Monday, December 18, 2023
The Vatican's doctrinal office has officially declared it possible for Catholic priests to bless same - sex unions and divorced and remarried couples.
While extremely narrow in scope, the Dec. 18 "declaration" from the powerful Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith may serve as the most concrete pastoral shift on the church's stance toward gay couples in the church's centuries' long history.
The publication of the eight-page document, "Fiducia supplicans: on the pastoral meaning of blessings," comes less than three months afer Pope Francis had personally opened the door to such a possibility in response to five retired conservative Catholic cardinals who had written to the pontiff about whether such blessings might be possible.
The new document states that Catholic priests may offer blessings to gay couples or those in "irregular" unions, if requested as a matter of popular piety or devotion. It also states that the couples "should not be required to have prior moral perfec0on" as a precondition for obtaining the blessing.
"A blessing may be imparted that not only has an ascending value but also involves the invocation of a blessing that descends from God upon those who — recognizing themselves to be destitute and in need of his help — do not claim a legitimation of their own status, but who beg that all that is true, good, and humanly valid in their lives and their relatoonships be enriched, healed, and elevated by the presence of the Holy Spirit,"
Blessings under this form, the document says, serve as a prayer that God may aid such relationships so they "may mature and grow in fidelity to the Gospel, that they may be freed from their imperfections and frailties, and that they may express themselves in the ever increasing dimension of the divine love."
While the declaration paves new ground for the pastoral practices of individual priests, it explicitly forbids that such blessings take place within the context of a liturgical celebration and does not allow for them to "be performed with any clothing, gestures, or words that are proper to a wedding."
In July, Francis ini5ated a major shakeup at the doctrinal office when he appointed Fernández, a fellow Argen5ne and long5me theological adviser, to lead the office.
In one of his first interviews, Fernández indicated that the ques5on of gay blessings would likely be examined, following a controversial decree on the same issue from the office in 2021 that tersely said God "cannot bless sin."
While the new declaration acknowledges the 2021 decree, it states that it is time to "broaden" the church's perspective on blessings.
"There is the danger that a pastoral gesture that is so beloved and widespread will be subjected to too many moral prerequisites, which, under the claim of control, could overshadow the uncondi5onal power of God’s love that forms the basis for the gesture of blessing," the document states.
Baby steps... we'll take it.
Reflection by CHRISTOPHER WHITE in NCR: Link: