In recent decades, theological positions have been furnished with the labels "conservative" and "progressive" and slid into corresponding draws. Does the SJM represent a conservative theology, because she for example vouches for unconditional fidelity to the Papal Magesterium? Or is she not after all progressive and liberal, because she also treasures the new form of the Mass?
In reality, the concepts "conservative" and "progressive" are useless for the description of theological stances. All theologies that wish to be Catholic must by their nature be conservative and at the same time, in an important sense, progressive. A Catholic theology must essentially be conservative - "preserving" - because it is founded upon a divine Revelation, which it must protect and expand upon.
However it must also be progressive - forward stepping - in so far it has the mandate to meditate upon and consider the received covenant in prayer, and thus to be penetrated ever more deeply with the truths entrusted to us, and to give answers to ever new questions-of-the-times – of course, always on the basis of the received revelation and a now 2000-year-old tradition (in this respect again conservative).
Jesus Himself gives expression to this particular character of Catholic Theology, when in the Gospel he compares the disciples of the Kingdom of Heaven to a householder "who brings forth out of his treasure new things and old" (Matt. 13:52).
Theology cannot be reduced to an ossified fixation and conservation of traditional forms and customs - even if there is so much of the old that absolutely must be preserved. Nor however does she consist in a frivolous acceptance of changes according to the guidelines of the "Zeitgeist". Catholic Theology is always "both… and". She will always contain both new and old treasures.
The consequences that such an understanding of theology brings with it have already been made clear by the example of the interpretation of the Second Vatican Council. During a Christmas Address to the College of Cardinals in 2005, Pope Benedict XVI lamented a deficient reception of the Council texts. Too often were the documents read through a radical breach from previous Church teaching. Against this the Pope emphasised that - despite many ostensible changes in formulation and perspective - "the continuity of principles proved not to have been abandoned". The correct understanding of the texts presupposes however - according to the Pope - a "Hemeneutic of Reform", an interpretation, that on the one hand takes the concerns of the council seriously - to promote a renewal of the Church, i.e. to say really new things, and on the other hand to see the old principles of received revelation retained in all formulations. She recognises both the endeavour for renewal and the fidelity to tradition.