Fiducia Supplicans Shatters the Myth of Francis as the "Pope of the Peripheries"

A central tenet of the myth of pro-Francis hagiography has, until this point, been that he is the "Popeof the Peripheries"- the first Pope from the Global South, with a special focus on speaking for non-Western Catholics such as the burgeoning Catholic population of Africa. His opposition, the hagiography goes, comes from the heart of the consumerist West: the United States and its Catholic conservatives, who have been drumming up opposition to Pope Francis (an opposition which is supposedly manifested in a desire for the Traditional Latin Mass).

That myth has been shattered, once and forever, by Fiducia Supplicans. The reaction from most of the world has been to emphasize that the document does not change anything about Catholic doctrine or practice and that blessings of same-sex relationships are forbidden-- only the individuals may be blessed. This line is reflected in the official statements of the United States and Canadian bishops' conferences, as well as conservative bishops like Andrew Cozzens of Crookston, MN. 

In progressive Catholic mythology, the seat of resistance to Francis lies with the Napa Institute, an American Catholic group that promotes orthodox Catholicism and the Traditional Latin Mass. Yet the Napa Insitute's statement regarding Fiducia Supplicans was almost entirely supportive: "It is important to note that the Holy Father has not changed any doctrine, but reminds the clergy of the importance of reaching out to those in these relationships and reminding them of God’s mercy. Bless the people, not the behavior, which he has said clearly . . . The Holy Father is calling us to charitable outreach to those in these situations and calling them home to embrace Our Blessed Lord."

By contrast, the response of the "peripheries" has been scathing. Three African bishops' conferences have outright rejected the notion of blessing same-sex couples. Others have criticized the confusion Fiducia Supplicans has created and stated that they do not believe it to be "definitive." The Ukrainian bishops' conference has criticized Fiducia Supplicans for its lack of clarity. The Archdiocese of Saint Mary in Astana in Kazakhstan has denounced the document. 

After Fiducia Supplicans, it is impossible to maintain the pretense that Francis and his close acolytes pushing for a change in Church teaching represent the "peripheries" against American Catholics. Instead, it is the "peripheries"- those places where the Church is still growing and thriving-- that have rejected Fiducia Supplicans most definitively. In the closing days of Francis's pontificate, the hopes of European liberals for a "Francis II" seem dimmer than ever. 

Let us continue to pray for Holy Mother Church and her bishops!