There was never any real doubt that the blessings authorised by Fiducia supplicans (FS) were only the start of a journey. And Jesuit Father James Martin’s pioneering new findings confirm this. The pursued ambiguity of the document and the subsequent ‘clarifications’ is the litmus test of its deliberately provisional nature, especially when it is signed by a pope who has summed up the strategy of his pontificate in two principles: the initiation of processes and the superiority of time over space.
It was Francis himself, in his reply to the second dubium of the five cardinals (25 September 2023), who had initiated the process of blessings to ‘irregular’ and same-sex couples, baptising the principle that the indispensable point would simply be to maintain the distinction between nuptial blessings and ‘other’ blessings. A principle that just three months later would be the basis of the Declaration of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, which – it should be remembered – contemplates precisely “the possibility of blessing couples in irregular situations and same-sex couples”.
All the subsequent tangles and clumsy declarations that have led to talk of blessings not of couples, but of people in couples, or of blessings of couples, but not of unions, are all part of an apparent necessary retreat from the open field in order to hold the trenches, a retreat made necessary by the massive opposition involving an entire continent, numerous episcopal conferences, individual bishops and a great many faithful. A tide of Catholics, although the Pope has tried to throw dust in everyone’s eyes, first by derubricating the massive African opposition to a cultural issue and then, in an interview with an Italian newspaper, by speaking of “little groups” manifesting “schismatic reflections”.
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