The Vatican’s doctrine office has said an adult who identifies as transgender can receive the sacrament of baptism under the same conditions as any adult, as long as there is no risk of causing scandal or confusion to other Catholics.
The Vatican also said that children or adolescents experiencing transgender identity issues may also receive baptism “if well prepared and willing.”
The document answering these and other sacrament-based questions for those who identify as transgender and people in same-sex relationships was generated in response to questions posed to the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith (DDF) in July by Bishop Giuseppe (José) Negri of Santo Amaro in Brazil. The guidance comes amid ongoing discussions within the Catholic Church about pastoral care for the LGBTQ community in light of Francis’ focus on accompaniment and synodality.
The dicastery’s response is dated Oct. 31 and signed by DDF Prefect Cardinal Victor Fernández and Pope Francis. It is available on the Vatican website in Italian.
The Vatican also responded to questions about whether transgender-identifying people or those in homosexual relationships can be godparents or witness a marriage, and whether children adopted or born through assisted reproduction to same-sex couples can be baptized.
To the last question, the DDF cited paragraph 868 of the Code of Canon law, and said “for the child to be baptized there must be a well-founded hope that he or she will be educated in the Catholic religion.”
… The DDF concluded that even if there are doubts about a person’s objective moral situation or subjective disposition toward grace, “the faithfulness of God’s unconditional love, capable of generating an irrevocable covenant even with the sinner” should not be forgotten.
UPDATE: The New York Times offers this perspective:
The immediate public response from American bishops, who have taken more restrictive stances on transgender issues, was generally muted. In a statement, a spokeswoman for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops emphasized that the question of a transgender person’s participation in the sacrament of baptism and other spiritual rituals was separate from questions of medical interventions for transgender people. “These are different, distinct issues,” she said…
… The Vatican said the document Francis approved last month simply clarified church teaching and did not constitute new policy or a change in policy.
“There are no doctrinal changes here — the importance of the document is typical of Francis’s whole papacy — namely, it takes a very pastoral approach to some very thorny issues of the church today,” said Nicholas P. Cafardi, a prominent canon lawyer in Pennsylvania.
The document, he said, focuses on the good of the entire church community.
The document says that nothing in current church law prohibits L.G.B.T.Q. people from acting as witnesses for a marriage ceremony. It also says that a same-sex couple could baptize an adopted child, or one born of a surrogate mother, as long as there is “a well-founded hope that it would be educated in the Catholic religion.”
And there’s this:
On allowing people in same-sex relationships to be godparents, the Vatican suggested that the situation was more complicated. A godparent could be anyone, including a gay person, who “leads a life that conforms to the faith,” the document says. (A godparent presents a baby at baptism and then is expected to be a sort of spiritual guarantor for the child, helping the child to live a Christian life.)
But people in same-sex relationships similar to marriage, which the church opposes, do not conform to the faith, it says, suggesting they should not become godparents.