Perhaps, at some point in your life you will be asked to be a godparent for a child’s Baptism or a sponsor for someone at Confirmation. Or else you, as parents, might be looking for someone to fulfill these roles for your own children. It is important to understand what Canon Law (Church Law) requires for a person to take on these duties.
First, one should realize that to stand in as a godparent or a sponsor is a privilege, not a right. Unfortunately, not everyone qualifies. To be eligible church law expects the following:
- The person needs to be at least 16 years old
- The person should have received the sacraments of Baptism, Holy Communion and Confirmation (fully initiated into the Catholic Church)
- The person should be regularly practicing his/her faith (under ordinary circumstances, going to Mass weekly and on Holy Days of Obligation)
- If married, the marriage should be recognized by the Catholic Church (not just a civil union or a marriage in another faith or denomination without proper permission by the Bishop called a dispensation)
- If single, the person should not be living together with someone as if married (cohabitating)
It is important to remember that the person is expected to be a good Catholic-Christian role model. An honest discernment of whether or not a particular person fits the above description should be made prior to asking someone to perform this duty or before saying “yes” to someone’s request.
If a person does not meet the qualifications, do not make the parish priests the “bad guys” in the situation and beg or pressure us to make exceptions. We are simply trying to make people aware of the Church’s requirements and challenging the faithful to live up to them. When another parish requires a certificate or letter of eligibility from us stating that you are a practicing Catholic in good standing (and you know you are not), don’t expect us to lie for you or for anyone. Priests should not be pressured into doing something that we are uncomfortable with by affirming something that is not true. To be absolutely blunt, it is immoral and a sin for any of us to lie. Please do not expect us to lie for anyone! And to lie on the occasion of one of the Church’s sacraments! Where’s the Catholic-Christian role model in that?
I have heard people say to me “What’s the big deal? Not every parish or priest is as demanding as you are here!” This may be true. However, I am not directly responsible for what happens in other parishes. It is my obligation to preach and teach the truth of the Catholic faith accurately and clearly and not to give in and tell people just what they want to hear. I attempt (imperfectly) to follow what St. Paul exhorts us all about “living the truth in love.” (Eph. 4:15)
If you have been chosen to be a godparent or sponsor, congratulations! Please try as best you can to pray regularly for the person whom you will be sponsoring. Be a good Catholic-Christian role model in your thoughts, words and deeds.
Remember we are all called to represent Christ as His followers—especially those who are godparents or sponsors.
Fr. Ed Namiotka