St John Henry Newman once considered the possibility of the crisis that would emerge if a Church council or a pope introduced a doctrine that contradicted a previous council or a pope. It would shatter the notion of doctrinal development.
At first sight the recent document Fiducia Supplicans suggests that this might have happened. Commentators have been trying to square its content with the previous declaration of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) in 2021 that it was not licit to bless homosexual relationships.
However, any careful reading of this latest text shows clearly that the document sets out to specifically maintain and restate the Church’s teaching on marriage. Having done that, it nonetheless sets out a platform for the provision of a blessing for those who are in disordered relationships.
It is again made clear that there are intended to be safeguards to avoid giving the impression that any blessing might suggest a wedding or a union is being blessed. There must be no liturgy and only spontaneity. The theological assumption appears to be that there is a sufficient gap between a liturgical blessing and a spontaneous one that defends the integrity of Church teaching. Whether that is the case or ought to be, is not examined.
This allows the cosmetically reassuring response: “Nothing has happened, nothing has changed in church teaching.”
And yet at the same time, newspapers and public media across the world have announced that the Pope has changed the teaching of the Catholic Church and agreed to gay blessings.
The situation created by Fiducia Supplicans is both more subtle, and in the eyes of critics more insidious.
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