The Brazilian bishop who took the first step toward the Catholic Church embracing gays and transgender people

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01/29/2024

The next lesbian, gay, or transgender person to be the godparent of a baby baptized in a Catholic parish, or in a cathedral, in any corner of the world, may not know what led him or her to assume that crucial responsibility in the eyes of the Roman Catholic Church. But the process began in Brazil, in the office of a bishop in São Paulo. Specifically, it started with a letter with six questions addressed to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and signed by Bishop José Negri, of the diocese of Santo Amaro, in the southern part of Latin America’s most populous city. The Holy See received the letter on July 14 and responded almost four months later with a decision signed by Pope Francis. The news was made public at the beginning of November. In summary, trans Catholics can be baptized, but it is not a right and requires avoiding disconcerting believers and public scandal. A same-sex couple’s children can receive the same sacrament as long as there is a well-founded hope that they will be educated in the Catholic faith. They can all serve as witnesses for a wedding. Bishop Negri raised the six questions clearly and directly. The first question: “Can a trans person be baptized?” The fourth inquiry: “Can a same-sex couple appear as the progenitors of a child to be baptized if he or she was adopted or conceived through other methods, such as surrogacy?” The response from the body that deals with the Church’s doctrinal and theological questions — the former Inquisition — was also concise in its three-page answer, which included multiple footnotes. The Brazilian prelate declined this newspaper’s request to be interviewed about his consultation and its consequences.

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