Thursday, December 21, 2023

Infant Baptism

Why the Catholic Church baptizes infants

The Catholic Church has been baptizing infants ever since Christ commanded His apostles to baptize all people in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (see Mt 28:18-20). This has always been the practice of the Orthodox churches and of many Protestant denominations as well. But why does the Church baptize babies? Aren't they too young to understand what is happening to them? In this blog post, I will explain the reasons and benefits of infant baptism, as well as the historical and scriptural evidence for this ancient tradition.

Baptism cleanses infants from original sin

One of the main reasons why the Church baptizes infants is to cleanse them from original sin. Original sin is the state of sin inherited by all human beings as a result of the fall of Adam and Eve. It is not a personal sin that we commit, but a condition that affects our nature and makes us prone to sin and death. Original sin also deprives us of the grace of God and the friendship with Him that we were created for. As the psalmist laments: “Indeed, in guilt was I born, and in sin my mother conceived me” (Ps 51:7).

Baptism is the sacrament that washes away original sin and restores us to God’s grace. It is a sign of God’s love and mercy that He offers us this gift even before we can ask for it or deserve it. Baptism also makes us adopted sons and daughters of God, members of His family, and the Church. As St. Paul says: “For through faith you are all children of God in Christ Jesus. For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ” (Gal 3:26-27).

Baptism introduces children to the Church and salvation

Another reason why the Church baptizes infants is to introduce them to the Church and salvation. Baptism is not only a personal act, but also a communal one. It incorporates us into the Body of Christ, which is the Church, and makes us partakers of His mission and life. Baptism also gives us access to all the other sacraments, which are means of grace and nourishment for our spiritual growth. Baptism is the first step in our journey of faith, which will lead us to eternal life with God.

The Church believes that baptism is necessary for salvation, as Jesus Himself taught: “Amen, amen, I say to you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit” (Jn 3:5). Therefore, the Church does not want to delay or deny this gift to anyone who desires it, especially to children who are most vulnerable and innocent. Remember that Jesus also said to let the children come to Him (Luke 18:15–17; Matthew 19:13–15; Mark 10:13–16). 

Why would the early Church deny children baptism if Jesus said to let the children come to Him?  Also note that life expectancy in those days was up to 30 or 40 years, so things had to be done earlier and quicker. This is why Mary herself was so young and married to Joseph.  Moreover, the Church also trusts in God’s mercy and promises for those who die without baptism but still entrusts them to His loving care. This can apply to the Baptism of Blood or Baptism by Desire. These are topics for another post.  

Baptism introduces children to all the other sacraments

The third reason why the Church baptizes infants is to introduce them to all the other sacraments. The sacraments are visible signs instituted by Christ that convey invisible grace to us. They are channels of God’s love and power that help us to live as His disciples and witnesses in the world. The sacraments also strengthen our bond with God and with each other as members of His family.

The first three sacraments are called the sacraments of initiation: baptism, confirmation, and Eucharist. They initiate us into the Christian life and fully incorporate us into the Church. Baptism is the foundation and gateway to all the other sacraments. Confirmation completes and confirms our baptismal grace and gives us a special outpouring of the Holy Spirit. The Eucharist is the source and summit of our faith, where we receive Christ Himself in His body and blood.

The other four sacraments are called the sacraments of healing and service: penance, anointing of the sick, holy orders, and matrimony. They heal us from our sins and infirmities and enable us to serve God and others in various ways. Penance reconciles us with God and restores us to His grace when we fall into sin after baptism. Anointing of the sick comforts us in our illness and prepares us for our final journey. Holy orders ordain men to serve as bishops, priests, or deacons in the Church. Matrimony unites a man and a woman in a lifelong covenant of love that reflects Christ’s love for His bride, the Church.

By baptizing infants, the Church introduces them to all these wonderful gifts that God has prepared for them. The Church also expects that parents and godparents will raise their children in the faith and help them to receive and appreciate these sacraments as they grow up.

Historical evidence for infant baptism

The practice of infant baptism can be traced back to the earliest days of the Church. The Church Fathers, who were the successors of the apostles and the teachers of the faith, unanimously affirmed and defended this tradition. Here are some examples of their testimonies:

- St. Irenaeus (d. 202), a disciple of St. Polycarp, who was a disciple of St. John the apostle, wrote: “He [Jesus] came to save all through himself; all, I say, who through him are reborn in God: infants, and children, and youths, and old men. Therefore he passed through every age, becoming an infant for infants, sanctifying infants; a child for children, sanctifying those who are of that age” (Against Heresies 2.22.4).

- St. Hippolytus (d. 235), a priest and martyr, wrote: “Baptize first the children, and if they can speak for themselves let them do so. Otherwise, let their parents or other relatives speak for them” (The Apostolic Tradition 21).

