I don’t like to write about things the hierarchy does badly, for fear of adding to the scandal by drawing attention to them. It hardly seems possible any longer for Fiducia Supplicans to receive more attention than it already has, so in a small way, let me break my rule. Once. I hope.
Let us say this for the document: It explicitly says that it doesn’t change Church doctrine or approve irregular sexual relationships – which it couldn’t have done anyway. It also includes several explicit prohibitions which are supposed to make this clear: For example, blessings for people in irregular relationships must not in any way resemble marriage rituals. This helps too: According to what is called the hermeneutic of continuity, ambiguities of expression are always to be resolved in favor of established doctrine, not against it.
Moreover, it was already possible, even before the promulgation of the document, to bless individuals in conditions of grave sin. A thief who cannot yet bring himself to turn away from theft cannot receive absolution, of course, but he may certainly ask for a blessing so that he might receive grace for the amendment of his life. Two partners in theft who come to the Church might even be individually blessed. Sam can be blessed, and Joe can be blessed. But their partnership cannot be blessed, because theft is its whole reason for being.
It is the same for people in irregular sexual relationships. Any adulterer can ask to be blessed. In fact, each of a pair of adulterers can ask to be blessed. What they cannot ask is to be blessed as a couple, because this amounts to asking the Church to bless the adultery itself. The blessing is intended to offer the hope of grace for the remedy of sin, not to cheer it on.
But priests were already able to bless people in a state of grave sin before Fiducia Supplicans. What then does the document allow them to do that they weren’t already able to do? If it doesn’t allow them to do anything new, then why was the document necessary? What was it for?
One canonist suggested to me that Fiducia Supplicans was intended in part to rein in certain European bishops whose practices already go far beyond its explicit prohibitions. All things considered, however, is it likely that these renegades will take it as anything other than a green light? As, in fact, they are doing.
What could have been expected from the promulgation of the document, other than the scandal and confusion which we are seeing already?
This has been badly done. It isn’t “pastoral” to confuse people.