Guidelines for Sacramental Sponsorship
Godparents for Baptism/Sponsors for Confirmation
CANONICAL GUIDELINES FOR THE SELECTION OF A
GODPARENT AND CHRISTIAN WITNESS
The significance of a Godparent at the Sacrament of Baptism requires that the parent(s) consider very seriously the faith and religious practice of the person proposed for this role. The sources for accessing the qualifications for the role of Godparent are The Code of Canon Law (1983) and The Catechism of the Catholic Church (1994) promulgated by His Holiness, John-Paul II. Pastors, assistant pastors, pastoral assistants and directors of religious education should provide an appropriate catechesis in the preparation programs for the Sacraments of Initiation. The following guidelines are provided to answer some common questions that arise when parents or candidates are discerning the choice of a person for these roles.
GODPARENT FOR BAPTISM
- The canonical guidelines for selecting a Godparent (patrinus) are found in cann. 872-874. A person to be baptized needs only one Godparent. If the tradition of having two is desired, the person or their parent(s) may choose a man and a woman. Two Godparents of the same sex is not permitted.
- The mother or the father may not be a Godparent. The role of Godparent is to assist the parent(s) in the training of the faith. The roles are distinct and not to be mixed.
- A Godparent is a Catholic in good standing, that is, living the Gospel message in their daily personal lives. They should practice the Catholic faith regularly. (i.e. being active members of their Catholic Church, attending Mass each Sunday and participating in the life of the Sacraments, e.g. regular confession)
- They are to be at least sixteen years of age, have the proper aptitude and intention to assume this role, and have received the Sacrament of Confirmation.
- Catholics married outside the Church, or Catholics who choose to cohabitate outside of the Sacrament of Marriage are not permitted to be Godparents due to their choice of this irregular lifestyle in terms of church practice.
- Any Catholic who is not living according to the doctrinal and moral teaching of the Church should not be asked to serve in this important role as Godparent.
- Each Godparent must provide certification from their parish in which they are registered
CHRISTIAN WITNESS FOR BAPTISM
- In addition to one Catholic Godparent it is permissible for a member of a non-Catholic ecclesial community to fulfill the role of Christian Witness.
- Any Catholic, who has abandoned the faith, (i.e. formally left the Catholic Church) even if they now are active members in another Christian Church or community, may not serve as a Godparent or as a Christian Witness. They have separated themselves from the Church and cannot serve even as a witness to it.
- A Christian Witness is a validly baptized non-Catholic member of another Christian Church who practices their faith in Christ in a visible and sincere manner.
SPONSORS FOR CONFIRMATION
The Code of Canon Law (1983) uses patrinus for the role of Godparent for Baptism/Sponsors for Confirmation (c.892-893). Accordingly, the requirements to be a Sponsor for Confirmation are exactly the same as a Godparent for the Sacrament of Baptism. The following guidelines, therefore, are presented for this sacrament:
- Parents may not serve as a Sponsor for Confirmation. The ideal is that the Godparent at Baptism also serves this role at the Sacrament of Confirmation. Any Catholic may be named provided they fulfill all the requirements listed for a Godparent for Baptism.
- Godparents must be at least sixteen years of age, practicing the Catholic faith, and fully initiated in the Catholic Church.
- Non-Catholics, former Catholics, and members of Churches not in union with Rome may not serve as Godparents for Confirmation. Members of the Orthodox Churches, because of the lack of unity among the Churches, may not serve as a Godparent for Confirmation. A Christian Witness is never permitted at the Sacrament of Confirmation.
- Pastors and directors of religious education may recommend a Godparent in situations where a qualified Godparent is needed.
- If married: The marriage is canonically valid and recognized as such by the Catholic Church.