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…Clarification (5)
Then it concludes with the sign of the cross ON EACH OF [my emphasis] the two persons.
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!