Non-Catholic baptism...problems


(FYI - I have a similar question waiting in "Ask an Apologist", but thought I'd appeal to the forums for practical, every-day advice in dealing with people)

Late Sunday night, I was asked by my protestant brother-in-law ("B.i.L." for short) to be the godfather of his youngest daughter. Feeling extremely honored (and a bit "on the spot"), I agreed. The next day I questioned if I COULD do this. After consulting the internet and a trusted local priest, my concerns were confirmed. I can't serve as "Sponsor" in a non-Catholic baptism.

I discussed with the priest and my B.i.L., and came up with what I thought was a nice solution. I'd participate as a "Christian Witness" at the baptism, and we'd make the arrangements for my wife and I to be legal guardians of the children in the event of something tragic happening to him and his wife. Seemed like the problem was solved.

Since last night, I've learned that my wife's family isn't quite as cool with this as I thought. They feel that by NOT accepting, I'm slighting their faith. My B.i.L. has even gone so far as to try to come up with ways to "circumvent" the problem. His first was "just do it and don't tell anyone"...which I pointed out was a bit of a jab at MY faith.

His second was that he'd "write a letter" expressing his consent for me to raise his daughter Catholic in the event that something happened to them. While this still doesn't alleviate the problem as far as I can see, it has proven difficult for me to discuss without my faith sounding exclusionary. Because of this, my wife is questioning if she wants to proceed with RCIA this fall.

Anyone else been in a similar situation???


The variable I don't know in this situation is the nature of a protestant baptism.

Otherwise, it sounds like your bil doesn't understand the purpose of being a Godparent. It has nothing to do with what happens to a child if their parents die - that's what Guardians are. For some reasons, those two terms get all mixed up. At a baptism (at least a Catholic one), the Godparent stands up, and agrees to the major beliefs of the faith, then agrees to help the parents raise the child in that faith. Certainly that includes being a good example of the faith to the child. How could one do that for a faith other than their own? I just don't understand how anyone can want you to stand up and lie, and pretend that you will help raise their child in a particular faith, knowing full well that you can not and will not do that. What is the purpose of being a Godparent then? If bil doesn't care about his religion enough to want that promise to be taken seriously, then HE is the one insulting HIS OWN religion. Not you. You, and the Catholic regulations, are showing RESPECT to his faith by not treating the baptism as a bunch of empty words just used for a photo-op.


Agree completely. Been getting a lot of "it's the same God/it's all about being Christian" points from them. Even tried explaining that standing there saying I'd fulfill my obligations while knowing my own faith would require otherwise, would be somewhat of a mockery of his faith.

Interestingly, his first daughter's Sponsor was a member of his wife's family - and a Lutheran Seminarian (the ceremony did not occur in a Lutheran house of worship, as they are practicing another denomination). Because of this, there's the expectation that denomination shouldn't matter.


I have not been in your exact situation, but most of my Christian friends are non-Catholic so these sorts of issues have come up now and then (for example, having to explain to a close friend that I couldn't support their efforts to have an IVF procedure done).

I would recommend that either you or your wife (of both) sit down with the in-laws and explain, with as much politeness and love as you can muster, that Catholics take the responsibilities of Godparent very seriously, and that you couldn't fulfill those responsibilities properly with a non-Catholic child.

Maybe you could try and express it as being for their benefit -- meaning, as a Catholic Godparent you would be required to undermine their non-Catholic faith, which you don't want to do out of respect for their beliefs.

I think the Christian witness is a great compromise...I don't understand how they would see that as slighting their faith; if anything, it's just you agreeing not to let them slight yours!

If your wife is going through RCIA, this also might be something worth sitting down with a Priest to discuss. She needs to understand that it isn't a rule designed to slight people or offend people.

God bless you!


To be honest, I'd probably get pretty mad, and would do my best not to shout, "How dare you show such disrespect for me as to expect me to go against my own faith!!!" Instead, I might tone it down to: "These are the rules of my faith. We can only be Godparents to other Catholics, for the reasons which we've already discussed. Whether or not you, or your church agrees with the rules of mine, I hope that you can respect my need to obey the rules of my faith, just as I respect your differences. I am not asking that we all agree, and I am offering that I can still fulfill an active and positive role in your child's life, as well as the promise of taking care of him should the need ever arise. I am simply asking that you respect me enough to accept my answer."