- Origen (d. 254), a theologian and scholar, wrote: “The Church received from the apostles the tradition of giving baptism even to infants. For the apostles, to whom were committed the secrets of divine mysteries, knew that there is in everyone the innate stains of sin, which must be washed away through water and the Spirit” (Commentary on Romans 5.9).

- St. Cyprian (d. 258), a bishop and martyr, wrote: “As to what pertains to the case of infants: You [Fidus] said that they ought not to be baptized within the second or third day after their birth, that the old law of circumcision must be taken into consideration, and that you did not think that one should be baptized and sanctified within the eighth day after his birth. In our council, it seemed to us far otherwise. No one agreed to the course which you thought should be taken. Rather, we all judge that the mercy and grace of God ought to be denied to no man born” (Letter to Fidus 64.2).

Scriptural evidence for infant baptism

The practice of infant baptism is also supported by the scriptural evidence. Although there is no explicit mention of infant baptism in the Bible, there are several passages that imply or suggest it.

- The Bible shows that baptism replaced circumcision as the sign of the covenant between God and His people. Circumcision was given to Abraham as a sign of God’s promise and was administered to male infants on the eighth day after birth (see Gen 17:9-14). Baptism is the new circumcision that applies to both males and females and is administered as soon as possible after birth. St. Paul says: “In him you were also circumcised with a circumcision not administered by hand, by stripping off the carnal body, with the circumcision of Christ. You were buried with him in baptism” (Col 2:11-12).

- The Bible shows that baptism is connected to faith, but not limited by it. Faith is a gift from God that enables us to believe and trust in Him. Faith is also a response from us that requires our cooperation and consent. However, faith is not a prerequisite for baptism, but rather a result of it. Baptism gives us the grace to believe and grow in faith, as well as the responsibility to live according to our faith. Therefore, baptism can be given to infants based on the faith of their parents and godparents, who promise to raise them in the faith until they can profess it for themselves.

- The Bible shows that baptism is for all people, including children. Jesus commissioned His apostles to baptize all nations, without excluding anyone (see Mt 28:19). Jesus also welcomed children and blessed them, saying: “Let the children come to me, and do not prevent them; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these” (Mt 19:14). The Bible also records several examples of household baptisms, where entire families were baptized together upon the conversion of one member (see Acts 16:15,33; 18:8; 1 Cor 1:16). These households most likely included children and infants as well.

In closing, Infant Baptism has always been practiced in Christianity. There is no way to deny this based on Scripture, Tradition, and historical documentation. The Baptism of children including babies or infants made total sense in light of Jesus' command to baptize all and his desire that the children come to Him.  There is no asterisk in Jesus' words.  The command was inclusive to all those who wanted to follow Christ and fulfill the requirements of being a Christian. Children could not be exempt from this as it would contradict Christ's will and words.  Yes, the unborn and born children are innocent per se. They have not done any actual sin, yet, but they are tarnished with Original Sin which must be removed. 

So please continue to bring your infants to be baptized. It is what Christ willed and the Catholic Church has done since her founding by Jesus over 2,000 years ago.  

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Sources

- Catechism of the Catholic Church, nos. 1213-1284.

- Simply Catholic - Why Does the Church Baptize Babies?

- Catholic Education Resource Center - Why Does the Catholic Church Baptize Babies?

- Catholics & Bible - Why Does The Catholic Church Baptize Infants?

- Baby Journey - Why Do You Baptize A Baby?

- Catholic Answers - Why We Baptize Babies

Tuesday, December 19, 2023

Is the Christmas Tree a Pagan Thing or a Pagan Custom?

There are some websites, social media posts, and articles circulating around the internet claiming that the Christmas Tree originates from paganism.  Jeremiah 10 is often cited to support this claim. What are we to make of this?  Is the Christmas Tree a pagan thing or a pagan custom?  Let us analyze the text which reads:

Jeremiah 10:1-16 - New International Version

God and Idols

10 Hear what the Lord says to you, people of Israel. 2 This is what the Lord says: “Do not learn the ways of the nations or be terrified by signs in the heavens, though the nations are terrified by them.

3 For the practices of the peoples are worthless; they cut a tree out of the forest, and a craftsman shapes it with his chisel.

4 They adorn it with silver and gold;  they fasten it with hammer and nails  so it will not totter.

5 Like a scarecrow in a cucumber field, their idols cannot speak; they must be carried because they cannot walk. Do not fear them; they can do no harm nor can they do any good.”

6 No one is like you, Lord;you are great, and your name is mighty in power.

7 Who should not fear you, King of the nations? This is your due. Among all the wise leaders of the nations and in all their kingdoms, there is no one like you.

8 They are all senseless and foolish; they are taught by worthless wooden idols.

9 Hammered silver is brought from Tarshish and gold from Uphaz. What the craftsman and goldsmith have made is then dressed in blue and purple—all made by skilled workers.

