Declaration Remains Firm on the Doctrine of the Church

The following letter was issued by Bishop Rice to all clergy of the Diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau on Dec. 21, 2023. He wanted to issue it to all the Faithful as well, as his column in this issue of the diocesan newspaper:

Dear Bishop, Monsignors, Fathers, and Deacons,
The recent release of“Fiducia Supplicans,”(“Supplicating Trust”), has led the media to report erroneous headlines regarding the blessing of same-sex unions. To that end, I want to write directly to all the clergy of the diocese, offering an insight into this document.
For those who have read it, I identified 17 direct or indirect affirmations of the traditional understanding of the Sacrament of Marriage as between a man and a woman. I think this is so important to clarify that I am going to outline my references.
Beginning in the Declaration by Victor Manuel Cardinal Fernandez, Prefect of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, His Eminence states, “This declaration remains firm on the traditional doctrine of the Church about marriage, not allowing any type of liturgical rite or blessing similar to a liturgical rite that can create confusion. (1) Any blessing would not “officially validate their status or change(ing) in any way the Church’s perennial teaching on marriage.”(2)
Paragraph three of the Introduction recognizes, “the document and its consistency with the Church’s perennial teaching.” (3) Paragraph 4 states, “it is a matter of avoiding that ‘something that is not marriage is being recognized as marriage.’”(4) “Therefore, 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 opened to the generation of children”—and what contradicts it are inadmissible”(5). This conviction is grounded in the perennial Catholic doctrine of marriage; It is only in this context that sexual relations find their natural, proper, and fully human meaning. The Church’s doctrine on this point remains firm.” (6)
It is also the “understanding of marriage that is offered by the Gospel… (7) The Church does not have the power to impart blessings on unions of persons of the same sex.” (8) Further, “the blessing given by the ordained minister is tied directly to the specific union of a man and a woman, who establish an exclusive and indissoluble covenant by their consent.”(9) This fact allows us to highlight the risk of confusing a blessing given to any other union with the right that is proper to the Sacrament of Marriage.”(10) Further, “A blessing requires that what is blessed be conformed to God’s will, as expressed in the teachings of the Church”(11) …such a blessing should “not convey an erroneous conception of marriage.”(12) Paragraph 30 highlights the need to avoid “all serious forms of scandal and confusion among the faithful … although in a (civil) union that cannot be compared in any way to marriage.”(13)
Finally, paragraphs 31-39, are clear that a blessing should “avoid producing confusion with the blessing proper to the Sacrament of Marriage,(14) should not become a liturgical or semi-liturgical act,(15) neither provide for nor promote a ritual for the blessing of couples in an irregular situation,(16) and to avoid any form of confusion or scandal … never imparted in concurrence with the ceremony of a civil union and not even in connection with them: clothing, gestures, words proper to a wedding.”(17)
With so many affirmations of traditional, sacramental marriage between a man and a woman, why the outrageous headlines? Well, you can blame it on sloppy journalism and “click bait” sensationalism. The Holy Father is asking for a “fatherly and pastoral approach” and compares the blessing to the use of “sacramentals.” “The request for a blessing, thus, expresses and nurtures openness to the transcendence, mercy, and closeness to God,”(18) the “desire to entrust themselves to the Lord and his mercy, to invoke his help, and to be guided to a greater understanding of his plan of love and of truth.”(19) However, being pastoral can sometimes be sloppy, confusing.

Twice, the phrase, “faithful people of God,” is used in the document. I assume that such faithful people of God desire to live according to the Church’s moral law. Whether one is heterosexual or homosexual, in the confessional we hear of the struggles people have regarding chastity and when one expresses sorrow for sin and the desire to sin no more, we offer the mercy of God through absolution. The question is whether a “same sex couple” who are “faithful people of God,” would identify themselves to a priest and ask for a blessing? Paragraph 31 is important here. “These forms of blessings express a supplication that God may grant those aids that come from the impulses of his Spirit—what classical theology calls, “actual grace”—so that human relationships 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 an ever increasing dimension of the divine love.”(20)

Is that what a couple would intend when they would come up and ask for a blessing from a priest or deacon? Are they asking that their imperfections and frailties mature and grow in fidelity to the Gospel? Paragraph 40 further states, “there is no intention to legitimize anything, but rather to open one’s life to God, to ask for his help to live better, and also to invoke the Holy Spirit so that the values of the Gospel may be lived with greater faithfulness.”(21) Again, the question is whether that is the intention of a couple who would ask for a blessing or are they simply looking for some type of validation of their lifestyle? Any blessing requested would be spontaneous, non-liturgical with a simple gesture, asking the Lord to help the people to “live better.”
The document rightly states, “The Church is thus the sacrament of God’s infinite love. Therefore, even when a person’s relationship with God is clouded by sin, he can always ask for a blessing …”(22) In addition, such a request “is an opportunity for a renewed proclamation of the kerygma, an invitation to draw ever closer to the love of Christ.”(23)
In the days and weeks to come, many more will weigh in on the consequences of this document. For now, let us be at peace and convey to our people that the Sacrament of Marriage within the Church and our teachings regarding sexuality remain unchanged.

+The Most Rev. Edward M. Rice

Fiducia Supplicans” may be viewed in its entirety by searching its title at https:// www.vatican.va. A news story on the release of “Fiducia Supplicans,” may be found on p. 4 of this issue of The Mirror.

[1] Fernandez, Victor Manuel Cardinal, Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, Declaration: “Fiducia Supplicans” (“Supplicating Trust”), On the Pastoral Meaning of Blessings; Presentation, par. 3 (18 December 2023).
[2] Ibid., par. 4.
[3] Fernandez, Victor Manuel Cardinal; Matteo, Armando Monsignor; Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, Declaration: “Fiducia Supplicans” (“Supplicating Trust”), On the Pastoral Meaning of Blessings; Introduction, par. 3 (18 December 2023).
[4] Ibid., par. 4. [5] Ibid., par. 4. [6] Ibid., par. 4. [7] Ibid., par. 5. [8] Ibid., par. 5. [9] Ibid., par. 6. [10] Ibid., par. 6. [11] Ibid., par. 9. [12] Ibid., par. 26. [13] Ibid., par. 30. [14] Ibid., par. 31. [15] Ibid., par. 36. [16] Ibid., par. 38. [17] Ibid., par. 39. [18] Ibid., par. 33. [19] Ibid., par. 30. [20] Ibid., par. 31. [21] Ibid., par. 40. [22] Ibid., par. 43. [23] Ibid., par.44.

Published in the December 22, 2023 issue of The Mirror.
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