Non-Catholic Godparents


#1

My newborn son was recently baptized and for his godparents, my wife and I chose my brother, a Catholic, and his wife, a Jew. We chose them because of how close we are as two married couples and because we have seen how they have raised their four young children in an exemplary Catholic home.

Before asking my sister-in-law to be the godmother, we consulted with two orthodox-minded apologists as to the possibility of having a Jew as a godparent. We were informed by both sources, that while the Church does recommend that both Godparents be Catholics in good standing (and so forth), it is permissible for one of the godparents to be non-Catholic as long as the other is catholic, and so long as they exhibit certain characteristics: They must be practicing members of their own tradition (except pagan religions), they must be able and willing to pass on the wholeness of the Catholic faith to the child, and they must be of a certain age.

My sister-in-law is a great person and very disposed to conversion, but, at this time is worried that her conversion will case unnecessary heartache to her elderly grandmother. She has been advised by her pastor (an orthodox man) that God knows her heart and that to wait a few years for her grandmother to pass might save her family some unhappiness (they are good and friendly people, but had a hard time with the marriage at first) would not be a bad idea. Nevertheless, she has raised their children as devout Catholics, goes to church on Sundays, holy days, and even on other days when she is alone or with the family. She is a better Catholic than many of my Catholic friends and family.

While she is a great person, however, I did want to make certain to defer to the wisdom of the Church and to my own pastor who, at the time, recited the same principle.

With that in mind, we asked our sister-in-law to be the child’s godmother and she responded with tears of happiness (it also occurred to us that this might help her in her journey to the Church).

Two days after the ceremony, my pastor contacted me and informed me that he must have misunderstood the original conversation and that he cannot list a non-Catholic as the godmother but only as a witness. I am perfectly willing to accept his judgment in this matter, but am still left a little confused. I have researched cannon law regarding sponsors but am unsure if this is Jermain to our problem.

I am more than happy to accept the Church’s wisdom in this, but would like some clarification from some learned sources.

Thanks for your help.


#2

Once, a good many years ago, our parish priest asked me to help him by copying the baptismal register for that year onto a form to turn in to the Chancery Office. I noticed that some of the people were not listed as “godparents” but as “witnesses”. When I asked the priest about this, he told me basically the same thing that you were told, that non-Catholics cannot be “godparents”, but are classified as “witnesses” of the baptism, and that there must be one practicing Catholic as a godparent…


#3

Your child needs one god parent, who is a practicing Catholic in good standing with the Church, has received all three Initiation Sacraments, and is over the age of 16.

You can have as many witnesses as you want, and they can be anybody you like. :slight_smile:


#4

You must have one Catholic Godparent. Usually if someone that is not of the Catholic faith they are referred to as a Christian Witness. Obviously since your SIL in Jewish and not Christian she could not be referred to as that either which is why she is referred to as just a Witness.

When my daughter was baptised I asked one of my closest friends to be her Godmother. She is Orthodox but her husband (fiance at the time) is Catholic. I still refer to them as her Godparents even though her Godmother technically is a Christian Witness.

As long as your SIL is a good moral example to your child I wouldn’t worry about titles.


#5

When our daughter was baptized her god-parents were living together without benefit of marriage but they were accepted since they were both Catholic! I never could understand that but went along with it. We really didn’t know any other Catholics in this area so that’s the reason we asked these people.
Having one godparent who is a practicing Catholic and his wife who is Jewish sounds like a great idea. Your baby will grow up with this loving couple in his life.


#6

Correct.

I’m unsure why you remain confused. Canon Law is not ambiguous at all. Only a Catholic may be a sponsor, and only a baptized non-Catholic may be a witness. I’m not sure what the priests you consulted understood you to say, because a Jew cannot be a godparent or a witness.

