Sunday, December 31, 2023

Twenty Questions for Cardinal Fernández (and Pope Francis?)

 Pope Francis and same-sex unions: why I'm not celebrating – The Oxford  Student

Fr. Raymond J. de Souza

Earlier this year, Cardinal Daniel Sturla, Archbishop of Montevideo, and Cardinal Víctor Manuel Fernández, then the Archbishop of La Plata, had Sees across the river from each other. 

Now they find themselves in opposing currents, as the former is distressed that the latter would plunge the Church into such conflict and confusion just before Christmas.  

“I don’t think it was a topic to come up now at Christmas,” Sturla said of Fiducia Supplicans (FS), the DDF declaration on blessing “irregular” and “same-sex” couples. “[That decision] caught my attention powerfully, because it is a controversial issue, and it is dividing waters within the Church.”

Not only the Tiber, but even La Plata.

Fernández and Sturla were both made archbishops by Pope Francis in his first year, and both for archdioceses adjacent to Buenos Aires. If now Fernandez has lost the support of a Cardinal created by Pope Francis on the other side of the river, it gives a measure of how poorly FS has been received. So Fernández has been scrambling to contain the fiasco of plunging the entire Church into conflict and confusion on a contested issue just days before Christmas, a time when religious voices are given a greater hearing in the secular press.

Cardinal Fernández had intended that his instructions on how to bless “irregular couples” – cohabiting couples, polygamous “couples,” adulterous couples, same-sex couples, the lot – would be the last word. 

“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,” wrote Fernandez on Monday. 

By week’s end, he had granted a Spanish-language interview to The Pillar. Things were not proceeding as planned. 

One of his predecessors in the doctrinal office declared FS to be “self-contradictory.”

At the Vatican, in the week before Christmas – same-sex blessings were hung by the chimney with care, in the hopes that Fr. James Martin soon would be there

With the dust now settling and prelates the world over registering their dismay, herewith a series of questions that Cardinal Fernández may choose to answer as he begins a new set of interviews to defend his declaration.

  1. At his first Angelus address after his election, Pope Francis spoke of the superior theological wisdom of the abuela, a theme he has returned to many times. Does your declaration’s distinction between “ascending” and “descending” blessings resonate with the abuela’s experience? Will her soul fill with the joy of the Gospel when she hears that her son-in-law, who has abandoned her daughter and grandchildren, was blessed with his new mistress by the parish priest?

  1. Upon your appointment as DDF prefect, the Holy Father wrote you a letter warning you against a “desk-bound theology.” Are the fine distinctions of FS – blessing “couples” but not the “unions” that make them a couple – the way ordinary Catholics see things, or more like the casuistry of the desk?

  1. FS claims to be “innovative” and a “development” in the theological understanding of blessings. These novelties are “based on the pastoral vision of Pope Francis.” Is the pope’s “pastoral vision” now a theological locus, akin to Scripture, tradition, and the magisterium? Is such a supremacist understanding the papal vision consistent with the teaching of Vatican II on the college of bishops?

  1. What is the “pastoral vision” of Pope Francis? Given that FS contradicts the 2021 DDF document on the same topic, also issued with papal approval, how does one know the pastoral vision? Or is knowing the pastoral vision a kind of Gnosticism, which the Holy Father has been unrelenting in criticizing?

  1. FS instructs that “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.” Is it the view of the DDF that this is a widespread practice that needs correction? Has anyone at the DDF ever, even one time, witnessed a priest conduct an “exhaustive moral analysis” when asked for a blessing? Has any priest, anywhere, ever, demanded “moral perfection” before granting a blessing? What might that even look like? Is it possible that a straw-cleric is being fashioned here?

  1. In the Pillar interview, you write, “I do not know at what point we have so exalted this simple pastoral gesture that we have equated it with the reception of the Eucharist. That is why we want to set so many conditions for blessing.” Is the DDF aware of anyone, anywhere, at any time, who has “equated” a blessing with “reception of the Eucharist”? Is this another straw-cleric fashioned out of the hay of the manger scene?

  1. In the same interview, you write that, “Some episcopates had advanced ritualized forms of blessing irregular couples, and this is inadmissible.” Will the DDF be responsible for monitoring such compliance with FS, as, for example, the Dicastery for Divine Worship requires permission for Tridentine Masses to be offered in parish churches?

  1. FS cites Amoris Laetitia that “what is part of a practical discernment in particular circumstances cannot be elevated to the level of a rule” because this “would lead to an intolerable casuistry.” Does FS intend to do for blessings what Amoris Laetitia did for reception of the Holy Eucharist, namely make the same act holy or sinful, depending on geography? Sins in Poland are holy in Germany, sins in Alberta are holy in Malta.

