LGBTQ rights campaigners have warmly received a Vatican statement that disclosed that transgender people can be baptised as a step towards a more inclusive Catholic Church, but denounced caveats that provide cover to those who object.
In a document published during the week which was sighted by Africa Today News, New York, the powerful Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, one of the main departments that manages the affairs of the Holy See, said transgender believers can be baptised if it would not cause scandal or confusion.
The statement, which was drafted in response to inquiries from a Brazilian bishop and approved by Pope Francis, did not object to same-sex couples’ children who were adopted or born via surrogacy being baptised.
In actuality, dioceses all over the world already witness these kinds of baptisms.
But by putting it in black and white, the Vatican appears to be insisting on the importance of the vision promoted by the pope since he took office in 2013, that the Church should be ‘open to all’.
It is definitely a step towards a more inclusive church and a reminder that transgender Catholics are not only people but Catholics too,” US Jesuit priest James Martin, a well-known advocate for LGBTQ believers, told reporters.
‘In many parishes and dioceses they have been severely excluded. I hope that this Vatican ruling now makes it easier for them to feel part of what is, after all, their Church too.’
Jean-Michel Dunand, founder of the French community of Bethanie, which serves gay and transgender believers, said the Vatican statement was ‘consistent with the magisterium (teaching) of Pope Francis’.
The 86-year-old pontiff’s pastoral approach emphasises the importance of personal journeys among the world’s 1.3 billion Catholics.
Just weeks after taking office, he famously said that if someone was gay, searching for God’s guidance and had goodwill, then ‘who am I to judge him?’.
But many conservatives object to what they see as a ‘LGBTQ lobby’ in the Church, which they accuse of seeking to change core doctrine.
Francis has made clear he believes homosexuality is a sin, while official Church doctrine states same-sex acts are ‘intrinsically disordered’.
The Vatican statement said that transgender believers ‘can receive baptism, under the same conditions of other faithful, if there is no situation in which there is a risk of generating public scandal or uncertainty among the faithful’.
Some see this formulation as sufficiently vague to be interpreted by priests according to their own views — allowing dioceses to continue operating differently, as before.