Transsexual persons, even if they have undergone hormone therapy or sex reassignment surgery, may receive the Sacrament of Baptism “if there are no situations in which there is a risk of generating public scandal or confusion among the faithful”. The children of homosexual couples should be baptized even if they are born from a surrogate mother, provided there is a well-founded hope that they will be educated in the Catholic faith.

These clarifications were issued on Wednesday in a response to questions (dubia) submitted to the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith (DDF) by Bishop José Negri of Santo Amaro, Brazil.

The document, signed by Cardinal Victor Manuel Fernandéz, the Prefect of the DDF, and approved by Pope Francis on 31 October, answered six questions concerning the possible participation of transsexual and homoaffective persons in the Sacraments of Baptism and Matrimony.

The answers “re-propose, in substance, the fundamental contents of what has already been affirmed in the past by the Dicastery concerning these matters.”

The DDF affirmed that transsexual persons, whether adults, children, or adolescents, can be baptized, provided they are “well-prepared and willing, and that there is no occasion of scandal.”

In the case of doubts “about the objective moral situation in which a person finds themselves”, or concerning “their subjective dispositions towards grace” (and so also in situations where there does not appear to be an intention to amend), the DDF proposed certain considerations.

The Church teaches that when the Sacrament of Baptism “is received without repentance for grave sins, the subject does not receive sanctifying grace, although they do receive the sacramental character”, as we read in the Catechism. The indelible character “remains forever in the Christian as a positive disposition towards grace”.

Quoting from St. Thomas and St. Augustine, the Dicastery recalls that Christ continues to seek the sinner, and when repentance comes, the sacramental character already received immediately disposes one to receive grace.

This is why, according to the document, Pope Francis has repeatedly said that the Church is not a “tollhouse” and, especially with regard to Baptism, the door should not be closed to anyone.

The question of whether a transsexual person can serve as a godfather or godmother at Baptism is more complicated. The Dicastery said that this “can be allowed under certain conditions,” while noting that being a godparent is not a right. Therefore, it said, “pastoral prudence demands that it should not be allowed if there is a danger of scandal, undue legitimization, or confusion in the educational sphere of the ecclesial community”.

Concerning the possibility of a transsexual person serving as a witness to a marriage, the Dicastery noted that there is nothing “in current universal canonical legislation” and therefore it is permissible.

The DDF document went on to address several issues concerning homoaffective persons (that is, persons “who experience an exclusive or predominant sexual attraction toward persons of the same sex [CCC 2357])”.

The question was asked whether the children of homoaffective parents can be baptized, even if they were adopted or conceived through other methods, such as surrogate motherhood. The Dicastery replied: “In order for the child to be baptized, there must be a well-founded hope that he or she will be brought up in the Catholic religion”, citing the Code of Canon Law.

The document then addressed the case of a homosexual and cohabiting person who asks to be the godfather or godmother of a person to be baptized. The Dicastery said that in order to be a godparent, a person must lead “a life in conformity with the faith and the task he or she assumes”.

The case is different when two homosexual persons are involved in a relationship that does not consist simply of cohabitation, “but in a stable and declared relationship more uxorio [after the fashion of marriage] that is well known to the community”. The Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith said due prudence is necessary in such cases in order to “safeguard the Sacrament of Baptism and especially its reception, which is a precious good to be protected, since it is necessary for salvation.”

The Dicastery went on to say that consideration of “the genuine value the ecclesial community places on the duties of godfather and godmother, the role they play in the community, and the consideration they demonstrate with regard to the Church’s teaching” is also required.

The document suggested the possibility that “another person from the family circle might act as guarantor of the correct transmission of the Catholic faith to the baptized person.”

Further, it noted that the Church also offers the possibility, besides being a godparent, of assisting in the baptismal rite as a witness to the act of Baptism.

In response to a final question, the Dicastery said there is nothing to prevent a homoaffective person from being a witness to a marriage, even if that person is cohabitating.

The full text of the document, in Italian and Portuguese, can be found on the website of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith.