Confusion or Obfuscation?

The Church cannot bless two people specifically in relation to a disordered coupling

Endless print and online controversy can be a bit much. News from inside the Vatican, for example, can yield TMI—too much information. Beware the perils of second-hand theological controversy.

Still, there are times when one might offer a comment or three. Consider some recent remarks of the Argentine theologian and cardinal-elect Víctor Manuel Fernández. He is the new prefect of the Vatican’s Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith.

News sources cite him as revealing that, in his new post, “I will do it ‘my way’ as the Italian song says.” Are we, then, to think of Frank Sinatra and the fabled “Rat Pack”? Another source reports him saying, “I tell them that I will learn from history, I will respect the processes, I will dialogue, but I will do it ‘my way.’” Golly. Is this a return to the self-referential?

To be sure, it can’t be pleasant to have one’s every word dissected. Best then to pay attention to what one says. A case in point is language about marriage. The prefect, we read, says that “I also understand that ‘marriage’ in the strict sense is only one thing: that stable union of two beings as different as male and female who in that difference are capable of engendering new life.” Yes, such is marriage, real marriage, and far from being an elusive ideal it is the vocation to which most of us are called.

The cardinal-elect goes on to say, “There is nothing that can be compared to that and to use that name to express something else is neither good nor right,” and adds, “At the same time, I believe that we must avoid gestures or actions that could express something different. That is why I think that the greatest care to be taken is to avoid rites or blessings that could feed that confusion.”

But then comes a qualification: “Now, if a blessing is given in such a way that it does not cause that confusion, it will have to be analyzed and confirmed.” Indeed, he continues, “As you will see, there is a point where we leave a properly theological discussion and move on to a question that is rather prudential or disciplinary.”

Well, then, might a modest proposal do the trick? To avoid confusion, before giving such a blessing, why not require the priest to simply read the cardinal-elect’s caveat? Perhaps doing so would promote dialogue and a deepening of thought.

Not so, gentle reader. That rubric wouldn’t suffice. And why not? Because the homosexual relation between the couple, the very relation that prompts them to ask for a blessing, is itself confused. Indeed, it is disordered in character.

As recently as 2021 the doctrinal office itself rejected such blessings. It noted that “they would constitute a certain imitation or analogue of the nuptial blessing invoked on the man and woman united in the sacrament of Matrimony, while in fact ‘there are absolutely no grounds for considering homosexual unions to be in any way similar or even remotely analogous to God’s plan for marriage and family,’” citing Pope Francis’s 2016 Amoris Laetitia. We can hardly overlook such magisterium dealing with moral and pastoral theology.

Here we might pause to compare and contrast. In confessing our sins, many of us begin by saying, “Bless me, Father, for I have sinned.” We do so because we have fallen short of living in fidelity to God’s love for us as proposed by the Church. But the blessing of a same-sex relationship would not be the blessing of an individual seeking forgiveness; rather, it would be the blessing of two people specifically in relation to an ongoing, “proud,” and disordered relationship.

At some point confusion becomes obfuscation, whether inside or outside the Vatican.


Jim Hanink is an independent scholar, albeit more independent than scholarly!

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