Quo usque tandem? Doctrine of Faith dicastery “blesses” sin against nature

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The Declaration Fiducia supplicans on the pastoral meaning of blessings issued on December 18, 2023 by the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith marks one of the lowest points of Pope Francis’ pontificate. Indeed, this document, contradicting Church doctrine, approves and in fact promotes the “blessing” of “couples” living in an intrinsically immoral situation, with a special focus on homosexual couples.

To understand the origins of what happened, one must go back to the early 1970s, when, on the wave of the 1968 Revolution, but also of the post-conciliar “new morality,” forms of “openness” to homosexual relationships began to spread in the Church. According to traditional doctrine, the sexual act is in itself, by its very nature, ordered to procreation and is good only if it takes place within marriage, without being diverted from its purpose. Instead, for the new theologians, the sexual act is always good because it constitutes the most intimate and intense moment of human love, regardless of whether or not it is ordered to procreation, whether or not it takes place within marriage, and whether or not it involves men and women of different or of the same sex.

Against these errors, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith published on Dec. 29, 1975, the declaration Persona humana, signed by the Prefect, Cardinal Seper, which stated, among other things, “According to the objective moral order, homosexual relations are acts lacking their essential and indispensable rule. They are condemned in sacred Scripture as grave depravity and presented, indeed, as the baleful consequence of a rejection of God. This judgment of Scripture does not permit the conclusion that all those, who suffer from this anomaly, are personally responsible for it, but it does attest that acts of homosexuality are intrinsically disordered and that, under no circumstances, can they receive any approval.”

The Catechism of the Catholic Church, published in 1992, in turn stated in No. 2357: “Leaning on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual relationships as grave depravity, Tradition has always declared that ‘acts of homosexuality are intrinsically disordered.  They are contrary to natural law. They preclude the sexual act from being the gift of life. They are not the fruit of true affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved.'”

Of the pseudo “homosexual marriage,” people began to talk only from the 1990s onward, especially after the European Parliament, in its resolution of February 8, 1994, called on the member states of the Union “to open to homosexual couples all legal institutions available to heterosexual ones.” In the Angelus of Feb. 20, 1994, John Paul II explicitly condemned the European resolution, stating that “it is not morally permissible to give legal approval to homosexual practice. To be sympathetic to those who sin, to those who are unable to free themselves from this tendency, is not, in fact, equivalent to belittling the demands of the moral norm (cf. John Paul II, Veritatis Splendor, 95)” (Angelus of Feb. 20, 1994).

This position has remained largely unchanged but, especially since the Synod of German bishops opened in 2020, calls for the “blessing” of same-sex “couples” began to spread. On March 15, 2021, the then Congregation (now Dicastery) for the Doctrine of the Faith, headed by Cardinal Luis F. Ladaria published a Responsum in which it answered the question of whether the Church has the power to impart blessings to same-sex unions. The Vatican Dicastery responded in the negative, explaining that since blessings are sacramentals, they require that “what is blessed is objectively and positively ordered to receive and express grace, in function of God’s designs inscribed in Creation and fully revealed by Christ the Lord. Therefore, only those realities that are in themselves ordered to serve those designs are compatible with the essence of the blessing imparted by the Church.”

From the very beginning the Church, echoing the curse of Scripture (Gen. 18:20; 19:12-13, 24-28; Lev. 12:22, 29; Is. 3:9; 1 Tim. 1, 9-10; 1 Cor. 6, 9-10) condemned sin against nature by the mouth of the Fathers and Doctors of the Church, the saints, the Popes, the Councils and Canon Law. The declaration Fiducia supplicans of the Dicastery of the Doctrine of the Faith, twists this Magisterium. The document opens with an introduction by Prefect Fernandez, who explains that the statement intends “to offer a specific and innovative contribution to the pastoral significance of blessings” allowing “to broaden and enrich its classical understanding” through a theological reflection “based on the pastoral vision of Pope Francis.” References in the text that follows are always and only to the teaching of Pope Francis, ignoring all previous pronouncements of the Holy See, as if the Church’s teaching began ex novo with him.

After the first paragraphs (1-3), the statement declares “inadmissible rites and prayers that might create confusion between what is constitutive of marriage” and “what contradicts it,” to avoid recognizing in any way “as marriage something that is not. The Church’s doctrine on this point remains firm” (nos. 4-6). But it is precisely in this clarification that lies the deception and hypocrisy of the document, signed by Cardinal Victor Manuel Fernández, and countersigned ex audientia, by Pope Francis.

The first misleading point is to affirm that same-sex relationships are not equated with Christian marriage, while avoiding calling them intrinsically disordered acts; the second point is the insistence on the distinction between liturgical and extra-liturgical blessings, as if an extra-liturgical blessing, made by a priest, could make licit what is illicit to bless. In the second chapter of the document (nos. 7-30) it is stated that when with a special liturgical rite “a blessing is invoked on certain human relationships,” it is necessary that “what is blessed be able to correspond to God’s designs inscribed in Creation” (11), but if one moves “outside of a liturgical framework,” the request for blessing is to be welcomed and valued, because one is “in a sphere of greater spontaneity and freedom” (no. 23). Once again it is given to understand that these “human relationships” are not in contradiction with natural and divine law.

The third chapter of the declaration (nos. 31-41) thus admits the “possibility of blessings of couples in irregular situations and same-sex couples” (no. 31). The purely rhetorical assurances that “no ritual should be promoted or provided for the blessings of couples in an irregular situation” (No. 38) and that “this blessing will never be carried out at the same time as the civil rites of union or even in connection with them” (No. 39), continue to circumvent with deliberate ambiguity the basic point of the intrinsic immorality of same-sex relationships. It should be emphasized that the document authorizes the blessing not of an individual believer, who wants to free himself from an irregular situation, but that of a “couple,” which in the condition of sin lives permanently, without any intention of getting rid of it. Couple, moreover, that such cannot be defined, since it is not the natural union of a man and a woman. This sinful relationship is objectively blessed.

Much scandal was caused by Pope Francis’ phrase “Who am I to judge” a gay man? uttered on July 29, 2013, on the flight back to Rome from Rio de Janeiro. That phrase, while representing a clear media message, could be downplayed as an unfortunate impromptu boutade. The Declaration Fiducia supplicans is enormously more serious, because it is an official “declaration,” whose relevance the Holy See’s information portal Vatican News substantiates, writing that “it had been since August, 23 years ago, that the former Holy Office had not published a declaration (the last was in 2000 Dominus Jesus), a document of high doctrinal value.”

It will be up to theologians and canonists to offer an accurate assessment of this act of the Dicastery of the Doctrine for the Faith. For now, the simple sensus fidei makes us affirm that it is not possible to endorse in any way, much less with a “blessing,” a vicious and immoral relationship. The priest who would impart such blessings, or a bishop who would endorse them, would be committing a grave public sin. And it pains me to say that a very grave sin was committed by those who promulgated and signed this scandalous statement.