The Great Fissure


Nihil innovetur, nisi quod traditum est
“Let there be no innovation beyond what has been handed down.”
—POPE Saint Stephen I (+ 257)


THE Vatican’s permission for priests to dole out blessings for same-sex “couples” and those in “irregular” relationships has created a deep fissure within the Catholic Church.

Within days of its announcement, nearly entire continents (Africa), bishops’ conferences (eg. Hungary, Poland), cardinals, and religious orders rejected the self-contradictory language in Fiducia supplicans (FS). According to a press release this morning from Zenit, “15 Episcopal Conferences from Africa and Europe, plus around twenty dioceses worldwide, have prohibited, limited, or suspended the application of the document in the diocesan territory, highlighting the existing polarization around it.”[1]Jan 4, 2024, Zenit A Wikipedia page following opposition to Fiducia supplicans currently counts rejections from 16 bishops’ conferences, 29 individual cardinals and bishops, and seven congregations and priestly, religious, and lay associations.

The Declaration, claimed to be signed by the Pope, also conflicted with his previous magisterial statement two years prior in response to a question (dubia) asking if same-sex unions could be blessed. The answer then was a clear no: only individuals could ask for a blessing since to bless the couple “would manifest not the intention to entrust such individual persons to the protection and help of God… but to approve and encourage a choice and a way of life that cannot be recognized as objectively ordered to the revealed plans of God” (see Have We Turned a Corner).

The answer to the proposed dubium [“Does the Church have the power to give the blessing to unions of persons of the same sex?”] does not preclude the blessings given to individual persons with homosexual inclinations, who manifest the will to live in fidelity to the revealed plans of God as proposed by Church teaching. Rather, it declares illicit any form of blessing that tends to acknowledge their unions as such. Responsum of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to a dubium regarding the blessing of the unions of persons of the same sex, February 22, 2021

However, the new document attempts to legitimize such blessings by replacing the word “union” with “couple”, thereby justifying “the possibility of blessing couples in irregular situations and same-sex couples without officially validating their status or changing in any way the Church’s perennial teaching on marriage.”[2]Fiducia supplicans, On the Pastoral Meaning of Blessings Presentation But clergy around the world immediately denounced the wordplay as “doubleminded”,[3]Emeritus Archbishop Charles Chaput a “sophistry”,[4]Fr. Thomas Weinandy and a “deceit and cunning way.”[5]Bishop Athanasius Scheider

I remember when the trans law was being discussed, that we were in a procession at St. Ignatius Parish and some trans persons came to ask me for my blessing and I gave them a blessing. [It is]Another thing… to bless a homosexual couple. There it is no longer the blessing of the persons, but of the couple, and the entire tradition of the Church, even a document from two years ago, says that it’s not possible to do this. —Cardinal Daniel Sturla, Archbishop of Montevideo, Uruguay, Dec. 27, 2023,Catholic News Agency

Since the document treats the partners precisely under the aspect of the relationship, whose defining activity is intrinsically and gravely evil, it includes in the scope of the blessing an object that may not be blessed. —Dr. Christopher Malloy, Chairman and Professor of Theology at The University of Dallas, December 30, 2023;

In fact, John Paul II warned of the secular attempt to give meaning to the word “couple” disassociated from sexual differences:

The value of marital indissolubility is increasingly denied; demands are made for the legal recognition of de facto relationships as if they were comparable to legitimate marriages; and attempts are made to accept a definition of the couple in which difference of sex is not considered essential.Ecclesia in Europa, n. 90, June 28, 2003

Yet others, such as the Canadian bishops, issued a much more benign interpretation saying “The guiding principle in the Declaration is the fact that the very request for a blessing represents an openness to God’s mercy and can be an occasion for greater trust in God.”[6] However, that presumes that the couple — already in a state of objective grave sin — are, in fact, seeking God’s mercy. And if they are, this begs another question:

Why [are] they asking this blessing as a couple, not as a single person? Of course, a single person who has this problem with same-sex affection can come and ask a blessing to overcome the temptations, to be able, with the grace of God, to live chastely. But as a single person, he will not come with his partner — this will be a contradiction in his way to live according to the will of God.  —Bishop Athanasius Schneider, December 19, 2023;


Twisting Papal Authority

It seems almost every day, news of more clergy rejecting Fiducia supplicans (FS) makes the headlines.[7]eg. Peruvian Bishop bans same-sex blessings;; Spanish priests launch petition to have FS annulled; infovaticana-com; German priests reject FS as contradictory, cf. In fact, the Eastern rite of the Catholic Church has flatly said “no” to what FS calls a “new development” in blessings.[8]cf. This has sparked an unprecedented crisis where bishops are resisting a document, signed by the pope, that they say is “impossible” to carry out as written.

