Has Pope Francis just green-lighted same-sex marriage? Nope

It’s not the Christmas present the world expected from the Vatican: a document approving blessings for same-sex couples. Fiducia Supplicans, to use its official Latin name, is a short theological document which clarifies the position of Pope Francis on this controversial issue.

The internet lit up like a Christmas tree. “Gay rights groups celebrate Pope Francis’s ‘early Christmas gift’ to LGBTQ+ couples” was the headline in Pink News. And that was the vibe around the globe. The statement was interpreted as a cautious step toward same-sex marriage.

The idea that Santa Claus left the North Pole early was reflected in the headlines:

“Vatican approves blessings for same-sex couples in landmark ruling for LGBTQ Catholics” ABC News (Australia)

“Vatican gives conditional approval to blessings for same-sex couples” The Guardian

“Pope Francis Allows Priests to Bless Same-Sex Couples” The New York Times

“Pope Francis approves blessing same-sex couples in ‘major step forward’” LGBTQ Nation

After Christmas, when people kick the tyres and give it a test drive, they may not be so enthusiastic. For Fiducia Supplicans is as uncompromising as ever in excluding homosexual relations as morally acceptable. Here are two excerpts from the text:

Therefore, rites and prayers that could create confusion between what constitutes marriage—which is the “exclusive, stable, and indissoluble union between a man and a woman, naturally open to the generation of children”—and what contradicts it are inadmissible. This conviction is grounded in the perennial Catholic doctrine of marriage; it is only in this context that sexual relations find their natural, proper, and fully human meaning. The Church’s doctrine on this point remains firm.

… the Church has always considered only those sexual relations that are lived out within marriage to be morally licit, the Church does not have the power to confer its liturgical blessing when that would somehow offer a form of moral legitimacy to a union that presumes to be a marriage or to an extra-marital sexual practice.

So if Pope Francis – who approved, but did not write the document – still believes that marriage is only for a man and a woman, what’s the point of his Christmas present?

Nowadays, same-sex unions are so common that it’s impossible for the Church to ignore people who try to find their happiness in these domestic arrangements. The subtext of the document is that they are wounded and need help. Pope Francis is a big fan of the Good Samaritan; he wants Catholics to step off the beaten track and apply wine and oil to those wounds.

A gay couple who asks a Catholic priest for a blessing is making a significant step in their relationship with God and the Church. Fiducia Supplicans says:

One who asks for a blessing show himself to be in need of God’s saving presence in his life and one who asks for a blessing from the Church recognizes the latter as a sacrament of the salvation that God offers. To seek a blessing in the Church is to acknowledge that the life of the Church springs from the womb of God’s mercy and helps us to move forward, to live better, and to respond to the Lord’s will.

In other words, their request for a blessing is being interpreted as a call for help in their journey towards setting themselves right with God. The priest and the Levite tiptoed around the man who had fallen amongst thieves in the parable of the Good Samaritan. That’s not Pope Francis’s style.



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And there’s another caveat. Fiducia Supplicans makes it very clear that a blessing should not be converted into the formality of a ritual, lest it be interpreted as approval of same-sex unions. The blessing should be sincere, but spontaneous and informal:

… the ordained minister could ask that the individuals have peace, health, a spirit of patience, dialogue, and mutual assistance—but also God’s light and strength to be able to fulfill his will completely.

“To fulfill his will completely” – in other words, abandon homosexual relations.

The same approach to blessing “irregular relationships” applies to heterosexual couples who are living together. A blessing should not confuse and disorient other believers:  

In any case, precisely to avoid any form of confusion or scandal, when the prayer of blessing is requested by a couple in an irregular situation, even though it is expressed outside the rites prescribed by the liturgical books, this blessing should never be imparted in concurrence with the ceremonies of a civil union, and not even in connection with them. Nor can it be performed with any clothing, gestures, or words that are proper to a wedding. The same applies when the blessing is requested by a same-sex couple.

Many Catholics are going to be disconcerted by the idea that gay couples can now receive a blessing from a priest. The point is, however, that the priest is blessing not the relationship but the persons. It has been done before. When the late Cardinal George Pell was celebrating Mass in Melbourne, gay marriage campaigners in rainbow sashes approached him for Holy Communion. He refused – but he gave each of them his blessing, no doubt praying silently for their conversion.

So blessing same-sex couples and de facto couples is a good product.

But just because a product works doesn’t mean that its marketing campaign makes sense. Most people learn what the Catholic Church teaches from headlines, sound bites and tweets, not sermons and Catholic newspapers. And these are almost all framing Fiducia Supplicans as a step towards same-sex marriage.

It’s not! Read the terms and conditions, the Vatican may say.

But who ever reads the Ts & Cs? Not lay people, and probably not even most priests and bishops. The Vatican’s marketing department has its work cut out.  

Michael Cook is editor of Mercator  

Image credits: Bigstock 


Showing 11 reactions

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  • Janet Grevillea
    Michael Cook why do you want to be “inclusive”? That is a term much loved by the transgender movement. Peter Boghossian explains that in that context “inclusion” means “restricted speech.” (see below).

