Regardless of whether the blessing is liturgical or pastoral, the letter claims that a blessing has an “immediate communicative effect … [that] always implies an approval of what is being blessed” even if the declaration claims that is not the intent. It argues that the declaration has already been interpreted as approval “by those few episcopates and prelates that for decades have been openly advocating a change in the doctrine on sexual morality” and by much of the public.
“In practice, the faithful will not even be aware of the subtle theoretical justifications introduced by the declaration…,” the filial appeal continues. “The message that is effectively launched, and that the people of God, and the entire world, will inevitably register and are already registering is that: The Catholic Church has finally evolved, and now accepts homosexual unions, and, more generally, extramarital unions.”
They add that the traditional doctrines on sexual morality “must be considered infallible” and that “this is a doctrine of the natural law, which does not allow for any change.”
“In this difficult moment, a clear word of truth would be the best example of your faithful and courageous dedication to the people of God entrusted to you, a sign of fidelity to the true mission of the papacy and at the same time the best help for the pope himself, an eloquent ‘fraternal correction,’ which he urgently needs in this last and most critical period of his pontificate and probably of his life,” the signatories implore the bishops and cardinals.
Who has signed the document so far?
The 90 signatories include Catholic priests, scholars, and authors from across North America, South America, Africa, Europe, and Australia. The group aims to increase the number of signatories by a Feb. 15 deadline and intends to publish a larger, more comprehensive list by Feb. 17.
Among the signatories are Thomas Ward, president of the John Paul II Academy on Human Life and the Family; Dr. Michael Pakaluk, professor of ethics and social philosophy at the Catholic University of America and Father Robert Sirico, president of the St. John Henry Newman Institute and founder of the Acton Institute.
Other signatories include German sociologist and author Gabriele Kuby, Dr. César Félix Sánchez Martínez, professor of philosophy at the Universidad Nacional de San Agustín, Perú; The Cornerstone Forum President Gil Bailie and Father Gerald Murray, pastor of the Church of the Holy Family in New York City.
The letter has been published in several languages, including English, Spanish, Italian, French, and German.
How has the Vatican responded to the controversy?
Bishops around the world have taken a variety of different approaches to the declaration. In some cases, bishops have taken a broad view of the declaration, and in others, they have taken a very narrow view. Some bishops, including numerous bishops’ conferences, have refused to implement it.
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Cardinal Victor Manuel Fernández, prefect of the Vatican’s Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, responded to some of the backlash in a five-page press release on Jan. 5.
“There is no room to distance ourselves doctrinally from this declaration or to consider it heretical, contrary to the Tradition of the Church or blasphemous,” Fernández said, noting the declaration’s language about marriage and sexual morality.
“We can help God’s people to discover that these kinds of blessings are just simple pastoral channels that help people give expression to their faith, even if they are great sinners,” the cardinal added. “For this reason, in giving a blessing to two people who come together to ask for it spontaneously, we are not consecrating them nor are we congratulating them nor indeed are we approving that type of union.”