Action Alert!

A Vatican document that undermines itself

By Phil Lawler ( bio - articles - email ) | Dec 18, 2023

True, today’s declaration from the Vatican does not change Church teaching. Fiducia Supplicans earnestly insists on a distinction between giving a blessing to a homosexual couple and blessing their relationship. Good luck conveying that distinction to the world.

Anyone can ask a priest for a blessing; that has never been in question. But when two people ask a priest to confer a blessing on them as a couple, how can the Church avoid the impression that the priest, as representative of the Catholic faith, is blessing their union?

The blessing, the Vatican document cautions, cannot “be performed with any clothing, gestures, or words that are proper to a wedding.” The blessing should be spontaneous, not given in the sort of ritual form befitting of a liturgical prayer. Yes, but…

Beginning today, pastors will be approached by couples who want not just a spontaneous blessing but a more public celebration: in the church, in front of family and friends, with music, with everyone dressed in their finest, with a reception to follow. Bring a young child to such a service, and will that child come home with the understanding that the Church did not bless the union?

The Vatican statement leaves pastors to decide for themselves how they should respond to the couples’ requests. Yet it cautions them not to rely “on the fixed nature of certain doctrinal or disciplinary schemes.” Forgive my cynicism, but that sounds to me like an invitation to fudge the doctrinal issue, to avoid any unpleasantness that might arise about the Church’s condemnation of unnatural acts.

The Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith allows (encourages?) Catholic priests to maintain a sort of ritual purity, saying that they have not treated a homosexual union as a marriage, while in the eyes of the world they have done exactly that.

Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at See full bio.

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  • Posted by: jefferson.tan5906 - Dec. 19, 2023 9:54 PM ET USA

    My first thought was that this was a crafty way to break with the notion of same sex marriage, a preemptive guard rail against it creeping in further. However it risks scandal to probably most Catholics, including our pastors bearing more pressure. Now I wonder if this is either a malicious strategy or one that simply abandons the post. I can only take comfort in that Jesus wins anyway, we see the playing field better, and we are more clearly challenged to witness faithfully.

  • Posted by: Lucius49 - Dec. 19, 2023 7:15 PM ET USA

    in receiving Communion despite continuing the adultery. In FS verbal somersaults regarding Catholic teaching while also allowing for blessings of particular homosexual unions based on some rationale even though the couple maintains the homosexual activity. Mortal sin is thus trivialized

  • Posted by: TheJournalist64 - Dec. 19, 2023 6:33 PM ET USA

    At our parish staff prayer meeting today, pastor agreed that Catholic teaching has not changed, but that he expects all kinds of pressure. He also mentioned a certain high-profile Jesuit who condones homosexual practices and how difficult he makes pastor's life. I pointed out that the same Jesuit priest is on the advisory board of the monthly book we get our Scripture readings and commentaries from. As a theologian, I understand the document but wish it didn't exist.

  • Posted by: Bellarminite1 - Dec. 19, 2023 11:53 AM ET USA

    Just more pressure on parish priests who'll be the ones that have to make the distinction (and take the grief and public scrutiny) when approached by same-sex couples who will argue that the Pope has okayed what they want.

  • Posted by: Frodo1945 - Dec. 19, 2023 10:30 AM ET USA

    OK, we know the answer - priests can bless same-sex couples. Now let's write a word salad to justify it. What a tortured document.

  • Posted by: miketimmer499385 - Dec. 18, 2023 4:23 PM ET USA

    Naivete, intellectual and moral dissembling are abounding. Your analysis points to the fact that we non-clerical faithful will never really know what our priests and bishops truly believe. Are we to carry-on with a wink and a nod? Then again, perhaps this bouffe will further sort out our church division shortening the time to a much needed climax. The defense of this reprehensible document is written in the style of Machiavelli. The Church is suffering from Jeff's democratic analysis.

  • Posted by: feedback - Dec. 18, 2023 2:55 PM ET USA

    "...In the eyes of the world they have done exactly that." At this moment, google news searches with the word 'pope' result in: "Pope Francis approves blessings for same-sex couples." This is an instant irreconcilable division in the Church. For many, if not majority, of bishops and priests blessing of homosexuality is unacceptable under any circumstances. There is probably not a single bishop in Africa who would not reject this.

  • Posted by: wacondaseeds4507 - Dec. 18, 2023 2:27 PM ET USA

    How can a couple be blessed and their relationship not? They are a couple because of their relationship. It appears to be a distinction without a difference. I had previously read that there can be a blessing, but only for the individuals in the relationship. Unless such a blessing advocates for the grace to be formed according to God's will, in this case love and chastity, it seems to be rather hollow in this context.

  • Posted by: Frodo1945 - Dec. 18, 2023 2:03 PM ET USA

    a slippery slope. The slide has just been accelerated and we all know what is at the end of the slide.