Catholic Christian Witness?

For my nephew’s Baptism I have been asked to be Godparent… clarified Christian Witness since I am not a practicing Catholic. The Priest is saying I cannot participate as either since I am a ‘Catholic’.

I was born into a Catholic family, Baptised and got Holy Communion but did not get Confirmed since as a teenager I decided the religion was not right for me. I am a very spiritual person and want to be a ‘godparent’ to my nephew. The Godmother is a practicing Cathoic so no issue there. What interpretive room is there here so I can be the Godfather or Christian Witness?

If you don’t think the religion is “Right for you” then why do you think the church should trust you with the faith of the child? If you don’t think its the truth, how can there be hope that you would teach the child that the faith is the truth?

and why would you even want to if you don’t believe in it? How is that not a conflict of interest for you?

You certainly can’t be a Godparent, you must be a confirmed practicing Catholic.

“The Priest is saying I cannot participate as either since I am a ‘Catholic’.”

I found this in answer to a previous question to the CAF apologetics:

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

§1 To be admitted to undertake the office of sponsor, a person must:

1° be appointed by the candidate for baptism, or by the parents or whoever stands in their place, or failing these, by the parish priest or the minister; to be appointed the person must be suitable for this role and have the intention of fulfilling it;

2° be not less than sixteen years of age, unless a different age has been stipulated by the diocesan bishop, or unless the parish priest or the minister considers that there is a just reason for an exception to be made;

3° be a Catholic who has been confirmed and has received the blessed Eucharist, and who lives a life of faith which befits the role to be undertaken;

4° not labor under a canonical penalty, whether imposed or declared;

5° not be either the father or the mother of the person to be baptised.

§2 A baptized person who belongs to a non-Catholic ecclesial community may be admitted only in company with a Catholic sponsor, and then simply as a witness to the baptism (canon 874).

So it would appear that only one Godparent is required and the other sponsor may be a Christian Witness.

Aplologies to the apologetics if I am out of place citing this.

To be clear, a Christian witness is no more than a witness to the Baptism. They officially do not have the responsibilities of a godparent.

It would actually be ‘better’ for you (in terms of being a godparent) if you were not raised Catholic given your special situation. The idea of a godparent is to take on care of a child and pass on faith in the event of injury/death to the parents. For non-Catholic Christians, they are allowed to be a Christian witness if they were baptized Christian. However, if baptized Catholic, you must have received all 3 sacraments of initiation (Baptism, Communion, Confirmation) and still be a practicing member of the faith.

If your sibling (nephew’s parent) really wants you to be a godfather, perhaps they should only list one godparent (the practicing Catholic) on the Baptismal Certificate. You won’t be allowed participation in the ceremony, but they can recognize you as a godparent even if it isn’t on record with the Church. Not a great solution, but I can only think of one thing better - return home! You said you were ‘spiritual’ but not religious, but I think that’s just hiding away from one’s faith while maintaining a belief in ‘something.’ I don’t know your specific reasons, but maybe the birth and baptism of your nephew can help pull you back into the faith, especially if you renew your baptismal promises at the Baptism. My prayers are with you and your family. God bless you!

Don’t apologize! That’s the necessary citation for understanding the priest’s response. The only think missing is the link to the source. :wink:

alglng, I understand your confusion on this issue. I think many people in your situation (baptized Catholic but no longer practicing) have difficulty seeing where the Church is coming from on this one. I don’t think I can give a simple answer that will do justice to your question. Nonetheless, I will try me best.

The short answer is that, once you are baptized Catholic, you will always be Catholic. Thus, in order to be a sponsor/Godparent, you must fulfill the requirements laid out in canon 874 §1.

Thus, from a canonical standpoint, Canon 874 §2 (quoted above) cannot apply to you. It only applies to those who were baptised apart from the Catholic Church.

This can seem like unfair hair-splitting, but it really is the fruit of the Church’s understanding of the sacraments and the nature of the Church. Baptism imparts and indellible (i.e. permanent) mark on the soul. Thus, this mark can never be removed, regardless of what future choices a person may make.

The Church still considers you a member not because She wants to opress you or make your life difficult, but rather because She recognizes this indellible mark upon you and because She longs for you to come home.

