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Pope Francis/Cardinal Victor FernándezVatican News/Mazur/

VATICAN CITY (LifeSiteNews) — Pope Francis and Cardinal Victor Manuel Fernández have issued a text allowing “blessings for couples in irregular situations and for couples of the same sex” in contradiction to the unchangeable Catholic teaching that the Church cannot bless sinful relationships.

The declaration Fiducia Supplicans, issued without warning on December 18 by the Congregation (now Dicastery) for the Doctrine of the Faith’s new prefect, Cardinal Victor Manuel Fernández, presents the results of a project which he has been working on with Pope Francis. 

The text seeks to the door officially for Catholic clergy to provide blessings for same-sex couples, along with the norms outlined by the cardinal and the Pope – something which runs in opposition to constant Catholic teaching and Sacred Scripture.

In paragraph 31 of the text, Fernández writes that:

Within the horizon outlined here is the possibility of blessings of couples in irregular situations and of same-sex couples, the form of which should not find any ritual fixation on the part of ecclesial authorities, in order not to produce confusion with the blessing proper to the sacrament of marriage.

In these cases, a blessing is imparted that not only has ascending value but is also the invocation of a descending blessing from God Himself on those who, recognizing themselves to be destitute and in need of His help, do not claim legitimacy of their own status, but beg that all that is true of good and humanly valid in their lives and relationships be invested, healed and elevated by the presence of the Holy Spirit. These forms of blessing express a supplication to God to grant those aids that come from the impulses of His Spirit – what classical theology calls ‘present graces’ – so that human relationships may mature and grow in fidelity to the Gospel message, free themselves from their imperfections and frailties, and express themselves in the ever-increasing dimension of divine love. {Section 31}

The “horizon outlined here” is found in a contradictory preamble to this section in the document. The cardinal stated early on that all “rites and prayers that could create confusion between what constitutes marriage – which is the ‘exclusive, stable, and indissoluble union between a man and a woman, naturally open to the generation of children’ – and what contradicts it are inadmissible.”

He also noted that “from a strictly liturgical point of view, a blessing requires that what is blessed be conformed to God’s will, as expressed in the teachings of the Church.” Stemming from this, he presented the Church’s teaching, condemning sexual activity outside of marriage: 

The Church does not have the power to confer its liturgical blessing when that would somehow offer a form of moral legitimacy to a union that presumes to be a marriage or to an extra-marital sexual practice. The Holy Father reiterated the substance of this Declaration in his Responses to the Dubia of two Cardinals.

However, the cardinal added next that a blessing should not be reduced to this view only: 

One must also avoid the risk of reducing the meaning of blessings to this point of view alone, for it would lead us to expect the same moral conditions for a simple blessing that are called for in the reception of the sacraments. Such a risk requires that we broaden this perspective further. Indeed, 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 unconditional power of God’s love that forms the basis for the gesture of blessing.

He stated that a person who asks for a blessing “show[s] himself to be in need of God’s saving presence in his life and one who asks for a blessing from the Church recognizes the latter as a sacrament of the salvation that God offers. To seek a blessing in the Church is to acknowledge that the life of the Church springs from the womb of God’s mercy and helps us to move forward, to live better, and to respond to the Lord’s will.”

According to Fernández, the document presents the ability to bless same-sex couples “without officially validating their status or changing in any way the Church’s perennial teaching on marriage,” despite the new prefect noting that the text’s “theological reflection, based on the pastoral vision of Pope Francis, implies a real development from what has been said about blessings in the Magisterium and the official texts of the Church.”

The new document, also entitled “On the Pastoral Meaning of Blessings,” was issued first in Italian, along with translations into French, English, German, and Spanish, although no Latin version is yet apparent.

Introducing the text, Fernández wrote how it was based on “several questions that have come to this Dicastery in recent years,” including the internationally famous dubia and response from the Pope, issued by five cardinals over the summer, and made public on the eve of the Synod on Synodality’s 2023 meeting. The text was “submitted” to Pope Francis to review and subsequently received his approval.

Fernández attested throughout the document that such blessings should not be confused with marriage, nor should they be officially compiled in a liturgical rite, or liturgical textbook – such as the Roman Missal or the Book of Blessings. Hence, he stated that “one should neither provide for nor promote a ritual for the blessings of couples in an irregular situation.”

