Reaction to Fiducia in US has revealed ‘enduring animus’ to ‘LGBT persons’, says key Pope ally

Newly elevated Cardinal, Monsignor Robert Walter McElroy gestures as he attends a courtesy visit of relatives following a consistory for the creation of 20 new cardinals by the Pope, on August 27, 2022 in The Vatican.

By John L Allen Jr

One of Pope Francis’s most vocal allies in the Church hierarchy in the United States has criticised the reaction among some Catholics in the country to Fiducia Supplicans.

Cardinal Robert McElroy of San Diego has said that while it’s fine for a priest concerned about protecting the institution of marriage to refuse to offer blessings of persons in same-sex relationships, much of the opposition in the US to a Vatican document authorising the non-liturgical blessings of couples in irregular situations, including same-sex couples, is rooted not in doctrinal principle but what he called an “enduring animus” against gays and lesbians.

“It is wholly legitimate for a priest to personally decline to perform the blessings outlined in Fiducia because he believes that to do so would undermine the strength of marriage,” the cardinal said on 16 February.

But, he went on to say, “it is particularly distressing in our own country that the opposition to Fiducia focuses overwhelmingly on blessing those in same-sex relationships, rather than those many more men and women who are in heterosexual relationships that are not ecclesially valid.”

McElroy, who’s widely seen as a leader of the progressive wing of the US Church and a strong Francis supporter, added: “It is crucial to emphasise that Fiducia simply clarified questions about the permissibility of a priest pastorally blessing persons in irregular or gay unions in a non-liturgical setting and manner. No change in doctrine was made.”

McElory didn’t specify which sorts of non-ecclesially valid relationships he had in mind, but couples who live together outside of marriage would come under this.

“If the reason for opposing such blessings is really that the practice will blur and undermine the commitment to marriage, then the opposition should, one thinks, be focusing at least equally on blessings for these heterosexual relationships in our country,” he said.

“We all know why it is not,” McElroy said, attributing it to “an enduring animus among far too many toward LGBT persons”.

Noting that Fiducia Supplicans has stirred intense debate around the world, including a statement from the bishops of Africa to the effect that such blessings would be inappropriate in their cultural context, McElroy cited these “diverging pastoral paths” as a positive example of decentralisation.

“We have witnessed the reality that bishops in various parts of the world have made radically divergent decisions about the acceptability of such blessings in their countries, based substantially on cultural and pastoral factors as well as neo-colonialism,” he said.

“This is decentralisation in the life of the global Church,” McElory said, implying that such differences in principle can be positive, reflecting adaptation to local cultures.

Nonetheless, he insisted that decentralisation should not become an excuse for anti-gay prejudice.

“This decentralization must not obscure in any manner the religious obligation of every local church in justice and solidarity to protect LGBT persons in their lives and equal dignity,” he said.

McElroy, 70, was speaking during a session of the Religious Education Congress sponsored by the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, the largest annual Catholic gathering in North America, on the subject of Pope Francis’s ongoing Synod of Bishops on Synodality.

McElroy said that in the listening sessions which led up to last October’s month-long meeting of the synod in Rome, issues related to the LGBT+ community loomed large.

“The searing question of the Church’s treatment of LGBT+ persons was an immensely prominent facet of the synodal dialogues,” he said. “Anguished voices within the LGBT communities, in unison with their families, cried out against the perception that they are condemned by the Church and individual Catholics in a devastating way.”

McElroy conceded that among the bishops and other participants gathered in Rome, there was disagreement on the subject, listing it among what he called areas of “deep divide” in the assembly. The other areas included how to empower laity without undercutting the hierarchical nature of the Church, the extent and limits of inculturation and decentralisation, and the possible ordination of women deacons.

McElory also described areas of strong consensus in the meeting, such as the need to open up more roles in the Church to laity. He cited the example of how in his own diocese he was unable to name a veteran administrator to the role of “moderator of the curia” because, under existing church law, that role is restricted to priests.

As a result, McElroy told the crowd, he simply appointed the layman as “vice-moderator of the curia” and refused to select a moderator. He predicted that when the Synod of Bishops reaches its conclusion this October, reforms on such matters could come quickly.