  1. In FS, you write that the DDF has been working on this declaration since before you took office in September. Was this information shared with the members of the synodal assembly in October, who discussed this very issue? Were they informed that even if they decided not to address the issue in their final report, the DDF would be moving ahead boldly?

  1. Were the managers of the synodal process on synodality for a synodal Church told not to bother addressing same-sex issues in the synodal report because the DDF would be handling that issue outside the synodal process? Did they accept amendments removing “LGBT” references from the final report already knowing what the DDF was planning, thereby playing for fools the synod members who proposed them?

  1. Patriarch Sviatoslav Shevchuk of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, the largest of the Catholic Eastern Churches, has declared that the DDF declaration “has no legal force for the faithful of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church” because it takes no account of eastern canon law, liturgy or their own theological understanding of blessings. Was the DDF aware that its guidance flatly contradicts the catechism of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, which teaches that “the blessing of a priest or bishop is a liturgical gesture that cannot be separated from the rest of the content of the liturgical rites and reduced only to the circumstances and needs of private piety”?

  1. Given the shared Byzantine heritage of the east, did the DDF consider the ecumenical implications of authorizing blessings that would contradict the understanding and practice of the Orthodox Churches?

  1. Several African episcopal conferences have rejected the teaching of FS. Indeed, Cardinal Fridolin Ambongo of Kinshasa, president of the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar, wrote to his brother bishops that, “as shepherds of the Church in Africa, it is incumbent upon us to provide unequivocal clarity on this matter.” He proposed that the African bishops offer “definitive guidance to our Christian community” by “[drawing] up a single synodal pronouncement.” Were any senior African bishops consulted, in the spirit of synodality, before FS was issued?

  1. Cardinal Ambongo is a member of the Council of Cardinals, the Holy Father’s inner circle of advisers. The Council met in Rome in December, just weeks before FS was issued. Was Cardinal Ambongo consulted when he was in Rome? Did the DDF ask for his view?

  1. Pope Francis has chosen, after the retirement of Cardinal Robert Sarah and the dismissal of Cardinal Peter Turkson, to have no curial prefects from Africa. Might FS had been different had the current cohort of curial prefects been more representative and inclusive?

  1. In another recent interview you spoke of Africa, where “there is legislation that penalizes with prison the mere fact of declaring oneself to be gay, imagine [what a] a blessing [would do].” Did the DDF consider the impact in Africa of FS, that perhaps lethal anti-Christian violence may increase because of a perceived approval of same-sex unions? If it is prudent for an African bishop not to implement FS because of civil penalties for homosexuals, was it imprudent for the DDF to create a global impression that the Catholic Church now approves of same-sex conjugal unions? More than 4000 Christians have been killed in Nigeria alone this year, with some 150 killed at Christmas.

  1. The Anglican Communion effectively came to an end this year, with the primates representing more than 80 percent of Anglicans no longer recognizing the Archbishop of Canterbury as an “instrument of communion.” The proximate cause of the dissolution was blessings for same-sex couples. Is the DDF confident that the catastrophic consequences for Anglicans will not find an echo in the Catholic Church?

  1. Pope Francis began his Petrine ministry dreaming of a “poor Church for the poor.” Were there any poor Churches which asked for the provisions of FS? To the contrary, might FS be thought to be the kind of thing that a rich Church would do for the rich, as one might find on Manhattan’s West Side or in Germany, the world’s richest local Church?

  1. You announced that you would be traveling to Germany to address some of the difficult questions raised by the German “Synodal Way,” which has been repeatedly condemned by the Vatican. Do you think that FS will inspire the Germans to change their ways, or to become more stubborn, expecting that just as the Holy Father reversed himself in FS, he will reverse himself on the Synodal Way in general?

  1. Before your appointment as doctrinal prefect this year, Cardinal Eduardo Pironio was the most prominent Argentine to serve in the Roman Curia from the 1970s to 1990s. He was beatified two days before you published FS. Do you take him as a model for your service in the Roman Curia? On your next visit home, when you visit his relics, do you think he would give his blessing to your work, should you spontaneously ask for it? Might you pray before the relics with Cardinal Sturla of Montevideo?


In One Word: Disaster : Fr. Gerald E. Murray

The first, and most serious, problem in Fiducia Supplicans (FS) is the choice of the word “couple” to describe two people of the same sex who engage in sodomy within an ongoing publicly known, self-proclaimed committed relationship, such as a civil marriage. I note with dismay that the word sodomy is not found in FS. Neither do the words homosexual or homosexuality appear in the FS. Indeed, no clear mention at all is made of what distinguishes same-sex “couples” from other forms of partnership or association between two persons of the same sex. Neither does FS state what behavior distinguishes these “couples” from the couples FS describes as being in “irregular situations,” presumably divorced and civilly remarried men and women. (The word adultery is also absent from FS.) FS states that both types of couples engage in sexual relations apart from marriage, but FS neglects to mention that first type of couple does so in an unnatural way and the second in a natural but immoral way, i.e., adulterous relations.

