While progressives the likes of Malta Today gleefully report (rightly) that Pope Francis’s sophistically written answer to the dubia put forward to him by a number of cardinals will lead to the blessings of homosexual unions, faithful Catholics all over social media and the internet at large are protesting that in truth nothing has changed – that even if these unions can be blessed, the Pope has not changed anything and made it clear that homosexual unions cannot be equated to holy matrimony which remains a sacramental union between husband and wife.
As Fr. David Muscat (a person I greatly admire) put it – even his fluffy cat can be blessed – but then Fr. Muscat should know that his cat is incapable of sin let alone engage in what the catechism defines as ‘intrinsically disordered’ activity. And furthermore, the blessing is applied to the cat itself and not the activity it engages in.
It is simply untrue to state that nothing has changed. Things have changed, perhaps in ways, the Pope’s apologists have not yet thought about.
In order to show how things have changed, and the consequences they are likely to precipitate, I will quote extensively from the article by the Ex-Catholic (now Orthodox) author Rod Dreher, from his substack article called Psychological Man Has His Pope, which can be read in its entirety here.
Pope Francis has crossed a bright red line. He has given limited approval to same-sex blessings. Here is a link to the new dubia, and his responses. I’ve excerpted the subject of this post below:
2. Dubium about the claim that the widespread practice of the blessing of same-sex unions would be in accord with revelation and the magisterium (Catechism of the Catholic Church, No. 2357).
According to divine revelation, confirmed in sacred Scripture, which the Church “with a divine commission and with the help of the Holy Spirit, … listening to it devoutly, guarding it scrupulously and explaining it faithfully” (Dei Verbum, 10): “In the beginning” God created man in his own image, male and female he created them and blessed them, that they might be fruitful (cf. Gen. 1:27-28), whereby the apostle Paul teaches that to deny sexual difference is the consequence of the denial of the Creator (Rom 1:24-32). It is asked: Can the Church derogate from this “principle,” objectively sinful such as same-sex unions, without betraying revealed doctrine?
Pope Francis’ response: a) The Church has a very clear conception of marriage: an exclusive, stable, and indissoluble union between a man and a woman, naturally open to the begetting of children. It calls this union “marriage.” Other forms of union only realize it “in a partial and analogous way” (Amoris Laetitia, 292), and so they cannot be strictly called “marriage.”
b) It is not a mere question of names, but the reality that we call marriage has a unique essential constitution that demands an exclusive name, not applicable to other realities. It is undoubtedly much more than a mere “ideal.“
c) For this reason the Church avoids any kind of rite or sacramental that could contradict this conviction and give the impression that something that is not marriage is recognized as marriage.
d) In dealing with people, however, we must not lose the pastoral charity that must permeate all our decisions and attitudes. The defense of objective truth is not the only expression of this charity, which is also made up of kindness, patience, understanding, tenderness, and encouragement. Therefore, we cannot become judges who only deny, reject, exclude.
e) For this reason, pastoral prudence must adequately discern whether there are forms of blessing, requested by one or more persons, that do not transmit a mistaken conception of marriage. For when a blessing is requested, one is expressing a request for help from God, a plea for a better life, a trust in a Father who can help us to live better.
f) On the other hand, although there are situations that from an objective point of view are not morally acceptable, pastoral charity itself demands that we do not simply treat as “sinners“ other people whose guilt or responsibility may be due to their own fault or responsibility attenuated by various factors that influence subjective imputability (cf. St. John Paul II, Reconciliatio et Paenitentia, 17).
g) Decisions which, in certain circumstances, can form part of pastoral prudence, should not necessarily become a norm. That is to say, it is not appropriate for a diocese, an episcopal conference or any other ecclesial structure to constantly and officially authorize procedures or rites for all kinds of matters, since everything “what is part of a practical discernment in particular circumstances cannot be elevated to the level of a rule,“ because this “would lead to an intolerable casuistry“ (Amoris Laetitia, 304). Canon law should not and cannot cover everything, nor should the episcopal conferences claim to do so with their various documents and protocols, because the life of the Church runs through many channels in addition to the normative ones.