But a handful of influential commentators on social media are attacking any clergy or laymen who voice concerns over the contradictory language of FS. They claim that the Magisterium (of Francis) has spoken, it must be unquestioningly obeyed, and that a pope cannot err even in his “ordinary magisterium.”  

However, their arguments smell of ultramontanism, a modern heresy whereby papal powers are greatly exaggerated, warping the limits of the papal charism of infallibility.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states:

The Roman Pontiff, head of the college of bishops, enjoys this infallibility in virtue of his office, when, as supreme pastor and teacher of all the faithful — who confirms his brethren in the faith, he proclaims by a definitive act a doctrine pertaining to faith or morals… —n. 891

This is an ex cathedra act — from the seat of Peter — and a rare one at that. Of course, the reverse then is true, that a pope can therefore be fallible when exercising the rest of his teaching authority or “magisterium.”[9]Popes have made and make mistakes and this is no surprise. Infallibility is reserved ex cathedra [“from the seat” of Peter, that is, proclamations of dogma based on Sacred Tradition]. No popes in the history of the Church have ever made ex cathedra errors. —Rev. Joseph Iannuzzi, theologian and patristics expert

One such case in Church history was Pope Honorius who proposed that Christ had only “one will” (the Church, later on, affirmed as doctrine the “two wills” of Christ). Pope Agatho (678-681) would later condemn Honorius’s words. Nonetheless, here is an example where a pope could indeed be unclear, ambiguous, mistaken, and in need of filial correction. The last case of a pope in theological error was John XXII (1316 – 1334) when he taught his theory that the Saints would enjoy the beatific vision only after the Last Judgment in the Second Coming of Christ. Bishop Athanasius Schneider notes that the treatment of that particular case in those times was as follows: there were public admonitions (University of Paris, King Philip VI of France), a refutation of the wrong Papal theories made through theological publications, and a fraternal correction on behalf of Cardinal Jacques Fournier, who eventually became his successor as Pope Benedict XII (1334 – 1342).”[10]Bishop Athanasius Schneider,

And finally, in our times, commentary and opinions on vaccines or climate change do not constitute Church teaching and are not morally binding to the Christian faithful as they are beyond the purview of ecclesial competency.[11]Rev. Joseph Iannuzzi, STL, S. Th.D., Newsletter, Fall 2021; cf. There is Only One Barque

The pope cannot commit heresy when he speaks ex cathedra, this is a dogma of faith. In his teaching outside of ex cathedra statements, however, he can commit doctrinal ambiguities, errors and even heresies. And since the pope is not identical with the entire Church, the Church is stronger than a singular erring or heretical Pope. In such a case one should respectfully correct him (avoiding purely human anger and disrespectful language), resist him as one would resist a bad father of a family. Yet, the members of a family cannot declare their evil father deposed from the fatherhood. They can correct him, refuse to obey him, separate themselves from him,[12]not schism, but obviously a separation from that which is not in accord with Sacred Tradition but they cannot declare him deposed. —Bishop Athansius Schneider, September 19, 2023;

While some argue against the assertion that a pope can be a heretic,[13]cf. Can the Pope Be a Heretic? the Catechism is clear that a pope can make certain fallible mistakes outside of ex cathedra acts that may require filial correction from those entrusted with the interpretation of God’s Word.

The task of interpreting the Word of God authentically has been entrusted solely to the Magisterium of the Church, that is, to the Pope and to the bishops in communion with him. —CCC, 100

But the neo-ultramontanists will insist that the bishops are to submit to whatever the Pontiff says — even when it is theologically problematic. They will cite Pope Leo XIII, who wrote:

