The guidance issued by the Diocese of Marquette also stipulates that transgender people may not receive Communion, in which Catholics believe the body and blood of Jesus Christ are truly present. In most circumstances, they cannot receive the anointing of the sick, which is meant to provide physical or spiritual healing to those who are seriously ill. The guidance was issued in July but only recently sparked a debate after a prominent priest and advocate for LGBTQ Catholics shared it on Twitter.
“The experience of incongruence in one’s sexual identity is not sinful if it does not arise from the person’s free will, nor would it stand in the way of Christian Initiation,” reads the document. “However, deliberate, freely chosen and manifest behaviors to redefine one’s sex do constitute such an obstacle.”
A spokesperson for the diocese said no one was immediately available for an interview.
Because the Catholic Church primarily baptizes infants, the Diocese of Marquette’s policy is likely to primarily impact non-Catholic adults seeking baptism in the Catholic Church, transgender teenagers preparing for confirmation and children of Catholic migrants who were not baptized as infants because their parents were frequently moving, among other possible reasons.
The backlash may portend a growing clash between the church, which teaches that people should accept their sex assigned at birth, and a younger generation more likely to identify as something other than cisgender and less likely to believe that being transgender is morally wrong. One in 6 adults in Generation Z identifies as LGBTQ, according to survey data released by Gallup in February.
While other dioceses have released guidance on transgender people, several experts said they believe Marquette is the first to deny access to baptism and confirmation. That decision 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. The closest piece of direction comes in the form of a 2019 document from the Vatican’s Congregation for Catholic Education that says people should be treated as the sex they were assigned at birth.