A reader has asked me to comment on the recent reply to questions from a Brazilian priest about access to baptisms. The question was whether a person who is confused about their gender can be baptized, whether children from a same sex union (presumably conceived through surrogacy) can be baptized and whether such persons (those who are confused about gender or who experience same sex attraction) can serve as godparents.
The answer from the Vatican was affirmative–that such persons could be baptized, serve as godparents etc. This has been perceived by some (probably after reading just a headline or a post on X) as the Catholic Church approving the LGBTQ+ agenda.
If you are working up a head of steam about this decision, stop for a moment and take a deep breath. What is the point of the Vatican’s response? The point was to make the church more welcoming, open and positive to those who want to belong. Not only should folks acknowledge this positive motivation, but they should read the document–not just the headlines. The document says clearly that such a decision is not an endorsement or validation of sinful life choices. Instead the church welcomes all to the repentance and faith required by baptism. This repentance includes turning away from sinful life styles and it says the pastor should exercise pastoral care and prudence when dealing with such enquiries.
Is it possible to criticize the Vatican’s answer? Yes. There are several problems. Firstly, this kicks the can back to the parish priest. We priests are already super busy and often very stressed. So now we have to handle this tricky issue too and we’re the ones to make the call? What back up will we receive? What advice on how to handle such requests? The second problem is the perceptions and public relations. Did no one in the Vatican communications office ask how these answers just might be twisted by the mainstream and social media? Did no one guess that maybe, just maybe, publication of these answers would produce headlines like “Pope Okays Trans Baptisms” or “Pope Says Gay Families are Fine”? Did no one guess that such headlines would throw many Catholics into a tailspin? Third is the problem of news management. Many Catholics are already disgusted with what seems like the lenient treatment of Fr Marko Rupnik and the harsh treatment of Bishop Strickland. They see how the Vatican is all kissy kissy with Father James Martin, Sister Grammick and the homosexual activists at New Ways Ministry. They therefore read the headlines and feel like gas is being poured on the fire, and that the Vatican is doing more than welcoming sinners to repentance and is really endorsing a sinful lifestyle.
The bottom line is this: the document says what the church has always taught: that sinners are welcome to receive baptism, and to do so they must turn from their sin and seek to follow the Lord Jesus Christ in newness of life. That godparents must be able to affirm the Catholic faith with their words and their lives. It is assumed that all persons who are candidates for baptism are imperfect. Perhaps they experience same sex attraction or are confused about their sexual identity. Provided that they are seeking new life in Christ, repenting of their sin and witnessing to their faith in Christ they are welcome.
Those who have no intention of turning from their sin, repenting and having faith in Jesus Christ probably do not wish to be baptized anyway.