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The Vatican says transgender people can be baptized and serve as godparents

The Holy See also opens the door for the children of same-sex couples to be baptized, stating that a priest’s decision must be based on the ‘well-founded hope that he or she will be educated in the Catholic religion’

Pope Francis, during his Wednesday audience at the Vatican.
Pope Francis, during his Wednesday audience at the Vatican.FABIO FRUSTACI (EFE)
Daniel Verdú

Adults identifying as transgender can receive the sacrament of baptism, and trans adults — even if they have undergone gender-transition surgery — can serve as godfathers or godmothers under certain conditions. That’s according to a document from the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith (DDF), the dicastery of the Holy See that deals with doctrinal and theological issues of the Catholic Church.

The document — signed on October 31 by Pope Francis and his prefect, the Argentine cardinal Víctor Manuel Fernández — responds to a question posed by Brazilian bishop José Negri on the involvement of LGBTQ+ people in weddings and baptisms.

In its response, the DDF states: “A transgender person, even if they have undergone hormone therapy and sex-reassignment surgery, can receive baptism under the same conditions as other faithful.” But adds this is only permissible “if there are no situations in which there is a risk of generating a public scandal or disorientation among the faithful,” without going into further detail.

Children who identify as transgender can also be baptized if “well prepared and willing,” the document adds.

The DDF also opens the door for the children of same-sex couples to be baptized, stating that a priest’s decision would have to be based on the “well-founded hope that he or she will be educated in the Catholic religion.”

It also said there was nothing in current Church law that prohibits people who identify as transgender or cohabiting same-sex couples from acting as witnesses of a marriage.

The document adds that transgender people may serve as godparents “under certain conditions.” It states that priests have the discretion to refuse such a request if “there is a danger of scandal, undue legitimization or disorientation in the educational sphere of the church community”.

The DDF says that these responses — which would set a canonical precedent and must be taken into consideration throughout the world — “repropose, to a large extent, the fundamental contents of what had already been affirmed on this matter in the past” by the Dicastery, in reference to a document on the issue from December 2018.

The document justifies this position by citing Catechism of the Catholic Church, St. Thomas Aquinas, and St. Augustine of Hippo, and recalls that Pope Francis himself defends that baptism “is the door which allows Christ the Lord to dwell in our person,” and that “the Church is not a tollhouse; it is the house of the Father, where there is a place for everyone, with all their problems.”

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