as they have through the history of the Church and continue to do so today. So when you come across a Mass said in Latin on Saturday morning and want to write it off as the product of old-folkie conservatives wanting to return to the days before Vatican II, ask yourself if this is a perfectly acceptable and approved way to celebrate the Eucharist, or when you walk by those protesting the plight of migrant tomato farmers and start to think about liberal social justice wackos, it might be better to ask what the greater Christian tradition of helping the poor is or what the Catholic idea of solidarity means.

And yet such a semantic change does not mean that we do not stop judging events and actions such as abortion or oppressive economic policies but rather that our judgment is put in its proper place: the tradition of the Church instead of in our own opinions, which whether conservative or liberal can quite easily become wrong and heretical. Because the biggest question and gauge is not initially political or based on our own personal preferences but on whether or not we are following Christ and the teachings of his Church.

Shannon Berry

graduate student


March 17