Wherefore it belongs to the Pope to judge authoritatively what things the sacred oracles contain, as well as what doctrines are in harmony, and what in disagreement, with them; and also, for the same reason, to show forth what things are to be accepted as right, and what to be rejected as worthless; what it is necessary to do and what to avoid doing, in order to attain eternal salvation. For, otherwise, there would be no sure interpreter of the commands of God, nor would there be any safe guide showing man the way he should live.Sapientiae Christianae, n. 24
This says that a pope can “judge authoritatively” (ie. definitively) and that such a task “belongs” to him. But it does not mean he always does so. As such, we have the example where Paul corrected Peter to his face for hypocritical behaviour in his pastoral incongruities between the Jews and the Gentiles. While Leo XIII says a Pope can show forth “what it is necessary to do and what to avoid doing,” clearly, that does not mean a pope always does so himself:
And when Cephas [Peter] came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face because he clearly was wrong. (Gal 2:11)
The post-Pentecost Peter… is that same Peter who, for fear of the Jews, belied his Christian freedom (Galatians 2 11–14); he is at once a rock and a stumbling-block. And has it not been thus throughout the history of the Church that the Pope, the successor of Peter, has been at once Petra and Skandalon — both the rock of God and a stumbling block? —POPE BENEDICT XVI, from Das neue Volk Gottes, p. 80ff
Following the Authentic Magisterium
According to the Dogmatic Constitution of the Church, Lumen Gentium:
This religious submission of mind and will must be shown in a special way to the authentic magisterium of the Roman Pontiff, even when he is not speaking ex cathedra—n. 25,
Note the word authentic. It comes from the Latin authenticum, which means “authoritative.” So a teaching belongs to the “authentic magisterium” if it has been authoritatively taught.
In numerous messages from seers around the world, Our Lady has been warning us to remain faithful to the “true magisterium” of the Church:

Whatever happens, do not depart from the teachings of the true Magisterium of the Church of My Jesus. Our Lady to Pedro Regis, February 3rd, 2022

My children, pray for the Church and for holy priests that they would always remain faithful to the true Magisterium of the faith. Our Lady to Gisella Cardia, February 3rd, 2022

Children, pray that the true Magisterium of the Church would not be lost. Our Lady of Zaro to Angela, July 8, 2023

What constitutes the “true” or “authentic” magisterium of either a pope or the bishops is when they transmit that which has already been handed on to them and is consistent with the “deposit of faith.”[14]See What is the “True Magisterium” As Christ commanded His Apostles before His ascension:

Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations… teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. (Matt 28:19-20)
They are to teach Christ’s commandments, not their own. Vatican I affirmed that “the Holy Spirit was promised to the successors of Peter not so that they might, by his revelation, make known some new doctrine, but that, by his assistance, they might religiously guard and faithfully expound the revelation or deposit of faith transmitted by the apostles.”[15]Pastor aeternus, Ch. 4:6 And so…
The pope isn’t an absolute sovereign, whose thoughts and desires are law. On the contrary, the ministry of the pope is the guarantor of the obedience toward Christ and His word. —POPE BENEDICT XVI, Homily of May 8, 2005; San Diego Union-Tribune
Not even popes can “develop doctrine” that departs from Sacred Tradition.[16]cf. The Unfolding Splendor of Truth
Any expression of doctrine or practice that is not in conformity with Divine Revelation, contained in the Sacred Scriptures and in the Tradition of the Church, cannot be an authentic exercise of the apostolic or Petrine ministry and must be rejected by the faithful. —Cardinal Raymond Burke, former member of the Apostolic Signatura, the highest judicial authority in the Church beneath the Pope; April 19, 2018;
While some argue that no pope has died a heretic (and even the cases cited above of Honorious and John XXII arguably do not provide that evidence[17]cf. Can the Pope Be a Heretic?) the issue at hand is not one of heresy but of an apparent tragic failure in logic and pastoral prudence that can, and is, causing scandal. Even though Fiducia supplicans says a priest cannot bless the “union”, to bless the couple is to, in fact, acknowledge the very thing that makes them a couple — their sexual union. And so, argue many clergy:
…they can receive the blessing for growth in grace and for the success of their moral efforts and their next steps in the good direction, but not as a couple because of the misunderstanding and impossibility of such a blessing. —Bishop Marian Eleganti, December 20, 2023; from
As such, some argue that Fiducia supplicans is not an authentic exercise of the “true magisterium” and is, in fact, a danger to it.
Fiducia Supplicans does not belong to the “authentic Magisterium” and is therefore not binding because what is affirmed in it is not contained in the written or transmitted word of God and which the Church, the Roman Pontiff or the College of Bishops, either definitively, that is by solemn judgment, or with ordinary and universal Magisterium, proposes to believe as divinely revealed. One cannot even adhere to it with religious assent of will and intellect. —Theologian Father Nicola Bux, former consulter to the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith; January 25th, 2024;

To put it briefly, the intentional ambiguity of Fiducia supplicans opens the door to just about every subversion of marriage demanded by the enemies of the faith, but that same ambiguity means the document is toothless. —Fr. Dwight Longnecker, December 19, 2023;

UPDATE: Shortly after publishing this article, the Prefect for the Dicastery of the Doctrine of the Faith issued a press release warning Episcopal conferences that “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.” The reason, he cites, is that Fiducia supplicans affirms “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.”

