This week we take a final look into Pope Francis’ latest teaching on blessings. But before doing that, please remember that “news” sources are rarely unbiased organizations seeking the greater good of humanity. We need to keep this in mind even when we go to our favorite new sources. Our desire should always be for the truth, regardless of the impact that might have on our lives. Often further study or reflection is needed to understand what is being said. Self-discipline is needed for this, as with many other aspects of life.
It seems a legitimate criticism of Pope Francis’ teaching on blessings of people in “irregular” unions is the use of the word ‘couple’. This is because the Church has always provided blessings to anyone seeking the grace of God. Bishops and priests dedicate their lives to bringing people closer to God. They are constantly praying for this and make sacrifices each day for this to happen. So they are eager to dispense God’s grace, most powerfully through the Sacraments that Christ gave us, or through the simple help of a blessing.
What needs determined before giving the blessing is what specific help the person(s) is asking from God. Could a blessing be given to a thief who asks for good health? If the reason for good health was to be able to run fast to elude law enforcement, then no, but if the reason was the person had cancer, then yes. The first reason supports the sinful lifestyle and leads that person away from God, whereas the second reason is not connected with the sinful lifestyle. For the latter case, when giving the blessing, the bishop/priest/deacon should speak to the thief about changing his sinful behavior if he really wants to lead him closer to God.
It’s important to notice that the document’s clear directive is that those in “irregular” unions need to “mature” and “be purified of everything” that is contrary “to the will of God.” Pope Francis is saying more here than most people realize. He is calling people, in a gentle way, to saintly holiness. The danger of his gentle approach is that people will miss the point of what he is saying. Being “purified of everything” means everything! Purification requires self-denial and self-mortification.
What this means for “couples” is that, unless they are married as husband and wife, they should not be sexually active with each other in any manner at all. Their relationship should be a strong friendship based on Godly love. God’s plan for creating us male and female is for the purpose of bringing forth children. We should be living according to chastity and holiness instead of lust and pleasure. If we really want to understand love, we should look to the crucifix, Jesus' greatest act of love.
In giving a blessing, Pope Francis reiterates that what is not being blessed is the “union” of those in irregular relationships. Referring to such individuals as “couples” creates confusion since that has the inference of a romantic relationship. The commandment to love God and neighbor applies to everyone, and doing so does not require romance and sexual activity.