The Vatican has struck down a request by a transgender man to be his nephew’s godfather, arguing his gender identity makes him unfit for the task.
The controversy began in late July, when Alex Salinas, 21, asked his parish priest in Spain if he could be his nephew’s godfather. According to Salinas, who regularly attends mass, the priest initially agreed, but later rescinded the offer when Bishop Rafael Zornoza of Cádiz y Ceuta challenged the decision.
“After speaking with the bishop he said that in the church’s eyes, I was still a woman,” said Salinas, who is officially recognized by the Spanish government as man. He was offered the role “spiritual godfather” instead, a position the Church designates for people ineligible for the role of godparents.
News of the decision attracted widespread criticism, however, and Zornoza quickly deferred to the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith — the committee responsible for enforcing Catholic teaching — to render final judgment.
According to the Religion News Service, the Vatican handed down their ruling this week. It concluded that “transsexual behavior itself reveals, in a public manner, an attitude opposite to the moral imperative of solving the problem of sexual identity according to the truth of one’s own sexuality.”
“It is clear that this person does not meet the requirement of carrying out a life conforming to the faith and the position of godfather,” the statement read. It later added, “Discrimination is not to be seen in this, but only recognition of an objective lack of the requisites that by their own nature are necessary to take over the ecclesial responsibility of being a godparent.”
The decision follows a slew of seemingly mixed messages from the Vatican on transgender issues — most coming from Pope Francis himself. The pope has sometimes appeared to be welcoming of transgender identities, such as when he met with a Spanish transgender man in January, reportedly telling him “the church loves you and accepts you as you are.” Francis also dined with several gay and transgender prison inmates in March, a move that was widely seen to echo his famously welcoming response to a question on gay priests: “Who am I to judge?”
But in April, Francis strongly condemned gender theory — specifically the idea that gender is a social construct — saying it doesn’t “recognize the order of creation.” He then compared such notions to nuclear weapons, putting them alongside historic examples of things he said were meant to ”destroy, that plot designs of death, that disfigure the face of man and woman, destroying creation.”
Salinas, however, is not convinced. He posted his response to the Vatican’s ruling on Facebook, saying he felt “disgust, anger, sadness, [and] anger.” He also announced that his sister had decided not to baptize his nephew, because she does not want him to belong to a community “in which they do not want to his own uncle.”
“I don’t want to know any more about or be part of the Church,” he wrote in Spanish. “But I will follow my faith like I truly feel it, with no tenets that prohibit anyone being who they are.”