Pope Francis Meets, Dines with Trans Women After Controversial Baptism Decision

By BERT HOOVER

Pope Francis recently hosted a Vatican luncheon for a group of transgender women, many of whom are sex workers or migrants from Latin America, according to Fox News.

This gathering took place as part of the Catholic Church’s “World Day of the Poor.”

The pope and these transgender women have developed a close relationship, which originated during the COVID-19 pandemic when the pontiff assisted them when they were unable to work.

Now, they have monthly VIP visits with the pope and receive support in the form of medicine, money, and other essentials.

The luncheon was a broader event, with around 1,200 impoverished or homeless individuals also attending inside the papal audience hall to enjoy a full meal and dessert.

This invitation to transgender women aligns with a recent Vatican document that generated controversy.

Released earlier in the month, the document affirms that individuals dealing with gender identity disorders are permitted to be baptized or serve as godparents under specific conditions.

While responding to a query from Brazilian Bishop Giuseppe Negri of Santo Amaro, the guidance from the Vatican’s Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, signed by Pope Francis, maintains that the baptism or involvement as godparents must not cause “scandal” or “disorientation.”

This nuanced stipulation has been praised by LGBTQ+ advocates.

Pope Francis: ‘Who Am I to Judge?’

Prominent LGBTQ+ organizations are applauding Pope Francis for his message of inclusivity, recognizing that gay and transgender individuals have historically felt marginalized within a church that officially characterizes homosexual acts as “intrinsically disordered.”

Francis has been on a trajectory toward greater acceptance, starting with his notable “Who am I to judge” remark in 2013 about a purportedly gay priest, AP reports.

In January, he reinforced this stance by asserting that “being homosexual is not a crime.”

The pope has consistently evolved his position, emphasizing that everyone, unequivocally, is a child of God, loved by God, and welcomed in the church – a sentiment expressed with the resounding declaration, “todos, todos, todos” (everyone, everyone, everyone).

However, this judgment-free perspective isn’t universally shared within the Catholic Church.

A recent synod, a gathering of bishops and laypeople at the Vatican, stopped short of explicitly advocating for the welcoming of LGBTQ+ Catholics.

Pope Francis’ approach has faced strong opposition from conservative Catholics, including cardinals.

Despite internal divisions, LGBTQ+ advocacy groups like GLAAD and DignityUSA see Pope Francis’ inclusive tone as a powerful message.

They believe it could encourage political and cultural leaders to cease the persecution, exclusion, and discrimination against transgender individuals.

Lunch with Pope Francis

Latin America migrants and sex workers had the opportunity to share a meal with Pope Francis featuring cannelloni pasta filled with spinach and ricotta, followed by meatballs in tomato-basil sauce and tiramisu for dessert, THEM noted.

“We transgenders in Italy feel a bit more human because the fact that Pope Francis brings us closer to the Church is a beautiful thing,” Carla Segovia, a 46-year-old sex worker from Argentina, said, expressing gratitude.

Claudia Vittoria Salas, a trans tailor and house cleaner from Argentina, had a personal connection to the recent declaration by the Catholic Church regarding trans godparents.

She shared that she had previously worked as a sex worker to support her nieces and nephews, to whom she served as a godparent. She found herself seated next to Pope Francis during the lunch.

“Before, the church was closed to us. They didn’t see us as normal people; they saw us as the devil. Then Pope Francis arrived, and the doors of the church opened for us,” Andrea Paola Torres Lopez, a trans woman from Colombia, said, reflecting on the changing perception of the church.

Complete Article HERE!

Vatican says transgender people can be baptized, serve as godparents

Pope Francis greets crowds during the weekly general audience in Saint Peter’s Square at the Vatican on Wednesday.

By and 

The Vatican released guidance that says transgender people can be baptized, serve as godparents and witness weddings in the Roman Catholic Church, under certain circumstances, reflecting a continued opening by Pope Francis to the LBGTQ+ community.

The document, signed by Francis and Cardinal Víctor Manuel Fernández, was published on the website of the Vatican’s Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith on Wednesday. It responds to questions from a bishop in Brazil.

