The Circular Letter concerning the Declaration
Fiducia Supplicans from December 18, 2023

December 22, 2023
Prot. n. 237/2023

My Brothers in Christ:

The publication of the declaration Fiducia Supplicans, On the Pastoral Meaning of Blessings, on December 18, 2023 has raised doubts in the minds of many. With all of the headlines about the implications of this Declaration, many people are confused, which is a sign of the times of today. To avoid this, we pray in every Mass, “deliver us, Lord, we pray, from every evil, graciously grant peace in our days, that, by the help of your mercy, we may be always free from sin and safe from all distress.” In his Oblatio, our Founder, St. Stanislaus of Jesus and Mary promised “reasonably understood obedience to His Holiness, the Vicar of Jesus Christ, and to his delegated official authorities.” This means not a blind obedience but an obedience which is accompanied by a rational understanding in the light of the continuing tradition of our Church, beginning with the biblical texts and especially the recent declarations of the Holy See, which put our faith in the context of our modern times. So how can we understand this Declaration, especially in the context of the Church’s previous teaching on the same matter, including a Responsum ad dubium by the same Dicastery two years ago?

The newest Declaration makes reference to a Responsum of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith from February 22, 2021 to a dubium from 2 cardinals regarding the blessing of the unions of persons of the same sex.  The question proposed was: “Does the Church have the power to give the blessings to unions of persons of the same sex?” The response was “Negative.” This was then explained in an Explanatory Note as well as an Article of Commentary on the Responsum ad dubium. Both can be found on the Vatican website and both are very clear. For instance, the explanatory note states that, “the Church recalls that God Himself never ceases to bless each of His pilgrim children in this world, because for Him ‘we are more important to God than all of the sins that we can commit’.  But he does not and cannot bless sin: he blesses sinful man, so that he may recognize that he is part of his plan of love and allow himself to be changed by him. He in fact ‘takes us as we are, but never leaves us as we are.’” The note makes two references to Pope Francis’ catechesis on prayer and blessing from his General Audience from December 2, 2020.

So, what has changed between that Response and the present Declaration? The Declaration upholds the Church’s teaching on Marriage and prohibits any type of liturgical blessing of any type of irregular union which could be confused with marriage. The Declaration has no intention of legitimizing anything outside of sacramental marriage. What the document seeks to do is to expand the understanding of blessings. The Explanatory Note from 2021 explained that Blessings belong to the category of the sacramentals, whereby the Church ‘calls us to praise God, encourages us to implore his protection, and exhorts us to seek his mercy by our holiness of life’. In addition, they ‘have been established as a kind of imitation of the sacraments, blessings are signs above all of spiritual effects that are achieved through the Church’s intercession’. Consequently, in order to conform with the nature of sacramentals, when a blessing is invoked on particular human relationships, in addition to the right intention of those who participate, it is necessary that what is blessed be objectively and positively ordered to receive and express grace, according to the designs of God inscribed in creation, and fully revealed by Christ the Lord. Therefore, only those realities which are in themselves ordered to serve those ends are congruent with the essence of the blessing imparted by the Church. For this reason, it is not licit to impart a blessing on relationships, or partnerships, even stable, that involve sexual activity outside of marriage (i.e., outside the indissoluble union of a man and a woman open in itself to the transmission of life), as is the case of the unions between persons of the same sex.

The present document differentiates between liturgical blessings as explained above and a different category of blessings – pastoral blessings given in a spontaneous way to those who request it even to those who are living in irregular unions.

The Declaration quotes Pope Francis who states, “when one asks for a blessing, one is expressing a petition for God’s assistance, a plea to live better, and confidence in a Father who can help us live better.” The Declaration goes on to say in paragraph 21, “people who come spontaneously to ask for a blessing 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.” Sadly, not all of those living in irregular unions who approach the Church asking for a blessing are open to such a conversion. There are those who seek the approval of the Church for their lifestyle and who fully intend to continue to live in sin. The 2021 Explanatory Note stated that the Church cannot bless sin.

The Declaration states many times that the proposed pastoral blessing should not be confused with a blessing of a union which resembles marriage. However, the very act of blessing a couple in an irregular union during a pilgrimage or while visiting a shrine could cause that type of confusion rather than avoiding it. The Declaration states that the pastoral blessings can be seen as a type of evangelization calling the couple to live with greater faithfulness. There is a danger that those seeking the blessing could see it as a permission to continue to live in sin with the blessing of the Church. When a priest gives a blessing, he doesn’t simply represent himself, he represents the Church. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states unequivocally: “‘homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered’. They are contrary to the natural law. They 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” (CCC 2357). This is the constant teaching of the Church, from the oldest biblical texts, through the New Testament and the teaching of the Church Fathers to the quoted documents of two years ago.

To sum up, the Declaration doesn’t force anyone to give such a pastoral blessing. It opens up the possibility of giving such a blessing. The prudence of the priest should be exercised in every situation. I would urge all of my confreres to read the Declaration along with the 2 documents from 2021 to have a better understanding of the pastoral situation.

The Declaration calls us in #39 to take precautions “to avoid any form of confusion or scandal when the prayer of blessing is requested by a couple in an irregular situation.” Blessing a couple in an irregular situation including same sex couples with a spontaneous pastoral blessing could lead to confusion because while the union is not being overtly blessed, the relationship between the couple could be seen by them to be legitimate. Therefore, after having received the approval of the General Council, I direct our confreres to not bless couples in irregular situations or same sex couples where we work. The purpose is to not confuse the faithful or to create scandal by seeming to legitimize a lifestyle that is not in keeping with the official teaching of the Church.

We can therefore prudently follow the advice of the Explanatory Note from 2021:

The answer to the proposed dubium does not preclude the blessings given to individual persons with homosexual inclinations, who manifest the will to live in fidelity to the revealed plans of God as proposed by Church teaching. Rather, it declares illicit any form of blessing that tends to acknowledge their unions as such. In this case, in fact, the blessing would manifest not the intention to entrust such individual persons to the protection and help of God, in the sense mentioned above, but to approve and encourage a choice and a way of life that cannot be recognized as objectively ordered to the revealed plans of God.

As Blessed George said on his deathbed, “close ranks and sacrifice yourselves:” Let us continue to live faithfully our Marian calling. Our Immaculate Mother Mary is constantly interceding for her sons and for Christ’s Church. She will help us to remain on the straight path. Let us pray for one another.

Immaculata Virginis Mariae Conceptio, sit nobis salus et protectio !

Sincerely yours in Christ,

Most Rev. Joseph G. Roesch, MIC
Superior General