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Pope Francis: Blessings don’t require ‘moral perfection’

By Matthew Santucci

ROME – Pope Francis on Friday clarified the Vatican’s position on same-sex blessings, affirming the recent declaration Fiducia Supplicans and emphasizing that “moral perfection” isn’t a requirement for receiving a blessing.

The Dec. 18, 2023, document, published by the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith (DDF), authorizes nonliturgical blessings for same-sex couples and others in “irregular situations,” including those who have divorced and remarried.

The Holy Father made his remarks to members of the Vatican’s doctrinal office, offering them guidance for dealing with matters of faith, human dignity, and sacramental discipline in “the face of the epochal change that characterizes our time.”

“The intent of the ‘pastoral and spontaneous blessings’ is to concretely show the closeness of the Lord and of the Church to all those who, finding themselves in different situations, ask help to carry on – sometimes to begin – a journey of faith,” Pope Francis said in his address in the Apostolic Palace marking the close of the DDF’s annual plenary assembly.

The Holy Father emphasized that these blessings, which come “outside of any context and form of liturgical character, do not require moral perfection to be received.”

“When a couple spontaneously approaches to ask for it, the union is not blessed, but simply the people who have requested it together. Not the union, but the people, naturally taking into account the context, the sensitivities, the places in which one lives and the most suitable ways to do so,” Pope Francis continued.

Francis’ remarks come amid continuing controversy over the Fiducia Supplicans document, which has been met with widespread criticism and concern centered on how it might be misconstrued.

Most recently, Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun, the bishop emeritus of Hong Kong, wrote on his blog on Jan. 23 that Fiducia Supplicans “creates confusion” and “leaves many questions unanswered.” The 92-year-old cardinal went on to say that if DDF prefect Cardinal Victor Manuel Fernández “is committing a heresy by claiming a serious sin as ‘good,’ then shouldn’t the prefect resign or be dismissed?”

Speaking of the broader mission of the DDF, Pope Francis referenced a letter he sent on July 1, 2023, to Fernández upon his appointment as prefect.

“I underlined the importance of the presence of competent professionals within the disciplinary section, to ensure attention and rigor in the application of the current canonical legislation,” Pope Francis said, “in particular in the management of cases of abuse of minors by clerics, and to promote canonical training initiatives for ordinaries and legal practitioners.”

Francis also spoke about the structural reforms he made to the dicastery in his 2022 motu proprio Fidem Servare, which divided the dicastery into two distinct sections, one for doctrine and one for discipline, and placed the responsibilities of the marriage office under the doctrinal section.

Concerning the sacraments, the Pope reminded the DDF that “special attention is required from ministers in the care in administering them and in revealing to the faithful the treasures of grace that they communicate.”

“Through the sacraments, believers become capable of prophecy and witness. And our time is in particular urgent need of prophets of new life and witnesses of charity: Let us therefore love and make loved the beauty and saving power of the sacraments,” he continued.

The Holy Father turned his attention to the guiding principle of human dignity.

“As Christians, we must not tire of insisting ‘on the primacy of the human person and on the defense of his dignity beyond all circumstances,’” the Pope said during the audience, quoting from his 2023 apostolic exhortation Laudate Deum.

Reflecting on the role of faith, the Pope noted that a deeper reflection, marked by “greater passion,” is needed for “the announcement and communication of faith in today’s world, especially among the younger generations.” He also emphasized the need for the DDF to focus on the “centrality of the kerygma [the core message of the Gospel]” when approaching “new questions of meaning” that arise in contemporary society.



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