Who are the real godparents? (Multiple sponsors on record)


#1

Hi all,

I recently started a job working for a parish, and part of that job is taking care of the sacramental records. This time of the year, with First Communions and Confirmations coming up, we get many requests for baptismal records.

I am running into a problem that looks as though it will be recurring: The priest who was pastor here several years ago apparently was rather lax about allowing non-Catholics to be listed as godparents and also, it seems, about allowing multiple people to become godparents. In several places in our Baptismal Register, a child is listed as with 3 or 4 sponsors (e.g. two married couples, or a married couple and a single person).

What do I do when attempting to issue baptismal certificates for these problematic records? How do I know which people to list as the sponsors? I do plan to ask our current priest (who is out of town at the moment) how he wants to handle this; but in the meantime, I am curious if anyone else has run into this problem or knows the "correct" way to deal with it.


#2

[quote="EnglishTeacher, post:1, topic:317775"]
Hi all,

I recently started a job working for a parish, and part of that job is taking care of the sacramental records. This time of the year, with First Communions and Confirmations coming up, we get many requests for baptismal records.

I am running into a problem that looks as though it will be recurring: The priest who was pastor here several years ago apparently was rather lax about allowing non-Catholics to be listed as godparents and also, it seems, about allowing multiple people to become godparents. In several places in our Baptismal Register, a child is listed as with 3 or 4 sponsors (e.g. two married couples, or a married couple and a single person).

What do I do when attempting to issue baptismal certificates for these problematic records? How do I know which people to list as the sponsors? I do plan to ask our current priest (who is out of town at the moment) how he wants to handle this; but in the meantime, I am curious if anyone else has run into this problem or knows the "correct" way to deal with it.

[/quote]

Sometimes there are four names because two were proxy godparents. Normally that fact would be indicated and in that case I always included both the actual and proxy godparents on the certificate (with proxy indicated).

Sadly, unless it's indicated you have no way to know who was what. The parish next to us doesn't record Christian Witnesses so their names don't appear in the register or in the certificate. They make that clear on their website and it's stressed in baptismal preparation.

My present parish has not had that policy, in fact, I've become aware of cases where there were no godparents at all, just Christian Witnesses. It turned out to be cases where the priest didn't ask and the parents didn't tell.


#3

[quote="EnglishTeacher, post:1, topic:317775"]
Hi all,

I recently started a job working for a parish, and part of that job is taking care of the sacramental records. This time of the year, with First Communions and Confirmations coming up, we get many requests for baptismal records.

I am running into a problem that looks as though it will be recurring: The priest who was pastor here several years ago apparently was rather lax about allowing non-Catholics to be listed as godparents and also, it seems, about allowing multiple people to become godparents. In several places in our Baptismal Register, a child is listed as with 3 or 4 sponsors (e.g. two married couples, or a married couple and a single person).

What do I do when attempting to issue baptismal certificates for these problematic records? How do I know which people to list as the sponsors? I do plan to ask our current priest (who is out of town at the moment) how he wants to handle this; but in the meantime, I am curious if anyone else has run into this problem or knows the "correct" way to deal with it.

[/quote]

Hi and welcome! Remember, 1st Communion does not require sponsors, only Baptism and Confirmation. Congrats on your new job. I have been a DRE for the last 7 1/2 years. First of all, non-Catholics cannot be legit Godparents, only act as a witness, along with Catholic sponsor (Canon 874, 2). Second, when in doubt call local Diocesan Canonical Services office and they can assist you.

Canon 874 requires that sponsors must:

be chosen by the parent (or minister)
be 16 years old or greater
be a Catholic
have received Eucharist
have been confirmed
lead a "life in keeping with the function to be taken on" (Canon 874, 1,3)
not bound by an imposed or declared penalty (a very rare situation)
not be the parent of the child to be baptized


#4

[quote="EnglishTeacher, post:1, topic:317775"]
Hi all,

I recently started a job working for a parish, and part of that job is taking care of the sacramental records. This time of the year, with First Communions and Confirmations coming up, we get many requests for baptismal records.

I am running into a problem that looks as though it will be recurring: The priest who was pastor here several years ago apparently was rather lax about allowing non-Catholics to be listed as godparents and also, it seems, about allowing multiple people to become godparents. In several places in our Baptismal Register, a child is listed as with 3 or 4 sponsors (e.g. two married couples, or a married couple and a single person).

What do I do when attempting to issue baptismal certificates for these problematic records? How do I know which people to list as the sponsors? I do plan to ask our current priest (who is out of town at the moment) how he wants to handle this; but in the meantime, I am curious if anyone else has run into this problem or knows the "correct" way to deal with it.

