The Vatican announced it would allow trans people to be baptized and become godparents under certain conditions. The November 8 announcement comes in response to a bishop who asked religious leadership about where the Church stood on the topic of trans congregation members.

This statement comes as the Church has taken a more progressive shift under the leadership of Pope Francis, who has spoken out in favor of the decriminalization of homosexuality, calling the laws a “sin” and an “injustice” for LGBTQ+ people.

“The Vatican’s affirmation that transgender people should be welcomed in the church’s sacramental life signals Pope Francis’ desire for a pastorally-focused approach to LGBTQ+ issues is taking hold,” Francis DeBernardo, executive director at New Ways Ministry, wrote in an editorial Thursday. 

The statement made by the Vatican noted trans folks — including people who’ve received hormone therapies or gender-affirming surgeries — can be baptized so long as there is no “risk of generating a public scandal or disorientation among the faithful.” The letter didn’t define what a scandal would consist of, nor did it provide an example. 

Trans children and teens would also be allowed to be baptized, and trans parishioners would be allowed to be a witness at a Catholic wedding ceremony. Same-sex couples will also be able to baptize their children in the Church if there is “a well-founded hope that he or she will be educated in the Catholic religion.”

The lack of clarity in the document regarding the term “public scandal” is concerning to DeBernardo and other Catholic LGBTQ+ activists. He said “if church leaders do not employ pastoral prudence with this guideline, it could be used by other officials to establish other policies which would exclude such people from other areas of church life.”

“We hope that church leaders will apply these guidelines by following Pope Francis’ example of extravagant welcome, rather than using them to continue old restrictions,” DeBernardo wrote.

Throughout his papacy, Pope Francis has played a crucial role in the Church’s shift in attitude toward LGBTQ+ folks. In addition to advocating for LGBTQ+ people to be welcomed into Catholic congregations, Francis has also said priests can bless same-sex unions.

“We cannot be judges who only deny, push back and exclude,” Pope Francis said. “People with homosexual tendencies are children of God … God loves them, God is with them.”

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