However, few if any are disputing these elements of the Declaration, which are indeed harmonious with Sacred Tradition. And priests have always granted blessings to individuals prior to this document. Rather, it is the “true novelty” that one can bless the “couple”, as FS affirms, while overlooking the intrinsic sexual relationship which makes them a couple in the first place. In other words, this new press release is forcing bishops to accept this compromising situation.

The fact that no one has rejected Pope Francis’s Responsum is the actual clue why Fiducia supplicans remains problematic for many bishops…
Our Lady’s Warning and Presence…
In a message to Pedro Regis, who enjoys the support of his bishop, Our Lady allegedly says:
Contrary winds will move the Great Vessel away from the safe harbor and a great shipwreck will cause the death of many of my poor children. Give me your hands and I will lead you to my Son Jesus. It [the vessel] will go adrift due to the fault of the commander, but the Lord will come to the aid of His people. —January 1, 2024
And the message from Our Lady of Akita is now in full view:
The work of the devil will infiltrate even into the Church in such a way that one will see cardinals opposing cardinals, bishops against bishops. The priests who venerate me will be scorned and opposed by their confreres… churches and altars sacked; the Church will be full of those who accept compromises and the demon will press many priests and consecrated souls to leave the service of the Lord… —to Sr. Agnes Sasagawa of Akita, Japan, October 13th, 1973
While a good portion of the Catholic Church still ignores, if not despises prophecy,[18]“Do not despise the words of prophets, but test everything; hold fast to what is good…” (1 Thessalonians 5:20-21) I think we should be paying attention — watch and pray (Mark 14:38). At the end of John Paul II’s Apostolic Exhortation cited above, he points to the Woman battling the dragon, to remind us of both the dangers ahead, and the victory that is assured.
The dragon is “the ancient serpent, who is called the Devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world” (Rev 12:9). The conflict is an uneven one: the dragon seems to prevail, so great is his arrogance before the defenceless and suffering woman… Continue to contemplate Mary, in the knowledge that she is “maternally present and sharing in the many complicated problems which today beset the lives of individuals, families, and nations” and is “helping the Christian people in the constant struggle between good and evil, to ensure that it ‘does not fall’, or, if it has fallen, that it ‘rises again’.”Ecclesia in Europa, n. 124, June 28, 2003

Children, let no one deceive you.
The person who acts in righteousness is righteous,
just as he is righteous.
Whoever sins belongs to the Devil,
because the Devil has sinned from the beginning.
Indeed, the Son of God was revealed to destroy the works of the Devil…
In this way,
the children of God and the children of the Devil are made plain;
no one who fails to act in righteousness belongs to God,
nor anyone who does not love his brother.
(Today’s First Mass Reading)

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1 Jan 4, 2024, Zenit
2 Fiducia supplicans, On the Pastoral Meaning of Blessings Presentation
3 Emeritus Archbishop Charles Chaput
4 Fr. Thomas Weinandy
5 Bishop Athanasius Scheider
7 eg. Peruvian Bishop bans same-sex blessings;; Spanish priests launch petition to have FS annulled; infovaticana-com; German priests reject FS as contradictory, cf.
8 cf.
9 Popes have made and make mistakes and this is no surprise. Infallibility is reserved ex cathedra [“from the seat” of Peter, that is, proclamations of dogma based on Sacred Tradition]. No popes in the history of the Church have ever made ex cathedra errors. —Rev. Joseph Iannuzzi, theologian and patristics expert
10 Bishop Athanasius Schneider,
11 Rev. Joseph Iannuzzi, STL, S. Th.D., Newsletter, Fall 2021; cf. There is Only One Barque
12 not schism, but obviously a separation from that which is not in accord with Sacred Tradition
13 cf. Can the Pope Be a Heretic?
14 See What is the “True Magisterium”
15 Pastor aeternus, Ch. 4:6
16 cf. The Unfolding Splendor of Truth
17 cf. Can the Pope Be a Heretic?
18 “Do not despise the words of prophets, but test everything; hold fast to what is good…” (1 Thessalonians 5:20-21)