10 But the Lord is the true God; he is the living God, the eternal King. When he is angry, the earth trembles; the nations cannot endure his wrath.

11 “Tell them this: ‘These gods, who did not make the heavens and the earth, will perish from the earth and from under the heavens.’”[a]

12 But God made the earth by his power; he founded the world by his wisdom and stretched out the heavens by his understanding.

13 When he thunders, the waters in the heavens roar; he makes clouds rise from the ends of the earth. He sends lightning with the rain and brings out the wind from his storehouses.

14 Everyone is senseless and without knowledge; every goldsmith is shamed by his idols. The images he makes are a fraud; they have no breath in them.

15 They are worthless, the objects of mockery;when their judgment comes, they will perish.

16 He who is the Portion of Jacob is not like these, for he is the Maker of all things, including Israel, the people of his inheritance—the Lord Almighty is his name.


One does not need to be an expert in English to understand that this text is not about Christmas Trees.  It clearly states that a tree is cut down from the forest and a craftsman chisels it into a shape places silver and gold and is placed on display like a scarecrow. It goes on to say that it cannot speak or walk and needs to be carried. Verse 8 then describes this creation as a "wooden idol."  Clearly, the text is describing something made by human hands that looks like a human, not a tree. We know this because it says that a tree is cut from a forest and a craftsman chisels it into shape and places gold and silver on it. This is not describing a Christmas tree. 

Who chisels a Christmas tree?  Who puts gold and silver on it?  Granted, people put tinsels and shiny balls on their Christmas trees, but these are not actual precious metals.  Moreover, verse 8 says that these creations are "wooden idols," not trees. This means the shape is altered.  For example, a wooden table may be wood, but it is no longer a tree. The trees used to make the table were chiseled and fashioned in a way so it could become a table.  Moreover, the text specifically states that this creation cannot speak or walk and needs to be carried. This means that it is in a humanoid form. The fact that it states that it cannot speak means it has a mouth design on it. The fact that it says it cannot walk and needs to be carried tells us it has extremities to it like human legs or human limbs. Trees do not have this. 

What Jeremiah 10 verses 1-16 is describing is not a Christmas Tree, but a wooden idol crafted by a carpenter or artisan. Those who claim Jeremiah 10 is speaking about Christmas Trees are engaging in anachronism.  They are applying times and cultures in different periods with other times and cultures. It is a malicious attempt to misinform and damage the reputation of traditional Christmas customs.  Moreover, people who make these false claims use the King James Version which offers an ambiguous interpretation that reads:

3 For the customs of the people are vain: for one cutteth a tree out of the forest, the work of the hands of the workman, with the axe.

4 They deck it with silver and with gold; they fasten it with nails and with hammers, that it move not.

5 They are upright as the palm tree, but speak not: they must needs be borne, because they cannot go. Be not afraid of them; for they cannot do evil, neither also is it in them to do good.

What Jeremiah 10 actually describes.

This text makes it seem like the tree is being decorated with silver and gold and set up like a palm tree. However, we can tell the text is not describing Christmas Trees here either.  Verse 3 clearly mentions "the work of hands of the workman," verse 4 says "deck it with silver and with gold; they fasten it with nails and with hammers," and verse 5 says "they are upright as the palm tree, but speak not:.."  

We know the KJV is not referencing a Christmas Tree either because 1). The tree is cut and is worked on by the hands of a workman. 2) they are decorated with silver and gold and it is fastened with nails using hammers. No one does this with Christmas Trees. 3). The idol is described as a Palm Tree. Christmas Trees are evergreens, not Palm Trees and again this text says it cannot speak. This tells us that it has a mouth design on it. Christmas Trees do not have unless we are speaking about one of those Christmas Tree decorations that move and sing with moving eyes and mouths. However, this text is not speaking on that either.  So we can see that even the King James Version is not talking about Christmas Trees.  Moreover, evergreens do not grow in the region that Jeremiah was referencing. 

Others try to make links to Nimrod, Egypt, Babylonia and so forth claiming the Christmas Tree derives from these cultures and time periods while at the same time attempting to link December 25 to and rehashing of worshiping the sun god. This is a topic for another post. We know that December 25 is derived from the early Church Fathers who calculated from March 25 the period from which gestation would have occurred in the Blessed Virgin Mary's womb. December 25 was the best match based on the evidence. 

Jesus was clearly born towards the end of December. December 15 fits the best date based on evidence, reason, and mathematics.  These people claim that Christmas is the syncretism of pagan sun god worship liking it with Jesus Christ, the Son of God.  We know this is all nonsense based on the aforementioned facts and the fact that the Roman Empire and the Jews had different calendars.  In fact, we use the Gregorian calendar which places Christmas on the 25th of December. The Eastern Rite non-Catholic Church kept the Julian calendar which would have been the one pagans in the Roman Empire would have used. This is why the Eastern Rite non-Catholic Christians celebrate Christmas a week after Catholics and most Protestants.  

