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Catholic Church relaxes rules for transgenders

Pope Francis recently suggested priests could bless same-sex unions on an individual basis

The Vatican’s doctrinal office has clarified its stance on transgender believers, saying they may get baptized and play various roles within the Catholic faith so long as it does not risk “public scandal.”

In a letter responding to questions posed by a Brazilian bishop, the church’s Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith outlined its position toward transgender and other LGBT worshipers, affirming that they may receive the sacrament of baptism, serve as witnesses in wedding ceremonies and act as godparents to Catholic children.

“A transsexual… can receive baptism under the same conditions as other believers, if there are no situations in which there is a risk of generating public scandal or disorientation in the faithful,” the letter said, adding that “adolescents with transsexual problems” may also receive baptism if they are “well-prepared and willing.”

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The doctrinal office similarly said transgender adults, including those who have undergone hormone treatments or gender reassignment surgery, could act as godparents in the baptism rite “under certain conditions.” However, it noted that this “does not constitute a right,” and would not be permitted if it risked the “undue legitimation” of transgenderism or “disorientation in the educational sphere of the ecclesial community.”

Asked whether two “homoemotional” parents could baptize adopted children, or those born of a surrogate mother, the church said there must be a “well-founded hope that [the child] will be educated in the Catholic religion.” It continued to reject same-sex relationships, however, saying religious doctrine only permits “simple cohabitation” by two people of the same gender.

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The letter marks the Vatican’s latest shift on LGBT issues. Though the church declared it would not condone same-sex marriage in 2021, maintaining that “God cannot bless sin,” Pope Francis appears to have relaxed that position as recently as last month.

In a letter to five conservative cardinals who requested clarification on same-sex unions, the pontiff said “We cannot be judges who only deny, reject, and exclude,” adding that priests may confer “forms of blessing” on gay marriages on a case-by-case basis. He urged the clergy to show “kindness, patience, understanding, tenderness, and encouragement” regardless of a believer’s sexual orientation, though went on to add that same-sex relationships “should not necessarily become the norm.”


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