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July 12, 2006



This situation came up in my husband's family recently. My husband (a faithful Catholic) was asked to be Godfather to his brother's baby, and a friend of the parents was asked to be "Godmother," although she is not Catholic.

The church asked that my husband provide proof of his active church life, including documentation of confirmation (which he did), and I suspect the "Godmother" was actually simply a "witness." (Therefore, in actuality, my husband's Goddaughter has only ONE Godparent.)

Either out of sensitivity to the "witness," confusion, or ignorance of Church teaching, the "witness" was referred to as "Godmother" throughout the ceremony, and was an active participant in the baptism ceremony.

Ed Peters

The "Christian witness" to a baptism does absolutely nothing canonically, sacramentally, morally, etc. It is a completely ersatz office.


How about presence? We are expecting our first child, and one Godparent is going to be there, however it looks like another is not going to be able to make it on the day our Church does baptisms. Is the one not present really the Godparent even if he's not there?

Suzanne Greydanus

The "Christian witness" is just a way to smooth things over with family members who aren't Catholic and yet campaign to win the popularity contest that being a Godparent is most of the time these days . . .

Both of my siblings have been "godparents" in Catholic baptisms, even though not only are they NOT Catholic, they aren't even practicing Protestants. This has only served to teach them that our sacraments are a joke.

When Catholics give in to this kind of "official witness" nonsense it only serves to hurt our ability to get them to take our faith seriously.


Nick, I believe it is acceptable that a proxy can stand in for a Godparent. My own Goddaughter is Godmother to our son, and she was not present at the baptism. She still had to provide documentation of her confirmation, etc., and her name is on the baptismal certificate. My son's Godfather's wife was the proxy.

Ed Peters

Golly, I thought I was taking a hard line, then I read Suzanne. You go girl.

Suzanne Greydanus

This issue always fires me up because I know that those priests who allowed this (I'm sure thinking that they were being so welcoming and accomodating to non-believers), will have to answer to God for having put additional stumbling blocks in the way of my siblings eternal salvation.


Suzanne, Perhaps they're all card-carrying members of The Good Intentions Paving Company.



I feel your pain. The entire family of my aunt and uncle are members of the Pius X cult thanks to a priest who publicly refused communion to my aunt because she wouldn't let her children go to a graphic sex-education program. If he weren't such a sucker for liberal sex ed programs, they might still be in the Church.


Is it improper form (as in unacceptable) to have no named godparents, but still have a baptism performed in the Church? Some of us are stuck in very, very extraordinary circumstances.

Friends we currently, actively maintain, are citizens of a different country and they're not Catholic. Besides, we could meet the best Catholic couple possible but we couldn't exactly leave children to them. International law and daunting complications get in the way.

As to friends back home: Not many of our "homies" can even travel to attend any baptisms we might have done over here. And even if some could, they're cafeteria Catholics and I wouldn't want them to be godparents anyway. And we're just not very close enough to friends from another era of our lives, to be comfortable dropping that bomb question.

Does canon law require godparents? If so, then canon law hasn't taken people like us into account, and one of us might have to baptize any kids ourselves.

If canon law requires godparents, then it would seem that what follows is, we should tailor our reproductive schedule around that fact, which I also doubt the Church would deem reasonable.

Suzanne Greydanus

Godparents do not have anything to do with who you would leave your children to - this is a common misunderstanding. It has been thought of that way traditionally, but it has no legal power behind it.

Most folks that I know have different godparents for each of their kids - I don't think they have it planned in the case of a tragedy to leave their kids in all different places.

If you read Jimmy's post, you can see that yes, you do need at least one godparent. This does not mean that you should baptize the baby yourself. That is something that should only be done in a dire emergency.

In your situation, your pastor would probably find someone suitable for you. My husband and I have been godparents of a baby in your situation, where the parents had no one that they knew personally that was appropriate.

Ya'll need to meet some good Catholic friends! Fellowship is an important part of living our faith. If you live anywhere near NJ, you can come over for tea. :)


Suzanne, okay, we have to pick at least one person for a godparent. How do you do that when you're in a whole other country? Is it a realistic expectation that someone should follow your child to other continents and make sure they have a proper Catholic upbringing? Especially if there is no such peer you can ask to be a godparent? What if everyone in your parish but for a few, are very old, nowhere near your age, and not peer-material? You can't tell me that there MUST be someone at our parish. There isn't. I know that in a lot of parishes, there are people of all ages. Not so over here. It'd embarrass my priest to ask him to find us a godparent. Doubly so, because it's futile to have a godparent where your child is not even a citizen.


