Vatican to allow transgender people to be baptized

Pope Francis answers questions from journalists aboard his flight from Athens, Greece, to Rome Dec. 6, 2021. The pope was concluding a five-day visit to Cyprus and Greece. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

The Vatican has declared that transgender individuals can undergo baptism in the Catholic Church, provided it does not lead to scandal or confusion.

Additionally, the Church’s doctrinal office stated that transgender individuals are eligible to serve as godparents at baptisms and witnesses at weddings.

This decision aligns with Pope Francis’s efforts to foster a more inclusive environment for the LGBTQ+ community within the Church.

The Pope told one trans person in July that “even if we are sinners, he (God) draws near to help us”.

The Vatican revised its position in response to inquiries from Brazilian Bishop José Negri, who submitted six questions concerning the involvement of LGBT individuals in baptism and marriage.

The response, signed by the head of the Dicastery of the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Víctor Manuel Fernández, and approved by Pope Francis, was published on the department’s website on Wednesday, encompassing three pages.

It states that a transgender person – including those who have undergone hormonal treatment and gender reassignment surgery – can receive baptism under the same conditions as other believers “if there are no situations in which there is a risk of generating public scandal or disorientation among the faithful”.

The statement delves into Bishop Negri’s additional inquiries, including whether transgender individuals can serve as godparents. It clarifies that if an adult has undergone hormone treatment and gender reassignment surgery, they may be eligible to be a godfather or godmother.

But it goes on to state that priests have the discretion to refuse such a request if “there is a danger of scandal, undue legitimisation or disorientation in the educational sphere of the church community”.

American Jesuit priest Fr James Martin, who is a supporter of LGBT rights, posted on X (formerly Twitter): “This is an important step forward in the Church seeing transgender people not only as people (in a Church where some say they don’t really exist) but as Catholics.”

While the document seems to set out clearly what the Church thinks in terms of trans people being baptised or acting as godparents, it is more nuanced on the other issues raised by Bishop Negri.

On the question of whether same-sex parents who adopt or use a surrogate mother could have a child baptised in the Church, the Vatican said a priest’s decision would have to be based on the “well-founded hope that he or she would be educated in the Catholic religion”.

There was a similarly nuanced response to a question whether a person in a same-sex relationship could be a godparent at a Church baptism. It said the person had to “lead a life that conforms to the faith”.

The recent guidance to Catholic clergy aligns with a suggestion made by the Pope last month, indicating that same-sex couples could receive a blessing from a priest, with the request being approached with “pastoral charity.”

However, Pope Francis emphasized that the Church still views same-sex relationships as “objectively sinful” and does not endorse same-sex marriage.


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