(Quick venting session...)

One of the things that surprises me about many non-Catholics (and this is meant as no offense) is the aversion to Catholic practices/traditions/rules that are inconvenient/difficult. I've had many friends that have felt "put-out" by my Faith (upper-case "F", as in the teachings AND practices) if by mere fact of being "difficult" precludes it from being "Christian"...I've always felt history shows just the opposite.


+Below is some documentation regarding the Catholic directives governing the original post subject . . . (the words Godparent and sponsor mean the same thing) . . .
. . . :coffeeread: . . .

- Directory for the application of the Decisions of Second Ecumenical Council of the Vatican concerning Ecumenical Matters, # 48

  1. "Because of the close communion between the Catholic Church and the separated Eastern Churches..., it is permissible for a member of one of the latter to act as a godparent, together with a Catholic godparent, at the baptism of a Catholic infant or adult so long as there is a provision for the Catholic education of the person being **baptized, and it is clear that the godparent is a suitable one. A Catholic **is not forbidden to stand as godparent in an Orthodox church, if he is invited. In this case, the duty of providing for the Christian education of the **baptized** person binds in the first place the godparent who belongs to the Church in which the child is baptized."

- Directory for the application of the Decisions of Second Ecumenical Council of the Vatican concerning Ecumenical Matters, # 57

52. **"With the exception already dealt with above (n. **51) it is not permissible for a member of a separated community to act as godparent in the liturgical and canonical sense at Baptism **or Confirmation. The reason is that a godparent is **not merely undertaking his responsibility for the Christian education of the person baptized or confirmed as a relation or friend - he is also, as a representative of a community of faith, standing as a sponsor for the faith of the candidate.

Equally, a Catholic cannot fulfill this function for a member of a separated community. However, because of ties of blood of friendship, a Christian of another communion, since he has faith in Christ, can be admitted with a Catholic godparent as a Christian witness of the baptism.

In comparable circumstances a Catholic can do the same for a member of a **separated community. In these cases the **responsibility for the Christian education of the candidate belongs of itself to the godparent who is a member of the Church in which the candidate is baptized. Pastors should explain carefully to the faithful the evangelical and ecumenical reasons for this regulation, so that all misunderstanding of it may be prevented[/INDENT]+****
[RIGHT]. . . all for Jesus+
. . . thank you Holy Mother Church+[/RIGHT]


Being a godparent has nothing to do with being a legal guardian of a child in the event of the death of the parents. So whether or not you stand as godparent, Christian witness, or neither... you can still be the legal guardian.

Regarding standing as witness to the baptism it seems your choices are:

(a) Stand as a Christian witness and ignore those people whose business it is not

(b) Tell your BIL you will be unable to stand as a Christian witness or Godparent, and thank him kindly for thinking of you.


I would do it. This is not like participating in their version of the Lord's Supper. Under Catholic theology, anyone can Baptize. Most Protestant Baptism's are valid and they are Baptized into the Catholic Church whether they know it or not. However, I would make it clear that you will be a Catholic Godfather to the child. That will put the ball in their court in a polite manner and then they can make the decision.


+Prayer:gopray2:fully obeying Holy Mother Church is required for Catholics to remain in good standing . . . to disobey would be to deliberately sin . . . leave all the rest to God **and trust in **Him to work it all together for good for everyone involved . . .

Obey them that have the rule over you,
and submit yourselves:
for they watch for your souls,
as they that must give account,
that they may do it with joy,
and not with grief:
for that is unprofitable for you.”

-*** Hebrews 13:17***

[RIGHT]. . . all for Jesus+
. . . thank you Dear Holy Mother Mary+
. . . thank you Holy Mother Church+
. . . teachers of Grace and Holiness+[/RIGHT]


They are not asking him to be a Catholic godfather, and we as Catholics are expressly forbidden to fulfill this responsibility for anyone but another Catholic family.

I think our “separated brethren” simply have a hard time understanding the Church and how seriously we take the requirements of our faith. Baptists in particular can be very intolerant and actually quite focused on undermining Catholics as often and as deeply as possible. Not suggesting that the OP’s BIL is doing that - in fact, he sounds very considerate - but perhaps the rest of the family is slightly anti-Catholic and this just adds fuel to that fire.


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