As is common with Francis, he is making a tectonic shift under the guise of a modest pastoral move. This is huge. Let me explain. First, take a look at this 2003 statement from Cardinal Ratzinger, then the head of the CDF, the Vatican’s doctrinal office, issued with the approval of Pope John Paul II. Excerpts (emphases all mine):
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. Marriage is holy, while homosexual acts go against the natural moral law. Homosexual acts “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”.
Sacred Scripture condemns homosexual acts “as a serious depravity... (cf. Rom 1:24-27; 1 Cor 6:10; 1 Tim 1:10). This judgment of Scripture does not of course permit us to conclude that all those who suffer from this anomaly are personally responsible for it, but it does attest to the fact that homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered”. This same moral judgment is found in many Christian writers of the first centuries and is unanimously accepted by Catholic Tradition.
Nonetheless, according to the teaching of the Church, men and women with homosexual tendencies “must be accepted with respect, compassion and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided”. They are called, like other Christians, to live the virtue of chastity. The homosexual inclination is however “objectively disordered” and homosexual practices are “sins gravely contrary to chastity”.
The Church teaches that respect for homosexual persons cannot lead in any way to approval of homosexual behaviour or to legal recognition of homosexual unions. The common good requires that laws recognize, promote and protect marriage as the basis of the family, the primary unit of society. Legal recognition of homosexual unions or placing them on the same level as marriage would mean not only the approval of deviant behaviour, with the consequence of making it a model in present-day society, but would also obscure basic values which belong to the common inheritance of humanity. The Church cannot fail to defend these values, for the good of men and women and for the good of society itself.
The Sovereign Pontiff John Paul II, in the Audience of March 28, 2003, approved the present Considerations, adopted in the Ordinary Session of this Congregation, and ordered their publication.
Rome, from the Offices of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, June 3, 2003, Memorial of Saint Charles Lwanga and his Companions, Martyrs.
To underscore the gravity of the statement, the CDF released it on the feast of African Catholics who were murdered by a depraved Ugandan king in part for refusing to have sex with him.
Now, only twenty years later, we have a pope saying it’s okay to bless same-sex couples as long as people don’t think it’s marriage, and as long as it doesn’t become an official norm. Francis said:
For when a blessing is requested, one is expressing a request for help from God, a plea for a better life, a trust in a Father who can help us to live better.
These couples are not asking for God’s help to live chastely. They are asking in part for a formal recognition from the Catholic Church of the validity of their relationship. They are asking for an unambiguous form of approval for what the Catholic Church still officially teaches are “sins gravely contrary to chastity,” and that two prior pontiffs (given that Ratzinger would succeed JP2) declared cannot be approved “under any circumstances.”
That’s all out the window now. What mushy nonsense that it’s to be restricted to the judgment of an individual pastor. This is going to quickly become a de facto norm all across the West. What happens to priests who refuse to perform these blessings? They will be called bigots by other Catholics, and thought so by young Catholics who have been raised in this permissive culture. They will be taunted as “more Catholic than the pope.”
You know who else is going to take this as a kick in the teeth? Schools and other Catholic institutions that try to serve Catholic orthodoxy. In American religious liberty jurisprudence, courts give a lot of leeway to churches and religious organizations to run their own affairs. Judges aren’t theologians. If a discrimination case is brought against the church institution by a gay plaintiff, the court only asks what a church’s theological position is, how long they have held it, and if they have defended it when challenged. Now Francis has probably blown that up. Whatever the catechism says, it is impossible to claim plausibly that the Catholic Church forbids homosexual acts when half the priests in town are blessing same-sex couples. Catholic schools and other Catholic institutions are probably going to lose these cases now.
This is how Francis effectively changes doctrine without changing doctrine. I’m sure we will have moral theologians telling us that Francis hasn’t really done anything big here, and that it’s not binding because of x, y, and z. Sorry, but I’m not buying it. If the Pope says that it’s okay to bless same-sex unions, then it will happen — and it will happen a lot, at least in the West. And once they become normative, the Catholic Church’s position will shift even more to the theological left, following Mainline Protestant churches…
Psychological Man now has his pope. Nobody is fooled: you cannot condemn as sinful something you permit your priests to bless. The Catechism may say (for now) that homosexuality is sinful, but let people see their priests blessing same-sex couples routinely for a couple of years, and those words on the page will be as if they were written in Aramaic and decipherable only by scholars.
Yes things have changed, and the liberals and liberal states not only know it – they will exploit it.