What are the requirements for godparents?

We’re in the process of determining who our son’s godparents will be and ran into a dilemma. While we thought we had the right couple in mind, we found out that the husband is not Catholic. The couple’s children were raised Catholic and I know they would be an excellent choice. Can a non-Catholic be a godparent? Our second choice may be their children. However, while one is eighteen, the other is only fourteen. Does the Church consider a certain age to be appropriate to become a godparent?

Here are the requirements for godparents from the Code of Canon Law (1983). Please note the emphasized portions:

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

§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;

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;

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 labor 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 baptized 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 (canon 874).

In short, one godparent for your son will suffice. The Catholic spouse may thus be your son’s godmother. Although the non-Catholic may not be a godfather, if he is a baptized Christian then he may be a Christian witness to the baptism. Although you need not consider the children as possible godparents in this instance, for future reference the age of baptismal sponsors is ordinarily sixteen, unless permission has been obtained from the proper ecclesial authority for a younger person to serve.

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