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LANGRES, France (ChurchMilitant.com) - A Catholic diocese in northeastern France is endorsing new "gender-neutral" language in ecclesiastical baptismal registers after the bishop issued a letter recommending the removal of all references to "father" and "mother."
The traditional terms for parents will be replaced on a default basis with "the name of the parents or other holders of parental authority."
The bishop of Langres defended the new guidelines, saying it would enable the Church to adapt its initiation rite to homosexual unions without offending anyone.
"The situation in France is becoming more and more complex. This makes certain Catholic acts difficult, in particular, those that concern baptism," Bp. Joseph de Metz-Noblat stated in an official letter to clergy on Dec. 13.
"Following canon 843, 'ministers can't refuse the sacraments to people who properly ask for them,' and since children should not be disadvantaged by their parents' situations, a number of chanceries have found problems relating to what kind of vocabulary should or could be used," the bishop elaborated.
Writing as the president of the Council for Canonical Questions (Conseil pour les Questions Canoniques) of the French Bishops' Conference, de Metz-Noblat recommended that bishops and clergy adopt the "new formula in your diocese, since it seems the most culturally appropriate."
Moving forward, in any baptismal certificate, "we will simply acknowledge the context of the child's family situation, without making any moral judgment," the 59-year-old prelate clarified.
"Up to this day, in the baptism records, it [name of each parent] was stated," he noted. "From now on, we will only find ... names and first names of parents or other holders of parental authority ... followed by the civil status mentions."
The new provision aims to make France's ecclesial administration conform to the French civil administration, which has waged a war against the use of "father" and "mother" in favor of gender-neutral parenting by substituting the terms "parents" or "custodians" of children.
One expert in canon law with whom Church Militant spoke was shocked to read of the news:
No diocesan bishop has the power simply to dispense his pastors from complying with canon 877 of the Code of Canon Law. That norm requires by default that the names of the child's biological parents be documented for the public good of the Church. In other cases where only the paternity or maternity is provable (can. 877 §2), still must that parent's name be inscribed. Even in the case of adoption, if the names of the unmarried biological ("natural") parents are civilly known, the names of the natural parents must also be registered (can. 877 §3).
He added: "The bishop of Langres and the French Bishops' Conference only 'recommend' (nous vous recommendons) the use of the new formulary because they know fully well that the new 'gender-neutral' formulation is totally unenforceable under canon law."
"The use of the new formulation of 'or other holders of parental authority' is ultra vires — beyond the powers of a diocesan bishop to decree," he insisted.
In February, France's parliament launched a major reform of the national educational system, prohibiting teaching staff in schools from using the words "father" and "mother" during class hours.
Branding the terms as "obsolete," the National Assembly ordered the terms to be replaced with the gender-neutral "Parent 1" and "Parent 2."
The new nomenclature must also appear on the official documents drawn up by the educational institutions, according to the leftwing Macron-led government.
While nationalist leader Marine Le Pen, leader of the National Rally (formerly the National Front), condemned the reform, accusing Macron of erasing "any moral reference" and wanting to found the state on a "radical philosophy of political correctness," President Macron urged parliamentarians to approve the "lexical" innovation, as words like "father" and "mother" — likely to "penalize homosexual families" — would now be a "relic of the past."
Le Pen accused the ruling party of "turning French society upside down" and of wanting "to poison the minds of children, malleable and not yet structured."
The conservative party Les Républicains also branded the new law as intended to "dehumanize the family" and an expression of an "abominable ideology, aimed at erasing the value-based foundations of the civil community."
However, Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer reiterated the usefulness of the reform, highlighting the "fundamental role" of teachers in "helping young people to adapt to modernity and rejecting any discriminatory temptation."
Father Claude Barthe, writer for L'Homme Nouveau, said that a number of dioceses were concerned by this innovation, and it is likely they will ignore the new directives.
The French priest noted that progressives have been attempting to reform the baptismal liturgy since 2013 so they wouldn't be seen as discriminatory or challenged in a law court.
In 2018, the Church of England's House of Bishops authorized a baptismal-based liturgy for transgender transitions, claiming it is "rooted in Scripture."
Evangelical Anglican bishop Julian Henderson stated, "This new guidance provides an opportunity, rooted in Scripture, to enable trans people who have 'come to Christ as the way, the truth and the life,' to mark their transition in the presence of their Church family which is the body of Christ."
Commentators compared the abuse of baptism for identity politics to the Nazi reform of the sacrament, citing Doris L. Bergen, who, in Twisted Cross: The German Christian Movement in the Third Reich, explained how "German Christians recognized baptism, the symbol and proclamation of Church membership, as a pivotal point for imposing their racial policy on the Christian community."
The Nazis subverted baptism to remind parents that their children belonged to the German Volk, not to God or to the parents. Lebensborn children, born out of forced sexual liaisons with SS officers, were baptized in an SS ceremony where their adoptive parents swore that the child would have a lifelong allegiance to Nazi beliefs.