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Comments on Fiducia Supplicans

By Bishop Terry R. LaValley

December 27, 2023

Since Monday, December 18, the date of its distribution, there have been wide-ranging reports on the Declaration from the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, Fiducia supplicans, On the Pastoral Meaning of Blessings. Unfortunately, many of the reports originating from non-Church sources have overlooked crucial statements within the document.

I raise three questions that, I hope, will provide clarity and minimize confusion that may have surfaced.

1) What does the Declaration say about the Church’s teaching on marriage?
This Declaration states clearly the Catholic Church’s perennial teaching that a true marriage is “…the exclusive, stable, and indissoluble union between a man and a woman, naturally open to the generation of children.” (#4) The Declaration, in an effort to emphasize this fundamental truth, goes on to state that the Catholic Church, whether Local or Universal, “…avoids all kinds of rites or sacramentals which could contradict this conviction and imply that it is recognizing as a marriage something that is not.” (#5) Therefore, while exercising charity, and respecting the dignity of every person, it is the duty of ordained clergy, pastoral ministers and lay faithful to courageously hand on the Catholic Church’s teaching about marriage and human sexuality.

2) What is this blessing which the Declaration permits ordained clergy to give to couples in irregular unions or to same-sex couples?
The major portion of this Declaration addresses the Catholic Church’s understanding of and teaching about the “blessing.” This document proposes to “…broaden and enrich” our appreciation for the action of grace which we call a blessing.

“(T)he blessing possesses a special power, which accompanies those who receive it …and disposes [a person’s] heart to be changed by God.” This Declaration makes a presumption that, “…when one asks for a blessing, one is expressing a petition for God’s assistance, a plea to live better, and confidence in a Father who can help us live better.” Consequently, the giving of a blessing to a couple in an irregular union or to a same-sex couple is not a stamp of approval or an endorsement of their current circumstances. Rather, the spontaneous request of a couple for a blessing is understood by the Catholic Church to be, on the part of the couple requesting, a “…sincere openness to transcendence, the confidence of their hearts that they do not trust in their own strength alone, [and] their need for God…” (#21)

3) What are the requirements for this blessing to be given to a couple?
This Declaration identifies several requirements for the imparting of a blessing to a couple in an irregular union or to a same-sex couple:
•  This blessing may be imparted during a meeting with the couple’s parish priest, or during a visit to a shrine, or while on a pilgrimage, etc.

•  The spontaneous request for a blessing must come from the couple, not from a relative or a friend of the couple. Neither clergy nor pastoral ministers are to encourage a couple to request this blessing. The desire for this blessing must originate within the hearts and minds of the couple.

•  There is to be no stylized form to the blessing; it is not to be imparted within any ritual. “[T]his blessing should never be imparted in concurrence with the ceremonies of a civil union, and not even in connection with them.” (#39)

•  No clothing, gestures or words proper to a wedding are to accompany the imparting of the blessing. (#39)
This Declaration is an expression of the Church’s continuing pastoral concern for all Catholics, especially those who have either experienced, or felt, excluded from the Church. The Holy Father, along with the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, collaborated in this effort. This outreach combines the essential statement of the Truths of our Faith, with the inclusive provisions for healing and welcome. I believe Pope Francis hopes this Declaration will be understood as an effort to bind up wounds. Such is our prayer.

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