“I think there will be a lot of progress on questions like this,” he said.

In terms of the single most powerful theme to emerge from last October’s summit, McElory said it was the sense that the time has come for a “paradigm shift” with regard to the inclusion of women in the Church.

McElroy said that while there were contrasting opinions on women deacons, a more “full-bodied” discussion ensued beyond a “binary” yes or no. For example, he said there was some discussion of perhaps ending the transitional diaconate, which would make ordination as a deacon the final step before priesthood.

Doing so, McElroy said, might sever the connection between the diaconate and the priesthood, which “could make it easier to have women deacons”.

In response to question about the perception that certain American bishops are anti-Francis, McElroy said the political dimension is less important than a bishop having a pastoral orientation.

“The ultimate criterion for a bishop is, is he pastoral? The question of whether he’s strongly pro-Francis, medium Pope Francis, Okay but not great with Pope Francis, leaning for or against, is secondary,” he said.

Going forward, he explained, a major practical challenge for the Church will be to find ways to make it more participatory and rooted in listening, but without replicating the cumbersome system of the synod itself.

“The process of discernment used in Rome is far too time-consuming to use with regularity in parish and diocesan life and decision-making,” he said. “It won’t work here.”

Instead, McElroy called for “analogical methods of discernment” which would be “practical for general use in our diocese and our parishes and groups of faith”.

With regard to Catholic doctrine, without offering specific examples McElroy suggested that in general it is time for change.

“It is becoming clear that on some issues, the understanding of human nature and moral reality upon which previous declarations of doctrine were made were in fact limited or defective,” McElroy said.

Pope Francis: To be ‘scandalized’ by gay couple blessings is ‘hypocrisy’

Pope Francis greets pilgrims at his general audience on Wednesday, Jan. 24, 2024, at the Paul VI Audience Hall at the Vatican.

By Matthew Santucci

Pope Francis this week again defended the Vatican’s controversial document authorizing blessings for same-sex couples, with the Holy Father arguing that humans “must all respect each other” and stating that blessings should be extended to “everyone.”

The pope’s comments come from an exclusive Italian-language interview he gave to the Italian weekly print periodical Credere, which will be available in newsstands across Italy on Thursday.

When asked by editor Father Vincenzo Vitale about Fiducia Supplicans — the December document published by the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith (DDF) that authorized nonliturgical blessings for same-sex couples and others in “irregular situations” — the pope said that “the gravest sins … are those that disguise themselves with a more ‘angelic’ appearance.”

“No one is scandalized if I give a blessing to an entrepreneur who perhaps exploits people: and this is a very serious sin,” the Holy Father said. “Whereas they are scandalized if I give it to a homosexual … This is hypocrisy! We must all respect each other. Everyone.”

“I don’t bless a ‘homosexual marriage,’” the pope said. “I bless two people who love each other and I also ask them to pray for me.”

“Always in confessions, when these situations arrive, homosexual people, remarried people, I always pray and bless,” he continued. “The blessing is not to be denied to anyone. Everyone, everyone. Mind you, I am talking about people: those who are capable of receiving baptism,” Francis continued.

Pope Francis has come to the defense of the document several times since its publication. In a Jan. 26 audience with members of the DDF, the pope said that “moral perfection” isn’t a requirement for receiving a blessing.

The intent of the blessings, the pope said at the time, is “to concretely show the closeness of the Lord and of the Church to all those who, finding themselves in different situations, ask help to carry on — sometimes to begin — a journey of faith.”

Those comments came after the 87-year-old pontiff appeared on the Italian prime-time TV talk show “Che Tempo Che Fa” on Jan. 14, which he joined via livestream from his residence at Casa Santa Marta.

Answering questions regarding Fiducia Supplicans, the pope said that “the Lord blesses everyone who is capable of being baptized, that is, every person.”

“But we are to take them by the hand and help them go down that road, not condemn them from the beginning,” he told the network. “And this is the pastoral work of the Church. This is very important work for confessors.”

