Vatican City — The Vatican's doctrinal congregation upheld a Spanish bishop's refusal to allow a transsexual person to be a godparent.
Bishop Rafael Zornoza Boy of Cadiz and Ceuta said in a written statement that the Catechism of the Catholic Church says godparents must be "firm believers, able and ready to help the newly baptized ... on the road of Christian life" (1255).
The church teaches that sponsors must live a life of faith that is in keeping with their function as someone who must "seriously assume" responsibility for the development and safeguarding of the grace given at baptism, he said in the statement that was published on the diocese's web site Sept. 1.
If it is not possible to find a person who has all of "the necessary qualities," the priest can confer the sacrament of Baptism without godparents, he said.
Given "the confusion" among some of the faithful concerning this decision, the bishop said, he also formally consulted with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which reaffirmed the "impossibility" of allowing an openly transsexual person to be a godparent.
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Transsexual behavior represents a public display of an attitude that goes against "the moral requirement to resolve the problem of one's own sexual identity according to the truth of one's own biological sex," the bishop cited the doctrinal congregation as saying.
The congregation said such behavior shows the person does not meet the conditions required for living a life in conformity to the faith and, as such, cannot be accepted as a godparent.
This position does not reflect an act of discrimination, the doctrinal congregation said, but is "just the recognition of an objective lack of the requirements" that are necessary for the ecclesial responsibilities of a godparent.
Zornoza said the church welcomes everyone with charity and mercy, wants to help everyone in his or her own particular situation and invites all people to take part in a journey of faith without, however, ever "denying the truth it preaches."
Pope Francis has said a person must respect his or her own body just as they must respect all of God's creation.
"The acceptance of our bodies as God's gift is vital for welcoming and accepting the entire world as a gift from the Father and our common home, whereas thinking that we enjoy absolute power over our own bodies turns, often subtly, into thinking that we enjoy absolute power over creation," Francis wrote in his encyclical, "Laudato Si'."
"Learning to accept our body, to care for it and to respect its fullest meaning, is an essential element of any genuine human ecology. Also, 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. It is not a healthy attitude which would seek 'to cancel out sexual difference because it no longer knows how to confront it,'" the pope wrote.