Pope Francis’ Blessing Document Revolutionizes All Pastoral Care

New Ways Ministry’s executive director has called the Vatican’s approval of blessings for same-gender couples a “pastoral revolution” which helps “not only for LGBTQ+ people but for anyone who was wounded” by a “policing” approach to pastoral care which thrived under the previous two papacies.

Pope Francis

In an essay for The National Catholic Reporter, Francis DeBernardo identifies paragraph 25 of Fiducia Supplicans, the new document which approved blessings, as being significant because it “warns that ‘an exhaustive moral analysis should not be placed as a precondition for conferring’ a blessing. The paragraph says that the church must avoid ‘resting its pastoral praxis on the fixed nature of certain doctrinal or disciplinary schemes.’ ”

DeBernardo provided some historical context to emphasize Paragraph 25’s significance:

“Paragraph 25 is revolutionary because it overturns the dominant pastoral approach the Catholic Church has taken over the centuries, an approach which emphasized policing for doctrinal orthodoxy and demanding strict obedience over offering welcome and extending mercy. This approach became almost fetishized during the papacies of John Paul II and Benedict XVI. While many people suffered because of this approach, from the early 1980s until the election of Pope Francis, LGBTQ+ people were often singled out for ‘exhaustive moral analysis’ before they were deemed eligible for participating actively in church life.”

During this time, doctrine was used as a tool of exclusion, he states:

“While regular old-fashioned homophobia may have played a role in such prejudiced and discriminatory pastoral attitudes towards gay and lesbian people, we have to remember that the way these attitudes and practices were justified was through support from church doctrine. Pro-LGBTQ-theologians were censured. Supportive pastoral ministers were excluded from church programs. And, of course, LGBTQ+ people were not only not blessed, but often directly turned away from Catholic spaces, including parishes.”

And DeBernardo goes on to illustrate that such attitudes are still active in some areas of the church:

“The only thing that Catholic leaders seemed to be able to say to LGBTQ+ people was ‘No.’ This attitude of responding to LGBTQ+ people only through a lens of doctrine (which has been increasingly challenged by more and more theologians and bishops) continues to this day. It is what supports church leaders who fire LGBTQ+ people from jobs at Catholic schools and parishes. It is behind the mania of morality clauses in church institutions. It undergirds the restrictive policies on gender conformity many dioceses have instituted. And it is the basis of bishops’ supporting laws which criminalize LGBTQ+ people.”

The new document attempts to stop this weaponizing of doctrine:

Fiducia Supplicans puts an end to the era of doctrinal policing, a policy which Francis has been promoting since the beginning of his papacy. Francis’ policy was not only for LGBTQ+ people but for anyone who was wounded by draconian applications of ‘pastoral care.’ This new document quotes from the pontiff’s first official document, the apostolic exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium, in which he instructed avoiding ‘a narcissistic and authoritarian elitism, whereby instead of evangelizing, one analyzes and classifies others, and instead of opening the door to grace, one exhausts his or her energies in inspecting and verifying.’

DeBernardo’s conclusion is that Fiducia Supplicans represents a revolutionary shift to a new, more welcoming, form of pastoral care.  This new approach is beneficial not only to LGBTQ+ people, but to all those who pastoral ministers may have harmed by their rigidity on doctrine:

“Pope Francis is bringing to an end the exclusionary practices of the previous two pontiffs by affirming that God’s mercy is not something humans can limit. . . .That is good news not only for LGBTQ+ people, but for anyone who was marginalized or excluded by policies which were designed to justify the institution’s rules.”

To read the entire essay by DeBernardo, click here.
Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, January 2, 2024
1 reply
  1. Reggie Birks
    Reggie Birks says:

    It’s a a welcome and revolutionary change that I never thought I’d see in my life time; however, I’m afraid many bishops will not encourage its use.


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