Statement on Fiducia Supplicans for the Diocese of Wichita
Dear People of God in the Diocese of Wichita,
In light of the recent Declaration Fiducia Supplicans, issued on December 18, 2023, and signed by Pope Francis, I join my brother bishops in the United States Bishops Conference’ statement which says, “The Declaration issued today by the Vatican’s Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith (DDF) articulated a distinction between liturgical (sacramental) blessings and pastoral blessings, which may be given to persons who desire God’s loving grace in their lives. The Church’s teaching on marriage has not changed and this declaration affirms that, while also making an effort to accompany people through the imparting of pastoral blessings, because each of us needs God’s healing love and mercy in our lives.”
We priests are frequently asked for blessings, often at spontaneous moments when a person presents themselves to seek God’s blessing in their lives. This is a beautiful and worthy practice and we, who are ordained, love to impart these blessings, asking no requirements or imposing any conditions to give them. This is the pastoral blessing Pope Francis is speaking of in the Declaration. As such, anyone, regardless of their moral state, can and should be given these blessings, if in fact, they request them in sincerity of heart.
Having said this, however, these blessings can cause doubts and confusion when they are extended to couples who are in irregular unions that can never be validated by the Church’s ordained ministers. The Church’s ordained ministers must be exceedingly careful not to give any semblance of legitimizing these unions by such blessings, something which the document calls for in the clearest terms. The document, in paragraph 39, states, “In any case, precisely to avoid 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.”
I therefore urge our priests and deacons to exercise what the document calls for, a “prudent and fatherly discernment,” by exercising caution in any given situation that what is sought by such blessings cannot be interpreted either by those who receive them or by those who witness them as something other than a simple blessing. At the same time, I urge our priests to exercise pastoral charity by receiving and welcoming all God’s children who seek God’s daily assistance for their lives with a sincere heart.
Please keep the Church in your prayers as it fulfills its mission in this world to save souls and to bring us all into God’s eternal Kingdom.
May God bless you!
Bishop Carl A. Kemme