Some time ago at a conference for priests we were sitting around the lunch table swapping stories about weddings and marriage discipline and the subject of the “marriage” of people with same sex attraction arose. The impossibility of this was agreed but one priest pointed out that this was not the only difficulty facing Catholic priests in wedding prep.
“I had a situation” he said, “in which a nice, church going Catholic couple came to see me to begin the wedding prep and as they were just about to go out the door the bride to be said, “I think I should let you know father that I am a trans woman.” The priest said he was uncertain how to proceed. The other priests soon instructed him. “It was two men.” they said. “The sacrament of marriage would be impossible.”
A similar problem surfaced this week. Apparently some trans men have been applying to men’s religious orders and to seminary.
I suggested that it may be time to bring back the sedia stercoraria. I don’t think there is any evidence that this piece of furniture is anything but legendary, but the story is that after the discovery of Pope Joan. the authorities of the Vatican instituted a ritual in which the candidate for the papacy lifted his robes and sat on a special chair with a hole in the seat and a designated cardinal would reach up to affirm that said candidate had testicles. There is no evidence that this is anything more than a medieval legend, and it does seem ridiculous as the same information could well be attained by a simple physical examination by a physician–or for that matter–in the Middle Ages–an interview with one of the cardinal in question’s mistresses.
It is, I suppose, a uniquely twenty first century question–albeit a rare one, but along with other paperwork for admission to a religious order or seminary or application for the sacrament of marriage should we require a birth certificate? Should applicants have to submit to a physical? It is a requirement of ordination now that applicants have a psychological examination. Maybe a physical should also be required.