Dear Catholic Exchange,
I have a friend and his wife that were asked to be godparents for their niece; however, they have since been told that they can not serve in that capacity due to the fact that they are not Catholic. They realize the importance of godparents and have asked me about the situation since I am Catholic. I told them that the function of godparents, in my understanding, is to assist the parents in bringing up the child in the Faith. Since they are not Catholic, they are seen by the Church as not being good role models of the Faith for the child. Even as such they stand ready to assist the parents in any way they could for the good of the child. They tell me that the parents do not regularly attend mass and fully participate in the sacraments but wish to have their children Baptized into the Catholic Church. Is there any leeway on the part of the parish priest in this issue or does he have the responsibility and authority to deny godparents as he sees fit for the good of the child in regards to Catholic Faith?
Dear Mr. Fecteau,
Peace in Christ!
In short, if a person is not Catholic, but is a baptized Christian who belongs to a non-Catholic denomination, he may participate, together with a sponsor (godparent), as a witness of the baptism (Canon Law, Can. 874.2).
The 1993 Directory for the Application of Principles and Norms on Ecumenism (Directory on Ecumenism) explains:
It is the Catholic understanding that godparents, in a liturgical and canonical sense, should themselves be members of the Church or ecclesial Community in which the baptism is being celebrated. They do not merely undertake a responsibility for the Christian education of the person being baptized (or confirmed) as a relation or friend; they are also there as representatives of a community of faith, standing as guarantees of the candidate's faith and desire for ecclesial communion (no. 98).
For more information, please see our Faith Facts:
I hope this is helpful.
United in the Faith,
Catholics United for the Faith
827 North Fourth Street
Steubenville, OH 43952