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God loves to show mercy and to pour out his blessings for all

Fiducia Supplicans, it seems useful to offer a brief commentary from Charis website.

The main thrust of the Declaration is to distinguish between liturgical, ritual blessings, that can only be given to “things, places, or circumstances that do not contradict the law or the spirit of the Gospel” (10), and “simple blessings” that can be given to all, because God never refuses to bless those who need his help and ask for it.

In this sense, there is very little change about blessings in the Church today. Priests can invoke a blessing on just about anything or anyone. Blessings are petitionary; they beg God for his help and grace. In the Old Testament, Pharaoh is blessed by Joseph, a donkey is blessed with speech, and even houses and cattle are blessed.  Blessings are indiscriminate in that there is no moral or ritual purity required.  Aaron and the priests could invoke God’s blessings upon all of Israel, good and bad alike. Today, it is quite common that many people bring their pets and animals to be blessed on the feast of St. Francis. However, not everything nor everyone blessed goes to heaven.

Those living in sin, whatever their situation, can ask and receive a blessing. If a dog or an object can be blessed, how much more can someone made in the image and likeness of God be blessed.  This is not new.  The ancient custom of the liturgy is that at the end of Mass, the priest invokes a blessing upon all gathered: Catholic or non-Catholic, saint or sinner. Everyone can receive a priestly blessing. However, this does not apply to sacraments. Sacraments are of a different order than sacramentals and general blessings. One must be Catholic and in the state of grace to receive the Eucharist.

The Declaration is not creating a new Church practice, despite the secular media headlines. This document emphatically denies there is any change to “the Church’s perennial doctrine” (4). Individuals can be blessed through a simple blessing no matter the state of their soul, not “same-sex unions” or other irregular situations, such as civil marriages of divorced people or polygamous unions. The document states unequivocally that “the Church does not have the power to impart blessings on unions of persons of the same sex” (5). This is repeated further when confirming the 2021 Responsum that same-sex unions could not be blessed because the Church cannot bless sin: “For this reason, since the Church has always considered only those sexual relations that are lived out within marriages to be morally licit, 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” (11). Liturgical blessings can be for the union of a man and woman in marriage. General blessings outside the liturgy are only for persons, places, or things, but not for a covenant bond of a union that is reserved for marriage. This means same-sex couples can be blessed as individuals, but their union cannot because it is against God’s plan and will for their good.

The Declaration gives some indications concerning this simple blessing. Blessings of those living in irregular unions are to be for the persons and to be “spontaneous”, “brief”, and “simple.” They are not to have any ceremony or “ritual for the blessings of couples in an irregular situation” (38). The blessings “should never be imparted in concurrence with the ceremonies of a civil union, and not even in connection with them. Nor can it be performed with any clothing, gestures, or words that are proper to a wedding. The same applies when the blessing is requested by a same-sex couple.” (39).

The Declaration corresponds to Pope Francis’ desire to change the Church’s pastoral approach and tone, not its Tradition or doctrines.  His focus is the “pastoral point of view” and “pastoral praxis” and embracing sinners with mercy and love, but he does not declare that there is no sin. The major focus is that those who seek a blessing are making a petition, out of need and weakness, for God’s help. “One who asks for a blessing shows himself to be in need of God’s saving presence in his life and one who asks for a blessing from the Church recognizes the latter as a sacrament of the salvation that God offers” (20). Who can deny blessing if those who ask for one are “expressing a petition for God’s assistance, a plea to live better, and confidence in a Father who can help us live better” (21)? Indeed, such blessing opens the door to transformative grace (see 25), it can help those who receive it better understand God’s true will for their life (see 32, 40). This account of blessing as petition and the search for God squares with the biblical testimony and the Tradition of the Church. Indeed, to respond generously to such requests is a fitting summons from our Holy Father: his call for “pastoral charity” (13).

This pastoral charity trusts in God’s mercy. Too often today there is a cheap mercy that embraces the sinner and says nothing about the problem of their sin. Pastoral charity demands that we too love and bear patiently with the sinner, but it also requires us to love them so much that we do not leave them in bondage to sin and ignorant of its ever-present threat to salvation. The Church has effectively done this for two thousand years. In this sense the Declaration clearly states that these blessings are not for those who wish to sanction or legitimize their union (see FS 34, 40). Any prudent pastoral application of Fiducia Supplicans approach should realize that some same-sex couples are looking for confirmation of their choices. The blessing, the minister of the blessing should check if the intention of the couple is clear and if they are ready “to open one’s life to God, to ask for his help to live better, and also to invoke the Holy Spirit so that the values of the Gospel may be lived with greater faithfulness” (FS 40). We must have pastoral faith in God’s mercy to give those challenged by the truth and understanding that God loves the sinner but rejects the sin and gives the grace of conversion. St. Augustine witnesses to God’s mercy, which so convicted his conscience, that it led to his redemption and salvation. The most serious challenge for those living in sin is to deceive oneself about one’s own sin.  St. Ambrose accompanied Augustine with pastoral charity, but that charity did not conceal the truth and included a call to conversion.

Because giving a simple blessing to a same sex couple is a pastoral question, it is up to each bishop to use his “power of discernment” to decide what is possible and what is best “in that concrete place that he knows better than others precisely because it is his own flock” (DDF Press Release concerning the reception of Fiducia Supplicans, 4 January 2024). However, we should heed the call of Pope Francis echoed in the Declaration Fiducia Supplicans to reflect the attitude of our God who loves to show mercy and to pour out his blessings.


Mgr. Peter SMITH, auxiliary bishop of Portland, Oregon

Mgr. Etienne VETÖ, auxiliary bishop of Reims, France

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