[/quote]

I understand this is a problem. But I do have a question. When you issue a baptismal certificate are there only two spots available? In other words is there anything preventing you from listing ALL the God parents and Christian witnesses?


#5

[quote="Nicea325, post:3, topic:317775"]
Hi and welcome! Remember, 1st Communion does not require sponsors, only Baptism and Confirmation. Congrats on your new job. I have been a DRE for the last 7 1/2 years. First of all, non-Catholics cannot be legit Godparents, only act as a witness, along with Catholic sponsor (Canon 874, 2). Second, when in doubt call local Diocesan Canonical Services office and they can assist you.

Canon 874 requires that sponsors must:

be chosen by the parent (or minister)
be 16 years old or greater
be a Catholic
have received Eucharist
have been confirmed
lead a "life in keeping with the function to be taken on" (Canon 874, 1,3)
not bound by an imposed or declared penalty (a very rare situation)
not be the parent of the child to be baptized

[/quote]

Right, I do know that; :) but apparently those rules were not enforced before, so now the issue is which people to list when someone asks for a certificate of their baptism record.


#6

[quote="SMHW, post:4, topic:317775"]
I understand this is a problem. But I do have a question. When you issue a baptismal certificate are there only two spots available? In other words is there anything preventing you from listing ALL the God parents and Christian witnesses?

[/quote]

There are only two spots available on the certificates that we have, although I suppose I could write in extra people if necessary. But the problem as I see it is that our records from a certain time period do not indicate who is a godparent and who was a Christian witness, and it seems that a baptismal certificate should clearly indicate who the godparent(s) are. For example, in our records there are children listed with two women as the godparents, and other children listed with two women and one man, and so on, with no differentiation between godparents and witnesses.


#7

How far back?

It’s my understanding that the 1917 code of Canon Law wasn’t as categorical about the number of godparents as the 1983 one is. So it wasn’t uncommon to have more than two, particularly in some cultures.

In mixed marriages, where one of the parents is Anglican, there is often an expectation that a girl will have two godmothers and one godfather and a boy will have two godfathers and one godmother. Some priests have obliged. Our present pastor allows them to have 2 godmothers at the ceremony but they have to choose one for the record.

It would simplify secretaries’ lives tremendously if all priests just followed the rules. :wink:


#8

[quote="Phemie, post:7, topic:317775"]
How far back?

It's my understanding that the 1917 code of Canon Law wasn't as categorical about the number of godparents as the 1983 one is. So it wasn't uncommon to have more than two, particularly in some cultures.

In mixed marriages, where one of the parents is Anglican, there is often an expectation that a girl will have two godmothers and one godfather and a boy will have two godfathers and one godmother. Some priests have obliged. Our present pastor allows them to have 2 godmothers at the ceremony but they have to choose one for the record.

It would simplify secretaries' lives tremendously if all priests just followed the rules. ;)

[/quote]

How far back . . . mostly from approximately 2001-2006. I don't think we have any Anglicans around here; we're just your typical Latin rite Catholic parish. :) Yes, I agree it would simplify our lives greatly if the rules were followed -- it would be so easy to give all parents a baptism policy that clearly laid out the rules/expectations.


#9

[quote="EnglishTeacher, post:6, topic:317775"]
There are only two spots available on the certificates that we have, although I suppose I could write in extra people if necessary. But the problem as I see it is that our records from a certain time period do not indicate who is a godparent and who was a Christian witness, and it seems that a baptismal certificate should clearly indicate who the godparent(s) are. For example, in our records there are children listed with two women as the godparents, and other children listed with two women and one man, and so on, with no differentiation between godparents and witnesses.

[/quote]

Just fyi, only the names appear on my daughter's certificate even though one was a Christian witness. The names are listed as "Sponsors", not "Godparents". Same on mine.


#10

[quote="PatriceA, post:9, topic:317775"]
Just fyi, only the names appear on my daughter's certificate even though one was a Christian witness. The names are listed as "Sponsors", not "Godparents". Same on mine.

[/quote]

If you use preprinted certificates they usually say "Godmother" & "Godfather". OTOH, when I made up a template of a certificate for our parish I just put "Sponsors".

So you're saying both the Christian Witness and the godparent are listed as "sponsors"? On our youngest's certificate, the Christian Witness is listed as the Godfather, with the proxy Godfather's name also included.


#11

[quote="EnglishTeacher, post:5, topic:317775"]
Right, I do know that; :) but apparently those rules were not enforced before, so now the issue is which people to list when someone asks for a certificate of their baptism record.

