The child of a lesbian couple in Argentina was baptized with the open support of their local archbishop, perhaps owing to Pope Francis’ more pastoral tone on LGBT issues.
Marriage equality was made law in 2010 in Argentina, but the April 5th baptism of Umma Azul is believed to be a first for a child with same-gender parents. Karina Villarroel and Soledad Ortiz, the mothers, were raised Catholic and reached out to the archbishop of Cordoba about the baptism. Gay Star News reports:
” ‘We had a hearing with Archbishop [Carlos] Ñáñez and he told us there was no problem with our daughter being baptized in the Cathedral.’
“Archbishop Ñáñez reportedly gave ‘special instructions’ regarding the selection of godparents to Father Carlos Varras, who will be presiding over the baptism.”
Villarroeal said that though the couple does not attend church currently, they wanted their daughter baptized so she could decide for herself about whether to be Catholic. They also asked Argentine President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner to be Umma’s godmother, who agreed though did not attend the baptism.
Archbishop Ñáñez’s welcome of the couple and their daughter has been attributed to Pope Francis’ leadership by some. While still Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio in Buenos Aires, the pope had once sternly mandated that priests baptize children from non-traditional family structures after hearing that priests were turning away single mothers requesting the sacrament. A rough translation of La Stampa reports:
“When he was Archbishop of Buenos Aires, the current pontiff has struggled to not exclude any child from the first sacrament, without taking into account the situation of the parents. This request is the result of a profound theological reflection, the priest Javier Klajner, head of youth ministry at the time and a close associate of Bergoglio in Buenos Aires, told Vatican Insider.
” ‘If a person comes to ask for baptism, is there no prompting of the Spirit? That ‘s what we call actual grace in theology to have moved the heart. As the Ethiopian, in the Acts of the Apostles, when he walked, and said, “Here is water. Why not baptize me?” ‘ …
” ‘If a parent asks for his son’s baptism, as we do? Do not give it to him? Francis says that we are ministers, not bureaucratic administrators in the sense of the term. In my parish, we can baptize any day, in any setting. It would be crazy not to. Then no one can come to criticize and say that people are not being baptized, because this is a contradiction,’ he said.”
Since being elected, Pope Francis has continued insisting that pastoral concerns are of the highest order. There is no way to know what impact Pope Francis has had exactly, but this baptism is a clear example that parish priests can and should minister to families led by same-gender parents, as they would to anyone else.
–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry