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Vatican Walks Back Blessings Same-Sex Couples

Fr James Martin SJ blesses Jason and Damian

Just over two weeks after the Vatican concluded  Fiducia Supplicans [FS] with words that it was a sufficiently clear document and no further explanation would be forthcoming (Section 41) it has now issued a more than two-thousand word Clarification document effectively retracting FS (although doing so in carefully political language).

FS authorised blessing same-sex couples as a couple, not simply as individuals. FS described itself as “…real development … broadening … enriching … evolving…”. It explained that for this it was appropriate to be a document of the highest authority, a Declaration (the previous one at that level was promulgated 24 years ago, the one before that 44 years ago).

But the new Clarification speaks only of spontaneously blessing individuals:

If two people approach together to seek the blessing, one simply asks the Lord for peace, health and other good things for these two people who request it…
Then it concludes with the sign of the cross ON EACH OF [my emphasis] the two persons.

Clarification (5)

Blessing individuals is surely not news, and certainly does not require a Declaration!

The reaction to FS in the last fortnight has been strong and clear. There has been an unprecedented list of Roman Catholic [RC] bishops conferences and individual bishops who not only publicly disagree with Pope Francis’ FS, but are forbidding its implementation, and also publicly calling on the Pope to revoke the Declaration. There are many who are calling FS heretical.

The authority and the universal jurisdiction of the Pope is at risk. The clarification emphasises that the Vatican does not see RC bishops having the right (that they have been claiming) to forbid the implementation of FS: 

Prudence and attention to the ecclesial context and to the local culture could allow for different methods of application, but not a total or definitive denial of this path that is proposed to priests.

Clarification (5)

Contrary to FS, the clarification gives a template for a blessing – (strongly) adding new elements beyond what FS indicated:

At the same time, one asks that they may live the Gospel of Christ in full fidelity and so that the Holy Spirit can free these two people from everything that does not correspond to his divine will and from everything that requires purification.

Clarification (5)

It is clear in the choice between maintaining RC papal authority and allowing the blessing of same-sex couples which way the Vatican is moving.

Previously, prominent RC priest, Fr James Martin SJ has said:

Dear friends: Regarding the Vatican’s new declaration on same-sex blessings. Be wary of the “Nothing has changed” response to today’s news. It’s a significant change. In short, yesterday, as a priest, I was forbidden to bless same-sex couples at all. Today, with some limitations, I can. That’s change.

The clarification is clear. Nothing has changed.

I would strongly dispute the Clarification’s contention that

The real novelty of this Declaration, the one that requires a generous effort of reception and from which no one should declare themselves excluded, is not the possibility of blessing couples in irregular situations. It is the invitation to distinguish between two different forms of blessings: “liturgical or ritualized” and “spontaneous or pastoral”.

Clarification (4)

I continue to dispute the description of “non-liturgical” blessings. The most famous blessing of a married same-sex couple since FS used:

May the Lord bless you and keep you.
May the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you.
May the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.
And may Almighty God bless you, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

I do not see how this can be termed “non-liturgical”. Nor do I see how even the Clarification can describe the sign of the cross as not being a ritual!

My previous reflection on the content of FS
My previous reflection on the reaction to FS

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4 thoughts on “Vatican Walks Back Blessings Same-Sex Couples”

  1. The scripture which springs immediately to mind Bosco-
    ‘can two walk together without agreeing to meet?’! (Amos 3, 3)

    I like the Papal edicts on much of science, but they still have a long way to go on psychology.

  2. Every time I walk back towards the Catholic Church I was first baptized in Bosco they do something unconscionable or unreasonable or unfair or hypocritical which has me walk away again! And some of the finest people I know are Catholics. The papal edicts are some of the best-written theological documents too, inspirational.

    I want to see women priests in my lifetime, I want to see anyone fully welcomed in any Christ-following denomination. Let he who is without sin cast the first stone!

    Some of the backward steps in our modern world are due to ‘the influencers’ who now co-opt our faiths or values to promote their exclusive or cruel agendas. This man is one of them, and I hope everyone sees through these people before long (here’s his latest piece of US malarkey https://hbcuconnect.com/content/392658/elon-musk-cosigns-racist-claim-that-hbcu-students-have-low-iqs-and-should-not-be-pipelined-into-diversity-pilot-program and I think I already told you DEI is now banned as a topic in Texas schools and universities along with over 2000 books many of them literary classics; fortunately our excellent library system has made most of them freely available. Book banning is akin to book burning in a free country!)

    There’s only one unforgivable sin in the Bible, blasphemy of the Spirit. Those who will lead people astray ie. down cruel paths will be held accountable one day. And when they disguised it as some kind of righteousness and harmed those Jesus referred to as ‘the least of these my people’ the socially excluded, they will one day be excluded themselves from His Kingdom.

    Kindness was everything to Christ. It needs to be everything to his followers.

    Thank you for sharing this Bosco, and all the other prayers and truths you illuminate so kindly and beautifully to encourage. I would long ago have given up on religion if it weren’t for inspiring thoughtful theologians!

    Guess I need to write to yet another Pope?! The Vatican saves everything and one day someone will listen, ‘Ani m’amin…’ I believe, even where I do not fully understand or agree.

    1. Thanks, Tracy – I see more acrimony against Pope Francis today for hoping that hell might be empty. We have quite a way to go as a human race! Blessings.

      1. Amazing isn’t it, people filled with spite and mischievous (let’s call it that) reporters and so-called ‘influencers’ will mis-represent the things people say in clear and good intention. Honor is lost somewhere in modern reporting and communications.

        You have often said ‘flattening the narrative’ of the Bible but people seem to want to reduce *every* discussion to a minimum and over-simplify the most complex issues, decide a position then support it unwaveringly however fragile or mean-spirited. How do we know what is right, what is wrong? By treating others as we would wish to be treated, remembering we are all human, and hostility to other humans, our same-old same-old fallback, is not working for large segments of people around the globe post-globalisation. I thought Pope Francis’ comments were relevant and correct, the arms trade *has* fueled much unrest. As for hell being empty, well if we were all looking to compassion and self-sacrifice as much as humanly possible then it would be wouldn’t it. And there are those who say we create a hell on earth…forgetting ‘blessed are the peacemakers’.

        Here is The Vatican’s report on recent comments https://www.vaticannews.va/en/pope/news/2024-01/pope-francis-interview-italian-tv-fiducia-supplicans-argentina.html ‘Children who have forgotten how to smile…’ and where will they be in 20 or so years of time, when the weapons manufacturers are busy arming their people…if they have no other tools to fall back on, no fundamental trust in the prevailing goodness in the world?

        Work in progress. All the best dear Bosco.

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