Statements of USCCB and Diocese of Lansing
on Vatican’s Document Addressing Pastoral Blessings
In response to the Declaration Fiducia supplicans issued by the Vatican’s Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith yesterday, December 18, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) issued the following statement yesterday from its spokesperson, Chieko Noguchi, executive director of public affairs.
“The Declaration issued today [December 18] by the Vatican’s Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith (DDF) articulated a distinction between liturgical (sacramental) blessings, and pastoral blessings, which may be given to persons who desire God’s loving grace in their lives. The Church’s teaching on marriage has not changed, and this declaration affirms that, while also making an effort to accompany people through the imparting of pastoral blessings because each of us needs God’s healing love and mercy in our lives.”
Meanwhile, the Diocese of Lansing’s Director of Marriage & Family Life, Richard Budd, said December 19:
“As the US Conference of Catholic Bishops have clarified, the Vatican’s Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith’s declaration Fiducia supplicans changes nothing regarding the Church’s perennial teaching on marriage, the family or same-sex relations. As the document itself confirms, these teachings are good, true and beautiful and can neither change nor be changed.”
“What the document clarifies is the question of what a priest should do if people approach him for a spontaneous blessing and, thus, ‘show by this request their sincere openness to transcendence, the confidence of their hearts that they do not trust in their own strength alone, their need for God, and their desire to break out of the narrow confines of this world, enclosed in its limitations’.”
“In this circumstance the non-liturgical blessing of the priest is a pastorally-sensitive means of imparting supernatural grace upon those who are sincerely seeking God’s will in their life. Most likely, this is what many good and holy priests already do. What clerics are not being asked, nor expected to do, is to bless immorality which would, obviously, be a contradiction in terms.”
“Indeed, as Fiducia supplicans says ‘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’.”
My two cents as a priest and pastor: people’s reactions to this will likely match their feelings about the pope and where they already stand on these controversial issues. Those who admire Francis will see this as a wise and welcome gesture. Those who find Pope Francis more progressive than themselves or his papal predecessors will be upset and questioning. This document provides no path toward an ecclesiastical or sacramental ritual or recognition of relationships that are not in keeping with church teaching or Biblical truth, and in fact states that cannot and will not happen.
God loves everyone in and through His son and the Church. As believers, we strive to follow Jesus’ advice at the last supper, ‘love one another as I have loved you.’ We judge no one. God will take care of that. We will seek to live in kindness with everyone because Jesus did. We strive to love all people because Jesus did, even those on the margins. We will be merciful to all people because God has been so merciful to us.