A media firestorm arose in Spain after a transsexual woman, who considers herself a man, asked to be the godfather of her nephew – leading a diocese’s bishop to turn to the Vatican for an answer.
After writing to the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith about the issue earlier this month, Bishop Rafael Zornoza Boy of Cádiz and Ceuta was told that since transsexual persons are not consistently living Church teaching, its “impossible” for them to fulfill their duties as a godparent.
The bishop wrote the letter after Alex Salinas, 21 years-old and born a woman, had requested to be the godfather of her nephew.
In their response, the congregation – charged with safeguarding Catholic teaching – said that it is “impossible to allow” a person with transsexual behavior to be a baptismal godmother or godfather.
In a Sept. 1 statement, the bishop said he turned to the Vatican due to “confusion among some of the faithful” and “the complexity and media attention garnered by this issue,” as well as the pastoral implications the decision has.
In the Vatican’s full response – which the bishop provided in his statement – the congregation explained that transsexual behavior “reveals in a public way an attitude opposite to the moral imperative of solving the problem of sexual identity according to the truth of one’s own sexuality.”
“Therefore it is evident that this person does not possess the requirement of leading a life according to the faith and in the position of godfather and is therefore unable to be admitted to the position of godfather or godmother,” they said, referring to canon 874 §3 in the Code of Canon Law.
However, the congregation stressed that there is “no discrimination toward (Alex), but only the recognition of an objective lack of the requirements, which by their nature are necessary to assume the ecclesial responsibility of being a godfather.”
In his statement, Bishop Zornoza points out that the role of godparents in the sacrament of baptism is assumed “before God and his Church and, in relation to the baptized, the duty of cooperating with the parents in (the child’s) Christian formation, seeking to lead a life consistent with baptismal faith and faithfully fulfilling the inherent obligations.”
Godparents must be “firm believers, able and ready to help the newly baptized – child or adult – on the road of Christian life,” the statement continues, referring to paragraph 1255 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
The bishop also suggested that if candidates meeting the requirements to be a godparent are not found, the baptism can still be celebrated in the same form, since the figure of godparents is not necessary in this sacrament.
Bishop Zorzona recalled Pope Francis’ words in his environment encyclical Laudato Si, in which the Pope said that “valuing one’s own body in its femininity or masculinity is necessary if I am going to be able to recognize myself in an encounter with someone who is different.”
“In this way we can joyfully accept the specific gifts of another man or woman, the work of God the Creator, and find mutual enrichment,” the Pope said, adding that “it is not a healthy attitude which would seek to cancel out sexual difference because it no longer knows how to confront it.”
At the close of his statement, Bishop Zorzona emphasized that “the Church welcomes all persons with charity, desiring to help each one in their situation with tender mercy, but without denying the truth she preaches, which is offered to everyone as a path of faith to be freely accepted.”