Sunday, January 26, 2020
What Does Being a Godparent Mean?

What does being a godfather mean? What does being a godmother entail? What do godparents do? Whether you are godmother or godfather, you may not know the responsibilities and requirements of being a godparent. Not everyone is eligible to be a godparent. And because you take on the responsibility for the baptized person's religious upbringing, you bear responsibility before God. It's not an honor to accept lightly.

Baptism is above all a Sacrament, instituted by our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and it is necessary for salvation. Not all denominations have valid Baptisms though. For more information on Baptism as a Sacrament click here.

Eligibility to be a Godparent

  • Godparents must be baptized, have attained the use of reason and have the intention of fulfilling their role as a godfather of a godmother.
  • A godparent must be a confirmed Catholic and have received their First Holy Communion
  • A godparent must not belong to a heretical or schismatic sect, nor have been excommunicated by a condemnatory or declaratory sentence, nor suffer from infamy of law, nor be excluded from legal acts, nor (if a cleric) have been deposed or degraded from the clerical rank.
  • A godparent must live a life in conformity with the teachings of the Church including weekly attendance at Mass, rejection of artificial contraception and abortion, and a godparent must not support politicians who promote and support abortion, etc.
  • Godparents cannot be the father or mother or spouse of the person to be baptized
  • Godparents must be designated either by the person to be baptized or by the parents or guardians, or in their default by the minister of baptism.
  • The godparent must, either in person or through proxy, physically hold or touch the one baptized, or receive him immediately after baptism from the sacred font or from the hands of the minister.
  • The godparent must be at least sixteen years of age, unless for a just reason the minister admits younger persons or unless a different age is stipulated by the Bishop.
  • The godparent must not be under excommunication, nor excluded from legal acts, nor suffer from infamy of law for reason of a notorious crime, even though no sentence was pronounced against him, nor must he be under an interdict, or otherwise a public criminal, or disgraced by infamy of fact.
  • The godparent must know the rudiments of the faith.
  • The godparent must not be a novice or professed member in any religious organization, unless there is nobody else to be had and the permission is granted by at least the local superior.
  • The godparent must not be a cleric in sacred orders, unless he has the explicit permission of his proper Ordinary
  • The godparent must not be in a mix-marriage (marriage with a non-Catholic) who believes his/her children should choose their own religion when they grow up rather than be raised in the Catholic religion.
  • The godparent must not be involved in an invalid marriage (Justice of the Peace, marriage outside the Church)

As we stated above, a person that is a godparent must not be excommunicated by a condemnatory or declaratory sentence.  What does this mean?  Well here are some of the grave offenses that this would include:

From the 1983 Code of Canon Law:

  • The person who throws away the consecrated Eucharistic species (can 1367);
  • The person who takes or retains the consecrated species for a sacrilege purposes (ibid.);
  • A person who uses physical violence against the Roman Pontiff (can 1370 § 1);
  • A person who falsely denounces before an ecclesiastic superior a priest for solicitation to sin in confession (can. 1390);
  • A person who procures a completed abortion (can. 1398).

Besides these cases, which are also punished with automatic excommunication in the Code of Canon Law of 1917, there were still others incurring latae sentenciae excommunications. They include:

  • The editors of heretical or schismatic books that promote apostasy, heresy or schism (can. 2318 § 1);
  • Those who read books forbidden by the Holy See without due license (ibid.);
  • Authors who publish books on religious matters without due permission (can.2318 § 2);
  • Those who contract marriage before a non-Catholic minister without permission (2319 § 1 n. 1);
  • Those who contract marriage with a implicit or explicit agreement of educating the offspring outside of the Catholic Church (ibid. n. 2);
  • Those who knowingly bring children to be baptized by non-Catholic ministers (ibid. n. 3);
  • Parents or godparents who allow their children be educated in a non-Catholic religion (ibid. n. 4);
  • Those who are not priests and celebrate masses and hear confessions (can. 2322 n. 1);
  • Those who sell false relics,  distribute them or expose them for the veneration of the faithful (can. 2326);
  • A person who profits from indulgences granted (can. 2327);
  • A person who appeals a law, decree or mandate of a Sovereign Pontiff to an Ecumenical Council (can. 2332);
  • Those invested with temporal power who directly or indirectly prevent the execution of the orders of the Apostolic See or its Legates from being executed (can. 2333);
  • Those who make laws, decrees or mandates against the liberty and rights of the Church (can. 2334 n.1);
  • Those who directly or indirectly impede the jurisdiction of the Church in the external or internal forum (ibid. n.2);
  • Those who enroll their names in Masonic sects or other such associations that plot against the Church and the legitimate civil authorities (can. 2335).
  • A person who enters a monastery or convent without due permission in violation of monastic cloister  (can. 2342 n.1);
  • Nuns who leave the monastic cloister without due permission (ibid. n. 3);
  • A person who physically attacks a Cardinal or a Papal Legate (can. 2343 § 2);
  • A person who does the same to a Patriarch, an Archbishop or a Bishop (ibid., n. 3);
  • A person who does the same to priest or a religious (ibid. n. 4);
  • Those who usurp or keep goods that by right belong to the Catholic Church (can. 2345);
  • Those who provoke or accept a duel (can. 2351);
  • Those who forge false documents of the Apostolic See (can. 2360 § 1);
  • The priest or the religious who contracts marriage after taking the solemn vow of chastity (can 2388 §1);
  • Those who contract marriage after taking the non-solemn but perpetual vow of chastity(ibid., § 2);
  • Those who sell offices, benefices or honors of the Church (can. 2392 § 1);
  • Those who steal, destroy or substantially harm documents belonging to the Episcopal Curia (can. 2405).

Being a Godparent Is Both An Honor and A Great Responsibility

All in all, being a godparent is both a great honor and a serious responsibility.  For that reason, the Church has put a number of laws in place in regards to who may rightfully serve as a godparent.  Please review the above to ensure you qualify and your life is appropriately conformed to the life-saving religion of Jesus Christ - the Catholic religion.  As a godparent, you must be committed to the Church's teachings and participate in the life of the Church (i.e. going to Mass weekly, going to Confession often, praying daily, and all other duties that a Catholic must observe).  You also must stand firm to the pro-life views of the Church and reject all that the Church rejects (as listed above for example). You must help ensure that the child (or adult) who is being baptized will be raised in the Catholic Faith.

Godparent Classes

The Church often requires those preparing for the honor of serving as a godparent to attend a class to understand what Baptism is (and what it is not), why it is a Sacrament, why it is necessary for salvation, and what the godparents must do at a Baptism and throughout the life of their godchild. produces a best-selling and extremely popular online Baptism course for those looking to take an online course of study.

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