A baptism quandary


#1

Greetings all. I have been a "lurker" for some time, but a recent family issue has caused me to register and make this post. I apologize in advance if it is not in the proper forum for this type of question.

I am third of a family of six children. The youngest two are twin girls and both 25 years old. Sister "A" considers herself to be an atheist, and frequently will post inflammatory rhetoric in public places such as Facebook (and elsewhere). Additionally, she uses very effusive language in front of family and friends at family gatherings...as if she doesn't care who she offends. She has a little boy and other than her lack of faith, she isn't a "bad" person. Her son is taken care of and she is responsible.

Sister "B" (her twin), gave birth to a baby just two weeks ago. I would consider Sister "B" a pretty devout Catholic. However, in the time leading up to this birth, Sister "A" openly asked if she could be the Godmother on multiple occasions.. The thought of this is driving me absolutely nuts, considering how openly she mocks the rest of us. Additionally, I think being a Godparent is an honor to be selected for and not necessarily something one should ask for as if campaigning for public office.

For as highly as I think of B's faith, it seems that she IS considering making "A" the godmother. There is a bond between twins that I may never understand and I think it's this bond that is making it difficult for her to say no, even in spite of the atheism issue.

Is a baptism even legitimate in the eyes of God under these circumstances? I feel like I should say something to B. I legitimately fear for the little guy's upbringing and feel that there are many more suitable people that could be chosen. Isn't it a pre-requisite of God-parenting that you be of the faith?

It's sad to say this, but if she allows this to happen I would struggle to even attend. I don't want to cause a rift in the family by any means, but it feels like I should intervene somehow, even if it's not my decision in the end.

Anybody who could provide insights from an apologetics POV or just a personal suggestion would be appreciated.

Thanks in advance for your time and consideration.


#2

Such would not effect the validity of the Baptism

BUT

“A”* may* not be the “Godmother” (Baptismal Sponsor) without a conversion.

Her sister does not even have the option to choose her. It is not permitted.

The Sponsor is a very important role. To assist the person in living as a Christian.

Of course such requests need to be handled (and declined) with care, love, gentleness --for such may prompt even further thought on the part of the person…and even conversion.


#3

Can. 874 §1. To be permitted to take on the function of sponsor a person must:

3/ be a Catholic who has been confirmed and has already received the most holy sacrament of the Eucharist and who leads a life of faith in keeping with the function to be taken on;

vatican.va/archive/ENG1104/__P2Y.HTM


#4

This.

The question of Sister B is moot. The atheist sister CANNOT be the godmother, because the whole purpose of godparents is to enforce and teach the faith to their godchild; not draw them away from it.


#5

Only one sponsor is necessary. If your sister picks a Catholic godfather, then your ‘atheist’ sister might participate as a ‘witness.’ She doesn’t go into the books as a ‘sponsor’, but she participates in the confirmation. Everybody goes home happy.


#6

This is a baptism, not a confirmation. Two sponsors, not one.


#7

Yes, I’m aware that it’s a baptism. However, only one sponsor is necessary for a baptism. :wink:

Can. 873 One sponsor, male or female, is sufficient; but there may be two, one of each sex.


#8

You said the word “confirmation” in your post, so I assumed you had misunderstood.


#9

Whoops! So I did. No – I was talking about a baptism, but I said ‘confirmation’. Nevertheless, my point holds: only one sponsor is necessary.


#10

[quote="Gorgias, post:9, topic:315621"]
Whoops! So I did. No -- I was talking about a baptism, but I said 'confirmation'. Nevertheless, my point holds: only one sponsor is necessary.

[/quote]

Yes.


#11

However, if she was NOT baptized Catholic, Sister A cannot witness. A Christian witness has to be someone from an ecclesiastical community not a Catholic who is not in good standing.


#12

Hello and welcome! While your sister A considers herself an atheist, was she formally baptized and confirmed in the Catholic Church? If so, then as long as she has not been ex-communicated or anything like that, then I believe she is still considered Catholic by the Churc-- even if she's not a practicing Catholic.

Baptisms of family members and Lent provide wonderful oportunities to return to practicing the Catholic faith. Perhaps your devout sister is hoping and praying that sister A will live up to the promises she makes as a god-mother. If your "atheist" sister was raised Catholic, she may just be one good confession away from being a practicing Catholic again!

Go to the baptism--you might be watching God pour out His grace on more than the child.:)


#13

Agreed. When the OP wrote, “Sister “A” considers herself to be an atheist”, I took that to mean that they’re all from a Catholic family, and have been baptized in the Church.

A Christian witness has to be someone from an ecclesiastical community not a Catholic who is not in good standing.

Hmm… :hmmm: It’s true that a sponsor must be a Catholic in good standing, but I’m not aware that a ‘witness’ cannot be a Catholic who is non-practicing. Do you have a citation that asserts this? (I’m not aware of any, but I’m not saying I’m certain I’m correct, either… :wink: )


#14

[quote="jilly4ski, post:11, topic:315621"]
However, if she was NOT baptized Catholic, Sister A cannot witness. A Christian witness has to be someone from an ecclesiastical community not a Catholic who is not in good standing.

[/quote]

§2. A baptized person who belongs to a non-Catholic ecclesial community is not to participate except together with a Catholic sponsor and then only as a witness of the baptism.

See link above

Such are as I recall a "Christian witness" (not a Jewish witness or a Muslim witness etc)

The Sister A's role at this time (short of a conversion in coming to know true life in Christ) is that of those who are present ....and as a aunt who loves the little one.