The pope’s comments at Credere come amid continuing controversy over Fiducia Supplicans, which has been met with widespread criticism and concern centered on how it might be misconstrued. Backlash has come particularly from Church leaders in Africa and Eastern Europe.

Credere, which is part of the San Paolo Editorial Group and available only in print, was established on the occasion of the election of Pope Francis in 2013.

It is distributed throughout Italy with a weekly circulation of 60,000 copies and 200,000 readers, the Italian daily newspaper La Stampa reported.

Complete Article HERE!

Pope Francis says opponents of gay couples blessings are ‘small ideological groups’ and Africans

Pope Francis leads the Angelus prayer at the Vatican, Jan 7, 2024.

By Anugrah Kumar

Addressing the controversy surrounding the Vatican’s decision to allow blessings for same-sex couples, Pope Francis said the critics of the guidance, except for Africans, belong to “small ideological groups.”

The pontiff claimed that even in Africa, the resistance is more cultural, as homosexuality is generally not tolerated, Reuters quoted him as saying in an interview with the Italian newspaper La Stampa.

Francis was referring to the December 2023 document “Fiducia Supplicans” issued by the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, which has sparked widespread debate within the Catholic Church. The guidance stated that priests may bless same-sex couples that approach them for blessings but distinguishes between liturgical blessings and pastoral blessings, which do not give approval to same-sex relationships.

“Those who protest vehemently belong to small ideological groups,” Francis was quoted as saying. “A special case are Africans: for them homosexuality is something ‘bad’ from a cultural point of view, they don’t tolerate it.”

“But in general, I trust that gradually everyone will be reassured by the spirit of the ‘Fiducia Supplicans’ declaration by the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith: it aims to include, not divide,” the pope said.

He acknowledged the strong resistance from African bishops as there are harsh legal penalties for same-sex relationships in some African countries. The pope stressed the importance of context and sensitivity when blessing same-sex couples.

Pope Francis remains undeterred despite opposition from some theological conservatives. He advised focusing on moving forward rather than dwelling on talks of schism, which he believes are led by small groups.

“We must leave them to it and move on … and look forward,” he said.

In his remarks at the plenary session of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith last Friday, Pope Francis clarified that the Church’s teachings on homosexual practices and same-sex relationships remain unchanged. The “Fiducia Supplicans” declaration, while allowing blessings for same-sex couples, does not equate these blessings with marriage, nor does it validate relationships deemed irregular by the Church.

The Pope explained that these blessings are meant to demonstrate the Church’s closeness to those in various situations without demanding moral perfection. He emphasized that the blessings are for the individuals, not the union, and should consider the local context and sensitivities.

Cardinal Victor Manuel Fernandez, author of the declaration, released a statement earlier this month to clarify the document’s intent. He stated that the blessings, lasting no more than 15 seconds, are a pastoral response and do not justify anything morally unacceptable. The declaration has faced opposition from some bishops, like the leader of the Archdiocese of Saint Mary in Astana, Kazakhstan, who has prohibited these blessings in his diocese.

The Vatican’s guidance is part of a series of responses to questions from bishops worldwide. It includes clarifications on issues like the eligibility of single mothers who have confessed their sins to receive the eucharist.

Complete Article HERE!

The Brazilian bishop who took the first step toward the Catholic Church embracing LGBTQ+ people

— The prelate of the diocese of Santo Amaro, in São Paulo, Brazil, submitted the consultation to the Vatican. That inquiry led to the authorization to baptize the LGBTQ+ faithful, who can also be godparents and witnesses to a wedding

Bishop José Negri (left, with miter and crosier) in São Paulo, Brazil on January 24.