So basically there are malicious people out there using the internet to post false information. This erroneous information is geared towards discrediting Christmas and is an attempt to link Catholicism with paganism. Christmas Trees are a symbol of Jesus. It is a symbol of the Cross or the Wood of the Cross upon which Jesus was crucified and died at Calvary. The Christmas Tree also represents God as eternal. It represents Jesus as the vine with branches and the one who will restore creation after the fall of Adam and Eve after eating from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.  

Now there were cultures in the past that worshiped trees and this was part of paganism. No one is denying this fact. The difference is that these trees were not Christmas Trees. How can they be if the practice predates Christianity? Moreover, Christians do not worship Christmas Trees.  Christmas Trees are reminders of the tenets of the faith surrounding the Incarnation of the Son of God. They are Sacramentals in that sense. Are they required? No, they are not. They are not part of Church teaching in any Christian tradition whether Catholic or not. They are just external reminders of the meaning behind Christmas. This is why they are called CHRISTMAS Trees.  

The origin of using Christmas Tree is vague. Some claim it derives from Germans who brought trees home to decorate for Christmas and it developed from there. Others claim it derives from St. Boniface who famously cut down the tree of Thor which pagans worshiped. He used the wood to make a church.  From there, the idea of using a tree to service Christianity is believed to have derived from St. Boniface's use of the tree that was used by pagans to worship the god Thor.  Furthermore, Protestantantism's founder Martin Luther is said to have started the tradition of lighting the Christmas Tree with lights. He used candles instead.  Regardless of the origin, there is nothing wrong with using Christmas Trees as long as they honor Jesus Christ.  

Sacred Scripture even mentions the use of trees, in particular, fir and pine trees to glorify God.  The trees even rejoice in God.  References to the Tree of Life is also mentioned and this tree is given a prominent place in heaven.  

 

Isaiah 60:13 King James Version

13 The glory of Lebanon shall come unto thee, the fir tree, the pine tree, and the box together, to beautify the place of my sanctuary; and I will make the place of my feet glorious.

Psalm 96:11-13 King James Version

11 Let the heavens rejoice, and let the earth be glad; let the sea roar, and the fulness thereof.

12 Let the field be joyful, and all that is therein: then shall all the trees of the wood rejoice

13 Before the Lord: for he cometh, for he cometh to judge the earth: he shall judge the world with righteousness, and the people with his truth.

Revelation 22:1-2 King James Version

22 And he shewed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb.

2 In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.

 

Jesus is described as the Morning Star. We often use a star to top a Christmas Tree. This star represents Jesus as the Morning Star, the Star of David, and the Star that leads the Wisemen or Three Kings to Christ.   

Revelation 22:16 King James Version

16 I Jesus have sent mine angel to testify unto you these things in the churches. I am the root and the offspring of David, and the bright and morning star.

In conclusion, Christmas Trees are a great tradition for Christians to use in their homes. They offer a natural and aesthetical way to meditate on the tenets of the Christian faith concerning the Incarnation. They remind us the reason for the season is Jesus Christ, Son of God and Son of Mary.  The idea of the Christmas Tree is not of pagan origin nor in any way connected to it. While some pre-Christian civilizations did worship things in nature such as trees or pantheism, naturism, or physiolatry, this has no connection to the Christmas Tree tradition. Christians do not worship them.  

Jeremiah 10 which is often cited to justify the claim that Christmas Trees are pagan in no way references a Christmas Tree. It describes the use of a tree - which is not even an evergreen - to create a wooden humanoid idol. Evergreens, pines, or firs are not even found in the region where Jeremiah describes the construction of wooden idols. The Bible mentions many instances of trees being used as instruments to praise God and rejoice in Him. It also references it as a prominent feature in heaven and Jesus as the Morning Star.  Neither December 25 nor Christmas Trees have a connection to Babylonia, Nimrod, Ra, Roman, Iranian, or Greek deities, or any other pagan winter celebration.  Any claims to the contrary are poor scholarship and nonsensical. 

Remember that when using a Christmas Tree, be sure it is Christ-centered. 

Merry Christmas!



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Monday, December 18, 2023

Pope Francis Okays Blessing of Gay Couples? Not Quite!

Today the media went into a frenzy. "Pope approves same-sex blessings" were the hooks being shared on social media. On the television, reporters looked elated at the news and even the Late Night's Stephen Colbert showed glee announcing this news as the crowd gave an extended applause to the pope. Father James Martin of the Jesuit order and "liberal" Catholic accounts also showed their celebratory posts on social media. So what happened?  Did the Vatican and Pope really approve of same-sex blessings? The answer is "yes" and no. 

