The recent document Fiducia Supplicans signed off by Pope Francis is probably the most disastrous piece of work in what will be seen as the worst papacy in the 20th-21st centuries.
My comments here have nothing to do with the issue of same sex attraction. I have no opinion on those matters other than the teaching of Sacred Scripture, Natural Law and the perennial teaching of the magisterium of the Catholic Church.
Nor do I have much to say about the document itself. I encourage folks to read it for themselves. It is here.
What interests and concerns me is the totally hamfisted, incompetent, naive and blind handling of this topic. What on earth was Cardinal Fernandez thinking? That this would be hailed as a constructive, radical contribution to the debate on the pastoral handling of issues in human sexuality? Is it possible that a man of his position could be so blind to how this would be perceived and received?
I can’t help wondering what the motivation for the document was. Who was pushing for this? Not just Fr James Martin SJ and the gang at New Ways Ministry. I suspect if you “follow the money” there would be some other interesting links. Was this pressure from the fabulously wealthy German church? Was it pressure from the Uber-rich international pink lobby? Who knows? But what I do know is that the perception and reception of the document is disastrous.
The first problem is with the whole question of blessings. Did the authors of the document really not understand that their “theology of blessing” doesn’t matter one little bit compared to the popular understanding of blessing? Yes, yes we know a blessing is a benediction, a solemn prayer for God’s grace and goodness to be bestowed on a person or object, and that it is okay to ask for this blessing for anyone.
OK, but that is not what ordinary people think. They think to give a blessing is to grant approval of a person and permission for their actions.
“Mom can I go to the dance?” “Yes son, you have my blessing.”
“Dad, I want to marry this man.” “We love him too my daughter. You have my blessing.”
The vast majority of people do not know about the “theology of blessings”. They simply believe the headlines–that the Catholic Church now approves of gay sex.
This is the first and most difficult part of the fallout from this disastrous document, but there is more.
If this document has displeased faithful Catholics it has not pleased the LGBTQ+ activists either. Already voices are raised against the document from that quarter saying that it is no more than a whitewash of the deep seated and unchanging homophobia in the Catholic Church.
But what will the continued fallout be? Here is a list of things that will happen:
- Conservative Catholics will look for another church home–the SSPX the Eastern Orthodox or one of any number of traditionalist sects
- Ordinary Catholics who simply see this as crazy Vatican political correctness will just leave.
- Faithful Catholics will vote with their wallet. Prepare to see “Peter’s Pence” become Peter’s penniless.
- This financial hit will not only affect the Vatican, but will hurt parishes, dioceses and Catholic apostolates
- Ecumenical relations with conservative non-Catholic denominations will be destroyed
- Ecumenical relations with the Eastern Orthodox will be undermined.
- Evangelization efforts among individual non-Catholic Christians will be undermined.
- Despite “synodality” being the catchphrase of the moment. The document was prepared by Fernandez and the Pope without widespread consultation.
- Co-operation from bishops, clergy and people will dwindle. Already several bishop’s conferences have said they will not implement the advice in Fiducia Supplicans. Others will be more passive and just ignore it.
- Faithful Catholics will not dissent and rebel. At best they’ll simply ignore anything that comes from the Vatican. At worst they will launch resistance movements. These movements will be smart, hard working and well funded…and they will cause more division in the church.
- Division in the church will increase and may culminate in schism. The schism may come from progressive Catholics for whom Fiducia Supplicans did not go far enough or from conservative Catholics who are fed up.
- Already overworked parish priests will be put in a hot spot when people in “irregular relationships” call to arrange for “blessing services”. How will they navigate the pastoral minefield?
- When priests decline to conduct blessings for same sex couples will their diocese be sued? Has anybody thought of that?
- Worst of all the authority and respect for the papacy itself will be permanently damaged.
What can be done? I don’t know what can be done on the international level. Popes come and popes go. This pope has shown that a previous pope’s decrees can be reversed. Maybe the next pope will not be so fond of “making a mess”.
I do know what ordinary Catholics and Catholic clergy can do. We can be faithful to the gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ in our own lives, our own homes, parishes and schools. As I have said on this blog time and time again, “Don’t worry so much about what is happening in Rome. Worry about what is happening at home. Be faithful at the local level. Local is real. Do what you can with what you have where you are. The answer to confusion is clarity. Be clear in your faith, in your devotion and your Christian witness. Pray, work, witness joyfully and do not be afraid.