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Is Pope Francis Pumping the Brakes?

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So the promised Easter document on human dignity has been released.  By Catholic standards the document is quite problematic.  However, by the standard of this pontificate, it is not as bad as it could have been. In any event, the document may indicate that Francis is pumping the brakes, which would be good news. But let’s go over a few things first.

Of course, there is the standard attack on the death penalty which seems to be business as usual these days.  In paragraph 11 the document reads:

Biblical Revelation teaches that all human beings possess inherent dignity because they are created in the image and likeness of God: “God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness’ […] So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them” (Gen. 1:26-27).

Several chapters later in the same book of Genesis, we read: “Whosoever shall shed man’s blood, his blood shall be shed: for man was made to the image of God.”  Not only does Genesis endorse the death penalty for murder but it links it to the image of God; the same source that Dignitas Infinita uses for the claim of universal inherent dignity. 

Apparently Genesis and Cardinal Fernandez have different views on human dignity.

Another problem is the constant appeal to the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  Why not appeal to Catholic documents?  In fact, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights gets much more attention than the Vatican II Document Dignitatis Humanae, which is specifically about human dignity.

Much more could be said about the negatives of the document but I want to highlight something interesting.  Many Catholics on the Left are not happy about how the document deals with LGBT issues.  The document doesn’t even use the term LGBT.  Let us look at the document and what it says about sexual orientation.  In paragraph 55 we read:

The Church wishes, first of all, “to reaffirm that every person, regardless of sexual orientation, ought to be respected in his or her dignity and treated with consideration, while ‘every sign of unjust discrimination’ is to be carefully avoided, particularly any form of aggression and violence.” For this reason, it should be denounced as contrary to human dignity the fact that, in some places, not a few people are imprisoned, tortured, and even deprived of the good of life solely because of their sexual orientation.

The most traditional Catholic I know doesn’t believe that an inclination to sin should be a cause for imprisonment or death, even if we lived in a fully Catholic confessional state under the Kingship of Christ.  In Putin’s Russia that wouldn’t even happen.  However, promotion of or engaging in the lifestyle is reason for a government penalty, which the document doesn’t rule out.  That is not “unjust discrimination” but most just discrimination. Any proclivity to sin is just that – a temptation – no one has ever advocated punishment for temptation. This is entirely different than committing a sin that cries to heaven for vengeance.

The paragraphs following this deal with gender theory and sex change, and the Liberals don’t seem to be happy.  On the website Outreach, homosexual Catholic writer Michael J. O’Loughlin writes:

The document is also notable for something else it lacks: namely, any strong indication that the lived experiences of transgender people served as a source in formulating its contents.

Someone needs to tell Mr. O’Loughlin that Catholic doctrine is informed by Scripture and Tradition and not by lived experiences.  Also, by lived experiences O’Loughlin isn’t referring to those who have transitioned and now regret having permanently mutilated their bodies like Chloe Cole and so many others.  Whether it’s in the Church discussions or secular society, those who have de-transitioned are often shut out of the conversation.

The sexual issues covered in the document were probably the best a traditional Catholic could hope for in a document written by Cardinal Fernández and approved by Pope Francis.  One has to wonder if there was something more at work.  I think that there was, and that something was none other than Fiducia Supplicans.

That document received global backlash on a scale never seen before in the two thousand year history of the Catholic Church.  In Fiducia Supplicans, toward the end of the document, Cardinal Fernandez wrote:

Thus, beyond the guidance provided above, no further responses should be expected about possible ways to regulate details or practicalities regarding blessings of this type.

Only two and a half weeks later, Cardinal Fernandez had to back pedal on this and do major damage control with a document issued on January 4, 2024.  The Vatican felt the heat with the global backlash against their scandalous document.  Do they still feel the heat when it comes to those issues?

Interesting enough, in Dignitas Infinita we read that this document has actually been in the works for five years.  It specifically says that the final changes to this document were made in February at the request of Pope Francis himself.  Did the global backlash against Fiducia Supplicans play a role in these late changes to this document that was five years in the making?  We can’t know for certain but it’s very clear that on April 8, 2024, Cardinal Fernandez sounded very different than he did on December 18, 2023 regarding sexual issues; not even four months ago, at least on paper

When Fiducia Supplicans was released and the global backlash came, I predicted that Francis and Fernandez would have one of two polar opposite reactions going forward.  The first would be to go all in as they’re now committed and there is no turning back.  The second would be to pull back, at least temporarily.  It seems that they have done the latter.

While Pope Francis tries to emphasize synodality, his pontificate has shown precious little of it save for the façade of these almost annual synods.  The restrictions on the Latin Mass, the changing of the catechism on the death penalty, and Fiducia Supplicans lacked any form of synodality.  In terms of the massive non-implementation of Traditionis Custodes and monumental backlash against Fiducia Supplicans, we can see that the Papacy of Francis is extremely against any form of real and authentic synodality.  However, if there is a connection between the backlash against Fiducia Supplicans and the somewhat cold opinion regarding LGBT issues in Dignitas Infinita, we see synodality at work in an indirect and very ironic way.  Christ is King!

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