It took several years after our conversion and baptism to recognize and fully appreciate how much they differed from conservative Catholics (within whose camp we've found our home) and while it really isn't a matter of progressive vs conservative, but being congruent with traditional Church teaching rather than not and conservatives tend to be the former, progressives the latter.
Once realizing the difference and understanding their perspective, the attempt to ally Peter with Occupy Wall Street isn’t a surprise.
George Weigel, one of the Church’s most important theologians—his books are at Amazon’s author page—writes about them on the Ethics & Public Policy Center.
“It's been a bad three and a half decades for self-styled "progressive" Catholics.
“First, there was John Paul II, whom many in that camp habitually labeled a charismatic reactionary. Yet the Polish pope was a hero all over the world during an epic pontificate that bent history's arc in a more humane direction, and did so without the aid of liberation theology. John Paul's funeral Mass on April 8, 2005, became, in the apt phrase of NBC anchor Brian Williams, "the human event of a generation," a moniker unlikely to be attached to the obsequies of, say, Hans Küng, John Paul's most embittered progressive critic.
“Then came the election of the progressives' bête noire, Joseph Ratzinger, as Pope Benedict XVI: a horror that a prominent progressive, Notre Dame's Fr. Richard McBrien, declared electorally impossible a mere 24 hours before it happened. Catholic progressives hunkered down for what they hoped would be a brief Ratzingerian interregnum. But Benedict XVI has proven an energetic pope whose pontificate has been in dynamic continuity with that of his predecessor, an astute analyst of the cultural crisis of the West, and a man determined to strengthen Catholic identity as the sine qua non of Catholic reform.
“Thus the Wojtyla-Ratzinger years have put paid to the notion, beloved of Catholic progressives, that Catholicism began anew -ex nihilo, as it were - at the Second Vatican Council. Committed to the hoary "liberal/conservative" hermeneutic of the Council's history, Catholic progressives hold that Vatican II represented a dramatic rupture with the past. The great teaching pontificates of John Paul II and Benedict XVI, however, have proposed a far more plausible interpretation of the Council as one in dynamic continuity with the great tradition of Christian orthodoxy. That interpretation, in turn, is shaping an entire new generation of Catholic intellectuals who are far more interested in exploring the complex riches of that tradition than in deconstructing it. Unlike the aging progressives, who have shown themselves rather infertile intellectually and who survive in large part because of that most conservative of institutions, the tenure system, many younger Catholic scholars are fully committed to putting theology at the service of the "New Evangelization" for which John Paul II and Benedict XVI have insistently called.
“In the United States, the progressives have also been steadily losing their grip at the national, diocesan, and local-parish levels. Various lay-renewal movements have become vital and self-consciously orthodox factors in Catholic life, and a new generation of priests and bishops, many of whom look explicitly to John Paul II as their model of ecclesiastical leadership, have come to the fore. For the past half-decade or more, the Catholic bishops of the United States, following the pope's lead, have increasingly stressed the importance of Catholic identity, by which they understand fidelity to Catholic teaching, in confronting an increasingly hostile cultural and legal/political environment. That problem has been considerably exacerbated by the Obama administration, which many Catholic progressives welcomed with loud hosannas, and for whose regulatory assault on Catholic health-care and social-service agencies progressives have provided cover, often by implausible appeals to Catholic social doctrine.
“Throughout this fairly rapid decline, progressive Catholicism's distinctive cultural marker has been its skepticism about the teaching authority of the Church: whether that teaching authority was formally and authoritatively addressing the ethics of human love, the suitability of women for Holy Orders, the uniqueness of Christ as universal savior, or the intrinsic evils of abortion and euthanasia. Thus it was another sign of the increasing incoherence of progressive Catholicism when several of its American paladins mounted a raucous defense of a "Note" - a kind of Vatican white paper - on international financial reform issued by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace (PCJP) on October 24. It was an extraordinary exercise: The progressives depicted Benedict XVI as a senior chaplain to Occupy Wall Street, described the Note in such overwrought terms that the gullible might have thought this white paper shared in the charism of papal infallibility, and darkly suggested that those who disagreed with the Note's prescriptions were cafeteria Catholics, picking and choosing their doctrines to fit preexisting political tastes.
“The irony of men such as the former editor of America, Fr. Thomas Reese, S.J., Washington Post columnist E. J. Dionne Jr., and National Catholic Reporter blogger Michael Sean Winters promoting a notion of papal teaching authority more expansive than any imagined by the most wild-eyed traditionalist will not be lost on cognoscenti of ecclesiastical intrigue. This new notion of PCJP infallibility does, however, raise interesting questions - about the nature and modalities of Catholic teaching authority, about the organization of the Holy See, and about the state of Catholic progressivism in America.
“Given the continuing confusion caused by Father Reese's assertion that the Note positioned Benedict XVI "to the left of Nancy Pelosi" (which reverberated throughout the media echo chamber), it's important to pin down just what the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace is, and what authority its statements bear.
“The Pontifical Council (with whose president, Cardinal Peter Turkson, I had an entirely cordial 90-minute conversation last year) was established after Vatican II as part of the "New Curia," a set of agencies intended to give organizational expression to some of Vatican II's pastoral concerns: the promotion of social doctrine, the family, the lay mission in the world, and so forth. Unlike the older Congregations of the Roman Curia, which exercise an authority of jurisdiction (over bishops, clergy, religious life, Catholic worship, etc.), and unlike the Tribunals of the Curia, which make binding legal decisions, the "Pontifical Councils" of the New Curia were intended to be in-house think-tanks. Bureaucracy being what it is, however, they quickly morphed into something else: paper factories issuing all sorts of statements on all sorts of issues. As I wrote in God's Choice: Pope Benedict XVI and the Future of the Catholic Church, there was concern during the 2005 conclave over the large amount of paper being generated by the New Curia: paper that was inevitably, if inaccurately, interpreted publicly as being the settled understanding of the Catholic Church and its highest teaching authority on X, Y, and Z.”