Before Catholics panic or others laugh at the Catholic Church believing we are contradicting ourselves, the Church is not blessing same-sex unions directly. They are doing what they always have done, bless individuals who request a blessing. Everyone can receive a blessing. This is not news. What is making news is the emphasis being made by the media and so-called "liberal or progressive" Catholics who are presenting this news from an LGBTQIA lens. The CDF released a Declaration entitled Fiducia Supplicans: On the Pastoral Meaning of Blessings today. It is an answer to several dubias sent to Rome by some prelates.  The declaration is not solely about same-sex unions. It is focused on "irregular situations."  The phrase "Same-sex" is mentioned only three times.  Fiducia Supplicans was written to answer questions about who can receive blessings.  For quite some time now, some clerics have refused to bless people in irregular situations. An irregular situation is when someone is in a situation that is not morally acceptable. For example, a couple living together without being married, a couple with a child out of wedlock, a same-sex couple, a couple divorced civilly, and so forth.  These situations are often difficult to deal with in a pastoral sense.

Pope Francis since the onset of his pontificate has focused on mercy. He wants the Church to be merciful and reach out to those on the peripherals as he has often stated. He wants bishops and priests to acquire the "scent of their sheep," in other words, to mingle with them and minister to them.  Pope Francis more than any other pope has done a lot to reach out to those often pushed aside, even by the Church. This shepherding has brought him many enemies, especially from those who called themselves "traditionalists." They feel the pope is a modernist seeking to turn the Church into an "anything goes" institution.  Pope Francis wants all people to know of Christ and His mercy. He wants everyone to come to Christ the best they can even those who are in these irregular situations which are often hard to resolve.  Same-sex unions are probably the most difficult to deal with because both parties feel they are "in love" and that their relationship is equal to that of a heterosexual couple "in love."  What are we to say to these people? Do we tell them they have to split and stop seeing each other and live a celibate life?  This is easier said than done. Things are not always black and white so to speak. In light of this, the Church is chipping away at these difficult situations by confirming that same-sex couples can be blessed along with other irregular situations people find themselves in.  

Now, this does not mean the pope is giving the okay to bless same-sex unions per se. He is stating that individuals can be blessed even if they are in irregular situations. No longer can some rigid clerics dismiss these people in irregular situations as pariahs. They have to bless them, but with prudence of course; analyzing the situation carefully. The Church is not blessing same-sex unions as a thing, only the persons in them. God cannot bless sin. God cannot bless a union that contradicts His will. The Catholic Church cannot change this any more than she can change the law of gravity.  A gay couple can be blessed as two individual persons, not the gay union itself.  Blessing a same-sex union itself goes against the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith which said in 2003, 

"In those situations where homosexual unions have been legally recognized or have been given the legal status and rights belonging to marriage, clear and emphatic opposition is a duty. One must refrain from any kind of formal cooperation in the enactment or application of such gravely unjust laws and, as far as possible, from material cooperation on the level of their application. In this area, everyone can exercise the right to conscientious objection." (
http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/documents/rc_con_cfaith_doc_20030731_homosexual-unions_en.html)


So clearly, the Church still has to resist any attempt to redefine marriage and cannot endorse same-sex unions.  However, she can bless those in them directly as individuals. This has always been the case.  Many are asking why do we need to be told this again? Well, it is 2023, language has changed. The Church needed to repeat the message for today's audience while adhering to the teachings of the Church which can never change. This is how doctrine develops.  It does not change but uses language for the current age to make Church teaching clearer. Fiducia Supplicans reaffirms that marriage can only be between one man and one woman.  It states clearly:

4. Pope Francis’ recent response to the second of the five questions posed by two Cardinals[4] offers an opportunity to explore this issue further, especially in its pastoral implications. It is a matter of avoiding that “something that is not marriage is being recognized as marriage.”[5] Therefore, rites and prayers that could create confusion between what constitutes marriage—which is the “exclusive, stable, and indissoluble union between a man and a woman, naturally open to the generation of children”[6]—and what contradicts it are inadmissible. This conviction is grounded in the perennial Catholic doctrine of marriage; it is only in this context that sexual relations find their natural, proper, and fully human meaning. The Church’s doctrine on this point remains firm.

5. This is also the understanding of marriage that is offered by the Gospel. For this reason, when it comes to blessings, the Church has the right and the duty to avoid any rite that might contradict this conviction or lead to confusion. Such is also the meaning of the Responsum of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which states that the Church does not have the power to impart blessings on unions of persons of the same sex.

6. It should be emphasized that in the Rite of the Sacrament of Marriage, this concerns not just any blessing but a gesture reserved to the ordained minister. In this case, the blessing given by the ordained minister is tied directly to the specific union of a man and a woman, who establish an exclusive and indissoluble covenant by their consent. This fact allows us to highlight the risk of confusing a blessing given to any other union with the Rite that is proper to the Sacrament of Marriage.