By Naiara Galarraga Gortázar

The next lesbian, gay, or transgender person to be the godparent of a baby baptized in a Catholic parish, or in a cathedral, in any corner of the world, may not know what led him or her to assume that crucial responsibility in the eyes of the Roman Catholic Church. But the process began in Brazil, in the office of a bishop in São Paulo. Specifically, it started with a letter with six questions addressed to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and signed by Bishop José Negri, of the diocese of Santo Amaro, in the southern part of Latin America’s most populous city. The Holy See received the letter on July 14 and responded almost four months later with a decision signed by Pope Francis. The news was made public at the beginning of November. In summary, trans Catholics can be baptized, but it is not a right and requires avoiding disconcerting believers and public scandal. A same-sex couple’s children can receive the same sacrament as long as there is a well-founded hope that they will be educated in the Catholic faith. They can all serve as witnesses for a wedding.

Bishop Negri raised the six questions clearly and directly. The first question: “Can a trans person be baptized?” The fourth inquiry: “Can a same-sex couple appear as the progenitors of a child to be baptized if he or she was adopted or conceived through other methods, such as surrogacy?” The response from the body that deals with the Church’s doctrinal and theological questions — the former Inquisition — was also concise in its three-page answer, which included multiple footnotes. The Brazilian prelate declined this newspaper’s request to be interviewed about his consultation and its consequences.

The decision on whether LGBTQ+ Catholics can receive some sacraments has caused less of a stir than another of the Pontiff’s rulings (unrelated to Negri)—this one announced in December—which deepens his policy of the institution’s openness. The Vatican approved the blessing of same-sex couples, but, importantly, without equating it to marriage. The decision has even caused a small rebellion on the part of Peru’s clergy.

The diocesan prelate, known here as Dom José, was born in Milan, Italy, as Giuseppe, but he has lived in Brazil since his 20s. He has a degree in Psychology from the Gregorian University in Rome. He has a slight Italian accent, is 64 years old and boasts 132,000 Instagram followers, almost ten times more than the diocese he leads. The publications from the day last November when the Vatican announced its response to his query do not refer to the matter.

But, like Argentina’s Jorge Mario Bergoglio, Negri is in favor of the Catholic hierarchy “listening to the peripheries,” be they urban, social or economic. Previously, he was bishop in Blumenau, in the whitest part of Brazil, a land colonized by German immigrants who preserve the language and even celebrate Oktoberfest. A few years ago, he chaired the Brazilian Episcopal Conference’s child protection committee; at the time, he pledged that the Church would firmly confront the sexual abuse in its midst.

The bishop of Santo Amaro “is on the most conservative spectrum” of the Church in Brazil and “is prudent as a bishop,” explains Paulo Ricardo, of the (Instituto de Estudos da Religião) Institute of Religious Studies. The diocese over which he presides includes some two million Catholics and owes its fame to Father Marcelo Rossi, of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal movement, which was a true mass phenomenon in the 1990s thanks to his records, a Latin Grammy, show masses and modern methods of evangelization.

The fact that this consultation on LGBTQ+ people reached the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith from Brazil is not so surprising if one considers that the South American country is one of the nations where the Catholic Church has more faithful, although the group is dwindling in the face of a strong push by

evangelicals. Same-sex marriage has been legal for over a decade. Fifteen years have passed since the public health system performed the first gender-affirming procedure. And while Brazil is the country where the most trans people are murdered (among those countries that record such crimes), they are also represented in many areas of society and have tremendous visibility. Indeed, there are two trans deputies in Brazil’s national congress and another two in state legislatures.

obispo José Negri
Bishop José Negri (right) last Wednesday.

Luis Rabello, 35, the executive secretary of the Brazilian network of LGBTQ+ Catholic groups, welcomes the changes introduced by Pope Francis because “they serve to give visibility” to a group that “has always existed in the Church, both among the faithful and as catechists.” He is happy that the Vatican has finally adopted norms to resolve issues that until now have been handled on a case-by-case basis. On the phone from Brasilia, he recalls a case from a few years ago: a trans woman who had undergone gender-affirming surgery requested that her dead name — the name on her birth certificate — be replaced by her new one on her baptismal certificate. She got her wish. It happened in Curitiba, a city in southern Brazil.

