(ZENIT News / Vatican City, 10.11.2023).- On July 14, 2023, the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith received a letter from H.E. Monsignor José Negri, Bishop of Santo Amaro, in Brazil, asking questions about the possible participation in the Sacraments of Baptism and Marriage by transexuals and homo-affective persons.
After studying the matter, the Dicastery responded as follows:
Answers of the Dicastery to H.E. Monsignor Negri
The following answers repropose, in essence, the fundamental contents of what has already been affirmed by the Dicastery in the past in regard to this matter (1).
1.Can a transexual be baptized?
A transexual — who in addition has undergone hormonal treatment and sex realignment surgery — can receive Baptism, under the same conditions as other faithful, if there are not situations in which the risk exists of generating public scandal or disorientation among the faithful. In the case of children or adolescents with transexual problems, if they are well prepared and willing, they can receive Baptism.
At the same time, the following must be taken into account, especially when there are doubts about a person’s objective moral situation or subjective dispositions to grace. In the case of Baptism, the Church teaches that when the Sacrament is received with the repentance of grave sins, the individual does not receive sanctifying grace but does receive the sacramental character.
The Catechism states: “This configuration with Christ and with the Church, made by the Spirit, is indelible; it remains for ever in a Christian as positive disposition to grace, as promise and guarantee of divine protection, and as vocation to divine worship and to the service of the Church” (2). Saint Thomas Aquinas taught, in fact, that when the impediment to grace disappears, in one who has received Baptism without the due dispositions, the character itself “is an immediate cause that disposes to receive the grace” (3). Saint Augustine of Hippo recalled this situation saying that, even if a man falls into sin, Christ does not destroy the character received by him in Baptism and seeks (quaerit) the sinner, in whom is imprinted this character that identifies him as His property (4).
Thus is understood why Pope Francis wished to underscore that Baptism “is the door that enables Christ the Lord to install Himself in our person and submerge us in His Mystery” (5). This implies concretely that “not even the doors of the Sacraments must be closed for any motive. This is especially true when it is about that Sacrament that is “the door,” Baptism […] the Church is not a customs house; it is the Paternal House where there is place for every person with their own laborious life” (6). Hence, even when doubts exist about a person’s objective moral situation or their subjective dispositions to grace, one must never forget this aspect of fidelity of God’s unconditional love, able to generate even with the sinner an irrevocable alliance, always open as well to an unforeseeable development.
This is true even when the resolution to amend does not appear in a fully manifest way in the penitent, because often the foreseeable new fall “does not undermine the authenticity of the intention” (7). In any case, the Church must always call to live fully all the implications of the Baptism received, which must always be understood and displayed within the itinerary of Christian initiation.
- Can a transexual be a godfather or godmother of Baptism?
In certain conditions, an adult transexual that, moreover, has undergone hormonal treatment and a sex realignment operation can be admitted to carry out the function of godfather or godmother. However, given that this task does not constitute a right, pastoral prudence exacts that it not be permitted if the danger of scandal exists, undue legitimation or disorientation in the educational ambit of the ecclesial community.
- Can a transexual be a witness at a wedding?
There is nothing in current universal canon law that prohibits a transexual person from being a witness at a wedding.
- Can two homo-affective people figure as parents of a child who must be baptized and who was adopted or obtained with methods such as surrogacy?
For a child to be baptized hope must exist founded on the [fact] that it will be educated in the Catholic religion (cf. c.868 § 1,2 or CCC; c. 681, § 1, or CCEO).
- Can a homosexual and cohabitant person be godparent of a baptized person?
According to canons 874 § 1, 1 and 3 of the Code of Canon Law, a person can be godfather or godmother if he/she has the aptitude to be so (cf. 1) and “leads a life in accordance with the faith and the task entrusted to him/her” (3; cf. c. 685, § 2 CCEO). The case is different when the coexistence of two homosexual people consists not in simple cohabitation but in a stable and admittedly more uxorio [as man and wife] well known by the community.
In any case due pastoral prudence calls for weighing wisely each situation, to safeguard the Sacrament of Baptism and, especially, its reception, which is a precious good that must be safeguarded, given that it is necessary for salvation (8).
At the same time, the real value must be taken into account, which the ecclesial community grants to the duties of godfathers and godmothers, the role they carry out in the community and the consideration they show to the teaching of the Church.
Finally, the possibility, must also be taken into account, that another person of the family
circle acts as guarantor of the correct transmission of the Catholic faith to the person that is going to be baptized, knowing that that the person that is going to be baptized can still be assisted, during the rite, not only as godfather or godmother, but also as witness of the baptismal act.
- Can a person that cohabits be a witness at a marriage?
There is nothing in existing universal Canon Law that prohibits a homo-affective and cohabiting person from being a witness at a marriage.
(1)Cf. CONGREGATION FOR THE DOCTRINE OF THE FAITH, Confidential note on some canonical questions relating to transsexualism (December 21, 2018), Vatican City , Under pontifical secrecy.
(2) Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 1121.
(3) SAINT THOMAS AQUINAS, I Sent IV, 4, 3, 2, 3: ‘est inmediata causa disponens ad gratiam’; IDEM, Summa Theologiae, III, q. 69 a. 9 ad 1: ‘Et sic omnes induunt Christum per configurationem characteris, non autem per conformitatem gratiae’ (‘And in this sense all are clothed in Christ through configuration with Him by character, no longer by grace’).
(4) Cf. Saint Augustine of Hippo, Sermo ad Caesariensis Ecclesiae Plebem, 2; PL 43, 691-692: ‘Nunc vero ipse desertor, characterem fixit imperatoris sui. Deus et Dominus noster Jesus Christus quaerit desertorem, delet erroris criminem, sed non exterminate suum characterem.”
(5) FRANCIS, Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, on the proclamation of the Gospel in the today’s world (November 24, 2023), n. 47.
(7) JOHN PAUL II, Letter to Cardinal William W. Baum on the occasion of the course on the Internal Forum organized by the Apostolic Penitentiary (March 22, 1996), 5: Insegnamenti XIX, 1 , 589.
(8) Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 1277.
Translation of the Italian original into Spanish by ZENIT’s Editorial Director and, into English, by Virginia M. Forrester