Rorate Caeli

English Translation of the Dicastery for the Doctrine on the Faith on Baptisms and Weddings and "Transgender and Homosexual" Persons

 [Translated by Fr. "X" from the original]

Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith

Answers to Several Questions from His Excellency, the Most Reverend José Negri, 

Bishop of Santo Amaro, Brazil, Regarding Participation in the Sacraments of Baptism and Matrimony by Transgender Persons and Homosexual Persons (3 November 2023)

[The following is an unofficial translation of the original version of the document. At the time of this translation, the document was posted on the official website of the CDF only in Italian and Portuguese.]

On July 14, 2023, a letter came to this Dicastery from His Excellency, José Negri, Bishop of Santo Amaro, Brazil, containing certain questions regarding the possible participation in the sacraments of Baptism and Matrimony by transexual persons or those with same-sex attraction.

Having studied the matter, this Dicastery responded as follows.

Responses of the Dicastery to Bp. José Negri

The following responses put forward again, in substance, the fundamental contents of what, in the past, was affirmed by this Dicastery in regard to this matter.

1. Can a transexual be baptized?

A transexual – one who has already been through hormonal treatment and gender reassignment sur-gery – can receive Baptism under the same conditions as the other faithful, if there do not exist situations in which there is a risk of causing public scandal or confusion (disorientation) among the faithful.  Regarding the case of children or adolescents with difficulties of a transexual nature, if they are properly prepared and disposed, they can receive Baptism.

At the same time, it is necessary to consider all the following, especially when there exist questions about the objective moral situation a person is in, or questions about the subjective dispositions towards divine grace.  

In the case of Baptism, the Church teaches that, when the sacrament is received without repentance for grave sins, the subject does not receive sanctifying grace, despite receiving the sacramental character.  The Catechism affirms, “This configuration to Christ and the Church, realized through the Holy Spirit, is indelible; it remains forever in the Christian as a positive disposition for grace, as a promise and guarantee of divine protection, and as a calling to divine worship and to the service of the Church.”

St. Thomas Aquinas, in fact, taught that when the impediment to grace is removed, in someone who had received Baptism without the right dispositions, the character itself is “an immediate cause that disposes to the reception of grace.”  St. Augustine of Hippo alluded to this situation in saying that, even should a man fall into sin, Christ does not destroy the character received through Him in Baptism and seeks after (quaerit) the sinner, in whom this character was stamped which identifies him as His property.

In this way we can comprehend the reason why Pope Francis wished to emphasize that Baptism “is the door that permits Christ the Lord to live in our person and us to be immersed in His Mystery.”   This implies concretely that “none of the doors of the sacraments should be closed for any reason.  This is especially true when it concerns that sacrament which is the ‘door’: Baptism... the Church is not a customs office; it is a fatherly home, where there is a place for everyone with his fatigued life.”

In this way, even when there remain doubts about the objective moral situation of a person or else about his subjective dispositions towards grace, what must never be forgotten is this aspect of the unconditional love of God, capable of forming an irrevocable alliance even with a sinner, always open to a development likewise unforeseeable.  This holds true even when in the penitent there does not appear in a manner fully evident a purpose of amendment, because often the prospect of a new fall “does not prejudice the authenticity of the intention.”  In any case, the Church should always invite [the faithful] to live to the fullest all the implications of the Baptism received, which should always be understood and developed within the integral way of Christian initiation.

2. Can a transexual be a Baptismal sponsor?

Under certain conditions, an adult transexual person can be allowed as a baptismal sponsor, even if having already submitted to hormone treatment or gender reassignment surgery.  Still, as this fun-ction (of being a sponsor) does not constitute a right, pastoral prudence requires that this not be allowed when there is known to be a danger of scandal, of wrongful legitimization, or of confusion among the church community in the educational aspect.

3. Can a transexual be a witness to a wedding?

There is no universal, canonical legislation in force that prohibits a transexual person from being a witness to a wedding.

4. Can two persons with same-sex attraction serve as parents of a child to be baptized that was adopted or conceived by other means, such as a surrogate?

For the child to be baptized, there must exist a well-founded hope that the child will be raised in the Catholic religion. (Cf. can. 868 §1, 2° CIC; can. 681 §1, 1° CCEO).

5. Can a person with same-sex attraction who cohabits [maritally] be a baptismal sponsor?

According to the norm of can. 874 §1, 1° e 3° CIC, a person can serve as a baptismal sponsor who has the fittingness for it (cf. 1°) and “who lives a life in accordance with the Faith and with the responsibility he is going to assume.” (3°; cf. can. 685 §2 CCEO).  The case is different where the life together of the two persons with same-sex attraction is not simply a together but  indeed is a stable and declared relationship, more uxorio, well known by the community.

In any case, the necessary pastoral prudence requires that each situation be considered wisely to safeguard the sacrament of Baptism and especially its reception, which is a precious good to be cared for, since it is necessary for salvation.

At the same time, it is necessary to consider the real value that the ecclesial community attributes to the function of the baptismal sponsors, the role that they have in the community and the consid-eration shown by them in regard to the teachings o the Church.  Finally, it is necessary to take into account the possibility also that there is another person in the family circle who can guarantee the correct transmission of the Catholic Faith to the one to be baptized, knowing always how to assist the one to be baptized during the rite not only as a sponsor, but also as witnesses to the Baptism.

6. Can a person with same-sex attraction who lives [maritally] be a witness to a wedding?

There is no universal, canonical legislation in force that prohibits a person with same-sex attraction and who cohabits from being a witness to a wedding.