[/quote]

Again...my friend, contact your Canonical Services and ask them.


#12

[quote="Phemie, post:10, topic:317775"]
If you use preprinted certificates they usually say "Godmother" & "Godfather". OTOH, when I made up a template of a certificate for our parish I just put "Sponsors".

So you're saying both the Christian Witness and the godparent are listed as "sponsors"? On our youngest's certificate, the Christian Witness is listed as the Godfather, with the proxy Godfather's name also included.

[/quote]

Yes, both are listed as "Sponsors", no differentiation between the two. My daughter's and mine are both very, very similar. Both use "Sponsors" and not "Godparents" and we're talking 31 years between hers and mine and two different dioceses too.

I never really paid attention to these details until this thread.


#13

[quote="Nicea325, post:11, topic:317775"]
Again...my friend, contact your Canonical Services and ask them.

[/quote]

I don't understand how they would be able to help. They would have no more idea than she does who is who without notes in the record. The former pastor would be the best bet if he's still in a position to help. At least he'd have an idea why he entered more than one person in the register. When that happened, I usually listed both. Like it or not, the certificate is an official document providing the information that's in the register. If two people are listed in the godmother section, I entered both on the certificate.


#14

[quote="PatriceA, post:12, topic:317775"]
Yes, both are listed as "Sponsors", no differentiation between the two. My daughter's and mine are both very, very similar. Both use "Sponsors" and not "Godparents" and we're talking 31 years between hers and mine and two different dioceses too.

I never really paid attention to these details until this thread.

[/quote]

Canon Law does not use the words "Godparents", "Godfather" or "Godmother". It refers to sponsors only, and canon 873 specifies that a candidate may have only one male sponsor or one female sponsor, or one of each.

If all four are Catholics, then you're out of luck. If two are Catholic and two aren't, the Catholics are the sponsors.


#15

[quote="aemcpa, post:14, topic:317775"]
Canon Law does not use the words "Godparents", "Godfather" or "Godmother". It refers to sponsors only, and canon 873 specifies that a candidate may have only one male sponsor or one female sponsor, or one of each.

If all four are Catholics, then you're out of luck. If two are Catholic and two aren't, the Catholics are the sponsors.

[/quote]

The thing is that in the registers I had to work with there was no indication of whether someone was Catholic or not. If you have four names and no indication of their religion and no note that says "proxy" or "Christian Witness", then you have nothing to work from. If you enter all four names on the certificate you've covered your bases. The one thing you can be assured of is that the family considers them all godparents regardless of what canon law says.:)


#16

[quote="EnglishTeacher, post:1, topic:317775"]
Hi all,

I recently started a job working for a parish, and part of that job is taking care of the sacramental records. This time of the year, with First Communions and Confirmations coming up, we get many requests for baptismal records.
...knows the "correct" way to deal with it.

[/quote]

I think the correct way to deal with it is to speak with the priest who is in charge of the parish. At the same time, it is very important to know the rules for your Diocese.

I think this is an important matter that comes under following the authority of your parish and diocese.


#17

[quote="Phemie, post:15, topic:317775"]
The thing is that in the registers I had to work with there was no indication of whether someone was Catholic or not. If you have four names and no indication of their religion and no note that says "proxy" or "Christian Witness", then you have nothing to work from. If you enter all four names on the certificate you've covered your bases. The one thing you can be assured of is that the family considers them all godparents regardless of what canon law says.:)

[/quote]

At least if you put all four you know that the right answer is on the page somewhere.


#18

[quote="EnglishTeacher, post:1, topic:317775"]
Hi all,

I recently started a job working for a parish, and part of that job is taking care of the sacramental records. This time of the year, with First Communions and Confirmations coming up, we get many requests for baptismal records.

I am running into a problem that looks as though it will be recurring: The priest who was pastor here several years ago apparently was rather lax about allowing non-Catholics to be listed as godparents and also, it seems, about allowing multiple people to become godparents. In several places in our Baptismal Register, a child is listed as with 3 or 4 sponsors (e.g. two married couples, or a married couple and a single person).

What do I do when attempting to issue baptismal certificates for these problematic records? How do I know which people to list as the sponsors? I do plan to ask our current priest (who is out of town at the moment) how he wants to handle this; but in the meantime, I am curious if anyone else has run into this problem or knows the "correct" way to deal with it.

[/quote]

Have you asked the people requesting the records if they can give a little insight into the names?

DGB


#19

[quote="DoGodsBidding, post:18, topic:317775"]
Have you asked the people requesting the records if they can give a little insight into the names?

DGB

[/quote]

I like this idea.


closed #20

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