Doctrinal statement opens blessings for “irregular” couples

With the ‘Fiducia supplicans’ of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, approved by the Pope, it will be possible to bless couples made up of people of the same sex, but outside any ritualization and imitation of marriage. The doctrine on marriage does not change, blessing does not mean approving the union

When two people ask to be blessed, even if their status as a couple is “irregular,” it will be possible for the ordained minister to give his or her consent. But without this gesture of pastoral proximity containing elements even remotely similar to a marriage rite. This is stated in the Declaration “Fiducia supplicans” on the pastoral meaning of blessings, published by the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith and approved by the Pope. A document that 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 the possibility of also welcoming those who are not living is now contemplated according to the norms of Christian moral doctrine, but they humbly ask to be blessed. Since August 23 years ago, the old Holy Office had not published a declaration (the last was in 2000 “Dominus Jesus”), a document of high doctrinal value.

Fiducia suplicans” opens with an introduction by the prefect, Cardinal Víctor Fernández, who explains that the declaration delves into the “pastoral meaning of the blessings”, allowing “to expand and enrich their classical understanding” through a theological reflection “based in the pastoral vision of Pope Francis”. A reflection that “represents a true development concerning what has been said until now about blessings”, including the possibility “of blessing couples in an irregular situation and same-sex couples, without officially validating their status or modifying the perennial teaching in any way.” of the Church on marriage”.

After the first paragraphs (1-3), which recall the previous pronouncement of 2021, now expanded, the declaration presents the blessing in the sacrament of marriage (paragraphs 4-6) declaring “inadmissible rites and prayers that may create confusion between what is constitutive of marriage” and “what contradicts it”, to avoid recognizing in any way “as marriage something that is not.” He reiterated that, according to “perennial Catholic doctrine”, only sexual relations within marriage between a man and a woman are considered licit.

A second extensive chapter of the document (paragraphs 7-30) 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.” When with a specific liturgical rite “a blessing is invoked on certain human relationships”, it is necessary that “what is blessed can correspond to the designs of God inscribed in Creation” (11). Therefore, the Church does not have the power to confer a liturgical blessing on irregular or same-sex couples. But we must avoid the risk of reducing the meaning of blessings only to this point, demanding for a simple blessing “the same moral conditions that are required for the reception of the sacraments” (12).

After analyzing the blessings in Scripture, the statement offers a theological-pastoral understanding. Whoever asks for a blessing “shows himself in need of God’s saving presence in his story,” because he expresses “a request for help from God, a plea for a better life” (21). This request must be accepted and valued “outside a liturgical framework”, when it is found “in an area of greater spontaneity and freedom” (23). Considered from the perspective of popular piety, “blessings must be valued as acts of devotion.” 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, which do not convey an erroneous conception of marriage” (26), the document states that this type of blessing “is offered to everyone,” without asking for anything, making people feel that they remain blessed despite their mistakes and that “the heavenly Father still wants their good and hoping that they will finally open themselves to the good” (27).

There are “various occasions in which people spontaneously come to ask for a blessing, whether on pilgrimages, in sanctuaries or even on the street when they meet a priest”, and such blessings “are addressed to everyone, no one can be excluded” (28). Therefore, it being prohibited to activate “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.” , invoke his help, let himself be guided towards a greater understanding of his plan of love and life” (30).

The third chapter of the declaration (paragraphs 31-41) therefore 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 instead pray May everything that is true, good and humanly valid in their lives and relationships be invested, sanctified and elevated by the presence of the Holy Spirit” (31). Such blessings are not to be standardized, but rather entrusted to “practical discernment in a particular situation” (37). Although the couple is blessed, but not the union, the declaration includes among what is blessed the legitimate relationships between the two people: “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 be able to fully fulfill his will” (38). It is also clarified that, to avoid “any form of confusion and scandal”, when a couple irregular or of the same sex ask for the blessing, “it will never be performed at the same time as, nor in connection with, civil union rites. Not even with the clothing, gestures or words typical of a marriage” (39). This type of blessing “can find its place in other contexts, such as the visit to a sanctuary, the meeting with a priest, the prayer recited in a group or during a pilgrimage” (40).

Finally, the fourth chapter (paragraphs 42-45) reminds us that “when the relationship with God is clouded by sin, you can always ask for a blessing, turning to Him” and wishing it could be in some situations “the possible good.” (43).