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VATICAN CITY (ChurchMilitant.com) - Acting under Pope Francis' direction in 2015, the Vatican's doctrine watchdog ruled against transsexuals serving as godparents for baptisms, stating that people who identify as transgender "cannot be admitted to the position of either godmother or godfather."
Catholic LGBT activists are hailing the latest decree published Wednesday by the same Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith and signed by Pope Francis for seemingly reversing the ban on transgender individuals becoming godparents at a Catholic baptism.
In July 2015, Msgr. Rafael Zornoza, bishop of Cádiz and Ceuta in Spain, rejected the request of Alex Salinas, a biological woman who had begun to carry a male identity card and was awaiting gender reassignment surgery, to become a godfather to his two nephews.
Twenty-year-old Salinas had registered to become a godfather at the San José Artesano Church, but the priest told him that he couldn't "change 2,000 years of Church history" and that gender transitioning was "not permitted under Christian morality."
The Sylvia Rivera Transsexual Association of Andalusia filed a complaint with the Spanish government's equality commission, labeling the church's decision as a hate crime. Salinas also launched an online petition, which collected more than 35,000 signatures.
Under intense pressure, Bp. Zornoza reversed his earlier decision and approved Salinas' request in August, but he wrote to the DDF asking for clarification on the controversy.
Salinas, who described the initial rejection as a "kick in the stomach," told reporters, "I am very happy because of what this means for me, but above all, because what is good for me is good for other transsexuals who are Catholic and want to be part of the Church."
In September 2015, Zornoza issued a statement announcing that, based on a ruling from the DDF, he could not permit transsexuals to become godparents since they could not perform the duties required by the role.
Bishop Zornoza said that the DDF had rejected Salinas' application to be a godparent, based on "an objective lack of the requirements that by their nature are necessary to assume the ecclesial responsibility of being a godfather."
Salinas confirmed the second rejection to Spanish media, saying the bishop called him on the very day they were going to the parish to confirm the baptism date and time.
Salinas said she was sad about the news and complained that she felt "used and disappointed by my own Church." She also told the media that her sister no longer plans to baptize her child.
"Transsexual behavior itself publicly reveals an attitude opposed to the moral requirement of resolving one's own problem of sexual identity according to the truth of one's own sex," the DDF stated in its response to Bp. Zornoza.
"Therefore, it is evident that this person does not have the requirement to lead a life in accordance with the faith and the position of godfather (CIC, can 874 §1,3), and hence cannot be admitted to the position of either godmother or godfather," the DDF clarified.
In a communique published on the diocesan website and obtained by Church Militant, Bp. Zornoza observed that "Pope Francis has stated on several occasions, in continuity with the Magisterium of the Church, that this behavior is contrary to the nature of man."
Zornoza quoted Francis' encyclical Laudato Si, noting, "Human ecology also implies something very profound: the necessary relationship of the life of human beings with the moral law written in their own nature, necessary to be able to create a more dignified environment."
Continuing to quote Laudato Si, Zornoza added, "Therefore, an attitude that seeks to 'cancel sexual difference because it no longer knows how to confront it is not healthy.'"
"There is an 'ecology of man' because 'man also has a nature that he must respect and that he cannot manipulate at his whim,'" the bishop noted, citing Pope Benedict XVI.
Zornoza explained, "The acceptance of one's body as a gift from God is necessary to welcome and accept the entire world as a gift from the Father and a common home, while a logic of dominion over one's own body is transformed into a sometimes subtle logic of dominion over creation."
The bishop also clarified that the DDF consultation was necessary because of so-called confusion by the faithful about his own words and the media attention surrounding Salinas' case.
On Wednesday, Pope Francis authorized responses published by DDF prefect Cdl. Víctor Manuel Fernández to a series of six dubia (Latin for "doubts") regarding the participation of LGBT persons in the sacraments of baptism and marriage.
The DDF responses state that "under the same conditions as other faithful," a transsexual person can be baptized even if the individual has undergone genital mutilation, "provided there are no situations that risk causing public scandal or confusion among the faithful," Church Militant reported.
"The doctrinal note is a 180-degree reversal of a 2015 decision by the same dicastery that prevented a transgender man in Spain from serving as a godparent, despite the local bishop's support for the man's involvement," Francis DeBernardo, Catholic LGBT campaigner trumpeted on Thursday.
"This affirmation, itself a reversal of a previous Vatican decision, contrasts strikingly against the restrictions some U.S. bishops have imposed on LGBTQ+ people in recent years," DeBernardo, cofounder of the dissident New Ways Ministry, emphasized.
"Significantly, not only does this doctrinal note," he claimed, "remove barriers to transgender people's participation, it proves that the Catholic Church can — and does — change its mind about certain practices and policies."
DeBernardo met Pope Francis with his colleague and LGBT activist Sr. Jeannine Gramick at Casa Santa Marta on Oct. 17, while the Synod on Synodality was underway.
"Meeting with Pope Francis is a great encouragement for Sister Jeannine and New Ways Ministry to continue our work in the Catholic Church," said DeBernardo.
On behalf of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, then-president Cdl. Francis George warned that New Ways Ministry has "criticized efforts by the Church to defend the traditional definition of marriage as between one man and one woman and has urged Catholics to support electoral initiatives to establish same-sex 'marriage.'"
"No one should be misled by the claim that New Ways Ministry provides an authentic interpretation of Catholic teaching and an authentic Catholic pastoral practice," the USCCB statement emphasized, noting that the group "has no approval or recognition from the Catholic Church."
However, on Dec. 10, 2022, Francis sent a handwritten letter on official Vatican stationery to Sr. Gramick, acknowledging he knew "how much she has suffered" and describing the Loretto sister as "a valiant woman who makes her decisions in prayer."