From a reader:
My husband and I have been asked to be Godparents to the son of friends of ours who are members of a Pius X church. It is my understanding that the Society has not yet reached full communion with Rome. Does this prohibit us from accepting the role of Godparents?
This is a tough one.
On the one hand, you would be committing, at their invitation, to be involved with the religious formation of a child (especially should they die) raised at a chapel without manifest union with the Church’s legitimate pastors. Do you want to participate in reinforcing any erroneous positions they might have?
On the other hand, Rome is clearly showing more favor toward the SSPX in recent times. If Rome can be open and cooperative in big matters, perhaps in smaller matters we can have some flexibility.
On another hand, think about where the baptism would be registered. Sure that is a book keeping issue, but it doesn’t mean nothing.
Yet another hand considered, I understand that there are some instances in which SSPX priests have had recourse to legitimate authority for faculties for certain things. Again, if that is true, then perhaps some flexibility is possible in this matter.
From a wholly other hand, the lay followers of the SSPX haven’t (because they follow the SSPX) incurred any canonical penalties. They might have incurred penalties for other reasons, but I doubt it. And the issue of canonical penalties really would pertain to the sponsors/godparents, not the parents.
A different hand considered, it may be that this SSPX family isn’t “hardcore” and merely wants sound liturgy and doctrine without having a nutty about how Rome and the Pope have to convert, etc.
Various hands suggest I also wonder about the validity of the marriage of the couple who follow the SSPX. Priests of the SSPX don’t have faculties to witness marriages, and so it can be argued that the marriages are not valid because of lack of proper form. The 1983 CIC says in Can. 1108 §1. Only those marriages are valid which are contracted before the local ordinary, pastor, or a priest or deacon delegated by either of them, who assist, and before two witnesses according to the rules expressed in the following canons and without prejudice to the exceptions mentioned in cann. 144, 1112, §1, 1116, and 1127, §§1-2. We don’t want to argue that the SSPXers aren’t Catholic and, therefore, they aren’t bound by Catholic form of marriage. Unless we want to say they aren’t Catholic (we don’t) form pertains to them as well. The couple – who probably wouldn’t be at fault here – might be well-advised, if they were married by an SSPX priest, to seek a sanatio in radice (retroactive convalidation) from the local diocese. [Lest anyone zealous to defend the SSPX at any cost think that this is an invitation to argue that SSPX marriages are valid, think again. That is the stuff of a separate entry.]
“But Father! But Father!”, some of you will object. “You are being too picky! After all, in some Novus Ordo parishes they do things so strange that the baptism might actually be invalid. But you are picking on the SSPX. Whose baptism is more likely to be following the books?”
I bet if we look at any of the materials the SSPX publishes, they will say that the role of the godparent is important and it incurs responsibilities. It is a serious thing to accept. Therefore, I think it is appropriate to be picky about this question.
In this case, and having consulted a canonist, I have to say….
… I can’t think of a canonical reason why you can’t be.
I can think of some prudential reasons why it would not be a good idea.
To have a definitive answer, write to the Pontifical Commission “Ecclesia Dei”.
I hope we get this unity thing worked out soon.