Why is it futile to have a godparent where your child isn't even a citizen? I'm lost...

As Suzanne already pointed out, godparents carry no responsibility of legal guardianship. I find it helpful to think of them as spiritual guardians. And distance isn't necessarily an issue, either-- one of my children's godparents was and is a resident of Spain, while we live in the U.S. He's a daily-Mass-going Catholic, and we know he prays for our son every day, and that's good enough for us. We stay in touch via email.



The best and most powerful thing a godparent can do for a godchild is pray for them. Even if they are old, they can pray for them in this life and then (relatively) soon, the next!

It is your priest's job to help you receive the Sacraments. If you need a child baptised yet don't know anyone to be a godparent, your priest should be able to help you out with that! I'm sure he knows a faithful lady or gentleman in the parish that would be willing to pray for your child and be part of your family in a spiritual way.

I see that as a great gift of Baptism: it allows us to grow our family within the Church and know we have prayer warriors praying for each of us with devotion. We have asked different people to be godparents for all our children because we like to enlarge our spiritual family. However, if we only knew one holy person and we were otherwise strangers to everyone around us, we would probably ask that same person to be the godparent again and again for each child. And in the meantime, we'd try to get to know some people in the parish, regardless of age differences!

Could you find a religious sister or brother (monk?) or priest to be the godparent?


I would tend to agree with Suzanne re: the witness role being a potential stumbling block, but have to speak from personal experience that the opposite can be true as well. As a devout Protestant eleven years ago I was asked to be "godmother" for a close friend's daughter, though it was made clear to me throughout the process that in the eyes of the Catholic Church I was only a Christian witness to the baptism since I was not Catholic myself. I converted less than two years later. It may not have been a direct result of "witnessing" that baptism, but I think the experience helped me understand some things about the Church I had not understood before, and more than anything helped me feel more comfortable with the idea of being Catholic.

However, if no one had bothered to make the distinction about godparent versus witness, or if it had been dismissed as unimportant (or if the other godparent had been a total moron), I would have lost respect for Catholicism and yes, it absolutely would have been a stumbling block.


Ya mean watering down the Faith doesn't work? I am shocked, shocked!


Ha ha. I just saw a good article in the LA Times about that very phenomenon: http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/commentary/la-op-allen9jul09,0,2668973.story?coll=la-home-headlines

There's a funny part about voting on what to rename the Trinity.


"The Good Intentions Paving Company." Let me see, the road to hell . . .

bill912, it took me a couple of minutes to get it. I love it. I have met a few employees of the company in my time. Even had a job there myself at one time. (It was only part-time job)


Recently my husband was asked to be "Godfather" to his cousins daughter. I was told that two other females have been asked to be the childs "Godmothers". Her baptism is coming up tomorrow and I'm a bit confused. If a MARRIED person is asked to be "Godfather" or "Godmother" doesn't that persons spouse automatically assume responsibility or title of the other "Godparent"?

J.R. Stoodley


No, it would seem that there is no such connection between Godfathers and Godmothers.

Sup Duuude!!

Kate Karr

My brother and his wife recently baptized their twins. They have a catholic godfather (who in fact is a catholic priest) for their twins. But like it commonly happens, they have a close Buddhist female friend who showers their three kids with material gifts -the eldest child (3 years) shows and says that she doesn't like this friend. My brother and his wife had asked her to be witness at the twin's baptism.

My brother and his wife don't go to church regularly but do so only on occasion - for funerals, death anniversary masses, their own or relative's wedding(s) and their kid's baptisms.

The kids love me and I love them back. I'm similar to my brother with regard to practicing my faith. I'm divorced. I didn’t get a church annulment simply because I didn't marry in church -I married a non-catholic.

I'm rather piqued that my brother didn't even ask (even for the older kid) me to be god mother. And I sense some hypocrisy here. What could be the real reason?

Any input that you give would help me sleep easier. Thank you, in anticipation of your reply.


My husband and I are catholic, maried in a catholic church. We have a 4 mo old son who we would like to baptize. The Godmother, my sister is catholic. Our very close friend is protestant and living in scotland.Can he stil be "Godfather"?

David B.


I'm not 100% sure, but I believe a Godparent must be Catholic, because they are to be an example for the child, and to raise the child as a Catholic if the child's parents die before the child reaches adulthood.

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