Commentary by Bishop Erik T. Pohlmeier on Fiducia Supplicans

To the Clergy and faithful of the Diocese of St. Augustine,

Since the release of the declaration of Fiducia Supplicans, there has been an enormous amount of commentary and a frustrating amount of confusion. Because of the genuine concern from so many people, it is important to offer some comments about this document.

Cardinal Victor Fernández, the prefect for the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, has spoken further in various interviews to clarify some points. But confusion has continued. In that light, I offer these comments for the Diocese of St. Augustine.

Fiducia Supplicans makes clear that marriage; “is the ‘exclusive, stable, and indissoluble union between a man and a woman, naturally open to the generation of children.’ (FS 3) Further, this same paragraph clarifies behavior, saying that, “it is only in this context that sexual relations find their natural, proper, and fully human meaning.” This firm teaching of the Church is repeated throughout the document and in follow-up interviews.

What follows is a reflection on the theology of blessings in the history of the Church. It would be helpful to everyone to reflect on what are called, “among the most widespread and evolving sacramentals.” (FS 8) It is certainly the common experience of bishops and priests to be asked spontaneously for blessings. Sometimes it is clear what the reason is and sometimes not. Priests occasionally must explain that a blessing is not appropriate for the situation, but usually,good will is presumed.

The controversy around Fiducia Supplicans has focused on the section titled, “Blessings of Couples in Irregular Situations and of Couples of the Same Sex.” The debate is about what precisely is being blessed. The document itself identifies what is required to seek a blessing. “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.” (FS 31) I want to highlight the line that says a blessing asks for aid to “grow in fidelity to the Gospel.” This is a presumption for ongoing conversion. The Gospel demands repentance and growth from all who walk the path of the narrow way. To seek a blessing is to recognize human weakness and be strengthened by God’s grace in the way of perfection.

The path of the Christian is one of conforming our lives to Christ’s, not asking God to do things according to the norms of human society. Each one of us is called to discover the truth of our life with God. This is increasingly difficult in a society where many people demand self-determination. Every blessing from God should seek the will of God who knows us better than we know ourselves. In the context of this document, the way of perfection that gives freedom is the life of chastity. Each of us needs God’s blessing to live this virtue according to our state in life.

Another question has been why this declaration is needed, at this time. What seems consistent during the papacy of Pope Francis is the call to mercy. Mercy is an aspect of love and the perfection of the Christian life is a growing practice of love. Each of us should reflect on how we offer mercy to others in concrete form. Jesus most certainly offered mercy in the Gospel as part of the movement toward God. He didn’t reserve mercy only for those fully converted. We are called to respond to the challenge of offering mercy in an imperfect world. We should speak the full truth of the Gospel and Fiducia Supplicans states the truth about marriage and sex. At the same time, we recognize that the truth of Jesus Christ is also the mercy of God lived in the more perfect love of neighbor.

In response to the declaration of Fiducia Supplicans I ask all clergy to continue your efforts to accompany parishioners in the challenges of living the Gospel. This document should help all people understand the value of blessings and seek the strength of God in all their struggles. As this declaration makes clear, blessings for those with same-sex attractions should avoid giving false impressions, and yet convey the closeness of the Father with all of those who seek his will. My hope is that this will open the door for deeper conversations with those who desire to live in chastity despite the challenges of our culture.

I ask all the faithful to exercise humility and compassion. Seek to grow according to the model of Jesus, and to commit to personal prayer. During these contentious times, we should be measured in our criticisms. Our witness should be one of the peace that is found in Christ no matter the circumstances. 

We seek the intercession of the martyrs of La Florida. They faced challenges that came with hatred and confusion in a heroic manner. They responded with the faith of saints and gave the full witness of the cross. May our witness help fulfill our mission and bring the Kingdom of God to this beloved land.

In Christ,

Most Rev. Erik T. Pohlmeier
Bishop of St. Augustine