A recent Associated Press article reported on the growing number of conservative traditions in the Catholic church and what that means for liberal congregants. It highlighted a list of changes to Wisconsin-based St. Maria Goretti as a microcosm of the growing conservative majority within the Catholic church. “We want this ethereal experience that is different from everything else in our lives. It’s radical in some ways. We’re returning to the roots of the church,” said congregant Ben Rouleau. The growth in conservative Catholics stems from the fact that conservatives are the ones still involved in church, while liberals rarely attend mass. This gives conservatives an increasing amount of power within church policy. Such changes include returning to more traditional hymns and clothing, as well as a harder push against abortion and birth control. A recent document from the Vatican took a hard line against gender surgery and surrogacy.

Another factor is that younger priests are leaning more conservative than their older predecessors. Father Mike Schmitz, host of the popular “Bible in A Year” podcast has made appearances on conservative shows such as “The Ben Shapiro Show” and spoken up for a return to doctrine and principles. A 2022 survey found that a large majority of priests ordained since 2005 lean conservative. The survey showed a growing disparity between younger and older priests, as well as younger priests and their more liberal congregants. One anonymous seminary graduate told the AP “There really aren’t very many liberals in the seminaries anymore,” because “They wouldn’t feel comfortable.” The Jesuit Review warned against the divide. “The actual data foreshadows not a world with winners and losers, but one where we all lose. To be sure, not all differences amount to divisions. We should both expect and respect diversity of all kinds in the church. The church, after all, is supposed to be universal. Yet the survey does indeed paint a picture of multiple levels of estrangement: younger priests from older priests, younger priests from congregations and a great many priests from their bishops.”

Yet as liberal Catholics worry, conservative Catholic institutions continue to flourish. The conservative Benedictine college has seen its enrollment double in 20 years. The university has had to expand its residence halls in the last 15 years and many students refer to it as the “Benedictine Bubble.” Not all views are monolith, but as one student stated, there is an underlying understanding of truth. “We don’t all agree on everything, obviously,” said student John Welte. “But I would say everyone has an understanding of, like, truth. There are certain things you can just know in your mind: This is right, and this is wrong.”

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