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Pope Francis stirred a hornet’s nest with Fiducia Supplicans

Pope Francis continues to amaze with his imprimatur on same sex blessing. Fiducia Supplicans (Supplicating Trust) is a doctrinal declaration from the Holy See’s Dicastery for the Doctrine of Faith that allows Catholic priests to bless couples who are “in irregular situations and same sex without officially changing their status or changing in any way the Church’s perennial teaching on marriage.”

The Declaration allows priest’s blessing on cohabiting couples, adulterous couples, polygamous relationships, divorced and remarried unions, or same sex unions. It also emphasizes the need for spontaneous blessing and to avoid the appearance of a liturgical rite that can give the impression other than a simple blessing requested by a person.

Predictably, it created a firestorm for conservatives who saw “a change in the Church doctrine about marriage” upon seeing same sex couples being blessed in the same sentence. Critics pointed a finger at the pope that “he is wrong.” While the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) leadership “understood it clearly,” many Filipino Catholics disagreed with allowing “couples in problematic and difficult situations,” to receive such blessings. “It’s wrong,” they said.

Well, many Filipino Catholics will have trouble grasping the essence of Fiducia because one sees immorality written all over it and the judgment that follows. “Mga makasalanan yan,” (they are all sinners) one would say. “Dapat sa impyerno sila instead na ma-bless.” (They should go to hell instead of being blessed). Such reactions are understandable of Filipino Catholics making moral judgments because all their lives, the Church kept hammering home two ad-hominem sermons on Sundays: Guilt and fear.

Many Filipino Catholics don’t even realize that the very irregular situations alluded to in the declaration is already done regularly. How many Filipino Catholics who attend Sunday masses and partake in the Holy Communion who are in “difficult situations?” The answer is TNTC – too numerous to count. “Kabit (mistress), may kabit, corrupt, abetting corruption, thief, drug dealer,” and the list is long. “Don’t ask, don’t tell,” don’t go to confession or just practice omerta is the common practice for stealth. Conscience is not required. Just wear your Sunday clothes and appear meek.

This is the duality of Filipino Catholics who can be involved in “difficult situations” themselves but are spontaneous in condemning others. Many don’t grasp the meaning of mercy other than “maawa kayo” (pity me), if caught in a difficult situation like being caught with a kabit. Also, Filipinos are notorious about asking priests to bless a new car, a new house, a rosary or even a new gun. The motive, clearly, is protection from bad spirits, even when the spirit of the glass is passed around after the blessing.

Seriously, people in difficult situations can ask for blessing too because they’re submitting themselves to God’s mercy and grace. If one has been paying attention about this pope is that he has been trying to reverse Catholics’ understanding of mercy and poverty. Pope Francis wants a poor Church for the poor that is characterized by mercy. “Who am I to judge? We are all sinners,” said the Jesuit pope. When he proclaimed in Lisbon, Portugal that everyone is welcome “Todos, todos, todos;” he meant it.

“Fear God,” or the consequence is punishment in hell. This is what we were told over, and over. Pope Francis is trying to make us understand that God is love and not a judge who chooses (your child passed the Bar) or punishes (your child flunked the Bar) on a retail basis. God does not choose to spare one region over other regions with super typhoons. Instead of guilt and sin, the pope wants us to understand God’s greatest example of love through mercy – Jesus’ birth, crucifixion, and death.

The pope’s point is that all of us need grace and mercy. By saying “no” to blessing those in difficult situations, is to deny them the opportunity to feel God’s grace and mercy. Jesus is God’s face for mercy – the mystery of the Christian faith. The primacy of mercy, however, must be visible not only to leaders of the church, but more importantly with the laity in day-to-day encounters with the poor. But who are the poor?

Let’s start with the topic at hand, those experiencing spiritual poverty like those who have long been separated from the Church. Them seeking a blessing from a priest is an act of openness to the will of God, to the graciousness of life. Why deny them that, because of dogma? Perhaps they don’t fully understand such metaphysical content, but so did Mary who accepted God’s will even if she could not comprehend fully what her role was going to be. She trusted God’s will for her.

The other type of poverty is material. Material poverty is everywhere. It is a subhuman condition, and no human being should live like that. Poor people are those who live in the fringes of society like they don’t matter, invisible to many. They cannot meet their basic needs to sustain life like food, shelter, clothing, health care, and even the burial cost in death. The Alta Sosyodad avoids them because the poor “smells, they steal, and they are lazy.” They prefer those in high society like themselves because they smell good (like perfume), they’re rich (they steal from the poor), and they prefer holding on to their riches.

Jesus said that the poor will always be with us but “you will not always have me.” Planet earth is not only for the top of the social pyramid, but a place where humanity can mutually share the gifts of life. There is a moral theology involved here because with poverty comes the twins of exploitation: oppression, and violence. Fiducia Supplicans arrived just in time to remind humanity of the coming of the Redeemer.

Christmas is rebirth, hope, and peace. Fiducia is the hope for those in “difficult situations,” that they can be born again. It is Christian charity. Remember that Jesus stripped himself of divinity so he could walk among the poor and announce the good news of salvation. Jesus himself, experienced being poor. To the righteous he said, “For I was hungry, and you fed me. When I was thirsty, you gave me a drink. I was a stranger and you invited me in.”

Finally, Fiducia reminds of a biblical story about an unnamed adulterous woman related in the Gospel of John. In the story, religious leaders presented an adulterous woman who was entrapped to set-up Jesus on the spot. He said, “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” The religious leaders balked and left. “Did any of them condemn you?” “No,” said the woman. “Neither do I condemn you,” Jesus said. “Go now and sin no more.”

From these passages we learn that we condemn the sin but not the person. Jesus showed forgiveness, mercy. How much more for those who long to rediscover the true sense of mercy and pardon?


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