Assessing ‘Fiducia Supplicans’: The First 100 Days

March 27 marks 100 days since the Vatican published Fiducia Supplicans, an instruction on blessings of persons in irregular unions. And while the controversy it stirred in the Church in the West has somewhat abated, opposition to the document and how it was implemented continues apace.

Cardinal Fridolin Ambongo Besungu of Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo, who drafted a pan-African bishops’ statement in January rejecting “blessings for same sex couples in the African Churches,” has not relented in his criticisms, going so far as to say in a March 17 interview that the continent saw the document as a form of “cultural colonization.”

Meanwhile, a lay-led filial appeal launched on Feb. 2 that called on cardinals and bishops to ask Pope Francis to “urgently withdraw” the document and issue a “fraternal correction,” has been signed by more than 100 priests and more than 500 lay professionals.

Among the signatories’ concerns was that such relationships would now appear “acceptable to God” and that the Catholic Church had “finally evolved, and now accepts homosexual unions and, more generally, extramarital unions.”

Approved by Pope Francis on Dec. 18, Fiducia Supplicans (Supplicating Trust) — On the Pastoral Meaning of Blessings specifically allowed, for the first time, non-liturgical blessings of same-sex couples and others in “irregular relationships.” The Vatican described the document as an “innovative” step, broadening the meaning of blessings while at the same time remaining “firm” on the “traditional doctrine of the Church about marriage.”

It came just two years after the Vatican ruled that the Church did not have the power to give blessings to unions of persons of the same sex — a ruling the Vatican’s current doctrinal chief and principal drafter of Fiducia Supplicans, Cardinal Victor Fernández, called a “negative response” requiring a new document of “fraternal charity.”

But Cardinal Fernández’s declaration immediately drew trenchant criticism from many of the faithful, most notably in Africa, parts of Central and Eastern Europe, and Asia, who rejected any notion that a same-sex couple or those in “irregular” unions could be blessed by a priest as the document proposes (the document insists that it is not the union being blessed but the couple as individuals).

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