The document continues stating that there cannot be any confusion or mingling done with the blessing to make it seem like a marriage or an approval or legitimization of the union:

31. Within the horizon outlined here appears the possibility of blessings for couples in irregular situations and for couples of the same sex, the form of which should not be fixed ritually by ecclesial authorities to avoid producing confusion with the blessing proper to the Sacrament of Marriage. In such cases, a blessing may be imparted that not only has an ascending value but also involves the invocation of a blessing that descends from God upon those who—recognizing themselves to be destitute and in need of his help—do not claim a legitimation of their own status, but who beg that all that is true, good, and humanly valid in their lives and their relationships be enriched, healed, and elevated by the presence of the Holy Spirit. These forms of blessing express a supplication that God may grant those aids that come from the impulses of his Spirit—what classical theology calls “actual grace”—so that human relationships may mature and grow in fidelity to the Gospel, that they may be freed from their imperfections and frailties, and that they may express themselves in the ever-increasing dimension of the divine love.

You can read the entire document here: https://press.vatican.va/content/salastampa/it/bollettino/pubblico/2023/12/18/0901/01963.html#en.  

So as you can see, the Pope and the Catholic Church is not endorsing so-called gay marriage or same-sex unions or anything of the like. They are simply repeating the Church's teaching that anyone can be blessed. They are blessing the sinner but not the sin, so to speak. The media and other malicious Catholics have been trying all day to push this story as a change in the Catholic Church's teaching or presenting the pope as some new reformer introducing "modern and updated right-with-the-times" innovations. This is far from the truth. 

Again, the document reaffirms marriage between one man and one woman, warns clerics not to use this blessing as a form of the Marriage rite or a parallel form of a Marriage rite existing alongside the normative one, and reaffirms God's mercy and the need to right things little by little on the spiritual course of life.  

The Catholic Church has no authority to bless same-sex unions, so-called gay marriage, divorce anyone, or endorse homosexual acts.  We can bless individual sinners even if they are a couple, but not sin. 

In 1 Cor. 6:9-11, St. Paul says:  

"Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God. Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God."

St. Paul is the man who was formerly known as Saul.  He persecuted Christians until Christ appeared before him and converted him.  (see Acts 9)  So since Christ converted him and gave him a mandate, Paul's words are valid.  Notice how he tells us who will not inherit the kingdom of God.   He mentions effeminate and homosexual people.  He continues that some of them lived those lifestyles but were 'washed, sanctified and justified in the Lord Jesus Christ and Spirit of God.'   This basically means that among the people he was preaching to there were some who lived this sinful lifestyle.  But, they changed- they converted and stopped.  

God loves everyone yes, but He does not love Sin.  Homosexuality is a lifestyle that causes great friction in the relationship between God and a Soul.  It is one of the Sins that cries out to God for vengeance (Genesis 18:20).  The cities of Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed because of the homosexual behavior among its citizens (Jude 5-7)

God Himself said it is an abomination (Lev. 18:22, 29)  This does not sound like God accepts everyone and everything they do.  In reality, God requires us to follow His Commandments and Will.  Jesus taught us the Our Father prayer that says, "Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven."  It is not about us, it is about God.  

Jesus would never condone Homosexuality because it would go against the Word He gave us in the Scriptures.  God is Truth and immutable, He cannot contradict Himself.  

The Catechism of the Catholic Church is clear on Homosexuality:

2357 Homosexuality refers to relations between men or between women who experience an exclusive or predominant sexual attraction toward persons of the same sex. It has taken a great variety of forms through the centuries and in different cultures. Its psychological genesis remains largely unexplained. Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity,141 tradition has always declared that "homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered."142 They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved.

2358 The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God's will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord's Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition.

2359 Homosexual persons are called to chastity. By the virtues of self-mastery that teach them inner freedom, at times by the support of disinterested friendship, by prayer and sacramental grace, they can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection.

Fiducia Supplicans clearly states that this blessing is solely pastoral and not ritual or lutirgical.  It cannot be done in a church setting such as in front of the sanctuary or altar.  Despite this, many bishops and Catholics in general have voiced their concerns regarding the optics and misinterpretation of the blessing.  Bishops in regions where homosexuality is criminalized such as Africa have voiced concern that blessing same-sex couples may signal to secular authorities that the Church is in defiance.  Cardinal Fernandez and the Dicastery of the Doctrine of the Faith did not think these variables through.  We shall see what happens next.

UPDATE January 4, 2024

Cardinal Fernandez and the Dicastery of the Doctrine of the Faith have just issued a press release concerning the reception of Fiducia Supplicans:




Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith
Press release concerning the reception of Fiducia supplicans


4 January 2024


We are writing this Press Release to help clarify the reception of Fiducia supplicans, while recommending at the same time a full and calm reading of the Declaration so as to better understand its meaning and purpose.


