“Conservative” does not equal “Orthodox”

G.K. Chesterton once remarked that the opposite of “funny” is not “serious.” The opposite of “funny” is “not funny”. You can be serious and funny, or serious and not funny.

Similarly, you can be “conservative” and unorthodox. Bernard Law proved this. He was, by anybody’s lights, a conservative sort. But when it came time to actually live and teach the faith and morals of the Catholic Church, he did not do so–for the sake of “conservatism”. It is living and teaching the faith and morals of the Catholic Church that constitutes “orthodoxy”. It is not “having a particular temperament”, or “disliking change” or “being thought fondly of by the Pope” or “voting for Reagan” or “distrusting big government” or any of the other shibboleths.

Dorothy Day was, by any measure, a “liberal”. She believed in all sorts of things that give conservatives the willies. She was also staunchly orthodox. When it came to a choice between believing and living Catholic faith and morals versus doing as she pleased, she went with obedience to Catholic faith and morals. She was orthodox. Fabian Bruskewitz is a “conservative”. He is also orthodox, preferring Holy Faith above “not rocking the Boat”. Bernard Law appears, by temperament, to be conservative. But by his actions he has demonstrated he was not orthodox. When it came to a choice between Catholic faith and morals versus his own natural conservative inclination to not Rock the Boat, he opted for his own natural human inclinations, not for obedience to Holy Faith.

Chesterton (again) made the remark that liberals invent new errors and then conservatives make sure that such errors go on being committed. This sums up political life outside the Garden. It also sums up the careers of Paul Shanley and Co. and their timid conservative-but-not-orthodox bishops. There is nothing human, apart from Christ, that is unfallen–conservatism among the rest. Conservatism, separate from Christ, puts itself ahead of God just as surely as liberalism does. It cannot save and can, indeed, create peculiar hells just as surely as liberalism apart from Christ can. The only hope is the actual faith of Jesus Christ, not our whittled-down and human ideologies, whether liberal or conservative, that continually try to substitute for it.


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