Thursday, January 11, 2024

FIUV's Reactions to Fiducia supplicans

Dr. Joseph Shaw, FIUV President

From the President: Pope Francis risks his authority over the blessing of irregular unions

In this second President’s Bulletin I wish to consider international reactions to Pope Francis’ recent document, issued by the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, on the blessing of irregular unions (same sex unions, illicit second marriages, and so on). I considered the meaning and intentions of the document in a message to supporters of the Latin Mass Society, here. Links to documents quoted below can be found here.

Positive reactions

The President of the German Bishops’ conference has welcomed the document, though his lay counterparts on the Catholic Central Committee see it only as a positive step. It is difficult to imagine what next step could be taken which is not explicitly ruled out by the document itself, but they tell us that 'to be Catholic in these times means to expect change.'

The celebrity American homosexual priest James Martin SJ reacted by posting a photo of him blessing a same-sex couple.

Neutral reactions

Some conservative bishops in Europe and America have issued statements that welcome the document but emphasise its limitations rather than any new possibilities.

Negative reactions from liberals

A homosexual lapsed Catholic writer in the left wing secular British newspaper The Guardian was in no way mollified by the document. 'That’s not a blessing, it’s an insult.'

Former Irish President Mary MacAleese said it was 'nowhere near enough', but nevertheless 'a massive climbdown by Pope Francis and the DDF.'

Negative Reactions from Bishops’ Conferences

What is most striking is the reaction of Bishops’ Conferences. A refusal to countenance the blessing of irregular unions has now been expressed by the bishops of Kazakhstan, Ukraine, Malawi, Zambia, Cameroon and Nigeria. I will try to keep my collection of their comments here up to date, as more statements are being published by the hour.

Similar is the statement of the English Confraternity of Catholic Clergy, a conservative grouping with sister organisations in Australia and the USA.


With Fidudia supplicans Pope Francis generated many positive headlines from the liberal Catholic and secular Western press, and reassured German liberals that he was still willing to advance their agenda, balancing recent statements which seemed to go against them. As the dust has settled, however, things have become more complicated.

Conservative Western bishops instinctively avoid making statements on homosexuality and divorce, because of the attitude of the secular press and so many among of their own flocks. It is no surprise, therefore, that they have reacted to this latest document as they have.

African bishops, by contrast, are very aware of the danger of public scandal on this issue. The bishops of Kazakhstan and Ukraine, again, are mindful of the attitude of Russian Orthodox believers, and of Vladimir Putin’s periodic attempts to present himself as the champion of authentic Christian values.

Pope Francis and his advisers may have thought that a concession to sexual libertinism that is more symbolic than real would be an easy victory, but this ignores the non-Western perspective.

The net result is that is that Pope Francis' authority being questioned as never before, with opposition coming from a new quarter: not Americans or liturgical traditionalists, but the 'peripheries', above all Africa.

We must ask the Christ Child, whose coming into the world we are soon to celebrate, to maintain in all our bishops His purity of heart, and to hold them steady to the injunction of St Paul: nolite conformari huic sæculo: ‘Be not conformed to this world’ (Romans 12:2).

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