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Marriage for a Transsexual?

    Marriage for a Transsexual?

    Q: A friend of mine had a sex-change operation from male to female. This person has now fallen in love with a man. The changed person would like to know if the Church would permit them to marry in the Church. What can I tell them?


    A: It is important at the outset to understand what kind of surgery we are talking about when we say sex-change operation. I presume here we are talking about an individual who had no female sex organs before surgery. I presume a male had his male genitalia removed and was given a plastic or artificially created vagina of a kind.

    Where governments have dealt with this problem, it appears they do not recognize a change in sex when transsexual surgery has been done. The Italian Constitutional Court in 1985 declared such changes were not legally effective for entering into marriage.

    In Great Britain, a transsexual was refused permission to marry a man after surgery to change from male to female. The European Court of Human Rights refused an appeal to change the birth certificate. According to notes supplied me by a tribunal official, the European court based its decision on biological principles. It, in effect, declared that sex change is a misnomer for the operations. In these operations there is a mutilation of the body, but it is impossible to change the gender determined by sex chromosomes.

    Earlier research of my own indicated a New York court also refused to alter the sex designation on a transsexual's birth certificate, calling the surgery done simply a mutilation.

    Your friend may well have difficulty in obtaining a civil license to marry. I cannot know what every state or jurisdiction might hold.

    I think that any Catholic pastor would have to refuse to witness a ceremony uniting a male to a female transsexual. If such a ceremony took place, I believe, a Catholic tribunal asked to judge the case would declare the marriage null and void.

    Said my tribunal source, "One who is biologically and physiologically male at birth may have his genital organ altered to resemble those of a female, but he remains essentially a male. He is thus incapable of marrying another male."



    Jesus and the Title 'Son of Man'

    Q: What is the explanation for calling Jesus the Son of Man when he is Son of God?


    A: In both the Dictionary of the Bible by John McKenzie (Bruce) and Encyclopedic Dictionary of the Bible by Louis Hartman (McGraw-Hill), you will discover columns of material on the title "Son of Man."

    The title appears to have its roots in Mideastern mythology, and the apocryphal books of Enoch and 4 Esdras.

    According to McKenzie and Hartman, in mythology, Son of Man is the primordial man who becomes deified and returns in the final days to inaugurate the Kingdom of God.

    In the apocryphal books of Enoch and 4 Esdras, the Son of Man appears before the Ancient of Days. He is the righteous one who reveals all hidden treasures. Chosen as judge, he overcomes kings, the powerful and sinners. He is the light and hope of peoples. People are saved in his name and the saved will eat and drink with him in eternity.

    In speaking of himself as Son of Man, Jesus appears to have taken the title from the Book of Daniel 7:13. In Daniel, the prophet has a vision of four frightening beasts representing the Babylonian, Medean, Persian and Hellenistic empires. All come to destruction.

    Daniel states that, as he watched, the Ancient One (Ancient of Days) took his throne with thousands upon thousands ministering to him. With judgment of the beasts the visions continue and Daniel sees "one like a Son of Man coming, on the clouds of heaven." From the Ancient One he receives dominion, glory and kingship. Nations and peoples of every language serve him. He receives an everlasting dominion that shall not be taken away and a kingship that shall not be destroyed.

    In the synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke) Jesus, and only Jesus, uses this title concerning himself some 70 times. In John, Jesus applies the title to himself 11 times. In general we can say that the term emphasizes Jesus' humanity. It makes him capable of suffering and as Son of Man he experiences his passion. He is indeed the Son of God, but as Son of Mary he is also a Son of "man."

    At the same time the title evokes the image from Daniel and of Jesus as judge to come. His human experience and ability to identify with humankind make him a most appropriate judge for human beings.



    A Blessing Instead of Communion?

    Q: My query is for help with blessings at Communion. At our church all are encouraged to come to the altar. We especially enjoy the little ones who have not received holy Communion yet! They come up with their parents and we always say a little blessing like, "May the Lord keep you healthy, happy and smiling." We also encourage adults who cannot receive Communion (mostly non-Catholics) to come up for a blessing. For example, my wife who attends Mass with me on occasion will come up to the altar and receive a blessing. She will cross her arms across her chest to indicate that she is there for a blessing. What simple blessing can I say to her (by the way, I am a eucharistic minister) and also what blessings can I say to others?


    A: Your question about giving blessings at Communion�in place of Communion itself�raises still more questions. Those questions concern the theological message and ecumenical appropriateness of the practice as well as the matter of crowd control or traffic management.

    Sensing some of the problems involved, I turned to Father Lawrence Tensi of the Worship Office of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati for help in responding to you.

    Let me quote in part from Father Tensi's answer to me: "As to your question of 'blessings at Communion,' many liturgists are trying to uncover where this practice originated, and should the practice continue....Generally speaking, this 'blessing,' or the coming to Communion with arms crossed, seems to be gaining popularity here in the United States for children who have not made their first Eucharist, and for non-Catholics attending Mass.

    "So far this is an unauthorized adaptation, even though it has been commended by certain catechetical resources. Its roots are in an agreement between the Lutheran and Catholic hierarchies in Scandinavia. There those who are unable to partake in the Eucharist join in the procession and cross their arms as a sign that they do not wish to receive the eucharistic elements.

    "Sometimes they are given a blessing, but this seems a very rare exception. It seems that the arm-crossing sign was honored by the Holy Father when he celebrated the liturgy in Stockholm.

    "I believe it has not yet been formally adopted here in the States in any shape or form, even though parishes may be using it on a frequent basis. As far as I know, the NCCB (National Conference of Catholic Bishops) has not been approached for such an adaptation into the liturgy."

    Father Tensi was kind enough to call my attention to an article in the National Bulletin on Liturgy from Canada, Fall 1995, and Letters in Liturgy '90.

    Those publications indicate that where this adaptation takes place the distributor simply touches the non- communicant on the head or shoulder. Sometimes the minister says something like "God bless you." But whether it is proper for a lay minister to give a blessing during the Eucharist is strongly questioned. It would seem that the jury is still out on this practice and there will be a growing debate as more parishes and pastors initiate it.

    How Soon Baptism?

    Q: My daughter and son-in-law are expecting their first child next month. Because we live many miles from the godparents, my daughter wants to have the baby given a special blessing by the priest in the hospital and wait some months until Memorial Day weekend to have the Baptism. Is there a rule not allowing this?

    Canon #867 states that, if an infant is in danger of death, it is to be baptized without any delay. Under ordinary circumstances, states Canon #867, parents are to see to the Baptisms of their infants within the first few weeks: "As soon as possible after birth, even before it, they are to approach the parish priest to ask for the sacrament for their child and to be themselves prepared for it."

    The first consideration in determining the time is the welfare of the child. Also to be taken into account is the health of the mother so that if possible she may be present for the Baptism. There may also be necessary some time to prepare the parents for the sacrament and to plan the ceremony. A specialist in canon law has noted that the phrase "within the first weeks after birth" may be interpreted broadly to allow for special family considerations, for example, to await the return of a family member who lives out of town.




    The Wise Man welcomes your questions. If you have a question, please submit it here. Include your street address for personal replies enclosing a stamped, self-addressed envelope, please. Some answer material must be mailed since it is not available in digital form. You can still send questions to: Wise Man, 28 W. Liberty Street, Cincinnati, OH 45202.

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