The use of the word “couple” to describe two persons of the same sex who engage in sodomy has no scriptural, theological, or canonical basis at all. The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith [CDF] stated in its 2003 document Considerations Regarding Proposals to Give Legal Recognition to Unions between Homosexual Persons:

There are absolutely no grounds for considering homosexual unions to be in any way similar or even remotely analogous to God’s plan for marriage and family. Marriage is holy, while homosexual acts go against the natural moral law. Homosexual acts close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved.

The Church has never (until now), and should never, categorize two people in a homosexual union with the same word the Church uses to designate a man and a woman who are married, or are engaged to be married, or are dating in view of possibly getting married.

Homosexual acts are not, and cannot be, marital acts. The 2003 document states:

Homosexual unions are totally lacking in the biological and anthropological elements of marriage and family. . . .Homosexual unions are also totally lacking in the conjugal dimension, which represents the human and ordered form of sexuality. Sexual relations are human when and insofar as they express and promote the mutual assistance of the sexes in marriage and are open to the transmission of new life.

Sodomy is not an alternative way of engaging in human sexual relations, with human understood by the Church to mean according to human nature created by God. It is not a marital and hence a truly sexual act properly speaking, but rather is a grave misuse of the sexual organs. The CDF issued in 1986 a Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons which states the teaching of the Church with clarity:

To choose someone of the same sex for one’s sexual activity is to annul the rich symbolism and meaning, not to mention the goals, of the Creator’s sexual design. Homosexual activity is not a complementary union, able to transmit life; and so, it thwarts the call to a life of that form of self-giving which the Gospel says is the essence of Christian living. This does not mean that homosexual persons are not often generous and giving of themselves; but when they engage in homosexual activity, they confirm within themselves a disordered sexual inclination which is essentially self-indulgent.

As in every moral disorder, homosexual activity prevents one’s own fulfillment and happiness by acting contrary to the creative wisdom of God. The Church, in rejecting erroneous opinions regarding homosexuality, does not limit but rather defends personal freedom and dignity realistically and authentically understood.

A man and a woman are united as a couple by their marriage vows which are consummated by the physical union (copulation) of the husband and wife. Two men or two women do not and cannot become a couple, according to the Church’s unchanged (until now) use of that word, by making some sort of mutual commitment to sodomize each other, and then follow through on that agreement by engaging in such unnatural sinful behavior.

The use of the word couple is in fact a surrender to the heretical ideology that proclaims that homosexual couples are just as much couples as are heterosexual couples. The fatal consequence of endorsing the un-Christian notion that two cohabiting homosexuals are in fact a couple is the stunning announcement that homosexual couples, like any other couples, can be blessed because they too “beg that all that is true, good, and humanly valid in their lives and their relationships be enriched, healed, and elevated by the presence of the Holy Spirit.” (FS 31)

The 1986 CDF Letter is prophetic in its warnings:

Nevertheless, increasing numbers of people today, even within the Church, are bringing enormous pressure to bear on the Church to accept the homosexual condition as though it were not disordered and to condone homosexual activity. Those within the Church who argue in this fashion often have close ties with those with similar views outside it. These latter groups are guided by a vision opposed to the truth about the human person, which is fully disclosed in the mystery of Christ. They reflect, even if not entirely consciously, a materialistic ideology which denies the transcendent nature of the human person as well as the supernatural vocation of every individual.

The Church’s ministers must ensure that homosexual persons in their care will not be misled by this point of view, so profoundly opposed to the teaching of the Church. But the risk is great and there are many who seek to create confusion regarding the Church’s position, and then to use that confusion to their own advantage.

FS, despite its specious claims to be a “development” of the Church’s teaching about blessings, represents a victory for those who condone homosexual activity. How so?  Because granting permission to a priest to bless not individual homosexuals (no permission in fact is needed) but rather homosexual couples, who are joined together in some form of union that constitutes them as a couple, gives the false appearance that God does indeed bless mortal sin, and that God is pleased when his priests and bishops invoke His blessing on what God has forbidden.

As St. Paul wrote:

Therefore, God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen. For this reason, God gave them up to dishonorable passions. Their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural, and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in their own persons the due penalty for their error. (Romans 1:24-27)

A disordered sexual relationship brought into being by self-indulgent shameless acts is not bless-able. FS is a scandal and a disaster for claiming it is.