1. Doctrine


The understandable statements of some Episcopal Conferences regarding the document Fiducia supplicans have the value of highlighting the need for a more extended period of pastoral reflection. What is expressed by these Episcopal Conferences cannot be interpreted as doctrinal opposition, because the document is clear and definitive about marriage and sexuality. There are several indisputable phrases in the Declaration that leave this in no doubt:


«This Declaration remains firm on the traditional doctrine of the Church about marriage, not allowing any type of liturgical rite or blessing similar to a liturgical rite that can create confusion». One acts in these situations of couples in irregular situations «without officially validating their status or changing in any way the Church’s perennial teaching on marriage» (Presentation).


«Therefore, rites and prayers that could create confusion between what constitutes marriage – which is the “exclusive, stable, and indissoluble union between a man and a woman, naturally open to the generation of children” – and what contradicts it are inadmissible. This conviction is grounded in the perennial Catholic doctrine of marriage; it is only in this context that sexual relations find their natural, proper, and fully human meaning. The Church’s doctrine on this point remains firm» (4).


«Such is also the meaning of the Responsum of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which states that the Church does not have the power to impart blessings on unions of persons of the same sex» (5).


«For this reason, since the Church has always considered only those sexual relations that are lived out within marriage to be morally licit, the Church does not have the power to confer its liturgical blessing when that would somehow offer a form of moral legitimacy to a union that presumes to be a marriage or to an extra-marital sexual practice» (11).


Evidently, 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.



2. Practical reception


Some Bishops, however, express themselves in particular regarding a practical aspect: the possible blessings of couples in irregular situations. The Declaration contains a proposal for short and simple pastoral blessings (neither liturgical nor ritualised) of couples in irregular situations (but not of their unions), underlining that these are blessings without a liturgical format which neither approve nor justify the situation in which these people find themselves.


Documents of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith such as Fiducia supplicans, in their practical aspects, may require more or less time for their application depending on local contexts and the discernment of each diocesan Bishop with his Diocese. In some places no difficulties arise for their immediate application, while in others it will be necessary not to introduce them, while taking the time necessary for reading and interpretation.


Some Bishops, for example, have established that each priest must carry out the work of discernment and that he may, however, perform these blessings only in private. None of this is problematic if it is expressed with due respect for a text signed and approved by the Supreme Pontiff himself, while attempting in some way to accommodate the reflection contained in it.


Each local Bishop, by virtue of his own ministry, always has the power of discernment in loco, that is, in that concrete place that he knows better than others precisely because it is his own flock. Prudence and attention to the ecclesial context and to the local culture could allow for different methods of application, but not a total or definitive denial of this path that is proposed to priests.


3. The delicate situation of some countries


The cases of some Episcopal Conferences must be understood in their contexts. In several countries there are strong cultural and even legal issues that require time and pastoral strategies that go beyond the short term.


If there are laws that condemn the mere act of declaring oneself as a homosexual with prison and in some cases with torture and even death, it goes without saying that a blessing would be imprudent. It is clear that the Bishops do not wish to expose homosexual persons to violence. It remains vital that these Episcopal Conferences do not support a doctrine different from that of the Declaration signed by the Pope, given that it is perennial doctrine, but rather that they recommend the need for study and discernment so as to act with pastoral prudence in such a context.


In truth, there are not a few countries that, to varying degrees, condemn, prohibit and criminalize homosexuality. In these cases, apart from the question of blessings, there exists a great and wide-ranging pastoral responsibility that includes training, the defense of human dignity, the teaching of the Social Doctrine of the Church and various strategies that do not admit of a rushed response.



4. The real novelty of the document


The real novelty of this Declaration, the one that requires a generous effort of reception and from which no one should declare themselves excluded, is not the possibility of blessing couples in irregular situations. It is the invitation to distinguish between two different forms of blessings: “liturgical or ritualized” and “spontaneous or pastoral”. The Presentation clearly explains that «the value of this document […] is that it offers a specific and innovative contribution to the pastoral meaning of blessings, permitting a broadening and enrichment of the classical understanding of blessings, which is closely linked to a liturgical perspective». This «theological reflection, based on the pastoral vision of Pope Francis, implies a real development from what has been said about blessings in the Magisterium and the official texts of the Church».


In the background is found the positive evaluation of “popular pastoral care” which appears in many of the Holy Father’s texts. In this context, the Holy Father invites us to value the simple faith of the People of God who, even in the midst of their sins, emerge from their everyday lives and open their hearts to ask for God’s help.


For this reason, rather than the blessing of couples in irregular unions, the text of the Dicastery has adopted the other profile of a “Declaration”, which is much more than a responsum or a letter. The central theme, which invites us especially to a deeper pastoral practice which enriches our pastoral praxis, is to have a broader understanding of blessings and of the proposal that these pastoral blessings, which do not require the same conditions as blessings in a liturgical or ritual context, flourish. Consequently, leaving polemics aside, the text requires an effort to reflect serenely, with the heart of shepherds, free from all ideology.


