Mimimum age for godparents?

I have found various sources that say the godparent must be either fourteen or sixteen years of age. Then our church just posted guidelines in the bulletin that say the godparent must be seventeen years old.

Does anyone know why there are so many different minimum ages in different places and if there is a definitive minimum age? Or is it just up to the parish?

I had been thinking that the minimum was fourteen years, since I had heard that about a year ago (I think on Catholic Answers Live). We had made plans for our confirmed fifteen- year-old daughter to be the godparent of our new baby coming in September. The associate pastor even had said he thought that sounded like a good idea.

Now it seems as if we may have to find someone else. We don’t know anyone well who is a practicing Catholic. The only person who even comes close is my uncle who lives five hours away and is about seventy years old. It seems odd that we would have to pick a virtual stranger to be a godparent. Any suggestions?

I have to look in Canon Law (I am not at work now) but in our diocese it is 16, but the pastor can make an exception in special cases as long as the young person has received Confirmation and of course is practicing their faith.

Can. 872 In so far as possible, a person being baptised is to be assigned a sponsor. In the case of an adult baptism, the sponsor’s role is to assist the person in christian initiation. In the case of an infant baptism, the role is together with the parents to present the child for baptism, and to help it to live a christian life befitting the baptised and faithfully to fulfil the duties inherent in baptism.

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

Can. 874 §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 labour 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 baptised 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.

Find out from your priest if that requirement can be waived . It seems you have a good reason.

This is specified in Canon Law as 16, unless otherwise determined by your local Bishop.

There’s somthing you haven’t directly shared with us in your post. Who actually told you that she can’t be the Godmother?

As I read your post, it seems to me that the parish priest (granted, assistant not pastor) said “it sounded like a good idea”, but then the information you have that would contradict this comes from other sources. Am I missing something?

Canon 874.1.2 does say that the minimum age is 16, but also says that the pastor can make an exception. Has the pastor decided not to make that exception?

Does anyone know what the age was in the 1917 Code?

I ask because my godparents were 10 & 12 when I was baptized in 1952. In 1970 I, in turn, became godmother to my godmother’s daughter. I was 16 and my brother, the godfather, was 15.

It’s 16 and confirmed, fully formed in the faith and practicing.

Thanks to everyone for their input and advice. The thing that made me think that she couldn’t be the godmother was the announcement in the bulletin that the godparents had to be 17 years old.

The associate pastor is newly ordained and new to our parish. But he is the one who has been meeting with me, so that I can be brought into the Church in September (hopefully before the baby is born!) He said that he thought that my daughter could be the godparent, but with everything else he has had to keep checking with the pastor. So I don’t know if he specifically checked with the pastor about this. I agree with you that I should ask if an exception can be made.

Like someone else has posted, I have gotten the feeling that the age required for the godparent has gotten older over time. I wonder what the reason was for this change?

I just found the Latin 1917 Code. I’m far from fluent in Latin but there doesn’t seem to be an age requirement for sponsors in that code so that would explain why children were used as sponsors.

The other requirements seemed to be the same: Catholic in good standing with the Church and having received all the sacraments of initiation. Now in 1953 (I aged myself by a year in my last post:D) most 9 year olds in my parish would have been confirmed since First Communion came at the end of grade 1 and everyone who’d made their First Communion was confirmed when the bishop next came to the village (usually that was every 2 years).

Today Confirmation is often delayed until 16 or 17 so most children wouldn’t qualify to be godparents anyway. There is also more capacity for a person 16 and older to actually live up to the commitments of a godparent. I cannot see my 10 & 12 year old godparents capable of helping my parents raise me in the Faith.

1917 Can. 766, 1º Decimum quartum suae aetatis annum attigerit, nisi aliud iusta de causa ministro videatur. . .

Roughly translated: 14 completed years unless unless a just cause appears otherwise to the minister.

I did say I wasn’t fluent. :smiley: So 14 was the age in that code. So it appears that priests then, like priests now, often did things as they saw fit. I don’t know of a just cause for a 10 year old godparent.

Perhaps the person was an unusually mature and unusually devout 10-year-old, and/or there were no other likely candidates available. :shrug:

Here in the Diocese of Calgary, it’s up to the parents, what age they want their children to be confirmed, and typically they are about 10-11 years old.

One reason might be because of the sheer volume of secular influences, these days - it seems more prudent to have god-parents who are a little older and a little more grounded in their faith.

Even so, we still see instances of god-parents leaving the Church and doing all kinds of crazy things, and not considering their role as an example of the faith to their god-children, so I suppose the thinking might be that it’s better to get someone for a god-parent who has already gone through the “wild stage” and survived it with their faith intact.

As with several others in reply, I was 9 years old in 1956, just confirmed and, thanks to good Catholic parents and the Sisters in Catholic school, well-versed in the tenets of my faith, so, with a “dispensation” from someone, probably our pastor, I was able to be the Godmother for my baby sister. It was an extraordinary event and one I will never forget as long as I live! I’m now 62 and continue to be grateful for this honor, praying for my sis every day!:slight_smile:

My cousin was 11 years old in 1952 and was godfather to his baby brother. I was told later (I was only six at the time) at that time that as long as the godparent was confirmed that he could be the godparent. Both brothers remained very close over the years and the younger brother looked upon his brother as a surogate father.
I’m surprised to read here that canon law requires the person be 14 years old (or 16 currently). Has this law changed over the years? :confused:

I suspect that, as with my sponsors, since he met all the requirements except age, the priest made a pastoral decision to allow him to be the sponsor because he was the brother.

That is a great story. Thanks for sharing it. I feel like an older brother or sister is likely by both opportunity and connection to be more involved in the younger sibling’s faith formation.

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