In the Sunday bulletin of Saint James Catholic Church (Erie, Pennsylvania) was the following:
It is a requirement of the Diocese that all first-time parents attend a Pre-Baptismal class. The best time to do so is BEFORE your child is born. Please DO NOT choose your Godparents until you have attended the Class!!
Is it a religious error if the godparents are chosen before the Pre-Baptism Class?
You can choose them, but don’t inform them until after the class! We have the same guidelines in my diocese; they are trying to move from a symbolic godparenthood to a more active one, and that means the godparents need to be active, practicing Catholics.
It seems to me that the bulletin announcement could easily state the canonical requirements for sponsors, and then a suggestion that parents wait until after the class to choose their children’s godparents. Then the entire parish can be informed, including future parents, and including cafeteria Catholics who expect to be chosen as godparents
Interesting. I have two children. In both cases, we went to the class after our child was born and picked the godparents before the class. Actually, my parish suggests that godparents come to the class with the parents.
I’m a catechist for the baptismal prep in our parish and we really don’t like to have parents ask the godparents before they come to us. Too often we’ve had non-Catholics and even non-baptized chosen because he parents don’t know any better. It’s incredibly awkward to have to tell a couple, “Sorry, you’ll have to find someone else.” Case in point, we had a couple present before Christmas who were upset because we wanted them in class. Previously they’d just gone to the Mission down the road, where Fr. didn’t have any requirements beyond showing up with a baby. Now he was gone and they were stuck with their own parish.
Then they had two non-Catholics as sponsors and were very annoyed to be told that they had to find at least one Catholic. “I’ll get back to you,” said the mother. We set up for a baptism but they never showed. Recently I found out that they went to the priest to again ask to use their previously chosen ‘sponsors’ and the priest said, “No, sorry.” Mother told him they’d hoped he wouldn’t be so hard to deal with. :rolleyes:
I used to be baptism coordinator in my last parish and the issue of sponsors was difficult at times. Parents wanted two godmothers or two godfathers, someone who was not fully initiated, someone who was not Catholic or even a baptized Christian. Some of these parents would get angry when we asked for sponsor certificates of the potential godparents attesting they were members of a parish or told them sponsors had to be in a sacramental marriage if married. Some would outright lie (we found out at a later point). One parent told me that if she could not find someone that fit the requirements as no one in her family was a practicing Catholic. It can be an evangelizing moment as long as we try to present it in a positive light.
I always tell them that if I’d known then what I’ve leaned since I started working in this ministry I never would have chosen any of the sponsors I chose for our three kids. But in 79, 82 & 84 nobody bothered to tell me what a sponsor was all about, any more than anyone told me what a sponsor was all about when I became one at the age of 16.
We were having too many issues during the class with people getting upset over the requirements for sponsors, specifically that their best friend or brother or sister, did not qualify to be a sponsor, that we started meeting with parents before the class. It is a brief meeting where we gather the information for the baptismal certificate and, most importantly, discuss godparents. There are still a significant number of parents that get upset that they have to follow the rules of the Church, but this way they don’t disrupt the class and they have a chance to invite the godparents to attend the class with them.
We have found that to be a good way to explain who can serve as a sponsor and why some cannot.
Once they have had their meeting, they can register for the class.
Quiet52, It is true that the bulletin announcement could “state the canonical requirements for sponsors, and then a suggestion that parents wait until after the class to choose their children’s godparents”.
How could this practice become a religious requirement?
Don’t presume that people are reading the bulletin. Many times people haven’t been to church in years, then show up to have their children baptized. Bulletins are not universally read even by regular attenders. So this idea, while good, is not really the answer.