Sunday, December 31, 2023

Statement of Archbishop Mark O'Toole on Fiducia supplicans

Bishop – Menevia Cathedral St Joseph's Swansea

I warmly welcome the desire and intention of the Holy Father to encourage and challenge us to be close to all people irrespective of their personal circumstances. The Declaration Fiducia supplicans, issued yesterday by the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, is another example of this. At the heart of the Declaration is a call for those of us who are pastors to take a sensitive pastoral approach in being available and willing to draw close to people whatever their situation.

The Declaration indicates that it is now permissible for ordained minsters to "join in the prayer of those persons who, although in a union that cannot be compared in any way to a marriage, 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." Such sensitive accompaniment clearly reflects the Lord's desire to be present to all people. As the Declaration indicates, "When people ask for a blessing, an exhaustive moral analysis should not be placed as a precondition for conferring it. For, those seeking a blessing should not be required to have prior moral perfection."

At the same time, the 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." This is in keeping with what Pope Francis wrote in July, that while "pastoral prudence must adequately discern whether there are forms of blessing, requested by one or more persons, that do not convey an erroneous conception of marriage,…it is not appropriate for a diocese, a bishops' conference, or any other ecclesial structure to constantly and officially establish procedures or rituals for all kinds of matters."

The Declaration is clear about this, highlighting that in order "to avoid any form of confusion or scandal, when the prayer of blessing is requested by a couple in an irregular situation, even though it is expressed outside the rites prescribed by the liturgical books, this blessing should never be imparted in concurrence with the ceremonies of a civil union, and not even in connection with them. Nor can it be performed with any clothing, gestures, or words that are proper to a wedding. The same applies when the blessing is requested by a same-sex couple."

I invite all in the Archdiocese of Cardiff and the Diocese of Menevia to read and reflect on Fiducia supplicans carefully, so that they are aware of the parameters in which clergy may impart a blessing to others who seek it from them. Such blessings should not take place within the liturgical or sacramental life of the parish, but "in other contexts, such as a visit to a shrine, a meeting with a priest, a prayer recited in a group, or during a pilgrimage. Indeed, through these blessings that are given not through the ritual forms proper to the liturgy but as an expression of the Church's maternal heart-similar to those that emanate from the core of popular piety-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."

I pray that this Declaration will encourage all of us to show ever more clearly that the Church is a loving mother, who desires to bring the closeness and compassion of God to all His children. May it give consolation and encouragement to those who seek the Father's blessing, to draw closer to Him, and to discover more deeply the beauty of His Son Jesus, in the life of our holy mother, the Church.

+Mark O'Toole

Archbishop of Cardiff
Bishop of Menevia