Michigan diocese: Transgender must 'repent' to be baptized

Associated Press

Marquette, Mich. — A Catholic diocese in Michigan is asking its pastors to deny baptism, confirmation and other sacraments to transgender and nonbinary people unless they have “repented,” a policy that's possibly the most sweeping of its kind in the U.S.

The guidance from the Diocese of Marquette also stipulates that transgender people may not receive Communion and that in most circumstances, they cannot receive the anointing of the sick, which is meant to provide seriously ill people with physical or spiritual healing.

The document lists several sacraments LGBTQ people may not receive “unless the person has repented.”

The diocese issued the policy in July but it only recently sparked a debate after a prominent priest and advocate for LGBTQ Catholics shared it on Twitter, The Washington Post reported.

While other dioceses have released guidance on transgender people, several experts told the Post they believe the Marquette diocese, located in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, is the first to seek to deny them access to baptism and confirmation.

A statement posted Thursday on the diocese's website about the policy states in part that the “Church teaches that persons experiencing feelings of same-sex attraction or gender dysphoria is not sinful, but freely acting upon them is."

The diocese's policy comes in an absence of significant guidance from the Vatican or the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, which have said little about transgender individuals and the sacraments.

Patrick Hornbeck, a theology professor at Fordham University, said many Catholic leaders have recently taken to setting lines beyond which they believe it’s not possible for a person to be in good standing within the church.

He said the recent debate among the U.S. bishops over whether President Joe Biden and other Catholic politicians who support abortion rights can receive Communion exemplifies that trend.

“The Diocese of Marquette seems to be adding fuel to that particular fire by saying that beliefs about gender and gender transition also fall into that category,” Hornbeck said.