My Advice? Step Down

The Church, which has always stood for sanity, may have to ask the Pope to step down in order to make things sane again.

Suppose you’d been asked by Cardinal Manuel Fernandez, Prefect for the Dicastery for the Doctrine of Faith, to assist him in putting together an official statement on the possibility of blessing same-sex couples. He’s all in, of course, but would like it if you climbed on board as well. And never mind why he’s asked you in the first place; the point is, he did, so what do you tell him? To go stuff it? No, that clearly will not do. Ok, so you try and say it less rudely, as in, “Thank you for asking, Your Eminence, but the subject fills me with such dread and disgust that I’d rather not do it.” Will that work? 

It hardly matters anyway, Cardinal Fernandez having already gone ahead and written it himself. He then sends it over to Pope Francis, who, approving what he wrote, signs the thing and—bingo—instant magisterial standing. He even gives it a name. “Fiducia Supplicans, On the Pastoral Meaning of Blessings.”

So now what? Well, it goes out to all the world, causing no end of confusion and consternation among the faithful. Even bishops are up in arms about it. So what happens next? 

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Well, let us again suppose that in the midst of this catastrophe the Pope himself were to turn to you for advice. “What am I to do?” he asks with some frustration. “Only the Germans and LGBTQ people like it, and none of them thinks it went far enough! I can’t satisfy everyone, of course. I mean, I’m not a magician!”

So, what do you tell the Pope? If it were me, here’s what I’d say: “Your Holiness, with all due respect, there are two things you must do, and two more you might do. The first two are fairly easy. Get rid of Fernandez; then dump the Declaration. As for the remaining two, these are optional, but I’d strongly recommend both. Resign the Office that has become so tortuous to occupy; then go off to the nearest monastery for a life of prayer and penance.” 

Who knows, perhaps the former prefect can be persuaded to accompany the former pope into the silence? It could do wonders for both their souls. 

There is zero likelihood of this happening, by the way. So, why do I bother? Isn’t it a bit like spitting in the wind? Or trying to square the circle? I do it because the Gospel demands it. While I am no St. Paul, neither am I averse to paraphrasing him. Who, in his Letter to the Galatians (2:14), had the cheek to call out St. Peter himself, the first Pope, on a point of doctrine no less. When a man does not walk upright, when he fails to be straightforward, there is no question but that someone needs to tell him. So Paul told Peter, admonishing him to his face in Antioch. And so, with utmost respect, one really must summon the courage to tell the Pope. 

Tell him what exactly? That he’s all wet. That the declaration signed and delivered by him is flat out wrong. “A great deception,” to use the language of Archbishop Tomash Peta of Kazakhstan, and his Auxiliary Bishop Athanasius Schneider, who assert that its proposed blessings of same-sex couples, along with those committing adultery, “directly and seriously contradict Divine Revelation and the uninterrupted, bimillennial doctrine and practice of the Catholic Church.” Amounting to, they add, “a serious abuse of the most Holy Name of God, since this name is invoked upon an objectively sinful union of adultery or of homosexual activity.” 

In short, it cannot be salvaged. If left to stand, they argue, the Church herself risks becoming “a propogandist of the globalist and ungodly gender ideology.” And so, to undo the damage, which is both far-reaching and profound, heads must roll. Beginning with the guy who wrote it. But not ending there; he can’t be the only fall guy in the room.

A heartless solution, do you think? 

For whom, actually? Certainly not for the young man I was once told about by the late Fr. Benedict Groeschel, whom he had desperately sought out for advice concerning an ongoing struggle with same-sex attraction. “I’m in a kind of hell,” he told the wise old priest. “And one of these days I’m going to want to get out of that hell. But until I do, Father, please promise me two things: One, that you’ll never give up on me and, two, that you’ll not throw away the map.”

With Fiducia Supplicans, it looks as if the Church has just thrown away the map. And without the map, she pretty much gives up on all who struggle with sexual sin. Certainly, there is nothing in the document that could possibly bring solace or encouragement to that young man. Or countless others who struggle, often in ways positively heroic, to overcome their affliction. Who accept the hard sayings of Mother Church with total and heartfelt conviction. They’re not looking to luxuriate in their sin, secure in the knowledge that thanks to Father’s blessing, everything’s just swell. They’re looking for grace, for a bit of hope to tell them the struggle, while hard, is worth it in the end. But you will search in vain to find any acknowledgment of the hidden dramas they enact in their lives.  With Fiducia Supplicans, it looks as if the Church has just thrown away the map. And without the map, she pretty much gives up on all who struggle with sexual sin. Tweet This

How bewilderingly sad it all is. After all, hadn’t the Pope as recently as two short years ago said exactly the opposite of what is being said now? Unless the Law of Non-Contradiction has been repealed in the meantime, the Church cannot have it both ways. However far Pope Francis may wish to extend the reach of his vaunted “pastoral vision,” it can never encompass the blessing of sin. Either adultery and sodomy are wrong, and those who engage in such practices are committing serious sin and in need of repentance; or there is nothing wrong or untoward about either, and no priest should stand in the way of those who come forward to have their unions blest.

That way lies madness. And the Church, which has always stood for sanity, may have to ask the Pope to step down in order to make things sane again.

Author

  • Regis Martin

    Regis Martin is Professor of Theology and Faculty Associate with the Veritas Center for Ethics in Public Life at the Franciscan University of Steubenville. He earned a licentiate and a doctorate in sacred theology from the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas in Rome. Martin is the author of a number of books, including Still Point: Loss, Longing, and Our Search for God (2012) and The Beggar’s Banquet (Emmaus Road). His most recent book, published by Scepter, is called Looking for Lazarus: A Preview of the Resurrection.

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