Transsexuals can be godparents at Roman Catholic baptisms, witnesses at religious weddings and receive baptism themselves, the Vatican’s doctrinal office said on Wednesday, responding to questions from a bishop.
The department, known as the Dicastery of the Doctrine of the Faith, was vague however, in response to a question of whether a same-sex couple could have a Church baptism for an adopted child or one obtained through a surrogate mother.
Bishop Jose Negri of Santo Amaro in Brazil sent the doctrinal office six questions in July regarding LGBTQ people and their participation in the sacraments of baptism and matrimony.
The three pages of questions and answers were signed by the department’s head, Argentine Cardinal Victor Manuel Fernandez, and approved by Pope Francis on October 31. They were posted in Italian on the department’s website on Wednesday.
Francis, 86, has tried to make the church more welcoming to the LGBTQ community without changing church teachings, including one saying that same-sex attraction is not sinful but same-sex acts are.
In response to a question of whether transsexuals can be baptised, the doctrinal office said they could with some conditions and as long as there is “no risk of causing a public scandal or disorientation among the faithful”.
It said a transsexuals could be godparents at a baptism at the discretion of the local priest as well as a witness at a Church wedding, but the local priest should exercise “pastoral prudence” in his decision.
A person in a same-sex relationship could also be a witness at a Catholic wedding, the office said, citing current Church canonical legislation which contained no prohibition against it.
The response was less clear regarding people in same-sex relationships and their role in baptism, which is the initiation into the Church for infants, children or adults.
The Brazilian bishop sought guidance on whether a same-sex couple who had adopted a child or obtained it from a surrogate mother could have that child baptised in a Catholic ceremony.
The response said that for the child of a same-sex couple to be baptised, there had to be “a well-founded hope that it would be educated in the Catholic religion”.
There was a similarly nuanced response to a question whether a person in a same-sex relationship could be a godparent at a Church baptism. It said the person had to “lead a life that conforms to the faith”.