Moral deception: The Vatican document blessing homosexual couples

The “Fiducia supplicans” declaration presents a false solution that satisfies almost no one. It exacerbates a double standard that has already done much damage to the church's credibility. Normative problems cannot be resolved through “pastoral solutions.”

By Franz Josef Bormann

It is a popular strategy to reiterate the meaning of a previously existing boundary at the very moment one is about to cross it. What may still seem acceptable in political rhetoric is forbidden in the areas of morality and religion, which are particularly dependent on conceptual clarity, stringency of argumentation and personal trustworthiness of the actors.

If you apply these criteria to the declaration “Fiducia supplicans” (FS), which the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith published on December 18, 2023, then disillusionment quickly sets in. The position presented here is contradictory and does not stand up to serious moral theological examination.

This must be explicitly emphasized even if one affirms and considers the aim of the text in the form of a better pastoral integration of people in "irregular" or same-sex relationships to be correct. However, upon closer inspection, the means used to achieve this goal resemble a moral theological deception that, on the one hand, emphasizes the continuity of teaching, but on the other hand de facto undermines the traditional magisterial provisions.

It is not the concept of “marriage” that is of crucial importance, but rather the normative judgment according to which “homosexual acts are inherently wrong” (Persona humana 8) and violate “the natural moral law” (CCC No. 2357).

A de facto about-face takes place, but it shies away from making the normative corrections necessary to legitimize it.

After Pope Francis clearly rejected any equality of homosexual partnerships with sacramental marriage in the post-synodal letter "Amoris Laetitia" in 2016 and the Responsum ad dubium of the Dicastery of Faith of February 22, 2021 declared that "it is not permitted to have relationships or... "Blessing even stable partnerships that include sexual practice outside of marriage (...)" is now a de facto about-face, but one that shrinks away from making the normative corrections necessary for its own legitimacy.

Are the recipients of the blessing insane?

The now opened "possibility of blessing couples in irregular situations and of same-sex couples, the form of which may not be ritually determined by the ecclesiastical authorities in order not to cause confusion with the blessing inherent in the sacrament of marriage" should only apply to those "who Recognizing themselves as destitute (…) and not claiming the legitimacy of their own status, but asking that all that is true, good and humanly valid in their lives and relationships be enriched, healed and elevated by the presence of the Holy Spirit " (FS 31). The problem with this argument is not only that it requires the potential recipients of the blessing to have an intention that is usually completely foreign to their own self-image.

Even more worrying are two further arguments that Pope Francis used in his personal response to the "dubia" (inquiries) of a group of five Cardinals published on October 3, 2023, in order to legitimize the relevant acts of blessing. On the one hand, by calling on "people whose guilt or responsibility can be mitigated by various factors that influence subjective attribution not to be treated simply as 'sinners'", he speaks to those affected, who are usually very conscious of their have decided on the respective way of life, at least indirectly, the personal full sanity. On the other hand, he conjures up a peculiar understanding of "pastoral prudence" that is not aimed at the situationally appropriate fulfillment of existing norms, but rather is intended to justify their targeted violation.

However, the explicit reference that such wise decisions do not necessarily have to become the norm (FS 37) remains morally theologically unsatisfactory insofar as it capitulates before solving the basic normative problem and offers a pseudo-pastoral solution that ultimately satisfies no one: the progressives not because the extra-liturgical blessing offered here harbors a significant new potential for discrimination and allows a basic norm to exist that is considered to be in violation of human rights. And the conservatives don't, because the inflationary invocation of "special situations" is a cryptic endorsement of a practice that contradicts the Church's official norms and thus exacerbates the church's double standards that are already seriously endangering its credibility.

The press release with explanations from the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith dated January 4, 2024 does not change this impression, which, in view of the critical voices from the universal Church, reassuringly explains that the newly envisaged "blessing in the sense of pastoral acceptance" is only a matter of "blessings that last a long time few seconds, without ritual and benedictions", for the granting of which the priest sets "no conditions" and "doesn't want to find out anything about the intimate lives of these people". Since this is not a matter of the blessing of individuals, which is of course possible at any time, but of the ecclesiastical blessing carried out by an official of partners who live in a relationship that the church officially qualifies as morally illegitimate or "irregular", these references can hardly address the basic problem to remove from the world.

It is therefore to be feared that the declaration "Fiducia supplicans" will ultimately lose the very trust that it actually wanted to regain because of the hopeless strategy of trying to clarify normative-doctrinal problems through so-called "pastoral solutions".