French Bishops approved a recommendation to remove the gender of parents on baptism forms to handle “ever-more-complex situation of families in France.”

Bishop Joseph de Metz-Noblat, President of the Council for Canonical Questions, said the changes were approved by the Permanent Council of the Bishops’ Conference to comply with new gender equality laws in France. In a letter dated December 13th of 2018 that was published towards the end of 2019, he says:

“The increasingly complex situation of families in France makes it extremely difficult to draft Catholic acts, especially regarding baptism.”

Metz-Noblat said several dioceses throughout the nation “faced problems of vocabulary,” thus in working with two other councils they produced a new baptismal formula that refers to “names and first names of parents or other holders of parental authority, a simple acknowledgment of one’s family situation, without bearing moral judgment on it.”

The new baptismal formula is a recommendation to other bishops in France, but is not binding.

“According to canon law, ministers cannot refuse sacraments to persons who opportunely ask for them, while children cannot be held responsible for the situation of their parents. This is why we are recommending you adopt this formulation, which seems more suited to our epoch.”

Father Claude Barthe, editor of the monthly Catholic newsletter Res Novae, said he expects some bishops in France to ignore the recommendation and continue using the normal baptismal formula. Barthe said the change is for problems “not yet encountered,” and that that they risk “turning the exception into the norm.” French birth registries themselves have not been updated to account for their legalization of marriage and child adoption for same-sex couples in 2013, but some politicians have proposed a “parent 1” and “parent 2” solution.

In 2017, Cardinal Francesco Coccopalmerio, then-prefect of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, gave the position of the Holy See on how children with same-sex parents or transgendered should be baptized.

“We do not consider it possible to enter on the baptismal record two mothers or two fathers or a ‘transgendered father’ whose real nature is a woman or a ‘transgendered mother’ whose true nature is a man. If one of the partners is the natural father or mother of the child, it must be mentioned on the record, the other partner cannot be entered.”

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