A Harmful Wedge

A Comment on the Editorial

In the emails and letters I have received since we posted “The Fall of Rome,”our correspondents have wondered whether the editors actually read Fiducia Supplicans (FS), since the text seems mostly harmless, as if nothing has changed. In a similar tone, others have counseled patience, asking us to step back and wait to see what happens.

First, yes, we read it. Our subtitle, “Let’s Not Kid Ourselves,” was written in anticipation of the letters described above. And while we are not a Catholic journal, close to half of our editorial board is Catholic, as is our largest block of readers.

Besides, for what, exactly, should we wait? The Catholic Church in Germany has been blessing same-sex unions for years without remonstrance from the Vatican. Father James Martin, a close ally of Pope Francis, telephoned a New York Times photographer on the day FS was released to record his blessing of a same-sex “married” couple on the following day.

As to the suggestion that nothing has changed, one need not take our word for it. As Fr. Martin wrote in America magazine on December 18: “you may hear from some quarters that ‘nothing has changed.’ It reminds me of my church history professor, John  W. O’Malley, S.J., who said that when church teaching changes, the most common introduction is ‘As the church has always taught. . . .’” When the editors of Touchstone and Fr. James Martin find themselves in such exceedingly rare agreement, it is time to stop kidding ourselves and pretending that everything hasn’t changed.

Fiducia Supplicans was written by Victor Manuel Cardinal Fernández, and while there is nothing in it so outwardly freakish as the cardinal’s previous works (The Art of Kissing and a graphic volume on orgasms), he used his skills this time to craft subtle, and far more harmful, lies. For instance, FS argues that blessings of homoerotic relationships are permissible because two men or two women constitute a “couple” and not a “union.” (I don’t know how he deals with threesomes.)

Months before the publication of FS, I posed a hypothetical question to a friend of mine, a conservative who nonetheless defends Pope Francis—and all popes—against suggestions that he would or even could change Catholic doctrine. I asked what her reaction would be if Pope Francis came out and said that homoerotic relationships were okay.

She would not entertain the question (just as Pope Francis would not entertain that question when it was put to him by cardinals Raymond Burke, Walter Brandmüller, Joachim Meisner, and Carlo Caffarra). When FS came out, I saw a posting of hers online, where she said that homoerotic blessings are just a media misinterpretation of FS.

I was tempted to press her on this point, but no good could come of that, as I have already seen FS drive a wedge between conservative friends.

Call me naïve, but I am not (yet) convinced that Pope Francis means to queer the Roman Catholic Church. That said, it is no secret that he holds conservatives both in and outside the church in disdain, and FS does about all it can to provoke conservatives. I have no idea if driving that wedge in deeper is what Pope Francis has in mind, but let’s not do the Enemy any favors by attempting to score points against our brothers in Christ.

Finally, my thoughts go to 1969, and these words from then-Cardinal Ratzinger:


J. Douglas Johnson is Executive Editor of Touchstone.

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