Metro Weekly

Vatican Says Trans People Can Be Baptized

Vatican doctrinal office opens door to baptism for transgender individuals, but is more hesitant to embrace children of same-sex couples.

Baptism – Photo: Josh Applegate, via Unsplash

Transgender people can be baptized in the Roman Catholic Church, says new guidance from the Vatican.

The guidance came in response to dubia, or questions regarding Catholic Church doctrine, submitted by Brazilian Bishop Jose Negri of Santo Amaro, inquiring about LGBTQ people and their participation in holy sacraments.

The church’s Dicastery of the Doctrine of the Faith said that transgender people may be baptized, under certain conditions, and as long as there is “no risk of causing a public scandal or disorientation among the faithful.”

The doctrinal office also said that “transsexuals,” as it refers to transgender people, could serve as godparents at a baptism at the discretion of a local priest, or as witnesses at a Church wedding — noting that there is no prohibition in current canonical legislation — but warned that diocesan priests should exercise “pastoral prudence” in allowing this participation.

The answers to the dubia were signed by the department’s head, Argentine Cardinal Víctor Manuel Fernández, and approved by Pope Francis on Oct. 31, according to Reuters. They were posted on the department’s website on November 8.

Negri also sought guidance on whether a same-sex couple who had adopted a child or had used a surrogate mother to carry the child to term could have that child baptized in a Catholic ceremony.

In response, the doctrinal office said that for a child of a same-sex couple to be baptized, there had to be “a well-founded hope that it would be educated in the Catholic religion.”

The Vatican also offered a more nuanced response to a question about whether a person in a same-sex relationship could serve as a godparent at a Church baptism, saying that the person in question had to “lead a life that conforms to the faith” and could not be involved in a “marital style” relationship.

The Vatican’s response to Negri’s inquiry reflect a pattern of Pope Francis, the head of the Roman Catholic Church, taking a more conciliatory and welcoming attitude toward LGBTQ Catholics.

Despite not wavering on Church teachings on marriage and sexuality, and deeming same-sex relations “sinful,” Francis has said that those with feelings of same-sex attraction are welcome in the Church and are not to be permanently ostracized from the community of believers.

Francis has previously met with LGBTQ people, and in July, wrote a response to a letter from a transgender Catholic, telling them that they were loved by God while at the same time standing firm on the Church’s opposition to transitioning medically. 

“Even if we are sinners, he [God] draws near to help us. The Lord loves us as we are, this is God’s crazy love,” he told the letter’s author.

Francis has also condemned laws that criminalize homosexuality or punish it with death, has rebuked Catholic parents who seek to “condemn” their gay children, and indicated last month, in response to dubia from other bishops, that he may be open to allowing priests to bless same-sex unions.

LGBTQ people and their allies in the Catholic community hailed the Vatican’s guidance as welcome news, while noting it still falls short of full inclusion.

“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,” Father James Martin, a prominent Jesuit priest and supporter of LGBTQ rights in the Church, posted on the social media platform X.

“It is encouraging to see the Vatican making it clear that LGBTQ+ people are not automatically banned from our church’s sacraments,” Marianne Duddy-Burke, executive director of the LGBTQ Catholic advocacy organization DignityUSA, said in a statement.

“We remain concerned that our identities continue to be seen as causing scandal in this document, and would like to work with church leaders to clarify what that means,” she continued. “LGBTQIA+ people around the world, and certainly in our country, are simply exercising our human rights to live in our true identities, to marry the people we love, and to raise children. The religious teachings that discount those rights are the scandal. They damage and dehumanize LGBTQIA+ people and need to be revoked.”

Sarah Kate Ellis, the president and CEO of the LGBTQ advocacy group GLAAD, said the Vatican’s latest response to questions around LGBTQ inclusion are heartening to those who find themselves persecuted due to their identity.

Pope Francis’ latest LGBTQ affirmation sends an unequivocal message to political and cultural leaders around the world to end their persecution and exclusion of transgender people,” Ellis said in a statement.

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