#15

[quote="Bookcat, post:14, topic:315621"]
§2. A baptized person who belongs to a non-Catholic ecclesial community is not to participate except together with a Catholic sponsor and then only as a witness of the baptism.

See link above

Such are as I recall a "Christian witness" (not a Jewish witness or a Muslim witness etc)

The Sister A's role at this time (short of a conversion in coming to know true life in Christ) is that of those who are present ....and as a aunt who loves the little one.

[/quote]

Sorry this came out wrong, I meant to say that if she was baptized Catholic she cannot witness as the Christian witness, because she would be a Catholic who was not in good standing with the Church, by virtue of he baptism, and thus ineligible to be a Godparent, because she is not in good standing with the Church, and ineligible to be a Christian Witness because she is a Catholic be virtue of her baptism.
Bookcat provided the relevant Canon Law section.


#16

Thanks guys.

For what it’s worth, the entire family was baptized Catholic. Our family is somewhat broken (I’ll share that story another time) so our subsequent upbringing from a single parent was a little hit and miss.

I agree with the lot of you saying that Lent is a time to come back to the faith…and I could certainly be misinterpreting things… but my gut makes me think “A” is not doing this because she intends to start a journey back to the faith. When discussions of anything remotely faith related come up during family functions, she goes from passive reactions such as rolling eyes and wistful sighing to outright mocking us. She even called my Mother dumb in front of the rest of us and routinely says “you guys have been duped”. For now, I don’t think it’s fruitful to engage her in any discussions of faith and it is my thought that she isn’t trying to be a godmother for the purposes of directing my nephew in the ways of the faith. I think she’s trying to do it merely to say “I did that” and as some sort of status she can notch on her belt.

I guess my other question in this whole matter is: Do I have an obligation to talk to and/or counsel “B” about this matter? I had heard mixed opinions when asking clergy and others regarding the validity of a baptism under these circumstances. I understand that a priest will generally ask the godparents how they plan to bring the child up in the Church. A particular priest told me that if “A” lies, and if “B” allows her to lie, then the foundation of the request for baptism itself is a lie and therefore the subsequent ceremony is NOT legitimate. Can anyone confirm/deny this?

Back to my question then…armed with this knowledge (if accurate), do I have an obligation, for the child’s sake, to speak up and try to prevent this from happening? Please don’t read this and think I am trying to drive a wedge into our family or that I want to be hostile simply for the sake of doing so. I am truly concerned. Would I notify the priest if “A” and “B” are not cooperative?

Sorry for being so dramatic but this does really bother me.

Thanks again to all who take the time to reply.


#17

The baptism would be valid despite the lies, but it is not a hopeful sign for the child with such a sponsor. I think you might speak to the sisters and explain your quandry–that B should not profess to bring up the child as a Catholic if she is not willing to become a practicing Catholic herself–and if they do not take action, you may need to approach the pastor with what you know.


#18

Thanks for the input. So you’re saying you WOULD talk to the priest in a matter such as this?

I guess there’s no way this matter will play out without SOMEONE being upset…

:shrug:


#19

[quote="Septian, post:16, topic:315621"]
I think she's trying to do it merely to say "I did that" and as some sort of status she can notch on her belt.

[/quote]

You know the situation better than any of us, but on the face of it, this seems rather cynical. Isn't it possible that she simply wishes to be part of the family, even when the family is making expressions of religious belief that she no longer shares?

I had heard mixed opinions when asking clergy and others regarding the validity of a baptism under these circumstances.

It's not a question of validity. There is no requirement to have a sponsor, per se. Validity might have to do with the way that the sacrament is performed, but not with who the sponsor(s) are. The pastor might (and should!) be concerned with how your sister plans to raise her children -- he needs to have a well-founded assurance that she plans to raise them in the faith; but if a sponsor is less devout than their godchild's parents, that doesn't make the baptism invalid. I think you can relax with respect to that particular anxiety. ;)

I understand that a priest will generally ask the godparents how they plan to bring the child up in the Church.

Hmm... no. The priest or deacon who is baptizing says to the parents, "you have asked to have your child baptized. In doing so you are accepting the responsibility of training him in the practice of the faith. It will be your duty to bring him up to keep God's commandments as Christ taught us, by loving God and our neighbor. Do you clearly understand what you are undertaking?"

In turn, then, the priest or deacon asks the godparents, "are you ready to help the parents of this child in their duty as Christian parents?"

So, if you look at it, the godparents aren't being asked "how they plan to bring the child up in the Church" -- the parents are!

A particular priest told me that if "A" lies, and if "B" allows her to lie, then the foundation of the request for baptism itself is a lie and therefore the subsequent ceremony is NOT legitimate. Can anyone confirm/deny this?

Two thoughts: first, how could B know for sure whether A "will be ready to help the parents of this child in their duty as Christian parents"? Second, that priest seems to be speaking to liceity, not validity. (I can't speak definitively on this, but then again, I haven't read anything that suggests that a baptism is illicit based on the answers that a godparent gives. In any case, it stretches the imagination to think that this would make a baptism invalid. :shrug:)

Back to my question then...armed with this knowledge (if accurate), do I have an obligation, for the child's sake, to speak up and try to prevent this from happening?

You haven't mentioned a thing about who the other godparent might be. If the other godparent (I'm assuming there'll be a godfather?) is a practicing Catholic, then the canonical requirements will be satisfied.


#20

Thanks to everyone who took time & thought to reply.

I’m relatively at ease with regards to the baptism’s validity. I can only pray that the family politics involved are not too disruptive leading up to the event.

God Bless,

-S


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