Although some Bishops consider it prudent not to impart these blessings for the moment, we all need to grow equally in the conviction that: non-ritualized blessings are not a consecration of the person nor of the couple who receives them, they are not a justification of all their actions, and they are not an endorsement of the life that they lead. When the Pope asked us to grow in a broader understanding of pastoral blessings, he proposed that we think of a way of blessing that does not require the placing of so many conditions to carry out this simple gesture of pastoral closeness, which is a means of promoting openness to God in the midst of the most diverse circumstances.


5. How do these “pastoral blessings” present themselves in concrete terms?


To be clearly distinguished from liturgical or ritualized blessings, “pastoral blessings” must above all be very short (see n. 38). These are blessings lasting a few seconds, without an approved ritual and without a book of blessings. If two people approach together to seek the blessing, one simply asks the Lord for peace, health and other good things for these two people who request it. At the same time, one asks that they may live the Gospel of Christ in full fidelity and so that the Holy Spirit can free these two people from everything that does not correspond to his divine will and from everything that requires purification.


This non-ritualized form of blessing, with the simplicity and brevity of its form, does not intend to justify anything that is not morally acceptable. Obviously it is not a marriage, but equally it is not an “approval” or ratification of anything either. It is solely the response of a pastor towards two persons who ask for God’s help. Therefore, in this case, the pastor does not impose conditions and does not enquire about the intimate lives of these people.


Since some have raised the question of what these blessings might look like, let us look at a concrete example: let us imagine that among a large number making a pilgrimage a couple of divorced people, now in a new union, say to the priest: “Please give us a blessing, we cannot find work, he is very ill, we do not have a home and life is becoming very difficult: may God help us!”.


In this case, the priest can recite a simple prayer like this: “Lord, look at these children of yours, grant them health, work, peace and mutual help. Free them from everything that contradicts your Gospel and allow them to live according to your will. Amen”. Then it concludes with the sign of the cross on each of the two persons.


We are talking about something that lasts about 10 or 15 seconds. Does it make sense to deny these kinds of blessings to these two people who ask for them? Is it not more appropriate to support their faith, whether it be small or great, to assist them in their weaknesses with a divine blessing, and to channel that openness to transcendence which could lead them to be more faithful to the Gospel?


In order to avoid any doubt, the Declaration adds that, when the 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» (n. 39). It remains clear, therefore, that the blessing must not take place in a prominent place within a sacred building, or in front of an altar, as this also would create confusion.


For this reason, every Bishop in his Diocese is authorized by the Declaration Fiducia supplicans to make this type of simple blessing available, bearing in mind the need for prudence and care, but in no way is he authorized to propose or make blessings available that may resemble a liturgical rite.


6. Catechesis


In some places, perhaps, some catechesis will be necessary that can help everyone to understand that these types of blessings are not an endorsement of the life led by those who request them. Even less are they an absolution, as these gestures are far from being a sacrament or a rite. They are simple expressions of pastoral closeness that do not impose the same requirements as a sacrament or a formal rite. We will all have to become accustomed to accepting the fact that, if a priest gives this type of simple blessings, he is not a heretic, he is not ratifying anything nor is he denying Catholic doctrine.


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. 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. In reality the same happens when individuals are blessed, as the individual who asks for a blessing – not absolution – could be a great sinner, but this does not mean we deny him this paternal gesture in the midst of his struggle to survive.


If this is clarified as a result of good catechesis, we can free ourselves from the fear that these blessings of ours may express something inadequate. We can be freer and perhaps closer and more fruitful ministers, with a ministry that is full of gestures of fatherhood and hospitality, without fear of being misunderstood.


We ask the newly-born Lord to shower a generous and gracious blessing upon everyone so that we can live a holy and happy 2024.


Víctor Manuel Card. Fernández
Prefect


Mons. Armando Matteo
Secretary for the Doctrinal Section

Source: https://www.vaticannews.va/en/vatican-city/news/2024-01/dicastery-for-the-doctrine-of-the-faith-on-fiducia-supplicans.html



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Source:

https://press.vatican.va/content/salastampa/it/bollettino/pubblico/2023/12/18/0901/01963.html#en

https://www.vaticannews.va/en/vatican-city/news/2023-12/fiducia-supplicans-doctrine-faith-blessing-irregular-couples.html

https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/256308/vatican-says-priests-can-bless-same-sex-couples-without-condoning-their-lifestyles

https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/world/pope-francis-allows-priests-to-bless-same-sex-couples/ar-AA1lGhyK?ocid=socialshare&cvid=b1e1d7c2e2fe47fdb3f643c61fc03a8a&ei=23





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