(LifeSiteNews) — The first episode of Faith & Reason for the new year sees Bishop Joseph Strickland, formerly of the Diocese of Tyler, Texas, and Father Charles Murr join John-Henry Westen to discuss the continuing fallout over Fiducia supplicans, the Vatican’s document allowing the blessing of “irregular” couples, a lightning strike that vaporized the blessing hand and key of a statue of St. Peter near Buenos Aires on Pope Francis’ birthday, and their predictions for 2024.
Last month, Cardinal Victor Fernández, prefect for the Dicastery (formerly Congregation) of the Doctrine of the Faith (DDF), released Fiducia supplicans, allowing for the blessing of people in “irregular” situations, including blessings for same-sex “couples.” Fallout from the document’s release continues, with an increasing number of voices coming out against the document. LifeSiteNews is tracking which bishops and bishops’ conferences have dissented from or commended the document.
Fernández put out a press release yesterday attempting to clarify Fiducia supplicans as a continuation of the Church’s perennial teaching, and has forbidden a “total or definitive denial” of the document on the part of the episcopate.
Strickland was among the first bishops to call on other bishops to say “no” to the document. Commenting on the past several weeks’ worth of reaction from the global episcopate, Strickland says that it was “a prayer answered.” While he wishes there were more North American bishops speaking out against the document, he looks to the reaction of African bishops as something we can gain strength from.
“Many people have predicted that Africa would be a strength for the Church for the 21st century,” Strickland observes. “I think this is a great instance of seeing that with clarity, with a forthright message, just cutting through all the confusion that really is embedded in this document.”
Fr. Murr agrees with Strickland, noting that the Africans still follow the natural law and live according to it. He also says he wishes Rome would learn from the African bishops and Bishop Strickland how to speak with clarity on matters of faith. “This is the way we want to hear things from anyone in authority – with clarity,” he opines. “The way the African bishops have spoken is uplifting. It really does give hope again.”
Both Strickland and Murr shared their reactions to several of the African bishops, including Bishop Martin Mtumbuka of the Diocese of Karonga, Malawi, and Archbishop Maurice Makumba of Kisumu, Kenya.
Strickland says that Mtumbuka speaks like an apostle and that other bishops, including himself, need to learn to speak like him. Strickland also says that bishops should stop using the “diplospeak” and “confused messaging,” as well as being afraid of offending someone, observing that Mtumbuka noted that the Cross was a scandal in the early days of the Church.
“Christ says He came to divide us in that sense, to divide us from anything that is false,” Strickland notes. “And this bishop’s words, would that they were words coming from a pope. Those are the kind of words we need. In this time, in the twenty first century, we need that kind of clarity, that kind of zeroing in on exactly what people of faith are thinking and wondering.”
“We have to be very clear that this is not the way of the Church of Jesus Christ,” he continues, agreeing with Mtumbuka and calling Fiducia supplicans’ allowance for the blessings of “irregular” couples a “sleight of hand,” as the couple receives the blessing as a couple.
Murr agrees with Strickland’s assessment of Mtumbuka’s homily, but adds that the African bishops as a whole have through their denouncing Fiducia supplicans given up aid money from the West.
Turning to the extra-African criticism of Pope Francis following Fiducia supplicans, Strickland calls on people to recall that there is respect due to the Holy Father. At the same time, one cannot “twist [oneself] into a pretzel” and pretend the document is not ambiguous. Referring to a comment Murr made about Mtumbuka’s remarks on the document, saying that it was like heresy, Strickland said “if it quacks like a duck, it walks like a duck, it looks like a duck, then it’s a duck.”
Meanwhile, Chris Christie, a Republican candidate for the presidency, credited Fiducia supplicans as a factor in changing his opinion on homosexual unions while campaigning in New Hampshire.
“That’s the destructive evil, and it has to be called out as evil!” Strickland forcefully asserts in reaction to Christie’s remark. “That is evil because the truth doesn’t change and the Church doesn’t change Her proclamation of truth,” he continues. While he maintains that people should be told that the Truth doesn’t change and the Vatican needs to repudiate Christie’s remarks immediately, he believes it will not since “that’s exactly the agenda.”
Murr observes that priests and bishops refusing to acknowledge the document have been put in a “precarious situation,” as people denied a blessing will contact diocesan chanceries to complain. In fact, he says this happened to him when he told a same-sex “couple” that their child would learn their lifestyle was immoral at a Catholic school. However, he notes, denying the blessing will also be seen as a “hate crime,” and so priests will not have support from either the state or the Church.
Towards the end of the episode, both clerics shared the opinion that the crisis in the Church would worsen in the new year.
“The Church will continue to be battered by the forces that have been battering the Barque of Peter for several years now,” Strickland opines. “The ship won’t sink. It could take on more water, but the Church will prevail.”
Murr adds there will be an increased cry for Pope Francis to resign this year, and that the Vatican will attempt to introduce “deaconesses.” If and when that occurs, he believes “that will kind of be it.”
“The Church is fragmented right now, but I think the division is going to be … a very serious one … much, much more than it is right now,” he says. “You are either going to have to be this way or that way. One side of the fence or the other. There will be no sitting on the fence.” He also predicts the election of former President Donald Trump to the White House again.
For all this and more, tune in to this week’s episode of Faith & Reason.
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