The Doctrine That Doesn’t Matter Remains Unchanged

When the first rites of blessing for same-sex couples came out in the Anglican church, they were accompanied by a lot of bluster about how they were not to be equated with marriage rites and that they did not constitute a change in doctrine. In 2003, the Anglican Diocese of New Westminster in Canada published a form of blessing for same-sex couples. Then-Bishop Ingham made a point to distinguish these blessings from the sacrament of marriage. “This is not a marriage ceremony,” he said, “but a blessing of permanent and faithful commitments between persons of the same sex in order that they may have the support and encouragement of the church in their lives together under God.”

As a former Episcopalian “priest,” I have concerns about Fiducia Supplicans, the new document from the Vatican allowing blessings for same-sex couples. That the text reasserts the Traditional doctrine and sacrament of marriage is not exactly enough to allay them, I’m afraid. I’m grateful for it, don’t get me wrong. But it feels like déjà vu. If you want to know what it sounded like as conservatives were dealing with the liberalizing actions of Anglican hierarchs, just read Catholic social media and news articles in the wake of Fiducia Supplicans. It is all so painfully familiar. Conservatives trying to excite themselves about small victories, liberals running full steam into flagrant offenses, all while leaders talk about listening, learning, and loving.

Many conservatives defended Fiducia Supplicans because of its strong reassertion of the Traditional doctrine of marriage and its protestation that nothing is changing regarding the sacrament of marriage. But I’ve heard that before. You’ll have to forgive me if I remain a bit uneasy and feel like I’m reliving a nightmare.

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