In a recent announcement, the Vatican has declared that transgender individuals can now undergo baptism and assume the role of godparents, provided certain conditions are met. The statement, initially in Portuguese, was prompted by a Brazilian bishop seeking clarification on the church’s stance regarding transgender inclusion within its congregations.
The Vatican’s official document outlines that transgender individuals, including those who have undergone hormone replacement therapy or sex reassignment surgery, are eligible for baptism “under the same conditions as other believers.” However, this is contingent upon the absence of a “risk of generating a public scandal or disorientation among the faithful.” Notably, the document does not specify the parameters defining a public scandal.
Furthermore, the statement extends the scope to include transgender “children and adolescents,” allowing their baptism. Additionally, transgender individuals are permitted to serve as witnesses at church weddings. The document explicitly mentions that a same-sex couple can baptize an adopted or surrogate-born child, provided there is a “well-founded hope” of the child being educated in the Catholic faith.
The Vatican’s affirmation of transgender inclusion in sacramental life is seen by some as a reflection of Pope Francis’ pastorally-focused approach to LGBTQ+ issues. Francis DeBernardo, the executive director of New Ways Ministry, views this as a positive shift, emphasizing the Pope’s desire for a more welcoming stance.
However, the document’s lack of clarity on whether transgender individuals can be godparents raises concerns. The Church states that such decisions are left to “pastoral prudence,” with no explicit criteria provided. It emphasizes that assuming the role of a godparent is not a right but subject to the discretion of the Church.
DeBernardo expresses concern that the vague guidelines could be misused to establish exclusionary policies within the Church. He advocates for the application of these guidelines in line with Pope Francis’ inclusive approach, urging church leaders to avoid perpetuating old restrictions.
The document was signed by Argentine Cardinal Víctor Manuel Fernández, head of the Dicastery of the Doctrine of the Faith, and subsequently approved by Pope Francis last month. This development aligns with Pope Francis’ previous statements denouncing the criminalization of homosexuality and emphasizing God’s love for individuals with homosexual tendencies.
Earlier in the year, the Pope clarified in an interview that while homosexuality itself is not a crime, same-sex sexual relations are considered a “sin.” He also encouraged parents of LGBTQ+ children not to “condemn” them. Meanwhile, the Church of England, after five years of debate, maintained its position on traditional marriage, defining it as between “one man and one woman for life,” thereby refusing same-sex marriages in its churches.