The new rules were listed on the Vatican’s website under the Dicastery for the Doctrine of Faith in the form of answers to a series of questions on these matters from Brazilian bishop Giuseppe Negri. It was signed by Pope Francis as well as Dicastery Prefect Cardinal Victor Manuel Fernandez.
According to the document, children who believe they are transgender may be baptized if they are "well prepared and willing." Adults who claim to be transgender are free to be baptized the same way any other adult seeking the sacrament would be "as long as there is no risk of causing scandal or disorientation" to other Catholics.
In addition, transgender individuals may be godparents and serve as witnesses in weddings under certain circumstances, including those who have received gender reassignment procedures. It said "pastoral prudence" is needed in these cases and that being a godparent is not a right.
The document noted that "it is necessary to consider the real value that the ecclesial community confers on the duties of godfather and godmother, the role they play in the community and the consideration they show toward the teaching of the Church."
It did warn, however, that gay couples living together in a relationship that is like a marriage, particularly if the community is aware of it, should not be godparents but can serve as witnesses to a baptism.
When it comes to same-sex couples, their children may be baptized if there is a "well-founded hope that he or she will be educated in the Catholic religion." However, the answers were vague when it came to whether same-sex couples could baptize a child born through surrogacy or those who were adopted.
Nevertheless, the document reiterates the Catholic Church’s stance that people involved in homosexual relationships are committing a sin.
Some Catholic parishes in the U.S. have decided to welcome transgender people, and others have even created LGBTQ support groups. However, many dioceses refuse to recognize the gender identity of trans people.
Jesuit priest Reverend James Martin told the AP: "So the Vatican’s statement is a clear recognition not only of their personhood, but of their place in their own church. I hope that it helps the Catholic church treat them less as problems and more as people."
The executive director of New Ways Ministry, Francis DeBernardo, said that the move appeared to be a reversal of a decision by the Vatican in 2015 to prevent a transgender man from serving as a godparent in Spain.
DeBernardo said: "It is a major step for trans inclusion … it is big and good news." He added that the move "proves that the Catholic Church can — and does — change its mind about certain practices and policies."
Pope Francis has shown some interest in making the Catholic Church more welcoming to people who are part of the LGBTQ community to an extent, but bans on same-sex marriage and homosexual activity are still in effect.
Last month, Pope Francis suggested that he would be open to same-sex couples being blessed by a priest, saying that such requests should be addressed with "pastoral charity." However, he reiterated that such relationships were "objectively sinful" and said the church would not recognize marriage between same-sex couples.
The Church defines marriage as an "exclusive, stable and indissoluble union between a man and a woman," he noted.
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