Time continues to speed up unacceptably. And yet I am obliged to accept it. I thought it was about three weeks ago that pasted the URL for this piece on America's web site into a blog post template intending to write about it later. Actually it was almost two months ago, on June 28.
But anyway: I've never found America very interesting, and in fact found it sometimes annoying. But I applaud this decision to stop using "liberal" and "conservative" as qualifiers for "Catholic." Many years ago I read a remark by Henri de Lubac in which he said something to the effect that insofar as these terms refer to anything more than types of personality, both valid and necessary, they have no place in discussions within the Church. (That's how I remember it; I'll try to find the actual statement.) It's stuck with me because I thought it was true.
As some of the commenters on the America piece point out, even if you decide not to use the words, the reality remains--there are liberal and conservative Catholics, even if you're speaking only with reference to the Church, not politics. And that's true. But I think the effort to avoid them is worthwhile. It might force one, even when the topic seems to demand that sort of distinction, to focus on the subject, and not bring in loaded terms which inevitably conjur up all sorts of associations and implications which needn't be involved.
Above all, regardless of the terms, we need to avoid thinking of the Church in factional terms, which makes it nearly impossible not to see some as more Catholic than others. That, too, may be justifiable sometimes. But we shouldn't start there. We shouldn't look for signals that someone is of a certain faction, and then use that as a reason to discard anything he says. We should start with the assumption, and keep it until or unless there is some reason to think otherwise, that those who disagree with us are faithful and have the best interests of the Church at heart.