Fiducia Supplicans and the Meaning of Faith – Problems in Declaration

The “Fiducia supplicans” declaration of December 18, 2023 has caused quite a stir. In this article, we give the main reasons why.

As sons of the Church founded on the apostles, we cannot but be alarmed at the turmoil among the Christian people caused by a text coming from the Holy Father’s entourage[1]. It is unbearable to see Christ’s faithful losing confidence in the word of the universal shepherd, to see priests torn between their filial attachment and the practical consequences this text will force them to face, to see bishops divided.

This far-reaching phenomenon is indicative of a reaction in the sensus fidei. The “sense of faith” (sensus fidei) is the Christian people’s attachment to the truths of faith and morals[2]. This common, “universal” and “indefectible” attachment stems from the fact that every believer is moved by the one Spirit of God to embrace the same truths. This is why, when statements concerning faith and morals offend the sensus fidei, an instinctive movement of distrust arises that manifests itself collectively. It is necessary, however, to examine the legitimacy of this movement and the reasons behind it. We will confine ourselves here to the six reasons that seem to us the most salient.

1. Blessing is only ordered to salvation

Indeed, “blessing is a divine, life-giving action whose source is the Father. His blessing is both word and gift” (CCC 1078). This divine origin also indicates its end, forcefully expressed by St. Paul: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in heaven, in Christ. He has chosen us in Him, from before the foundation of the world, to be holy and blameless in His presence, in love” (Eph 1:3).

Recalling the origin and end of every blessing, it then becomes clear what grace we are asking for when we bless: it must bring divine life to be “holy and blameless in his presence”. Blessing, then, is only for the sake of sanctification and freedom from sin, and thus serves to praise Him who made all things (Eph 1:12).

The Church cannot deviate from this divine order of blessing for salvation. Any intention to bless without this blessing being explicitly ordered to be “holy and immaculate”, even for otherwise praiseworthy motives, therefore immediately offends the sensus fidei.

2. The Church does not know how to bless other than in a liturgy

Everyone is called to bless God, and to call upon Him for His blessings. The Church does the same, interceding for its children. But between an individual believer and the Church, the subject who acts is not of the same nature, and this difference has important consequences when considering the action of blessing. At their root, ecclesial blessings – and by this we mean the blessings of the Church itself – emanate from the mysterious and indefectible unity that constitutes her very being[3]. From this unity which binds her to her Spouse Jesus Christ, it follows that the requests she makes are always pleasing to God, they are like Christ’s own requests to his Father.

This is why, from the very beginning, the Church has never ceased to bless, with the assurance of obtaining numerous spiritual effects of sanctification and liberation from sin[4]. Blessing is thus a vital activity of the Church. It is designed to ensure the circulation of blessings, from God to man and from man to God (cf. Eph 1:3, above), in a systolic flow of divine blessings and a diastolic flow of human supplications. As a result, ecclesial blessings are in themselves a sacred work. Indeed, as historical sources testify[5], they form the very essence of Christian liturgy. For the Church, blessing according to any liturgical form is not an option; she cannot do otherwise because of what she is, because of the vital activity of the ecclesial heart. What it does have the power to do, however, is to set the terms and conditions of blessings, their ritual, just as it does for the sacraments[6].

A blessing is therefore not liturgical because a rite has been instituted, as if “liturgy” meant “official”, or “obligatory”, or “institutional”, or “public”, or “degree of solemnity”; or as if “liturgy” were a label affixed from the outside to an ecclesial activity. A blessing is liturgical when it is ecclesial, because it involves the mystery of the Church in its being and action. This is where the priest comes in[7]. When the faithful approach a priest to ask for the Church’s blessing, and the priest blesses them in the name of the Church, he is acting in the person of the Church. That’s why this blessing can only be liturgical, because it’s the intercession of the Church that provides this support, not the intercession of an individual member of the faithful.

So it’s hardly surprising that the sensus fidei is disturbed when it is taught that a priest, required as a minister of Christ, could bless without this blessing being a sacred action of the Church, simply because no ritual has been established. This is tantamount to saying either that the Church does not always act as the Bride of Christ, or that it does not assume to always act as the Bride of Christ.

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