A transgender person “may receive baptism under the same conditions as other faithful,” so long as this does not cause “scandal or disorientation” among other Catholics, terms that were not further defined in the document, dated Oct. 31. It also says that transgender people “can be admitted to the role of godfather or godmother” and that “there is nothing” in canon law prohibiting transgender people from witnessing marriage ceremonies.

The guidance published by the Vatican is not new and largely stems from a “confidential note” on “transsexualism” published in December 2018, the Dicastery said. It was not clear whether parts of the guidance had been publicly shared before. It contradicts a 2015 ruling from the Vatican, which at the time barred a transgender man in Spain from becoming a godparent.

Francis has removed conservative officials who once led the powerful Dicastery on Vatican doctrine and placed Fernández, an Argentine cardinal considered close to him, at its helm. Last month, Fernández and Francis issued guidance that opened a door to blessings of same-sex couples, as long as a distinction was made with the sacrament of marriage.

Officially, however, the church still teaches that homosexuality is “intrinsically immoral and contrary to the natural law.” The pope’s continued outreach to the LBGTQ+ community comes after the first part of a major Vatican summit — or synod — ended in October with delegates deeply divided over outreach to gay people. The synod’s closing document failed to mention the phrase “LGBTQ+,” as used in preliminary materials and grouped the question of “sexual orientation” under “new” and “controversial” ethical issues, including artificial intelligence.

But the publication of the guidance this week was praised as a step toward inclusion by rights groups.

Sarah Kate Ellis, head of the LGBTQ+ media advocacy organization GLAAD, said in a statement that the affirmation “sends an unequivocal message to political and cultural leaders around the world to end their persecution and exclusion of transgender people,” and she praised Francis for “continuing to break down barriers.”

Francis DeBernardo, editor at the LGBTQ-focused New Ways Ministry, said welcoming transgender people more fully to Catholic sacraments is “a good step” but stressed, “that welcome needs to be expanded even more now.”

Same-sex couples cannot be married in the Catholic Church, and Catholic teaching condemns what it calls “homosexual acts” as “intrinsically immoral.” Given this context, Francis has surprised the public with statements going back to the early days of his papacy, when he said in 2013 “who am I to judge them?” in response to a question about gay priests. In January, Francis said that while he considers homosexuality a sin, it is not a crime. In October, he suggested an openness to priests blessing same-sex couples.

Benjamin Oh, co-chair of the Asia Pacific Rainbow Catholics Network, wrote in an email that the newly published document can be seen as “a sign of hope for LGBTIQA+ Catholics, that truth, justice and love can prevail,” stressing that “LGBTIQA+ people have been a part of every community in all human civilization, and that includes that of the Catholic church community.”

While the Vatican’s statement is new to most people in the community, Oh said there are already many baptized transgender Catholics, some of whom are godparents and godchildren, too. “The dichotomy of two opposing communities of LGBTIQA+ versus Catholic church is not an entirely truthful and helpful one,” Oh said.

Still, LGBTQ+ people face significant obstacles to full acceptance in the church, and churchgoers’ experiences can vary widely across dioceses and parishes, according to Human Rights Watch. The document released by the Vatican this week also appeared to raise questions about whether it is appropriate for same-sex couples living as spouses to become godparents, though it did not seem to shut the door entirely.

The U.S. Catholic bishops issued guidelines this year intended to stop Catholic hospitals from providing gender-affirming care. Some Catholic dioceses, smaller districts of the church, have enacted policies that prohibit students and workers at Catholic institutions from using the pronouns that match transgender students’ identities. One such policy in Massachusetts requires students to “conduct themselves at school in a manner consistent with their biological sex,” local media reported. Transgender teachers have been fired from Catholic schools after coming out.

Kori Pacyniak, who studies the religious experience of transgender Catholics at the University of California at Riverside, said in an email that the church’s relationship with the LGBTQ+ community has been historically fraught. They cited phrases by the church “referring to ‘homosexual acts’ as ‘intrinsically disordered’ and referring to so-called ‘gender ideology’ as harmful and evil.” But “even when official teaching harms LGBTQ people, that doesn’t mean that LGBTQ people are any less Catholic or less faithful,” Pacyniak said.