“At the same time,” Fernández added, “one should not prevent or prohibit the Church’s closeness to people in every situation in which they might seek God’s help through a simple blessing. In a brief prayer preceding this spontaneous blessing, the ordained minister could ask that the individuals have peace, health, a spirit of patience, dialogue, and mutual assistance – but also God’s light and strength to be able to fulfill his will completely.”

He also closed the question of same-sex blessings, stating that the new document provided all the necessary answers for the topic, and that individual priests were now free to act according to their own “discernment” in line with the text:

What has been said in this Declaration regarding the blessings of same-sex couples is sufficient to guide the prudent and fatherly discernment of ordained ministers in this regard. Thus, beyond the guidance provided above, no further responses should be expected about possible ways to regulate details or practicalities regarding blessings of this type.

The text was swiftly welcomed by heterodox LGBT advocate, Father James Martin, S.J., who – responding to the Vatican’s opening “the possibility for the blessing of same-sex couples in new declaration,” wrote:

This is a major step forward in the church’s ministry to LGBTQ people and recognizes the desire for same-sex couples for God’s presence and help in their committed and loving relationships.

Cardinal Fernández had previously spoken exclusively to LifeSiteNews some weeks ago, in an interview which can now be understood as a preview of the document which has just been published.

READ: EXCLUSIVE: Cardinal Fernández says blessings are for ‘every’ person in ‘every situation’

Fernández’s full comment to LifeSiteNews, about whether same-sex couples can be blessed, was as follows:

What the Church said is that the homosexual union is not blessed, because it [the Church] has the clear definition of marriage which is a union between a male and female open to new life.

Only that is called matrimony – marriage, only that reality is called that way.

So the blessing that could confuse and not make clear about this reality is not good for the Church.

But perhaps also [they] need blessings, not only one isolated person, but two persons who are asking for a blessing because they want to be faithful to God, they want to be better, they want to grow in their Christian life.

The blessing is not a sacrament. And we mustn’t ask the same conditions [for] a simple blessing that we ask for a sacrament.

Blessing is a sign of the “opera pastorale” [pastoral work], to every people in every situation, and we [need to] know nothing [about] the people with how is his Christian life, the morals and other things [in order] to give the blessing.

Catholic teaching on same-sex ‘blessings’

In his first letter to the Corinthians, St. Paul states that homosexual actions are sinful, explaining that “neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers” will “inherit the kingdom of God,” but rather, according to his letter to the Romans, those who practice homosexuality will receive “in their own persons the due penalty for their error.”

Under the leadership of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger in 1986, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) issued a document instructing bishops on the pastoral care of homosexual persons. The CDF admonished bishops to ensure they, and any “pastoral programme” in the diocese, are “clearly stating that homosexual activity is immoral.” 

READ: Pope Francis leads ecumenical leaders at Vatican prayer vigil for the Synod on Synodality

Such an authentic pastoral approach would “assist homosexual persons at all levels of the spiritual life: through the sacraments, and in particular through the frequent and sincere use of the sacrament of Reconciliation, through prayer, witness, counsel and individual care,” stated the CDF.

The instruction adds: 

But we wish to make it clear that departure from the Church’s teaching, or silence about it, in an effort to provide pastoral care is neither caring nor pastoral. Only what is true can ultimately be pastoral. The neglect of the Church’s position prevents homosexual men and women from receiving the care they need and deserve.

Therefore special concern and pastoral attention should be directed toward those who have this condition, lest they be led to believe that the living out of this orientation in homosexual activity is a morally acceptable option. It is not.

In 2021, the CDF  stated clearly that the Church does not “power to give the blessing to unions of persons of the same sex.”

The CDF stated that it is “not licit to impart a blessing on relationships, or partnerships, even stable, that involve sexual activity outside of marriage (i.e., outside the indissoluble union of a man and a woman open in itself to the transmission of life), as is the case of the unions between persons of the same sex.”

But as part of the response to the five dubia cardinals’ question about Pope John Paul II’s Apostolic Letter Ordinatio Sacerdotalis definitive statement that it is impossible to ordain women, Pope Francis’ July 11 letter stated:

let us acknowledge that a clear and authoritative doctrine has not yet been exhaustively developed about the exact nature of a ‘definitive statement.’ 

It is not a dogmatic definition, and yet it is to be observed by all. No one can publicly contradict it and yet it can be the subject of study, as is the case with the validity of ordinations in the Anglican Communion.