Pope Accelerates the Revolution

The union of persons of the same sex may be blessed, as long as it is not confused with a marriage blessing. This is the substance of the 44 paragraphs of the Declaration Fiducia supplicans on the pastoral meaning of blessings of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, published yesterday, 18 December 2023, and signed by the Prefect, Cardinal Victor M. Fernández, by the Secretary for the Doctrinal Section, Monsignor Armando Matteo, and by Pope Francis.

This is the central paragraph of the Declaration: “”Within the horizon outlined here appears the possibility of blessings for couples in irregular situations and for couples of the same sex, the form of which should not be fixed ritually by ecclesial authorities to avoid producing confusion with the blessing proper to the Sacrament of Marriage””.

The document proposes to offer “new clarifications (…) on the Responsum ad dubium formulated by the then Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and published on 22 February 2021″ (no. 2), in an attempt to meet the needs of those who “did not share the negative response it gave to the question or did not consider the formulation of its answer and the reasons provided in the attached Explanatory Note to be sufficiently clear” (no. 3). Fernández’s intention is to maintain “the doctrinal aspects” of the Responsum, combining them coherently with “the pastoral ones”, which in 2021 would not have been adequately taken into account, while instead they would have been promoted by Pope Francis’s Responses to the dubia of the five cardinals.

The line of argument can be summarised in this way: consistent with the Responsum, the Declaration continues to reject blessings or rites that might appear to be endorsements of non-marital unions or that in any way bear a resemblance to nuptial rites. In order to have sufficient room for clarity, the Declaration intends to place blessings “outside of a liturgical framework” (n. 23), as “acts of devotion that ‘find their place outside of the celebration of the Eucharist and the other sacraments'” (n. 24).

Fernández urges: “The Church, moreover, must refrain from resting its pastoral praxis on the fixity of certain doctrinal or disciplinary schemes (…). Therefore, when people invoke a blessing, an exhaustive moral analysis should not be set as a precondition for conferring it” (n. 25). It is therefore in this haliturgical and ritual context that, according to the Instruction, blessings can also be given to irregular and same-sex couples, asking God for the graces they need through them.

This would therefore be the deepening (cf. no. 26) of the Responsum of 2021. But, once again, of the “inconvenient” documents that precede it, Fernández selects only what serves him, distorting its meaning, for his pre-constituted thesis. Because for Responsum, the issue is not simply that of not externally confusing the blessings of these couples with marriage – a problem that could be remedied by the Instruction’s proposal. Instead, the point is another, which Fernández does not even mention: what is blessed when blessing a couple? If it is precisely a couple, it means that a relationship is being blessed; otherwise individuals would be blessed. But, the Responsum explained, “to be consistent with the nature of sacramentals, when a blessing is invoked on certain human relationships, it is necessary (…) that what is blessed is objectively and positively ordered to receive and express grace”; and therefore “only those realities that are in themselves ordered to serve those designs [of God in Creation]” can be blessed.

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