Fiducia Supplicans: Anonymous and Anomalous Blessings

With the declaration Fiducia supplicans (FS) of 18 December 2023, the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, with some haste compared to the fresh synodal outcomes, asked Pope Francis ex audientia to approve new blessings, created ad hoc “for couples in irregular situations” and “couples of the same sex” The emphasis is on the ‘couple’ in both cases. In order to approve it at the level of principle, thus justifying its moral acts, an attempt is made to separate the liturgical aspect of the blessing from its previous, ‘theological’ but not ritual stage. With what results?

Bene-dicere without saying it

A first reflection should be made on the distinction between liturgical and devotional or pastoral blessings. By stripping the latter of their liturgical status, it seems that one can offer a way to bless the aforementioned couples anyway. With a real sophistry in place. This new blessing need not be “a liturgical or semi-liturgical act, similar to a sacrament” (FS 36). But does it remain a sacramental to be a blessing and not a talismanic invocation? FS distinguishes between liturgical blessings as linked to a sacrament, and sacramental blessings as given outside the sacraments as actual graces. All this would still concern “a strictly liturgical point of view” in which “a blessing requires that what is blessed be conformed to God’s will, as expressed in the teachings of the Church” (FS 9). However, in addition to this “strictly liturgical” context, there would be a third ‘flexibly liturgical’ sphere. In fact, these blessings would now be joined by extemporaneous, devotional or pastoral blessings, which, while on the one hand are independent from the ritual of the Church, so as to be more flexible and usable in all the various circumstances, even in contradiction to God’s will, are nonetheless clothed with the liturgical-theological connotations of sacramentals. In fact FS 31 states thus:

These forms of blessing express a supplication that God may grant those aids that come from the impulses of his Spirit—what classical theology calls “actual grace”—so that human relationships may mature and grow in fidelity to the Gospel, that they may be freed from their imperfections and frailties, and that they may express themselves in the ever-increasing dimension of the divine love.

In an equivocal manner, these new blessings are de facto equated with sacramentals but without defining them as such, giving the appearance of having created a neutral sub-category for the mere purpose of justifying a blessing of what cannot be blessed because objectively contrary to God and his creation. We are faced with blessings that are anonymous sacramentals, such as Rahner’s ‘anonymous Christians’, i.e. those who are Christians without knowing they are because being Christian belongs not to grace but to nature, which is already one with grace at the level of knowledge. The transition from being blessed, albeit a-thematically or transcendentally, to being blessed thematically or categorically, will come in time, when by then, thanks to the normal use that will be made of these blessings, it will have penetrated the minds and hearts of Christians that one can also bless sin. Meanwhile, a basic Nominalism emerges, a predominant characteristic of these times: ‘blessing’ is a mere flatus vocis, that is, a word that does not say what it means, but expresses with the same apparent meaning another reality, namely the legitimisation of irregular and same-sex couples. Nominalism is the subjugation of concepts to power.

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