Can. 874 §1. To be permitted to take on the function of sponsor a person must:

1/ be designated by the one to be baptized, by the parents or the person who takes their place, or in their absence by the pastor or minister and have the aptitude and intention of fulfilling this function;

2/ have completed the sixteenth year of age, unless the diocesan bishop has established another age, or the pastor or minister has granted an exception for a just cause;

3/ be a Catholic who has been confirmed and has already received the most holy sacrament of the Eucharist and who leads a life of faith in keeping with the function to be taken on;
4/ not be bound by any canonical penalty legitimately imposed or declared;

5/ not be the father or mother of the one to be baptized.

§2. A baptized person who belongs to a non-Catholic ecclesial community is not to participate except together with a Catholic sponsor and then only as a witness of the baptism.


#7

I was unsure if it was germane because CCL uses the term sponsor. Is a Godparent a sponsor? Perhaps that is another thread in and of itself?


#8

I am willing to bet, if this was the same priest that councelled the Jewish wife on her conversion to Catholism, that she was allowed the status of witness, due to the desire of wanting to be Catholic.

If that is the case, then I understand. The Catholic Church has made allowances in the past under an understanding for the “Baptism of Desire” idea…

Just a thought…

Story


#9

This is NOT a recomendation of the Church, but is in the Canon Law of the Church. To be a “Godparent (Sponsor)” a person MUST be a Baptized and Confirmed Catholic, in good standing with the Church. (among other things)

A person CANNOT be a Godparent if they are not Catholic. A BAPTIZED Christian in good standing with their Christian Community can be a “Christian Witness”, they should NOT be called the other Godparent.

An unbaptized person cannot be either.


#10

The Godfather does not have to be married or even related to the Godmother.


#11

Yes, a Godparent and a sponsor are the same thing.


#12

I can understand the take on canon law, and am not trying to negate it in this thread, but the other half of the problem has yet to be addessed, which is why I think the priest was trying to make an allowance in this case…

Two days after the ceremony, my pastor contacted me and informed me that he must have misunderstood the original conversation and that he cannot list a non-Catholic as the godmother but only as a witness. I am perfectly willing to accept his judgment in this matter, but am still left a little confused. I have researched cannon law regarding sponsors but am unsure if this is Jermain to our problem.”

They did not find this problem until after the fact. I have never heard of the Church deleting people from the books based on errors… He may have not had much of a choice in this matter.

beyond that I don’t know how one would deal with it in the aftermath of a sacrament.


#13

Just like a Sacrament of Marriage that is found after the wedding to be defective and therefore never took place. Since Canon Law is clear and no exceptions can be made for this specific issue. When it is found that someone is listed as a Godparent who did not qualify at the time of the Baptism, they should be removed from the record as Godparent, because they never were a Godparent.

It is a different issue however if they qualified at the time of the Baptism and are now no longer Catholic. Totally different issue.


#14

Just like a Sacrament of Marriage that is found after the wedding to be defective and therefore never took place. Since Canon Law is clear and no exceptions can be made for this specific issue. When it is found that someone is listed as a Godparent who did not qualify at the time of the Baptism, they should be removed from the record as Godparent, because they never were a Godparent.

Yes, but this is a bit different. The Baptism itself wasn’t defective in whole… and the original qualified Catholic is still the Godparent, we simply have an issue over the other one (who is not qualified in any way) being moved down to witness.

I would bet if there were only two people and one was near death and the other performed an emergency Baptism, the Sacrament would be valid under those conditions…

So the question should really be, was the Baptism as a whole valid in the eyes of the Church, seeing how she should not be part of the record?


#15

An emergency baptism would be valid because no godparents are required for an emergency baptism, and indeed most of the ceremony is left out, as well - in that situation, all that is done is the pouring of the water over the person’s head three times, and the speaking of the words, “I baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen,” while pouring the water.

I am sure that your child is still considered to be baptized, but just has only one god parent instead of two - which is perfectly fine; she only needs one, anyway. Catechumens (adult converts) typically only have one god parent.


#16

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