This one is a bit tricky. My husband and I have been in the Catholic Faith for 2 years now. We were asked by some friends of ours who go to a non-denominational church, to be the Godparents to her youngest child (6 yrs). We explained to her that her definition of Godparent differs from ours and to give us some time to think and pray about it. Here is the thing: Her child was baptized as an infant with a different Godparent, who is no longer in the picture, so we are essentially her choice as replacements. She has also made it known that she does not want us to take her child to Mass, so as not to confuse her. This is essentially what she wants us to do: guide her child in a path to God as long as it falls within their faith, and that if anything happens to her and her husband we would be the child’s permanent guardians, also care for her child like she was our own (i.e. help with schoolwork, God forbid if she runs out of food make sure her child doesn’t go hungry, etc…) Can we agree to this under the Catholic faith?
You do have some interesting things going on here.
Initially, I was going to encourage you to accept. I am a God parent of my niece who is Lutheran. As far as I know, this is not against our Faith. I accepted with honor and hope to be a good example of a Godly person. You know, someone who my niece sees Jesus in.
I feel like a God parent is a gift to be invited to have a particular devotion, or service, or relationship within a faithfull context with a child of God.
When your friend is asking you to not take her to Mass, this is a contradiction to the act, or invitation of Godparenting. Not even that taking them to Mass is required.
Then, the other aspect is that they already have a formal God parent. I dont think reasigning Godparents is done in the Cat Faith, but theirs is not Catholic.
Maybe it would be best to just talk these things over, expressing your appreciation to be invited, yet maybe a formal act is not necessary…:shrug: I guess Im not sure what to advise you, other than I dont think its really a matter of our Catholic Faith restricting you to follow the Holy Spirit in supporting this child’s faith. But the restrictions your friend is putting on you at the outset is putting distance within your relationship as a Godparent before you even have accepted.
I hope you are able to express yourself in good fellowship and, in the end, remember the child’s faith wellbeing is the important thing.
Pray for them, and then peacefully explain that you cannot compromise the faith.
There are two entirely different things here. A Godparent is not necessarily someone who would be a permanent guardian, whether together with the parents (as it sounds like, in your post) or should the parents have died. That is a totally different situation, nothing to do with being a Godparent.
A Godparent is someone who will assist with the spiritual development of the child, in the faith the parents have chosen for her/him. A Catholic cannot be a Godparent to anyone of a non-Catholic faith. How could a Catholic guide someone in a faith he or she knows is not the true faith instituted by Jesus Christ? Impossible!
Godparents cannot be changed. The person who was Godparent at the baptism remains Godparent, even though that person may have become delinquent or the parents no longer consider the person to be acceptable. Yes, someone else can be asked to act as a Godparent (they cannot actually be such, since the baptism had already taken place), but, it cannot be a Catholic.
Could you provide a Catholic Teaching for this?
Originally Posted by Directory for the Application of Principles and Norms on Ecumenism
- It is the Catholic understanding that godparents, in a liturgical and canonical sense, should themselves be members of the Church or ecclesial Community in which the baptism is being celebrated. They do not merely undertake a res- ponsibility for the Christian education of the person being baptized (or confirmed) as a relation or friend; they are also there as representatives of a community of faith, standing as guarantees of the candidate’s faith and desire for ecclesial communion.
a) However, based on the common baptism and because of ties of blood or friendship, a baptized person who belongs to another ecclesial Community may be admitted as a witness to the baptism, but only together with a Catholic godparent. A Catholic may do the same for a person being baptized in another ecclesial Community.
This document from the Vatican does imply that Catholics should refrain from Sacramental Godparenting Children from non Catholic Christian communities. It allows for witnessing the Baptism.
This is news to me. As I said, I am the Godparent of my Lutheran neice. My sister and brother in law were never Catholic, so I don’t consider them Protestant. They knew I was Catholic and there was never an expectancy for me to refrain from my Catholic faith in any way.
My accepting the responsibility was in the sense that there is much common Catholic faith within our non Catholic Christian brothers and sisters. I also take it as a duty to share my obedience to the Catholic Church with my sister and God child. At this service I also did receive communion. This I actually regret as being more problematic than accepting the honor of Godparent. It is the only communion I’ve received outside of the Catholic Church. The next time I went to their service, I did not receive.