Pacyniak praised Francis for “trying to guide the church into a more welcoming place,” though such efforts are “often incredibly slow-going.” Still, Pacyniak added, just because there is more work to be done “doesn’t mean we shouldn’t celebrate the small steps along the way.”

Complete Article HERE!

Francis demonstrates support for LGBTQ ministries

— The Pope received Sr Jeannine Gramick, who was prohibited from pastoral work with LGBTQ in 1999 for “errors and ambiguities” in her ministry.

Sr Jeannine Gramick IBVM with Francis DeBernardo, executive director of New Ways Ministry, pictured outside St Peter’s in 2015.

By Brian Fraga

Pope Francis demonstrated his support for LGBTQ ministry with two significant gestures while the Synod on Synodality was discussing the Church’s approach to sexuality.

On 17 October, Francis received Sr Jeannine Gramick IBVM, the co-founder of New Ways Ministry, for a 50-minute audience in the Apostolic Palace.

“The meeting was very emotional for me,” Sr Jeannine said, praising Francis for his “humility, his love of the poor and for those shunned by society”.

Sr Jeannine co-founded New Ways Ministry – a Maryland-based LGBTQ Catholic ministry – in 1977 with the late Salvatorian Fr Robert Nugent.

Francis and Sr Jeannine have developed a friendly correspondence since 2021, when Francis wrote to New Ways Ministry Francis describing her as a “valiant woman.” He later sent a handwritten note congratulating her for 50 years of LGBTQ ministry.

“Meeting with Pope Francis is a great encouragement for Sr Jeannine and New Ways Ministry to continue our work in the Catholic Church,” Francis DeBernardo, executive director of New Ways Ministry, said in a statement.

Francis’ outreach is a marked departure from the criticisms and rebukes that New Ways Ministry received in previous years from Vatican officials and American bishops.

In 1999, then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the future Pope Benedict XVI who at the time directed the Vatican’s doctrinal office, ordered that Gramick and Nugent be prohibited from pastoral work with LGBTQ persons because of alleged “errors and ambiguities” in their ministry.

On 13 October, Francis also wrote a personal note to Stan “JR” Zerkowski, a gay Catholic man involved in national and local LGBTQ ministry in Kentucky.

Zerkowski told the Lexington Herald-Leader that he had written to Frances to tell him about his experiences and the challenges faced by many who work in LGBTQ ministry, and the Pope had replied two days later.

“For the Holy Father to say thank you for your ministry…it’s affirming the ministry,” said Zerkowski, who added that Francis’ approach to LGBTQ issues “opens the door, maybe, for discussions where discussions could not be had before”.

Complete Article HERE!

Cleveland Catholic Schools Ban All LGBTQ+ Affiliation And Behaviors

— Over 100 Catholic schools in Cleveland will no longer tolerate LGBTQ+ affiliation or behaviors.

By Corinne Murdock

The changes came from new guidelines on sexuality and gender issued by the Catholic Diocese of Cleveland at the close of last month. In a press release, the diocese clarified that the guidelines were a formal policy version of existing church teachings on the subject.

“Since questions of sex, sexuality, and gender identity have become increasingly prevalent in our society, it is our hope that the policy will help to ensure these matters are addressed in a consistent and authentically Catholic manner across our diocesan institutions and diocesan Catholic schools, and that those we serve will have a clear understanding about expectations and accommodations related to those matters,” stated the diocese.

The policy requires parental notification in the case of minors experiencing gender dysphoria or confusion; declares that parental rejection of a child’s preferred pronouns don’t constitute grounds for nondisclosure; bans use of preferred pronouns; restricts bathroom and facility usage to biological sex; prohibits admission of students to institutions, programs, and activities like sports designated for the opposite sex; bans same-sex dates to school dances and mixers; requires students to comply with dress codes aligning with their biological sex; bans any celebration or advocacy of LGBTQ+ ideologies or behaviors, such as Pride flags; and bans gender transitions of any degree, whether social or medical.

The policy acknowledged the existence of gender dysphoria, but rejected the modern belief that feelings determine truth.

“This understanding erases those intentional, embodied distinctions between men and women. As such, this view is contrary to the divinely revealed reality of our true, God-given human nature,” stated the policy.

