A gently cautious conservatism

I think the part of me that is “conservative” (which I would distinguish from rightwing) is a gentle hesitancy about breaking with the ways we currently do things.

My tendency is to ask how much can be improved or fixed without overhauling the entire system, and I have intellectual as well as intuitive reasons for adopting that stance.

What my conservatism is not is a pin stuck on a timeline that says, “this was the moment when everything was perfect, and the further we get from that the worse we’ll be.”

In recent lifetimes, we’ve seen remarkable changes in the way the Vatican speaks about numerous social, economic and ecclesial matters. That’s not to say unchangeable dogmas have changed, but how they’re contextualized and interpreted certainly has. This isn’t something new, and it won’t be stopping anytime soon.

I’m generally happy to change my way of relating to the “cultural norms” on something approximating the Vatican’s timeline. Even as many of the personalities and messages and decisions visible from within that institution do have problems (let’s be honest), I still think that its pace of change is a helpful guide, at least partly for reasons that are not rooted exclusively in any sort of claim to divine guidance.

Something like the Vatican has to be constantly weighing what from the past is essential and needs to be preserved in some form, what valid concerns might be motivating those who wish to bring about sweeping changes, and what our rhetoric ought to be emphasizing and downplaying for the sake of the good of our political communities today. That’s a good model.

For most cultural changes I have no desire to be on the speculative cutting edge, but also no desire to be the immovable curmudgeon. My stance is neither hurried progress nor stubborn immobility, but slow and thoughtful change, keeping the best of the past and embracing the best of the new and striving for words that heal and preserve.

Who wouldn’t get on board for that?

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