There has obviously been a lot of misinformation everywhere. Social media has been agog with misrepresentations of Fiducia Supplicans, a beautiful declaration which discusses the pastoral meaning of blessings. As a matter of fact, this declaration is not even limited to gay unions. Rather, it discusses, and teaches about, the pastoral meaning of blessings generally and the pastoral closeness of the church to all persons, irrespective of their place in the ladder of morality. The thrust of this declaration is the pastoral face of ‘blessing’ not simply about the blessing of gay unions; it aims at simply offering a specific and innovative contribution to the pastoral meaning of blessings, permitting a broadening and enrichment of the classical understanding of blessings, which is closely linked to a liturgical perspective.
While I personally understand the discountenance and displeasure expressed by a host of quarters on this issue, I do not think I share their interpretations of this declaration and I humbly advice that people should not be misled by these construals, fears and concerns expressed in blackmails. No Pope can append his signature to a declaration without due prayers, meditations, and consultations with experts.
I believe in the Holy Father, Pope Francis, this faith of mine is unflinching, and I read this document with this faith.
While a lot may have reservations for the structure, wording, time, necessity, and character of this declaration, permit me to humbly clarify the ample misconstruals that have populated the social media.
First, when there is a concern or a contention of this nature, please go to the source and try to read it for yourself. The declaration in question is very short. It is an easy read. If you want to read the summaries, read it from Vatican news, or reputable sites. A host of other sites and news channels have a penchant for misinterpreting the catholic church, the pope and taking things out of context.
Second, the declaration makes clear that it remains firm on the traditional doctrine of the Church about marriage. The traditional doctrine of the church about marriage is that marriage is the exclusive, stable, and indissoluble union between a man and a woman, naturally open to the generation of children, simple and clear. Because of this, the declaration even teaches that any type of prayer, gesture, rite or blessing akin to a liturgical rite that bears the potentiality for creating confusion, or spewing contradictions with tradition, must be disallowed, and totally avoided. To even avoid further confusion, the declaration called for serious pastoral caution that these blessings “…should not become a liturgical or semi-liturgical act, similar to a sacrament.”
Third, the declaration teaches that there are liturgical blessings. In liturgical blessings, it is demanded that what is blessed be conformed to God’s will, the will that is written in creation and fully revealed by Christ the Lord. These kind of blessings are celebrated by virtue of faith and are ordered to the praise of God and the spiritual benefit of his people. These liturgical blessings must be imparted, guaranteeing that “things, places, or circumstances…do not contradict the law or the spirit of the Gospel.” On this basis, the declaration makes authoritatively clear that “the Church DOES NOT HAVE THE POWER to confer its liturgical blessing when that would somehow offer a form of moral legitimacy to a union that presumes to be a marriage or to an extra-marital sexual practice.”
Fourth, the declaration also talks of simple blessings. The declaration clarifies that to seek a blessing in the Church is to acknowledge that the life of the Church springs from the womb of God’s mercy and helps us to move forward, to LIVE BETTER, AND TO RESPOND TO THE LORD’S WILL.
These simple blessings recognize that the one who asks for a blessing show that s/he is in need of God’s saving presence in his/her life. Such a person asks for a blessing from the Church recognizing that the church is a sacrament of the salvation that God offers. People who come spontaneously to ask for a blessing show, by this request, their sincere openness to transcendence, the confidence of their hearts that they do not trust in their own strength alone, their need for God, and their desire to break out of the narrow confines of this world, enclosed in its limitations.
I know that this is where the contention is. The declaration makes clear that those who seek this kind of blessing do not need to be required to express prior moral perfection. Why? Because this blessing “…possesses a special power, which accompanies those who receive it throughout their lives, and disposes man’s heart to be changed by God.” This means that the simple blessings express the church’s closeness to people who are in dire situations of sin, guaranteeing them of God’s love and mercy, a mercy that soothes with truth, that engenders change with love, and says to them like Christ “Has anyone condemned you? Neither do I condemn but go and sin no more” (Jn. 8:10-11).
This simple blessing, although not included in any liturgical rite, unites intercessory prayer with the invocation of God’s help by those who humbly turn to him, remembering that “God never turns away anyone who approaches him!”
These simple blessings show that we are more important to God than all the sins we can commit because God is father, he is mother, he is pure love, he has blessed us forever. And he will never stop blessing us.
WHAT ARE THE FEARS AND QUESTIONS?
Question 1—Is the Pope legitimizing gay unions or their blessing? THE ANSWER IS—NO. The Pope has never sanctioned the legitimization of gay unions, neither does the declaration guarantee the liturgical blessing of sinful unions.
Question 2—Is this not a first step towards the recognizing of sinful unions? THE ANSWER IS—The abuse of use should not invalidate use. This declaration should rather be seen as a radical step towards giving the church a human, pastoral face.
Question 3—The declaration seems to raise confusions about when rites can or cannot be used. Is the simple blessing not itself a rite? THE ANSWER IS—While one should neither provide for nor promote a ritual for the blessings of couples in an irregular situation, at the same time, one should not prevent or prohibit the Church’s closeness to people in every situation in which they might seek God’s help through a simple blessing.
Question 4—Why is the Pope and this declaration ambiguous? THE ANSWER IS—It is not ambiguous; it is clear if read without bias. However, human language is not immune to ambiguity and where we find them, we can ask questions from the right quarters.
On the whole, the declaration is a modern response to the crisis of sin, showing that the church is a mother who does not throw away her children but who will remain with them in thick and thin, offering aid, accompanying and helping them to rise above sin to the bliss of grace and joy.
The declaration is a word of comfort to those who may be in situations of dire need and care, to everyone, saying to them, “I see you, I hear you. I am coming to your aid with the mercy that soothes, that SPEAKS THE TRUTH, that comforts every tear and that is willing to lead you into the refreshing waters of God’s will.”
The declaration re-affirms the traditional stance of the church which is often watered down today, namely, that in the church everyone is invited, rich and poor, apparent saint or apparent sinner etc. In this way, every brother and every sister will be able to feel that, in the Church, they are always pilgrims, always beggars always loved, and, despite everything, always blessings