Monday, September 7, 2015

Transsexual Godfathers? What Does the Church Say?

Something that has been on the minds of many Westerners lately, especially in the past few months, has been the issue of transgenderism. We saw this really come to the forefront at the end of this past spring when former Olympian Bruce Jenner revealed he had decided to live the rest of his life of a woman. I can honestly say, it doesn't seem like a day goes by where there isn't something in the news regarding a transgender group or person in the secular media.

Most recently there was the story about a high school boy, who identifies as a transsexual, demanding to have access to the girls locker room during P.E. This was met by a protest of students walking out of the school, which was then met by a counter protest. There are many things I could say about this and other similar incidents. The one that always comes to mind first, is that whole narrative of "gender fluidity" we're beginning to hear... and is it ever deceptive. Once again, it's mankind turning its back on truth. And what is especially shocking in my eyes, is that parents, teachers, and even doctors want to inject our young adolescents with hormone blockers (as well as artificial hormones) to stop puberty and allow outward manifestations of the opposite sex to become apparent on these young people's bodies. The logic astounds me... probably because there's not much there in the first place, unfortunately.

Nonetheless, with these issues beginning to dominate discussion in the public forum, this has led many faithful Catholics to ask, "what does the Church think about all this?" Many have noted that the Church hasn't explicitly touched the subject, leading some to erroneously speculate that the Church is OK with some of the more extreme transgender procedures such as gender reassignment surgery... or as it has been called in all places and all times until recently, genital mutilation. But within the past year we now have two instances of the Church issuing an opinion on the subject. The first comes from Pope Francis' encyclical Laudato Siwhich you will see quoted a bit later in this post, and then a reply from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to a bishop in Spain regarding a transsexual wishing to be a godparent at baptism.
Parents and Godparents at Baptism
Bishop Rafael Zornoza Boy of  the diocese of Cadiz and Cueta made headlines first in his home country when he received a request from a transsexual woman (who considers herself a man) to be the godfather of her nephew. Immediately, Bishop Zornoza contacted the Congregation on how to continue, and received a very prompt response. The bishop received the response on September 1st, and included the Congregation's letter in his own statement posted on the diocesan website. You can read his statement, as well as the Congregation's entire response HERE. The Congregation ruled that it was "an impossibility" for a person with transsexual behavior to be a witness to a baptism in the role of godfather of godmother. That is because, as the letter from the Congregation further states, this specific behavior “reveals in a public way an attitude opposite to the moral imperative of solving the problem of sexual identity according to the truth of one's own sexuality.”

The response continues, "Therefore it is clear that this person does not have the requirement to lead a life in faith and the position of godfather (Code of Canon Law, can 874 §1,3), cannot therefore be admitted... This is not to be seen as discrimination, but only the acknowledgment of an objective lack of requirements, which by their nature, are required by one to assume the responsibility of being a godfather in the Church. "

At the heart of the matter here, is the fact that the Church cannot admit someone to be a godparent (that is, someone who will be partially responsible for passing the faith down to the person being baptized) if they do not accept all the tenets of the Catholic faith. Otherwise, they would be lying to themselves, the child, and to God once they uttered those baptismal vows. The Catechism reminds us of the importance that godparents have in the life of their godchild: "For the grace of Baptism to unfold, the parents' help is important. So too is the role of the godfather and godmother, who must be firm believers, able and ready to help the newly baptized - child or adult on the road of Christian life. Their task is a truly ecclesial function" (CCC 1255).

Bishop Zorzona also noted in his statement that "the pastor may confer baptism without godparents, who are not required to celebrate this sacrament." So if someone claims they don't have anyone else to be godparent for a child in such a situation as this, the baptism can still be carried out with no godparents.

Obviously there was much confusion in the media when the news from the Congregation hit the Spanish (and now, the world) media. Bishop Zornoza revealed this is why he felt it necessary to make a clear statement on the matter by including the entire reply from the Congregation on the diocesan website. This is where Pope Francis' teaching in Laudato Si now comes into play. If you remember, most in the media made the encyclical out to be focusing only on global warming and other environmental issues. That simply wasn't the case, as the encyclical was on the whole of "the human ecology" and included very strong statements from the Pope on matters such as abortion and valuing one's own body. Bishop Zornoza recounted the following from the Pope on how "valuing one’s own body in its femininity or masculinity is necessary if [one is] going to be able to recognize [oneself] in an encounter with someone who is different."

Bishop Zornoza
Here is paragraph 155 of the encyclical quoted in full, just as the Bishop included in his statement, where another pontiff, Pope Benedict XVI, also happens to be quoted:

"Human ecology also implies another profound reality: the relationship between human life and the moral law, which is inscribed in our nature and is necessary for the creation of a more dignified environment. Pope Benedict XVI spoke of an “ecology of man”, based on the fact that “man too has a nature that he must respect and that he cannot manipulate at will”. It is enough to recognize that our body itself establishes us in a direct relationship with the environment and with other living beings. 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. 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” (Laudauto Si (155))

We see here that the Pope is certainly in tune with what is going on in the world today; the issue of transgenderism is blurring lines between what is and what is not. Pope Francis reminds us here that our body has value. We are not just a soul, but a body AND a soul. Both will be raised up on the last day, we can't forget that. Some of us have tougher crosses to bear, and I don't want to diminish the suffering that any person goes through in life. However, we all have our crosses, and if we truly wish to follow Christ we MUST pick up that cross and follow Him, no matter the difficulty. The words of the Divine Mercy must echo through our heads at all times, "Jesus I TRUST in You!" If we put aside that cross because we can't go on anymore, and in return reject Christ and the teachings of the Church he founded, we find ourselves in a very dark place. Of course, Christ wants to be that Light in our lives. Bishop Zornoza reminds us of that when he closed his statement with these beautiful words:

"The Church welcomes everyone with charity, wanting to help everyone in their situation with tender mercy, but without denying the truth that She preaches, which is proposed as a journey of faith to be freely accepted."

Let's hope and pray that those who have indeed stumbled, come back to Christ and ask for His mercy which He is ALWAYS ready to give to us.

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