ON GODPARENTS: WHAT IS THEIR ROLE AND WHO ARE QUALIFIED TO BE SUCH ACCORDING TO CHURCH LAWS?


ON GODPARENTS: WHAT IS THEIR ROLE AND WHO ARE QUALIFIED TO BE SUCH ACCORDING TO CHURCH LAWS?

OUTLINE

  1. WHAT IS THE ROLE OF GODPARENTS (=SPONSORS) IN BAPTISM?
  2. HOW MANY GODPARENTS (=SPONSORS) ARE ALLOWED?
  3. WHAT ARE THE REQUIREMENTS OF WHO COULD BE GODPARENTS (=SPONSORS)?

 

Before choosing the godparents for the Baptism of your child, it is important to know that the Church has established specific norms on who are qualified to be the godparents or sponsors in the Sacrament of Baptism, for the spiritual good of your child and to safeguard the utmost importance of the role of godparents.

What are these Church norms found in the Code of Canon Law (1983) regarding godparents (sponsors) of Baptism? The following canons (in italics) describe the role, number of godparents, and the requirements to be qualified as such:

1.      WHAT IS THE ROLE OF GODPARENTS (=SPONSORS) IN BAPTISM?

Can.  872: Insofar as possible, a person to be baptized is to be given a sponsor who assists an adult in Christian initiation or together with the parents presents an infant for baptism. A sponsor also helps the baptized person to lead a Christian life in keeping with baptism and to fulfill faithfully the obligations inherent in it.

  • The sponsors must be well aware of their role. To be a godparent supposes accepting the role of helping the parents in the Christian upbringing of the baptized, a role which starts from the beginning persists till the end of their life.  The Code of Canon Law sees in the godparents or sponsors as guide and model of Catholic life for their godchild.
  • Godparents are obliged to watch over the spiritual growth of the newly baptized -child or adult-, accompany him in his first steps in the faith, and learn from him the doctrinal foundation and moral teachings of the Catholic faith, during the different stages of the spiritual growth of the godchild.

2.      HOW MANY GODPARENTS (=SPONSORS) ARE ALLOWED?

Can.  873: There is to be only one male sponsor or one female sponsor or one of each.

  • Hence, two male godparents or two female godparents is not allowed.

3.      WHAT ARE THE REQUIREMENTS OF WHO COULD BE GODPARENTS (=SPONSORS)?

Can.  874 §1. To be permitted to take on the function of sponsor a person must:

1/ be designated by the one to be baptized, by the parents or the person who takes their place, or in their absence by the pastor or minister and have the aptitude and intention of fulfilling this function;

2/ have completed the sixteenth year of age, unless the diocesan bishop has established another age, or the pastor or minister has granted an exception for a just cause;

3/ be a Catholic who has been confirmed and has already received the most holy sacrament of the Eucharist and who leads a life of faith in keeping with the function to be taken on;

4/ not be bound by any canonical penalty legitimately imposed or declared;

5/ not be the father or mother of the one to be baptized.

2. A baptized person who belongs to a non-Catholic ecclesial community is not to participate except together with a Catholic sponsor and then only as a witness of the baptism.

  • One cannot give what one does not have. Since the role of godparents consists in helping the parents of the baptized in his/her Catholic education and life, they must educate and lead the way with their life and example coherent to the Catholic teachings and faith.
  • Hence, it is important that godparents should be practicing Catholics who have the necessary formation -presumed to have been received as a requirement before Confirmation- and life of grace -regular attendance of the Sacrament of the Eucharist, i.e., the Sunday precept-, to fulfill this important obligation, and if they are married, they should be married according to Church laws, and are in a regular situation.
  • If a godparent  incurs a canonical penalty, e.g. excommunication, he or she is prohibited in excercising this function, till the penalty is lifted.
  • The important role of godparents in the upbringing of the baptized in the Catholic faith also explains why a baptized Christian who is not Catholic is not qualified to be a godparent or sponsor, but only as a witness of the baptism together with a Catholic sponsor or godparent.

A great day ahead and God bless!
Fr. Rolly Arjonillo

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