Pope Francis has taken another step towards the openness of the Catholic Church. The pontiff has proven a doctrinal document which allows the blessing of same-sex and other “irregular” couples as long as it does not imitate the marriage rite.
According to the official Vatican portal ‘Vatican News’, with this declaration, the ‘Fiducia supplicans’, of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, approved by the Pope, will be possible bless same-sex couplesbut apart from any ritualization and imitation of marriage.
Thus, the declaration explains that when faced with the request of two people to be blessed, even if their status as a couple is “irregular”, it will be possible for the ordained minister to give his consent, but without this gesture containing elements not even remotely similar to a marriage rite.
The document delves into the topic of blessings, distinguishing between ritual and liturgical blessings, and spontaneous blessings that are more similar to gestures of popular devotion. Precisely, in this second category is where the possibility of also welcoming those who do not live according to the norms of Christian moral doctrine but ask to be blessed is now contemplated.
‘Fiducia suplicans’ begins with an introduction by the prefect of the Dicastery, Cardinal Víctor Fernández, who explains that the declaration delves deeper into the “pastoral meaning of blessings”allowing “to expand and enrich its classical understanding” through a theological reflection “based on the pastoral vision of Pope Francis.”
A reflection that, as he explains, “represents a true development with respect to what has been said until now about blessings”going so far as to include the possibility “of blessing couples in an irregular situation and same-sex couples, without officially validating their status or modifying in any way the perennial teaching of the Church on marriage.”
After the first paragraphs, which recall the previous 2021 pronouncement, now expanded, the declaration presents the blessing in the sacrament of marriage declaring “inadmissible rites and prayers that may create confusion between what constitutes marriage” and “what contradicts it”, to avoid recognizing in any way “as marriage something that is not.”
Only sexual relations within marriage are considered “lawful”
Thus, it is reiterated that, according to the “perennial Catholic doctrine”only sexual relations within marriage between a man and a woman are considered lawful.
A second chapter analyzes the meaning of the various blessings, which are destined for people, objects of devotion, and places in life. Remember that “from a strictly liturgical point of view”blessing requires that what is blessed “be in accordance with the will of God expressed in the teachings of the Church.”
In any case, it is specified that whoever asks for a blessing “shows himself in need of the saving presence of God in his history”, because he expresses “a request for help from God, a plea for a better life” which is why he adds that this request It must be welcomed and valued “outside a liturgical framework”, when it is found “in an area of greater spontaneity and freedom.”
In this way, he points out that, considered from the perspective of popular piety, “blessings should be valued as acts of devotion” and adds that, to confer them, it is not necessary, therefore, to require “prior moral perfection” as a prior condition.
Going deeper into this distinction, based on Pope Francis’ response to the cardinals’ ‘dubia’ published last October, in which he asked to discern the possibility of “forms of blessing, requested by one or several people, that do not convey an erroneous conception of marriage,” the document states that this type of blessing “is offered to all.
Thus, it is indicated that there are “various occasions in which people come spontaneously to ask for a blessing, whether on pilgrimages, in sanctuaries or even on the street when they meet a priest“, and in such blessings “no one can be excluded.”
In this sense, it points out that, being prohibited from activating “procedures or rites” for these cases, the ordained minister can join in the prayer of those people who, “although they are in a union that in no way can be compared to marriage, wish to entrust themselves to the Lord and his mercy, to invoke his help.”
They will not be standardized
The third chapter of the declaration opens the possibility of these blessings, which represent a gesture towards those who “recognizing themselves helpless and in need of their help, do not claim the legitimacy of their own status, but pray that all that is true, good and humanly valid in their lives and relationships, be invested, sanctified and elevated by the presence of the Holy Spirit.
Such blessings, as he points out, They should not be standardized, but entrusted to “practical discernment in a particular situation.” Furthermore, it is proposed that “in the brief prayer that may precede this spontaneous blessing, the ordained minister could ask for peace, health, a spirit of patience, dialogue and mutual help, but also the light and strength of God to to be able to fully fulfill his will.”
It is also clarified that, to avoid “any form of confusion and scandal,” when a same-sex couple asks for the blessing, “shall never be performed at the same time as, nor in connection with, civil union rites”. “Not even with the clothes, gestures or words typical of a marriage.” Thus, it is proposed that this type of blessing “can find its place in other contexts, such as a visit to a sanctuary, a meeting with a priest, a prayer recited in a group or during a pilgrimage.”