The Vatican has announced sweeping new policies welcoming transgender people in the church’s sacramental life, further reflecting Pope Francis’ pastoral focus on LGBTQ people.
In October, Cardinal Víctor Manuel Fernández signed a statement, with the approval of Pope Francis, affirming that transgender people can be baptized, become official godparents, and act as a witness for weddings in the Catholic faith. That statement was made public this week, by the Vatican’s Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith and can be found here. In the last year alone, the Pope has taken many steps towards the inclusion of the LGBTQ+ community in opposition to the Catholic community of the U.S which has continually rejected such progression.
The response came as a result of what’s known as a Catholic dubia on the matter, questions brought before the pope and the appropriate Vatican office that seek a simple “yes” or “no” response in order to clarify disputed matters of Catholic teaching and practice.
GLAAD President & CEO, Sarah Kate Ellis, expressed GLAAD’s support for such inclusive steps forward: “Pope Francis’ latest LGBTQ affirmation sends an unequivocal message to political and cultural leaders around the world to end their persecution and exclusion of transgender people. Pope Francis is continuing to break down barriers that have kept LGBTQ Catholics away from full participation as members of the Roman Catholic Church and is instead calling on global leaders to create welcoming spaces for LGBTQ people.”
LGBTQ Catholic leaders have also responded positively to Pope Francis’ action. Marianne Duddy-Burke, Executive Director of DignityUSA, stated: “We remain concerned that our identities continue to be seen as causing ‘scandal,’ in this document, and would like to work with church leaders to clarify what that means. LGBTQIA+ people around the world, and certainly in our country, are simply exercising our human rights to live in our true identities, to marry the people we love, and to raise children.
The religious teachings that discount those rights are the scandal. They damage and dehumanize LGBTQIA+ people and need to be revoked. The reality is that majorities of Catholics already support full inclusion in our church, including access to the sacraments, for LGBTQIA+ people. We continue our work to achieve full equality.”
In January of this year Pope Francis spoke out against 70+ countries where laws criminalizing gay people still exist and he continued to encourage other faith leaders from around the globe to do the same. He also encouraged Catholic parents of queer children to love their children and condemned parents who exclude them from their homes. Other notable support from the Pope includes when he opened the door for same sex unions to be blessed by the Church.
Francis DeBernado, executive director of New Ways Ministry, commended the Vatican’s inclusion and pushed for further acceptance stating:
“The Vatican’s new intervention about godparents and marriage witnesses indicates that Pope Francis and other high-ranking church leaders will keep advancing LGBTQ+ equality in the church, even if the synodal process takes more time to do so. Welcoming transgender people more fully to the Sacraments is a good step; that welcome needs to be expanded even more now, including to Catholics in same-gender marriages who want to support their family members and friends in the practice of their faith.”
The declaration from the Catholic Church’s highest authority is the newest sign that the Vatican is encouraging a more inclusive and accepting community. In time where the LGBTQ people are found consistently under attack by lawmakers and media alike, the support of Pope Francis is a beam of hope for queer Catholics around the world.