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Kathy Shea wrote:

Hi, guys —

I have a question about Godparents. A year ago my sister got a divorce. My brother-in-law was the Godfather to my son but he is no longer in our lives. He is not a good example for my son.

My question is:

  • Can I relinquish him as Godfather?

I would like my son to have a Godfather that is much more of a positive influence for him. The Godfather I would like to take my former brother-in-law's place is Jewish.

  • Is this OK with the Church?

I have heard that as long as one Godparent is Catholic the other can be of any other faith.

Thanks for your help in this matter.

Kathy

  { Can I relinquish him as Godfather and replace him with a Jewish man? }

Mike replied:

Hi Kathy,

You have received some bad information. both Godparents have to be Catholic:

  1. one has to be a man, and
  2. one has to be a woman.

Once a Godparent, always a Godparent. You can't change them but an answer I gave to a previous question may be a little consoling:

For short: Find a solid Catholic man and Catholic woman who can spiritually commit to praying and being a good example for him.

My colleague John answered your second question in a similar posting:

William Tuley wrote:

  • Can two non-Catholic men be godparents?

My daughter would like her two married brothers to be the god parents to her daughter in a Catholic baptism.

William


John replied:

William,

Both God parents absolutely must be Catholics. The role of the God parent is to help the parents instruct and raise the child as a Catholic!! In the event of the parents death, the primary responsibility for the child's spiritual direction falls to the God Parents.

  • How can non-Catholics who don't profess the Catholic faith, bring up a child to believe and follow all that the Church teaches?

Moreover, along with the parents, the God parents will have to pronounce faith in the Roman Catholic Church on behalf of the child during the Baptism ceremony.

  • How can a non-Catholic claim to accept the Church and all that she teaches as being revealed by God, if he himself is not a member of the Church?

Secondarily, the God parents must be one male and female. A Catholic child has a right to a Godmother and a Godfather. Not just God parents.

Baptism is not just some dedication ceremony which gives the family an excuse to celebrate the baby.

It is a sacrament. Sacrament means covenant bond and it requires the taking of an oath. Your daughter is asking the Church to baptize her child and accept him or her into the Church.

The Church rejoices that your daughter wants her child baptized. Nevertheless, the Church needs assurances that the parents will bring up the child as a Catholic. Therefore She (the Church) can't allow non-Catholics to be God parents. That's not to say, these men aren't loving relatives or outstanding in character but they can't possibly raise the child to believe in what the Church teaches respecting all matters of faith and morals, if they don't know what the Church teaches, let alone, believe in it themselves.

John

I hope this helps,

Mike

Kathy replied:

Hi Mike,

Thank you for your response. Wow, I did get some wrong advice.

  • We checked it out with our Church before we went forward with it, so, if the former brother-in-law was Baptist can I then relinquish him as Godparent?

Kathy Shea

John replied:

Hi, Kathy —

First things first. Since Baptism is a Sacrament that can only be received once, Godparents can't be replaced. Godparents witness the Baptism and take the vows on behalf of the child along with the parents. Period, end of story, exclamation point!

Now if you want to have someone else in the child's life that serves as part of the community that brings up your child, that's different. Nevertheless, he or she is not going to be a Godparent.

When the child is eventually confirmed, he or she can choose a Confirmation sponsor at that time. That person can play a similar role to that of a Catholic Godparent, but remember, the role of a Godparent or sponsor is primarily spiritual and not social in nature. It's about the Catholic faith. It's about what we believe and therefore how we live. The faith comes first, otherwise it's simply humanism — and not — Catholicism.

Now to matter of the Godparent's or any potential future Confirmation sponsor's faith:

Under no circumstances can a non-Catholic be a Godparent. Again: period, end of story, exclamation point! Whoever told you otherwise is in grave error!

Unfortunately, what is done — is done. The Godfather can't be replaced because Baptism can't be repeated.

I believe you can release him from any responsibility to bring him up as a Roman Catholic and, in its place, surround your child with good Catholics, who by their example, help him to grow in the faith.

John

Mike replied:

Hi Kathy,

I'm not quite sure what you are saying.

  • Are you saying that the priest where your child was baptized allowed a non-Catholic to be a Godparent?

Mike

Kathy replied:

Hi Mike,

I don't think it came directly from the priest, however, it did come from my church, when I was preparing for my kid's Baptism. I was told that as long as one Godparent is Catholic that it is okay.

Kathy

John replied:

Hi Kathy,

I did some research into your question.

What they probably did was to allow you to have a non-Catholic witness along with one Godparent. That is a recent exception but the non-Catholic person is not really a Godparent for the reasons I've laid out in my previous reply. Now some people may choose to call this witness a Godparent but nevertheless they are not.

The situation, in your circumstance, remains essentially the same. You and the father are primarily responsible to bring up your children as faithful Catholics. You are the primary instructors of what the Church teaches and what we, as Catholics, are bound to believe and follow.

If you're unsure of what that is, you ought consider brushing up on it. A good place to start is by purchasing a Catechism of the Catholic Church. Given the time, you might consider seeking out a Catholic Bible Study at a local Catholic parish.

We are also available to answer some of your questions. Of course, the most important thing you can do is lead your child by example.

  • If your child sees you practice your faith, he'll want to do it as well.
  • If he sees you pray, if you pray with him, if you teach him to pray, he will also develop a relationship with the Lord.

That said: raising a child Catholic, is community effort. Again, the Godmother can hopefully play a role, but in addition, it is very important that your family be part of a strong Catholic parish, where the priest is loyal and faithful to Church teaching. Weekly Mass is a non-negotiable essential requirement of the Catholic life.

When old enough, you child needs to be enrolled in a solid faith formation program (otherwise known as CCD or Religious Education). When he comes homes from these classes, the material should be reviewed and reinforced by the parents.

Again if there is any way we can further assist you, let us know.

John

Fr. Jonathan sent me the following update:

Hi, Mike —

Kathy said:
My brother-in-law was the Godfather to my son but he is no longer in our lives. He is not a good example for my son.

My question is:

  • Can I relinquish him as Godfather?

I would like my son to have a Godfather that is much more of a positive influence for him.

There was a ruling by Rome that Kathy may find helpful.

In 1984, the Congregation for Worship and the Discipline of Sacraments Issued a ruling [Prot. No. 1031/84, October 20, 1984] stating,

“If a sponsor dies or the parents are angry with the sponsor, the parents may request that the names of substitute godparents be added to the baptismal records. It is evident that it is impossible to replace a sponsor, who was physically present at the time of baptism for the presentation of the candidate or was present through a proxy. However, another person can be named to fulfill the duties of the sponsor. This may be done by the diocesan bishop, if he judges it opportune.”

Others have interpreted based on this that:

“It seems reasonable that this could also be done by the pastor. However, the names of the sponsors at the baptism must not be removed from the baptismal register.”

I would argue, based on this reference that they might actually be able to do what they asked; namely, add to the record for the peace of their family.

Fr. Jonathan

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