Mary Rose, author of Inquiring Minds interviews of college students on California Catholic Daily, asks Father Joseph Illo, pastor of Star of the Sea church in San Francisco on his most recent blog post on Fiducia supplicans dated January 6, 2024.
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Today the Church celebrates Epiphany, the day on which the Sun of Justice first revealed his sacred face to the “Three Kings.” Yesterday I woke up in a dark, cold, and soggy tent on Point Reyes, a national park one hour north of San Francisco. The Spanish explorer Sebastian Vizcaino named Point Reyes after Los Reyes (the “Three Kings”) because he first sighted it on January 6, 1603. At 6 am yesterday, I climbed out of my sodden tent for morning prayers in the misty darkness high above the vast Pacific. At first I had only a crescent moon and the morning star for light (both of these heavenly bodies only reflect the sun’s rays), but gradually the sun’s light grew in the East.
All of the natural world was waiting for the sun to rise. The wet rocks, the drooping bushes, the sleeping birds, the wilted grass, and a frozen human were all looking east toward its light and warmth. When the sun’s rays cleared the ridge, everything came to life. The rocks glistened, the grass stood a bit taller, bushes began to wave in a morning breeze, birds began to sing, and my fingers and toes began to thaw.
Epiphany is a Greek word that means a “shining upon”: a radiant light that illuminates, clarifies, and reveals. As the sun rose on Point Reyes yesterday, the fascinating shapes and movements of ocean waves sharpened, the wondrous textures of rocks, bushes, and trees were revealed, and the air itself became a prism of stunning colors (in the words of the Greek poets, the “rose-fingered dawn stretched over the wine-dark sea”). With the sunrise, that which was dark and vague became bright and clear.
Some of my parishioners have asked me for clarity about a confusing document the Vatican issued just before Christmas. Fiducia supplicans encourages priests to bless people in same-sex unions, and that is just what Fr. James Martin did the day after it was issued. He publicized a photograph of himself, in priestly attire, solemnly blessing two men holding hands. The Vatican denies that it has encouraged priests to bless same-sex couples, but if that were so, Fr. Martin would have been corrected. But he was not corrected, and the New York Times got it right with a photograph of Fr. Martin blessing Jason Jack and “his husband” with this headline: “A day after the pope’s announcement that Catholic priests may bless same-sex couples, one New York couple receives theirs.” Let us at least be clear: the Vatican is encouraging priests to bless same-sex couples.
The Vatican says “nothing has changed.” Certainly, priests have always blessed individuals who ask for a prayer. But if nothing has changed, why did the Vatican feel it needed to issue a “declaration” giving priests permission to do what they have always been doing? And why does the document focus on blessing only people in same-sex unions? Why does Fiducia supplicans not encourage priests to bless all people in every situation? Why should priests not bless people who practice racism (a blessing for Klan members?) or homicide (a blessing for Mafia hit men?) or pedophilia (a blessing for members of the North American Man-Boy Love Association?).
Let us be clear. Fiducia supplicans does not pass even a rudimentary test for logical consistency. Priests bless people who may belong to the Ku Klux Klan, or the Sicilian Mafia, or NAMBLA, but they can never bless these people as members of these harmful organizations. If the Church defines same-sex acts as sinful the way it defines racism as sinful, it would no more bless a same-sex couple than it would bless a Klan meeting.
So where does Fiducia supplicans leave Catholics? In confused darkness? Not at all. The sun is always shining on the Church, somewhere. In some parts of the planet, it is nighttime, and in others, it is daytime. Almost all the bishops of Africa, for example, have ruled that no priest in their dioceses will bless same-sex couples. They clearly see that sexual activity outside of marriage harms people. Africa enjoys the clear light of day on this question. In Northern Europe, by contrast, some bishops have ruled that no priest can deny a blessing for same-sex couples. Germany, especially, suffers the darkness of night in these matters.
To walk without stumbling, we must follow what is clearly in accord with Scripture and the consistent teaching of the Church since she was founded by Christ. As the Lord said, we must walk in the clear light of day, and all of nature awaits the full radiance of His sunrise.
From Father Illo’s Blog
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