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...he was a "liberal" by the standards of pre-Vatican II Rome. As was JPII. The problem is the assumption that this would make them liberals in the post-Vatican II era. The RCC back then was traditionalist enough that even conservatives were liberal by comparison.
Think of it a little like Barry Goldwater -- by the time he left office, he was ripping his own Republican party for radicalism, but that doesn't mean he was a closet liberal Democrat, or that he didn't mean all those things from the 1964 campaign. Sometimes, one's onw status is perceived as more about where you are compared to your environment. When other people start off far-right and keep on moving to the left, those who stay where they were might wind up perceived as going from the left to the far-right.