Godparent responsibilities

Not sure this is the correct forum, but here goes. Many years ago, when I was a teenager, I was an altar server in my parish, and I used to assist at baptisms. The pastor would baptise children on the first Sunday of the month only, so on some occasions there would be 5 or 6 children to be baptised.

One Sunday, a young woman arrived with a child, 10 minutes before the service was due to start, and asked to have her 4-year-old daughter baptised. The only peson with her was her daughter - no father, no other relatives and no godparents. The priest agreed to baptise the child there and then, turned to me and said “Mark can be the godfather.” I took the godfather’s part, but after the service, my pastor gave me the woman’s address and said “You’re responsible for making sure she brings the child up as Catholic. That’s where she lives.”

I’ve never contacted the woman or her daughter since the baptism. I was only about 16 at the time, lost the address years ago, and thought it was a bit much to expect a complete stranger to be that involved in the daughter’s life. Since then, I’ve been worried that I should have done more - should I have done or was the priest expecting a bit too much?

In my opinion the priest was over stepping the mark. I don’t think he should have baptised the child in those circumstances. In our parish there is a course that the parents and godparents have to go on. I believe the priest has a duty before baptising a child to satisfy himself that there is good reason to believe that the child will be raised in the Catholic Faith. How could he check that under the circumstances that you describe? I believe it is also the parish priest who should baptise. Did he check she was in his parish? Did he have her parish priest’s permission to baptise? I think he chose you just so there was a godparent present. I don’t confess to being an expert in sacramental theology or liturgical law so I’m not sure if a godparent is required for liceity or validity or both. However, I don’t believe godparents should be chosen in the manner you were chosen:(. Therefore, I don’t think you should have any cause to feel guilt on this matter. I presume that this woman and child were never seen in your church again. that could suggest she just wanted the child baptised as its just one of those things we do, rather than having any serious intention of raising the child in the Catholic Faith. Your priest was wrong to baptise in this way. The onus does not rest on your shoulders.

I have a suspicion that the mother and child may have lived within the bounds of the parish but I’m not sure, in which case the pastor would definitely have know whether or not she was practicing. With all due respect to the pastor, he was perhaps more lenient than other priests may have been.

Only thing I would say different is, that we don’t have all the facts; so we cannot make a judgment on whether the priest was correct in baptizing this child or not. There could have been details only known by that priest that made it the correct thing to do. Now as far as your guilt, I would say you have zero culpability for anything done improperly here or be bound by any obligation normally given to the Godparents. Any culpability would rest on the priest, if in fact anything improper was done here, but without all the details, there is no way of knowing.

Thanks for the replies, that’s pretty much what I was thinking, I just wanted a second opinion, really.

I’m not really sure if you would really want to have a teenager as a godfather in the first place (no offence to the OP or any teens here :)). Like, you want someone who’s old enough to hold responsibility for another person (in the legal sense, someone who could be a legal guardian).

I guess unless they were someone who was very secure in their faith (they’re already leading retreats, or they’re an instituted EMHC, or a youth leader, or something like that).

Don’t worry, as the OP, I’m not offended by your comments. :smiley:

As I tried to explain in my previous post, as I remember, the entire situation was very short notice. Although my memory could be worng, I got the impression the mother and child had turned up “on spec”, without prior arrangement, and the pastor tried to accommodate them straight away. I’m not passing judgement on the pastor’s motives or thought-processes, just describing my perceptions of the situation.

While a teenager may not make the most responsible godparent the Church does allow anyone from the age of 16 to be a godparent.

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