A Michigan Catholic diocese has told its church leaders to deny baptism, confirmation, and other sacraments to LGBTQ+ people unless they have “repented.”
The now-viral guidance was shared on social media this week, even though it was sent out in July, according to NBC News.
The document from the Diocese of Marquette explains how Catholic priests should develop their ministerial relationships with “persons with same-sex attraction” and “persons with gender dysphoria.”
The Roman Catholic Church has long held the view that being gay is not a sin but being in a same-sex relationship or having gay sex is. It announced in March that priests are not allowed to bless same-sex unions. In June 2019, the church released a document claiming that trans people do not exist and such notions go against nature.
July’s guidance compared working with trans people to working with those with anorexia nervosa.
“In this disorder there is an incongruence between how the persons perceive themselves and their bodily reality,” the document states. “Just as we would refer a person with anorexia to an expert to help him or her, let us also refer persons with gender dysphoria to a qualified counselor to help them while we show them the depth of our love and friendship.”
According to the diocese, those in same-sex relationships or trans people can’t be baptized or confirmed or receive communion, and they also can’t act as witnesses to Catholic baptisms or confirmations.
In the document, to repent would mean to end a same-sex relationship for a gay person, while a trans person would have to live as the sex they were assigned at birth.
NBC News reports the document resurfaced when James Martin, a priest and LGBTQ+ advocate, wrote on Twitter, “It is not a sin to be transgender.”
"Transgender people are beloved children of God struggling to understand their identity. They need to be accepted with 'respect, compassion and sensitivity.' As Cardinal Gregory told a trans person, 'You belong to the heart of this church,'" Martin continued.
The priest later tweeted, “The Catholic Church needs to listen to LGBTQ people, not give them more reasons to distance themselves from the church.”
In a statement to NBC News, the diocese said the document was a “framework” to work with LGBTQ+ congregants.
“The Church teaches that persons experiencing feelings of same-sex attraction or gender dysphoria is not sinful, but freely acting upon them is,” said the statement, sent by John Fee, the diocese's communications director.
Marianne Duddy-Burke, the executive director of DignityUSA, which advocates for LGBTQ+ rights in the Catholic Church, told NBC News the document was part of a trend in Catholic dioceses of “making statements that look like they're trying to be helpful to gay, queer and transgender people but that are really doing harm to the spiritual, emotional and physical health of our community and to families.”
The documents also seem to be in conflict with Pope Francis’s teachings about the LGBTQ+ community, which take a more inclusive approach.
“If the church continues to have discriminatory attitudes, policies, and teachings, the trend of people opting out of Catholicism is only going to continue,” Duddy-Burke said.