Now that I know that the Church does not support me in being a Godparent to my neice, do I have regrets? Probably not. Would I do it again while knowing this teaching? I would have to look into the interpretation of this teaching a little more to say for sure. Like I said before, I do know that I would not take their Communion if I knew what I know now. And I guess I would have had a little more conversation about things with my sister.
From this link:
Traditionally, we identify the sponsor of a child for baptism as the godparent — godmother or godfather, but the technical term (in Canon Law) remains “sponsor.”
Strictly speaking, a person only needs one sponsor for baptism — male or female, but may have two sponsors, one male and one female.
Technically, only Catholics can be godparents or sponsors. A Christian of another denomination, whether Orthodox or Protestant, however, may be a “Christian witness” to the baptism along with the Catholic godparent. The reason for this distinction and restriction is that the godparent not only is taking responsibility for the religious education and spiritual formation of the baptized person, but also is representing the Church, the community of faith, into which the person is being baptized. A Christian who is not Catholic, although perhaps a very holy, Christian, cannot fully attest to the beliefs of the Catholic Church. Likewise, a Catholic can only be a Christian witness for someone who is baptized into another Christian denomination.
So, basically, the difference between “sponsor” and “Christian witness” boils down to whether or not one is a member of the same Church or ecclesial community as the one in which the baptism is being performed.
My wife grew up Lutheran, as did her maid of honor. The maid of honor is a Christian witness to our older son’s baptism (my brother is the sponsor). Similarly, my wife is sponsor to her maid of honor’s adopted daughter, and I am a Christian witness. Since then, my wife completed RCIA and entered the Church… but I’m pretty sure that does not somehow “undo” the validity of her maid of honor’s adopted daughter’s Lutheran baptism!
I like the symbolism of the sponsor representing the community of faith into which a person is baptized. That said… years later, when our niece (my wife’s brother’s daughter) was baptized (also Lutheran), I was a bit surprised that *neither *of her sponsors were Lutheran. I guess other denominations don’t make that same “sponsor/Christian witness” distinction.
I can understand more the conflict of nature when a non Catholic is Sponsoring/Godparenting a Catholic Baptism candidate. It is not as clear there is a problem when a Catholic commits to Sponsor/Godparent a non Catholic Baptism candidate.
As the vatican document seems to express, I accept it as a teaching that a Sponsor/GP SHOULD be in the same faith communion as the Baptism candidate. How strict and necessary that is is not so clear.
For example, if I am asked to Sponsor my neice who will be Baptized and raised in a Lutheran community, is it impossible for me to Sponsor the child in support of the common Baptism the Catholic Church does accept as valid, and in light of the rest of the Lutheran faith which is in communion with the Catholic faith? I may never agree to support the aspects of Luthernism which are in contradiction to Catholicism, and even respectfully share my Catholic faith with both Godchild and their parents. It is actually the Parents who are giving me, as a Catholic, permission to share and influence the Catholic faith with their child.
I would lovingly explain that Baptism cannot be repeated, and you cannot celebrate an attempted second baptism. I would also tell them you would be happy to provide a Godly example and to encourage and guide the child to Jesus, but you can’t compromise your faith. You can respect her authority as parent and not take her to Mass, but if something were to happen to them, and you were raising the child, you would be required to raise her in the Church.
Also, you should note to her that the courts don’t generally look to Godparents for deciding whom the child should live with or be raised by when the parents die. They look first to the will, and then to family relations like grandparents and siblings. If they want you to be the ones to raise her if they should pass, they both NEED to fill out wills to explicitly state that. You don’t want any confusion in that situation.
Thank you guys for your input. Like I said, I told her that her definiton of Godparent differs from ours but gathering what information you all gave me, no matter the definition, we can’t accomodate her wishes. This is going to be a difficult conversation to have with her but once she said she didn’t want us to involve her child in our faith I knew this was the decision we were going to have to make. Thanks again and God Bless!
She said ‘Godparent’ but what she is describing sounds a lot more like a guardian in case she and her husband pass away. I don’t know what the Catholic teaching is, if any, on being the guardian of a non-Catholic child.
I’d ask a priest for the Church answer. Your friend must greatly admire you and your husband to select you as a guardian even if they aren’t Catholic thinking people.