Practicing Catholic

I have a friend I work with that was surprised to hear that a confirmation or baptism sponsor must be a practicing catholic and as a result must be current member of a parish. I told her I thought that was correct and this was not new to me. She was told that this is a new requirement as of the early 1980’s & prior to that there were no requirements for being a confirmation or baptism sponsor. Does anyone know about the validity of this? Or explain the requirements for being a baptism or confirmation sponsor.


Here is an excellent Q&A about it which cites Canon Law:

This is in the 1983 code. I do not know about the 1917 code.

However, I find it a bit of a stretch that the Godparents have to be members of the parish.

I don’t think it requires the Godparents be members of the same parish just that they have to be active in “a” parish. When my kids were Baptized, the godparents needed letters of reference from their pastors so that would mean they had to be part of a parish somewhere.

Do you think this has always been the case or is this new since 1983? My parents remember this as being a requirement when I was baptized in 1975.

I doubt that it is something new. You’d have to find a hard copy of the 1917 Code of Canon Law to see exactly what the requirements were, though. It’s only available online in Latin.

Hello Brian,

It is true that the 1983 Code is explicit in saying that a sponsor is to be a person “who leads a life of faith in keeping with the function to be taken on” (c. 874.1.3). The 1917 Code did not say this but it certainly was a presumption that a person who is called upon to be a model and guide in the Catholic faith will personally be (as far as is humanly possible) a model Catholic. As the old saying goes, you can’t give what you don’t have. As far as being a member of a parish–the law of the Church is such that every Catholic is a member of a parish, whether he knows it or not. So, the Code will never say that someone “has to be a member of a parish.” It’s automatic.

The Code from 1917 had requirements for a baptismal sponsor in canons 765-766 and for confirmation sponsor in canons 795-796. I could go through the whole list but that would be tedious, I think. Basically, the person had to be baptized and a member of the Catholic Church “in good standing.”


this is the source of the confusion, as “practicing Catholic” and “member of a parish” are not the same thing.

yes a sponsor or godparent must be a practicing Catholic, no that is not defined by being a member of a parish. Every Catholic is automatically a member of the parish in which he resides geographically, or to the national, ethnic or other parish to which he belongs. Whether or not he is practicing depends on his adherence to the laws of the church, including and especially those on marriage, regular Mass attendance and reception of sacraments, etc. Yes it is a fact of modern life that in today’s parish, at least in most of the US, the pastor does not know all his parishioners personally and only knows you are attending if you contribute.

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