Priest prevents lesbian mother from participating in baby’s christening

Woman’s relatives storm out of Canary Islands church after public row with clergyman

Video: One of the mothers addresses churchgoers.

It was going to be a great day for Milvia Armas, 33, and Yurena Mederos, 30, two women who were married in 2013 at a civil ceremony.

Last week, they took their 15-month-old baby to church for a baptizing ceremony. The christening was taking place at the Church of Santa Rita de Cassia, in Telde, on the island of Gran Canaria.

But just before it started, says Yurena, the priest approached the pew where she was sitting and told her: “You can’t go up on the altar because you are not the biological mother of the child.”

The priest says he has informed the legal services of the Canary Islands bishopric

Yurena says that after weeks of preparing for the event, the priest’s words had a huge impact.

“You go on up there and spray holy water on the baby; I know what I have to do,” she says she told her partner.

Milvia and the godparents went up while Yurena waited for the baby to be baptized. Then she got up, turned towards the pews and told the gathered crowd what the priest had just said to her.

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The church was packed. Four other babies were being baptized that day, and there were around 300 people in attendance.

According to Yurena, the priest denied the accusation, and then added: “I don’t want people like this in my church.”

An argument ensued, with the couple’s relatives reproaching the priest for his attitude. After a few minutes, the group walked out of the church indignantly.

A few days later, Yurena said she was still in shock, and wondering why the priest acted that way after meeting with the couple twice ahead of the ceremony and showing no signs that there could be a problem with Yurena’s presence.

“Why can women with adopted children have them baptized, but I cannot?” she asks.

A different story

But the priest, 70-year-old José Ramírez, offers a very different version of events. He says he told the couple from the beginning that only the biological mother could go up on the altar “because the Church establishes that only the biological parents have the right to baptize their children.”

Asked about adopted children, he said that “these are recognized by the Church, unlike same-sex marriage.”

Ramírez believes that the whole “to-do” at church had been planned ahead of time. “A lot of gays and lesbians came out screaming and hurling all kinds of insults at me,” he says.

The priest particularly remembers the words of the baby’s godfather: “He told me that he was homosexual and that when he had a child, he would have him christened 'because I bloody well say so’.”

Why can women with adopted children have them baptized, but I cannot?

Yurena Mederos

Ramírez adds that the incident was captured by the closed-circuit cameras and that he has informed the legal services of the Canary Islands bishopric in case they consider it necessary to initiate legal action.

Three days after the incident, a relative of the couple went to the parish house to ask Ramírez for the baby’s papers back and a refund of the €30 they paid for the ceremony, claiming that they would hold it again at a different church.

Yurena says that the priest refused, and said the christening was not vaild because one of the godparents was homosexual “and that is dangerous for the child.”

But Ramírez says that the ceremony was valid, and cannot be held again at his church or any other church.

English version by Susana Urra.


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