Under the policy, individuals experiencing gender dysphoria or same-sex attraction would be admitted into their schools and allowed to participate in activities, with the contingency that they don’t openly express their disagreement with Catholic teachings on sex, sexuality, and gender.

Reverend Edward Malesic, the Bishop of Cleveland, stated in an accompanying letter that biological sex coincides with God’s divine plan.

Bishop Edward C. Malesic

“The human person is a unity of body and soul; we experience the world through our bodies, and it is through the virtuous expression of our bodies that we reveal God,” said Malesic. “Through times of questioning and confusion, we must accompany our brothers and sisters in Christ with compassion, mercy, and dignity so that we might lovingly help them navigate the confusion and arrive at truth.”

Malesic directed those with further questions or concerns to contact the diocese’s Marriage and Family Office. He also noted that the guidance page would be updated regularly with additional information and resources on the subject.

Cleveland Mayor Justin Bibb posted on X (formerly Twitter) that he believed the policy represented a “shocking betrayal” of church teachings. Bibb offered his own definition of Christian faith, sans Scripture.

“For me, faith is about universal love and acceptance,” said Bibb. “Instead, the new policy forces LGBTQ+ kids to hide their authentic selves and attend schools in fear of persecution for who they are.”

Ohio’s Democratic minority leader for the Senate, Nickie Antonio, said the diocese should not be given school choice funds over the policy.

“I am extremely disappointed that the diocese has chosen to focus on policies of exclusion over acceptance,” said Antonio. “State taxpayer dollars should not subsidize exclusionary education, and if these policies stand, then the diocese should not accept state-funded vouchers.”

Complete Article HERE!

Catholic Diocese of Cleveland Issues Sweeping Anti-LGBTQ Policies at Schools, Churches

— Guidance includes outing trans students to parents, banning pride flats and preferred pronouns that don’t match sex assigned at birth

Holy Name church in Parma

By

The Catholic Diocese of Cleveland has issued a sweeping policy statement on sexuality and gender identity in parishes and schools which LGBTQ advocates have called “chilling” and “draconian.”

Among the items, it requires faculty and staff to out students to parents should they witness any signs of “gender dysphoria,” bans gender transitions and the display of pride flags, and will outlaw same-sex couples from attending school dances. It does not recognize sexual orientations or identities like lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender and instead refers to people “experiencing gender dysphoria or gender confusion”.

Bishop Edward C. Malesic

“The standards really take to a new low some of the policies we’ve seen coming out of state houses around the country, as well as coming out in proposed bills out of the Ohio legislature.” said Dr. Ben Huelskamp, executive director of LOVEboldly, a nonprofit dedicated to developing spaces where LGBTQ+ people can thrive in Christianity.

Across the United States, more than 500 anti-LGBTQ+ bills have been introduced in state legislatures in 2023, according to the American Civil Liberties Union. In Ohio alone, 10 bills targeting the LGBTQ+ community have been introduced through bans on trans women in sports, gender-affirming care, drag performances and more.

“These acts, whether we’re talking about public schools or private schools, or in this case, again, the Diocese of Cleveland, really are aiming to erase LGBTQIA+ students and staff and faculty members, both from their schools and, frankly, just out of existence,” Huelskamp told Scene.

It comes as Pope Francis made headlines after criticizing the “very strong, organized, reactionary attitude,” of some American Catholics who have replaced faith with ideology at a meeting in Portugal on August 28.

According to the policy statement: “A person experiencing gender dysphoria or confusion will not be denied admission to an institution or be excluded from an institution’s life and activities…However, those persons who choose to openly express disagreement with Church teaching on matters of sex, sexuality, and /or gender in an inappropriate or scandalous way, or who act in ways contrary to the teachings of the Church, may be subject to restrictions on his or her participation in the life of the institution or, in appropriate cases, to disciplinary action.”

The formal policy, which affects all diocesan institutions, including offices, parishes, parish schools, and diocesan schools, was developed by a team of experts chosen by Bishop Edward Malesic and released on August 30.

