The Church is not conservative, nor is it liberal, because it is both.
The Church does not simply conserve tradition for the sake of tradition. It likewise does not seek change merely for the excitement of change. This is because the Church is not fixated on conservation or liberation, it is fixated on truth.
The Church is an immensely conservative institution, while simultaneously being the most passionately liberal institution in the world.
This is a strange concept to grasp. Looking from the eyes of the modern day American the above statement seems impossibly contradictory. The United States of America is nearly perfectly divided by political party lines as liberal or conservative. In our day and age the two terms are increasingly polarized with little hope of reconciliation.
Why is this? Simple, both the conservative train and liberal train have been derailed from truth. Relativism has scourged the world leaving only insanity.
As hard as some political leaders attempt to fit the Catholic Church into their respective political ideologies, they cannot do so.
The Church, founded by Jesus Christ who is "The way, the TRUTH, and the life" (John 14:6), is ordered to the truth. Therefore where truth stands, you will see the Church fight to its last breath to conserve the truth. Where lies reign, you will see the Church on the front lines of the battle of liberation from those lies.
Fighting the battle of conservation we have great Catholics like Blessed Miguel Pro who died a saintly death. He was executed by the progressive regime that was then in power in Mexico. Blessed Miguel's last words as he was executed were "Viva Cristo Rey! (Long live Christ the King!)." In the face of a progressive regime that sought to secularize Mexico, priests were deemed enemies of the state. Blessed Miguel Pro, a Jesuit priest, would not acquiesce the truth that Jesus was King and instead conserved the truth with his dying words, that Jesus was King, and no worldly government could stand against the kingdom of God.
Fighting the battle of liberation, we have great Catholics like Blessed Mother Teresa who worked in the slums of India and brought the liberating power of human dignity to people that were forgotten and despised by the rest of society. Mother Teresa brought the truth of the dignity of every human person with her everywhere she went. She and her sisters cared for the poorest of the poor and the helpless. The Little Sisters of the Poor brought the liberating truth of the gospel with them and shared that truth with all they encountered by living the beatitudes and seeing Christ in all people. They lived the truth of Christ's words, "Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did to me" (Matthew 25:40).
We also have the example of Pope Saint John Paul the Great who, when he was Bishop Karol Wojtyla, celebrated Mass for the workers in the city of Nowa Huta. The city was built by the Communist government and was to be an atheist city, a city that was to be the great sign and propaganda of the new communist ruled Poland. Bishop Karol Wojtyla, in celebrating outdoor Masses at Nowa Huta conserved the truth of God and liberated the people of Nowa Huta from the forced atheism of the Communist government.
Wherever deceit, treachery, malice, abuse, and evil is found, the Church will fight for liberation. Liberation from sin and lies. The Church will always work on behalf of the poor, the forgotten, the cheated, the enslaved, and the broken.
Wherever truth is found, the Church will fight to conserve it in the culture. Even when the truth is unpopular the Church will not waiver. The reality of God, the truth of the Gospel and the impact it has in our lives will be conserved by the Church to the end of time.
So when I look at Christ, and I look at his Church, I echo the words of St. Augustine, "O Beauty, ever ancient, ever new."
I pray that now is the time that we as Catholics will stand up and say:
I am not a liberal or a conservative. I am a Catholic. Long live Christ the King!