The representative of LGBTQ+ Catholics in Brazil maintains that Bishop Negri’s questions for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith responds to a social demand. “LGBTQ+ people are demanding more space in the Church; they are demanding respect.” He explains that it is a trend that has grown in recent years with social changes and the LGBTQ+ community’s inspired by the current Pontiff’s gestures. Rabello notes that Pope Francis has received trans people in the Holy See. A civil servant by profession, he believes the recent Vatican rulings are “very important for educating priests, bishops…”

Brazil has about 20 LGBTQ+ Catholic groups spread over 10 states that meet in person, plus virtual ones, including one for non-binary people. A priest from the diocese of Santo Amaro, Father Negri’s diocese, monitors these groups, Rabello says.

Pope Francis has a very special place in the hearts of Brazilian LGBTQ+ Catholics for the answer he gave a Brazilian journalist in 2013 on the return flight from his visit to Brazil. “Francis spoke for the first time about LGBTQ+ people; [he was] the first pope to utter the word gay!” Rabello recalls. It was a revolution in an institution with two millennia of history. That gesture and the ones that followed encouraged the LGBTQ+ faithful to seek more information and to ask their parishes about baptism, marriage and being godparents for baptisms and weddings.

Last October, Bishop Negri spoke a little about his childhood during an interview with another priest — both in collars — during the so-called diocesan youth meeting. He recalled that his grandmother introduced him to the Church and taught him the Rosary (which she recited in Latin). “My ideal was to be an altar boy, but Jesus wanted something else,” he explained. The motto of that youthful encounter sounded provocative: “You seduced me, Lord, and I let myself be seduced.” Bishop Negri took advantage of the occasion to announce that he was organizing a big event “to evangelize en masse, in schools, in subway stations, at bus stops, in universities…”. The battle between Catholics and Evangelicals for the souls of over 200 million Brazilians is intense.

Complete Article HERE!

Pope Francis says sexual pleasure ‘a gift from God’

Pope Francis presides over the funeral of Italian Cardinal Sergio Sebastiani at the altar of the Chair in St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican, on January 17, 2024.

By Laura Gozzi

Pope Francis has said that sexual pleasure is “a gift from God” that should be “disciplined with patience.”

He also warned against pornography, which he said brought “satisfaction without relationship” and could lead to addiction.

The pope was speaking at his general audience in the Vatican on Wednesday.

The address, part of a series of sermons on vices and virtues, focused on what the pope called “the demon of lust”.

The pontiff said that lust “devastates relationships between people” and added that “daily news is enough to document this reality”.

“How many relationships that started out in the best way have later become toxic relationships?” he asked.

The pope made the comments days after his new head of doctrine, Cardinal Victor Manuel Fernández, came under fire for a book he wrote and published in the late 1990s entitled Mystical Passion: Spirituality and Sensuality.

The book, which is now out of print, discussed human sexuality and provided detailed descriptions of male and female experiences during orgasms. Speaking to Catholic online publication Crux, Cardinal Fernández said he wrote the book when he was still young and he “certainly would not” write it now.

Conservative commentators have called the book “perverse”, with one saying it showed Cardinal Fernández was “unfit” to be prefect of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith.

This is not the first time Pope Francis or Cardinal Fernández have drawn the ire of conservative members of the Catholic community.

In December, Cardinal Fernández introduced a text, later approved by Pope Francis, detailing guidelines allowing priests to bless same-sex couples relationships that were still considered sinful.

Although Cardinal Fernández did emphasise that the stance did not validate the status of same-sex couples in the eyes of the Catholic Church, for many conservatives the damage was done.

Cardinal Gerhard Müller, who was the church’s head of doctrine under Pope Benedict XVI, firmly denounced the Vatican’s document. In a lengthy response posted online, Cardinal Müller said that a priest blessing a homosexual union would be committing a “sacrilegious and blasphemous act”.

“According to the criterion of this type of blessings, one could even bless an abortion clinic or a mafia group,” Cardinal Müller said.

Prelates around the world also released statements condemning the decision, including American conservatives, who have long been vocal in opposing the pope’s plans for reforming the Catholic Church.

Tensions reached a nadir when the pope evicted outspoken critic US Cardinal Raymond Burke from his Vatican apartment and revoked his salary.

Complete Article HERE!