In the latest scuffle over gender issues, the Vatican has come down squarely in favor of the traditional male-female distinction of human beings, banning transgender persons from being godparents posing as the opposite sex from which they were born.
The case in point that came to the attention of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith involved a 21-year-old transgender person from Cádiz, Spain. Alex Salinas was born a girl but as of February 2014 holds an ID card identifying her as a male. Alex is on a waiting list to receive sex reassignment surgery.
When Alex applied to be the “godfather” of her nephew, the local bishop sent a consultation to the Vatican’s doctrinal office, asking what to do in this unprecedented case.
The Doctrinal Congregation responded that beyond the obvious issue of a female wishing to present herself as a godfather, there are other moral issues at play as well, since “transsexual behavior publicly reveals an attitude contrary to the moral imperative of resolving the problem of one’s sexual identity according to the truth of one’s sexuality.”
The Congregation said that discrimination had nothing to do with its refusal to allow Alex to sponsor her nephew, but rather based its decision on “the lack of the qualities needed to assume the responsibility of being a godparent in the Church.”
According to Canon Law, there are a number of requirements of Catholic godparents, one of which states that the candidate must be a Catholic who has been confirmed and has received the holy Eucharist, and “who lives a life of faith in keeping with the function to be taken on.” The Catholic Catechism says that godparents “must be firm believers, able and ready to help the newly baptized… on the road of Christian life.”
In his public statement, the Bishop of Cádiz notes that Pope Francis, “in continuity with the Magisterium of the Church” has repeated on several occasions that transsexualism “is contrary to human nature.” It also references the Pope’s encyclical, Laudato Si, which states that man “has a nature that he must respect and that he cannot manipulate at will.”
Salinas has reacted harshly to the Vatican’s answer, saying she feels “used and deceived by my own church,” and adding that her sister no longer plans to baptize her child at all.
“They are pushing me away from the Church, I no longer expect anything from them,” said Salinas.
Various media outlets have responded fiercely to the Vatican decision, saying that the ruling simply confirms the Church’s “transphobia.”
Carla Antonelli, a transsexual, LGBT activist and a Socialist party politician in the Madrid Assembly, called the Diocese’s response to Salinas “merciless.”
“Faced with such cruelty one has to conclude that the real inconsistency is of those who claim to be representatives of a doctrine that preaches respect and love of neighbor, but that who use it to unleash hatred and phobias, and crush their neighbor,” Antonelli said.
Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter @tdwilliamsrome