    TQ people who are keen to be inclusive actually exclude people.

    For example the Pride Centre in Melbourne, built for the movement by the Victorian Government at the cost of $53 million, will not allow Lesbians to hold a female-only event on its premises. because, according to Pride, some men who identify as women, men with intact male genitalia, claim to be lesbians because they are sexually attracted to women. The only way Lesbians can be included at the centre is to redefine themselves to include men with male genitalia and, presumably, accept their sexual advances.

    The Australian Human Rights Commission agrees with Pride. Like many other national government and media bodies (including Guardian Australia which only will not publish anything at all that casts doubt on the gender ideology movement, publishing only happy stories about trans.

    The AHRC endorses gender ideology. This is the new national religion.

    If you want an acronym that is truly inclusive, perhaps you will have to include the initials of all the religious bodies in Australia.

    Here is a short video on inclusion by Peter Boghossian: https://boghossian.substack.com/p/woke-in-plain-english-inclusion
  • Michael Cook
    commented 2023-12-24 22:44:00 +1100
    Yes, this is a tricky editorial decision. We normally do that to be inclusive. There doesn’t seem to be a standard acronym. In fact, the unity implied by L+G+B+T+Q+I+ is factitious. The Guardian normally uses “LGBTQ+”. The New York Times uses “LGBTQ”.
  • Janet Grevillea
    Michael Cook I wish you would stop using that acronym “LGBTQI+” which many people supposedly included in the line-up find offensive and utterly misleading.

    For a start the letter “I” stands for “intersex” which is a misleading term, usually replaced nowadays by “DSD” (differences in sexual development". The small number of people with DSD do not belong in the TQ world. So best to omit the letter “I”.

    Many LGB people object to being included in the acronym, that is they do not like being “force-teamed” with trans-queer people because the two groups have incompatible beliefs. LGB people believe that there is such a thing as biological sex. A Lesbian is a person of the female sex. A gay man is a person of the male sex.

    Trans-queer people accept and aggressively promote gender-ideology, which ignores biological sex in favour of an individual’s sense of gender (i.e. which sex-role stereotypes they feel drawn to abide by). The TQ movement is anti-homosexual. Gender clinics are busy transforming young people with homosexual tendencies into transgender people. If they succeed in what they are doing there will be no homosexual people left.

    The acronym you have used is favoured by trans-queer people and so is best reduced to “TQ”.
  • mrscracker
    “Nice idea but not popular in Africa. "
    Well Mr. Trotsky, Africa doesn’t have the same lobbying interests the declining West does. One day things will shift though.
  • Jürgen Siemer
    commented 2023-12-22 23:53:03 +1100
    I agree.
  • Michael Cook
    commented 2023-12-22 21:26:09 +1100
    Thank you for your kind words, Jürgen. What I found interesting about the text of the original document is that, as I read it, it takes for granted that people with homosexual tendencies are wounded and in need of help. This is vehemently denied by LGBTQI+ activists, who contend that theirs is a special sort of love. I imagine that it will be difficult for priests and bishops to balance compassion, forgiveness and correction.
  • Jürgen Siemer
    commented 2023-12-22 19:03:24 +1100
    Dear Michael, I really appreciate your work. Your thoughts are an inspiration.

    I am a catholic, so I will never leave my church, which struggles with its own sins and errors, because our church has a divine core or spirit or holiness in it, although often buried under sins, politics and bureaucracy.

    With regard to the matter discussed here: a “second degree” blessing of people who happen to stand next to each other and who are not willing to change their life, to confess their sin (a sin everybody knows about and these two people seek acceptance of) and who are not willing at least to commit to try to end their sinful actions, is simply not defendable.

    It is the Karl Rahner approach of opening a window to the evil while at the same time creating the appearance, that church doctrine has still not been violated.

    The Pope remains the Pope until God recalls him. And we will not start a revolution.

    We are, however, not obliged to defend all his actions, no matter what, and we should keep our right to remain loyal to our catholic tradition

    I trust that there will be a St.Paul or St.Athanasius, somebody with holiness and authority (so not myself), who may challenge St.Peter and succeed.
  • Steven Meyer
    commented 2023-12-22 11:08:03 +1100
    Once again I think you God for making me an atheist so I don’t have to devote any headspace to this.
  • Trotsky Lives!
    commented 2023-12-22 08:51:52 +1100
    Nice idea but not popular in Africa. "The Episcopal Conference of Malawi wrote in a letter, “to avoid creating confusion among the faithful we direct that for pastoral reasons, blessings of any kind and for same sex unions of any kind are not permitted in Malawi.”
  • mrscracker
    Blessing individuals is one thing, blessing couples is another. Priests ministering to correctional facilities will be asked for a blessing by offenders who have been convicted of the worst crimes imaginable, but they don’t ask a blessing on their offenses.
    The devil uses every opportunity to confuse, demoralize, & discourage us. Christ spoke in clear language that simple everyday folk could understand. I wish the Vatican could occasionally do likewise.
  • Michael Cook
    published this page in The Latest 2023-12-21 20:19:13 +1100