Vatican Ruling on Transgender and Same-Sex People’s Sacramental Participation

The Dicastery of the Doctrine of the Faith with the approval of Pope Francis on October 31st posted a response to questions raised by a Brazilian bishop about the participation of transgender people and individuals in same-sex relationships in a number of the church’s sacraments.

In its response, the dicastery affirmed that transgender people may receive baptism, as well as serve as godparents and witnesses at religious weddings.

As Father James Martin noted on X, formerly known as Twitter: “This is an important step forward in the Church seeing transgender people not only as people (in a Church where some say they don’t really exist) but as Catholics.”

The ruling also affirmed that those in same-sex relationships could witness at a Catholic wedding.

However, the ruling was a bit vaguer concerning the baptism of children of same-sex couples, quoting Canon Law that there must be some hope that they be raised in the faith. Similarly, as to whether a person in a same-sex relationship could be a godparent, the response largely leaves the matter to pastoral prudence, while encouraging the family to possibly choose another godparent.

While a significant milestone for transgender and same-sex people, the vagueness of the ruling on the baptism of children of same-sex couples is more than a bit disheartening. Given the importance of baptism, it seems a stronger statement about its necessity – welcoming same-sex couples to have their children baptized and raised in the faith – was warranted, especially in light of some local diocesan policies and restrictions.

A warmer welcome would also serve as a reminder of the importance of baptism to many heterosexual couples who have their children baptized for familial or cultural reasons, but do not intend to raise their children in the Catholic faith.