Trans people can be baptized unless it causes scandal, says Vatican’s doctrine czar

VATICAN CITY (RNS) — Answering a question from a Brazilian bishop, the Vatican department that oversees doctrinal matters said on Wednesday (Nov. 8) that there is no reason to bar transgender people from being baptized or from serving as witnesses at Catholic weddings.

“A transsexual — undergoing hormonal treatment and sex reassignment surgery — can be baptized, under the same conditions as other faithful, if there are no situations in which there is a risk of generating public scandal or disorientation in the faithful,” the document read.

Children and adolescents “with issues of a transsexual nature” can be baptized, the document read.

The statement was signed Oct. 31 by the prefect of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Víctor Manuel Fernández, and was produced in response to a question by Bishop José Negri of Santo Amaro, Brazil, regarding transgender and gay individuals.

The dicastery made clear it was not offering a blanket approval of transgender individuals’ behavior. Its statement cautioned that their involvement in church sacraments should be permitted only when “it doesn’t cause scandal among the faithful” — a church formulation referring to actions that might convince others to sin. It also specifies that while baptism has a “sanctifying grace,” it applies only if the individual repents of “serious sins.”

According to the Catholic Church, engaging in homosexual act is a sin and individuals are assigned a specific gender, male or female, at birth.

While any statement about transgender Catholics is liable to stir conversation among Vatican observers and, especially, Catholics on the internet, Wednesday’s revelation does not vary from what the DDF has already said on the subject. The document refers to a 2018 confidential note on canonical questions regarding transgenderism that is under pontifical secret.

Pope Francis has been welcoming and accepting of transgender individuals, supporting trans communities in Rome and in his native Argentina. The pope has been critical of gender theory, which he has described as a form of “ideological colonization.”

Drawing from Francis’ own teaching on the sacrament of baptism, the document states that “even when doubts remain regarding the objective morality of a person or about his subjective disposition toward grace, the aspect of the fealty of God’s unconditional love must never be forgotten, which is capable of building an irrevocable alliance even with the sinner and is always open to a development, albeit unpredictable.”

The document also states that trans people can be godparents at baptisms and witnesses at a wedding. It adds that a child who was adopted or born though surrogacy and has gay parents can be baptized.

A gay person can be the godparent, according to the DDF, but every situation must be carefully evaluated to avoid scandal.

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