Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, celebrates a Divine Liturgy Jan. 6, 2024, at the Patriarchal Cathedral of the Resurrection of Christ in Kyiv, Ukraine. OSV News photo/courtesy Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church

Replacing "Fiducia supplicans’" confusions with clarity

By 
  • February 7, 2024

In the Jan. 21 edition of The Catholic Register, Roderick ‘Rory’ Mckay published the article “Fiducia supplicans a blessing for the Church.” I wish to respond to him and others who assert something that is patently false.

Since its publication by the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, this declaration on blessings has been a continuing source of confusion, division and scandal within the Church. None of these fruits of Fiducia supplicans are good, nor are they a blessing for the Church. In its casuistry, the declaration confuses the clergy and the lay faithful on a number of matters essential to the Catholic faith including the sacraments, the role of the priesthood, actions and consequences in the moral life and the development of doctrine.

Prominent bishops and priests throughout the world, renowned for their orthodoxy and competency on these issues, have rightly highlighted this casuistry. In my experience when authors employ language that is ambiguous and filled with caveats, they are usually trying to obscure their true meaning. As such they set their readers on a path to confusion and questioning: “What do you mean by this or that?” or “You say this here but then something else there. Why?”

Why indeed. In response to this confusion, I want to present readers a voice of clarity, specifically on how Fiducia supplicans distorts the meaning of blessings and so, by implication, the role of priests and administration of the sacraments.

One of the many things that unite us as Catholics both Eastern and Latin is the sacramental life and the priesthood, including with our brothers and sisters in the autocephalous Eastern and Oriental Orthodox Churches. These churches, with whom we share apostolicity, have looked on incredulously both at what Fiducia supplicans declares and the confusion caused.

Shortly after the declaration’s publication, His Beatitude Sviatoslav Shevchuk, Major Archbishop of Kyiv-Halych and Primate of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church (UGCC), published a communique. In that document of Dec. 22, 2023, he clarified the reception of Fiducia supplicans by the UGCC, most importantly that it “applies solely to the Latin Church and has no legal force for the faithful of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church.”

While the communique does deal specifically with how we as Ukrainian Greek-Catholics should understand the document, it does offer some cautionary words with respect to how we rightly understand the sacraments, and the role of the priesthood. I quote it now at length:

“The Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church is one of the Eastern Catholic Churches. Therefore, it has its own liturgical, theological, canonical and spiritual heritage, which all the faithful are obliged to observe and cherish… According to the liturgical tradition of our Church, the blessing of a priest or bishop is a liturgical gesture that cannot be separated from the rest of the content of the liturgical rites and reduced to the circumstances and needs of private piety… According to the traditions of the Byzantine rite, the concept of ‘blessing’ means approval, permission or even an order for a specific type of action, prayer and ascetic practices, including certain types of fasting and prayer. Certainly, the blessing of a priest always has an evangelizing and catechetical dimension and, therefore, can in no way contradict the teaching of the Catholic Church about the family as a faithful, indissoluble  and fertile union of love between a man and a woman, which Our Lord Jesus Christ elevated to the dignity of the Holy Sacrament of Matrimony. Pastoral discernment urges us to avoid ambiguous gestures, statements and concepts that would distort or misrepresent God’s word and the teachings of the Church.”

His Beatitude’s communique stands in stark contrast to Fiducia supplicans. It is clear and unambiguous and the reader is left with no apprehension as to its meaning. His Eminence Cardinal Víctor Manuel Fernandez, even after asserting that nothing further by way of explanation or elaboration would come from the Dicastery, has had to offer clarification after clarification. As faithful Catholics, we should shun confusion and obfuscation and always seek what is objectively and universally true at all times and in all places.

(The Reverend Andrew Bennett is a deacon of the Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy of Toronto and Eastern Canada.)