As of September 1, the policy:

  • Requires faculty and staff to notify the parents of minors “experiencing gender dysphoria or gender confusion”. In cases where notifying a parent could result in physical abuse of the minor, faculty and staff are to instead consult the Diocese Legal Office. The release does not address other forms of abuse but specifies that refusal to “to treat their child in any manner inconsistent with their God-given biological sex is not abuse and is not a compelling reason to not disclose”.
  • Bans the designation of preferred pronouns that do not “accurately reflect a person’s God-given biological sex”. Nicknames other than abbreviated versions of one’s legal name can be used to address “a person experiencing gender dysphoria or gender confusion” only if they do not “obscure or contradict the person’s God-given biological sex, promote the idea that one’s gender is different than one’s God-given biological sex,” or cause scandal.
  • Requires people to use bathrooms and facilities that “correspond to their God-given biological sex”. Individual institutional leadership has the discretionary power to accommodate the use of single-user bathrooms upon request.
  • Restricts admittance to single-sex institutions and institutional programs–like extracurriculars, athletics or ministries–consistent with his or her God-given biological sex. Institutional leadership has discretionary power to allow “biological females competing on athletic teams designated for biological males when deemed appropriate”. Other exceptions have to get approval from the bishop.
  • Bans attendance to institutional events with a “date of the same God-given biological sex or publicly express and/or display sexual attraction to or romantic interest in members of the same-sex at such event.” The institution has the discretion to allow attendees to attend alone, with a platonic friend or with a group of platonic friends.
  • Requires people to “present and conduct themselves in a manner consistent with their God-given biological sex” and bans “acting in a manner the purpose of which is to hold themselves out as being a sex or gender that is inconsistent with the person’s God-given biological sex” or would cause confusion or scandal about the “person’s sex or gender relative to the person’s God-given biological sex.” Examples given include dressing “consistent with their God-given biological sex” and complying with sex-specific dress codes.
  • Bans “publicly advocate or celebrate sexual orientation or identity” in ways that are contrary to the Catholic Church’s teaching and that could cause disruption, confusion, or scandal regarding the Catholic Church’s teachings.
  • Bans symbols like, “‘LGBTQ pride’ rainbows or ‘LGBTQ pride’ flags or other symbols that can be construed as being opposed to Church teaching” on institution property or at events the institution is participating in or sponsoring.
  • Bans gender affirming medical care and social transitioning, which it defines as “the adoption of pronouns, clothing, haircuts, and other social expressions of gender or sex for the purpose of holding out oneself as being a sex or gender different than one’s God-given biological sex.” It allows for medical treatment of “true genetic or physical anomalies, disorders, or medical conditions” but does not detail what would qualify.
  • Requires institutional records and documents to use “person’s God-given biological sex and legal name” and bans the alteration of existing records following a legal name change.

“First, it’s going to have a chilling effect on what students, staff, faculty and others, how those groups can express themselves, how they can dress, how they can just simply act in ways that are authentic to them based on their own gender identity, or their own gender expression” Huelskamp said. “Further, it really takes another chilling effect for people who want to be allies to those folks.”

The full policy statement and a corresponding cover letter by Bishop Malesic is available on the diocesan website.
The Diocese did not respond to questions from Scene but issued the following statement:

“In response to societal trends and at the request of church and school leadership, the Catholic Diocese of Cleveland has taken existing guidance and practice in matters of sex, sexuality, and gender identity and developed them into a formal policy, rooted in scripture and Church teaching, to help ensure that these matters are addressed in a consistent, pastorally sound, and authentically Catholic manner across our diocesan and parish institutions and schools.

“Each and every person is welcome and invited to be a part of the Church. Each one of us brings our own struggles and questions, and the Church, like Christ, meets each one of us where we are. It is our hope that this policy, in tandem with the pastoral and theological resources found on the diocese’s website, helps each person to live more fully in the truth of their identity as a son or daughter of God who is made, body and soul, in His image.”

“There’s still hope available. There are still people in their parishes in their schools who will support them…We know that there are good and well meaning Catholics out there who either are themselves queer, or who totally support the queer community,” said Huelskamp. “That support does not go away because one bishop or one diocese says that they’re going to embrace these, frankly, draconian policies.”

Complete Article HERE!