Questions from a Brazilian bishop caused the Vatican to respond, directly, about whether a transgender person can be baptized into the Catholic Church. And the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, an organ of the Holy See, responded positively to the matter.
Actually, not that directly. After all, more conservative priests and religious people may find a loophole due to an observation in the answers. The question from Bishop José Negri, of Santo Amaro (SC), was like this: “Can a transgender person be baptized?”
The answer: “A transsexual – even someone who has undergone hormonal treatment and sex reassignment surgery – can receive baptism under the same conditions as other believers,” states the document (see here in Italian).
But there is an addendum: “If there are no situations in which there is a risk of generating a public scandal or disorientation among the faithful. In the case of children or adolescents with natural transsexual problems, if well prepared and willing, they can receive baptism”, he adds.
The document was signed on October 31 by Pope Francis and Cardinal Víctor Manuel Fernández, prefect of the congregation. The publication, on the Vatican website, explains that those guidelines were a response to a letter sent by Negri in July, “containing some doubts about the possible participation in baptisms and marriages of transgender and homosexual people”.
More questions for the Catholic Church
Yes, there are more questions. For example, whether trans people or other LGBTQA+ people could be witnesses at a Catholic wedding. Again, a direct answer saying that “there is nothing in current universal canon law that prohibits” serving as a witness at a Catholic wedding.
As it is a sacrament, questions about baptism deserved further explanations, more guided by canon law, historical documents and, of course, the Catechism of the Catholic Church. In all of them, there is a request for prudence to safeguard the sacrament and prevent scandals.
“Due pastoral prudence requires that each situation be considered wisely, in order to safeguard the sacrament of Baptism and, especially, its reception, which is a precious asset to be protected, as it is necessary for salvation”, points out the document , when referring to the decision to baptize or allow a trans person to be a godfather/godmother.
In fact, regarding a trans person being a godfather/godmother, the answer is: yes, but “under certain conditions”. After all, as this function is not a right, “pastoral prudence” is necessary, so that there is no “danger of scandal” or confusion among the faithful.
Homosexual people and baptism
On the other hand, homosexual people who live together in a relationship such as marriage, in a condition recognized by the local community, should not serve as godparents. However, they may be invited to serve as witnesses to the baptism.
And if they want to baptize their child, this is possible under one condition: “For the child to be baptized, there must be a well-founded hope that he or she will be educated in the Catholic religion.”
One document specifically was taken into account in the responses. In the 2013 exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, Pope Francis wrote that the Church must have very serious reasons for rejecting someone and must be especially hesitant before denying someone baptism.
Thus, even if the community pastor has any doubts about the person’s commitment to living a fully Christian life, he cannot leave aside the “aspect of the fidelity of God’s unconditional love, which is capable of generating in the sinner a commitment irrevocable, an alliance, always open to an equally unpredictable development.”