I know I’m probably not doing justice with my description, but I hope it is at least somewhat helpful in aiding your understanding.

Thanks for all your input. One more thing… here’s what’s more confusing… I am already an official Godfather to another nephew of mine. Different town/parish but it would seem the Catholic Church already said I could be one. Frankly I’m fine with any title, just want to take part in the ceremony.

For the other Baptism, was the Church the Baptism held your local/family parish, or did you have to present a letter to the priest affirming you are a Catholic in good standing who regularly attends mass?

Normally, if the Baptism is at your local/family parish, the priest should know whether you are in good standing (i.e. still practice) or not. If not, one is required to provide the priest presiding over the Baptism with a letter stating that you are in good standing written by the priest at the Church you attend.

If you became a Godparent without either of those two criteria, than that parish did something incorrect.

I pray you could see it in your heart to use this oportunity to seek out the truth of why Jesus gave us this Church. Her arms are calling you home!:thumbsup:

I was not part of the parish, since I’m part of another faith now, but they never asked me to submit anything. They asked my sister who the Godparents were and that at least one was a practicing Catholic (which the Godmother is) and that was it. No letter or anything. So I’m upset over this in that I’m already a Godparent in the church’s eyes. Do priests have the ability to ‘allow’ people to fulfill roles even if it’s not the ‘letter of Cannon law’?

You must be a confirmed, practicing Catholic, in good standing with the Church.

You are none of those things, and so I don’t think you qualify as a Godparent, regardless of whether you took part in the baptismal ceremony or not.

I may be wrong but that is my understanding of the matter.

Now I really see why you are confused. Consistency would be nice, huh? :wink:

Not all priests are as attentive to the demands of Canon law as they should be. Some choose to interpret it more loosely than others for various reasons. Some (unfortunately) choose to ignore it altogether and do as they please.

Priests do not have the ability to make this concession, though that doesn’t stop some from doing so.

I suppose you could always bring up the fact of this previous Baptism to the priest and see what he says. He may be able to explain it better than any of us here.

So what faith are you a part of? I must go back to the true purpose of a godparent and wonder how you could accept that responsibility (because it is simply not just a title of respect or appreciation) if you wouldn’t teach and cultivate the faith in your nephew. Isn’t that contradictory with, and insulting to, your new faith? Or would it simply be a lie to the Church to gain this title? That, then, leaves one questioning the motivation for such a desire.

You are asking a member of the clergy to go directly against the Magisterium of the Church. I do not know the specific circumstances of the other baptism, but surely something was overlooked or mistaken for this to occur (I pray). But because an error has been made once does not permit that same error to be made again and again solely for the fact that it has been done before.

Some parishes take it more seriously. Very often the role of Godparent is an honorary or entitled position. Some families simply select a particular family member because “it is their turn” to be a Godparent. To the other extreme, some families consider Godparents to be the people who will assume guardianship of the child if anything should happen to the parents.

The Church is looking for something in between. Godparents are to be people that will help the parents raise the child in the Church.

Just for clarification, the Church does not refer to herself as a Catholic ecclesial community. The term “ecclesial community” is used in reference to Protestants. It comes from the authoritative document “Dominus Iesus”, which was written by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger when he served as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

I have no advise for you other than to maybe consider that God is calling you back to the Catholic Church.

Best wishes.

There are two possible answers here, which we would really need a canonist to adjudicate for us:

  1. It is possible in canon law to break the law but still perform acts that are legally valid. If this is one of those cases, then you would indeed “officially” be a godparent even though this was never supposed to have happened. The fact that you were illegally placed in that position once, however, would not justify another priest’s breaking the law (to which he is bound in conscience) simply because it had been broken before. Here, although a priest cannot in good conscience “allow” you to fulfill the role - it would be objectively sinful for him to do so - one could concede the possibility of validly doing so.

  2. It might also be the case that with some legal provisions, those who do not meet the requirements for “office” simply cannot validly receive that office, in which case all the paperwork in the world couldn’t make you an official godparent. I happen to think this is highly unlikely in the case of godparent (in fact, I believe that even those appointed illicitly to diocesan offices that exercise spiritual jurisdiction are nonetheless appointed validly), but my own knowledge can’t rule it out entirely.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit