QUAERITUR: 2 male or 2 female sponsors for Confirmation

From a reader:

I attended a Confirmation yesterday, and I noticed two things that made me doubtful. Firstly, the fact that some of the girls being confirmed had two godfathers, or two godmothers, while I had been told in my own Confirmation I could have either one, or one of each gender, and they couldn’t be my parents. Would you clarify this point?

Thank you for you time, and pardon my english, it isn’t my first language!

Can. 892 of the 1983 Code of Canon Law simply speaks of one sponsor for confirmation and states that the sponsor must fulfill the conditions mentioned for godparents in can. 874.

While having more than one sponsor for confirmation is not forbidden by law, it is not foreseen.  Therefore, it could be a legitimate “praeter legem” custom that has been developed, or is in the process of developing.

Since only one sponsor is required, canon law makes no provision for a second sponsor being of the opposite sex of the first sponsor.

However, it seems a good idea to permit this in an age where the complementarity of men and women is under attack!  It sends a wrong signal to forbid “same sex godparents” at baptism, but to allow same sex sponsors at confirmation.  Still, there is no law forbidding it. We cannot place burdens on the faithful that the law does not impose.

That said, we must admit that all sorts of silly things are legal!

 

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About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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18 Responses to QUAERITUR: 2 male or 2 female sponsors for Confirmation

  1. Phil_NL says:

    In my parish at the time, unless I’m very much mistaken and my memory is playing tricks on me, there where no sponsors whatsoever. Judging from the canons, that was probably streching the ‘whenever possible’ clause a bit too much, though I have no idea why they did it like that.

  2. Suburbanbanshee says:

    In the past, it’s been the custom to have four or even more godparents per child, and often the child would bear a name from every single one of those sponsors. Hence the long strings of handles given to Spanish people, or to UK royalty. (One of Queen Victoria’s sponsors was Tsar Aleksandr, and hence her first name Alexandrina and childhood nickname of Drina. Stuff like that. You didn’t just name a kid after somebody; you asked him to be a godfather and then named the kid after him.) Usually you did have the same number of men and women godparents, but often they were totally unrelated to each other. (If you had a kid who could draw on help from four godparents from four separate households, back when godparent duties were more serious and bigtime, it helped support the kid and did networking for him, too.)

    You’re really supposed (old school) to ask your godparent to be your sponsor. So if you had multiple godparents, you really should have them back again as multiple sponsors. Logically. But I don’t know whether sponsorship was such a big deal, back when you were getting Confirmed either at Baptism or at First Communion time. Sealing of your baptism for you, sealing of their godparenthood for them. Logical.

  3. Suburbanbanshee says:

    Yeah, Queen Victoria did have four godparents: the Prince Regent, Tsar Aleksandr, the Queen of Wuerttemberg, and the Dowager Duchess of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld. Sheesh, there’s some oddly assorted folks. But she didn’t have four names like the current Prince of Wales does.

  4. PostCatholic says:

    It is worthy, in charity, to remember that all sorts of things are done for the sake of family harmony and that this has its own value even when not the preferable form. I once presided over a naming ceremony (no, it was not a Catholic event) wherein there were five “godmothers” (all the mother’s sisters and stepsisters) and one “godfather” (if I remember correctly, the father’s college roommate). I don’t think it did the infant any harm, and clarity of the symbolic value of the sponsors would have been my strong preference, but I wouldn’t have wanted to have it at the expense of years of sororital infighting.

  5. raitchi2 says:

    In the Anglican communion, the ideal appeared to be 3 sponsers for baptism (two of the same sex as the baptizee). From the 1662 book of Common Prayer (Publik Baptism of Infants http://www.eskimo.com/~lhowell/bcp1662/baptism/index.html), “For every child to be baptized there shall be not fewer than three godparents, of whom at least two shall be of the same sex as the child and of whom at least one shall be of the opposite sex; save that, when three cannot be conveniently had, one godfather and one godmother shall suffice. Parents may be godparents for their own children provided that the child shall have at least one other godparent. The godparents shall be persons who have been baptized and confirmed and will faithfully fulfil their responsibilities both by their care for the child committed to their charge and by the example of their own godly living. Nevertheless the Minister shall have power to dispense with the requirement of confirmation in any case in which in his judgement need so requires.”

  6. CPT TOM says:

    A clarification if you would good Father Z, I thought that the way Roman Law (and therefore Church law, customs, etc) were written, that all that is not specified is automatically not allowed. Sorta like hand holding durning the our Father, and other abuses of note. Am I misinformed? Thanks!

  7. Acanthaster says:

    Can I ask what is happening in the picture that is posted with this? What’s going on with the server and the boy in black? It looks like he’s being blindfolded?

  8. ContraMundum says:

    However, it seems a good idea to permit this in an age where the complementarity of men and women is under attack!

    Missing word alert! You meant, However, it seems not a good idea to permit this in an age where the complementarity of men and women is under attack!

  9. Todd V. says:

    ContraMundum,

    That is a recently confirmed boy having a linen cloth put over his forehead. From the Early Church up until the Middle Ages in some regions, it was traditional not to wash the holy chrism from the confirmatus’ forehead until the 8th day after Confirmation. For practical reasons, then, a bandage was placed over the forehead during this time period. to prevent the oil from coming coming off/smearing onto something else.

  10. Todd V. says:

    Sorry, that last post was in answer to Acanthaster’s question.

  11. Acanthaster says:

    That’s awesome! Thanks, Todd!

  12. AnAmericanMother says:

    Raitchi,
    The stuff you think you know is what gets you.
    Here I was thinking that 2 godparents of the same sex and one of the opposite sex was some sort of universal norm – and it’s just old Cranmer again!
    It works well, though.

  13. AnnAsher says:

    Yes all sorts of things are legal; that doesn’t make them right and good however.

  14. Philangelus says:

    So, um…. My oldest has two godfathers and no godmother. My brother and my husband’s brother. At the time, we had no female relatives who were practicing Catholics, and neither sibling was married.

    My brother returned the favor with my niece. I’m godmother; my SIL’s sister is also godmother. Different priest, different parish, different diocese. No one ever said the godparents had to be of different genders.

    So…do they have to be rebaptized? [?!? Good heavens no.]

  15. Volanges says:

    I teach baptismal preparation and the trickiest part of that is telling parents that they can’t have more than two godparents, that the Anglican aunt will not be a godparent and that the Salvation Army uncle can’t even be a Christian witness. Then you get a new Pastor and he says “As long as there is one person who meets the definition of ‘Sponsor’, let them have as many as they want.” Then what? All the names show up in the register? Don’t think so.

    It’s interesting to look at older registers. What I see a few decades ago is that all the female confirmands had the same woman as sponsor and all the males had the same man as sponsor. I suspect it must have been that way when I was confirmed since I don’t remember a sponsor ever having been mentioned and my godmother lived next door and would have been there if needed — she wasn’t.

  16. michelelyl says:

    It is a custom in the Hispanic Community that the Sponsor be the same sex as the Confirmand. It is also a growing trend in the United States that a Baptismal Godparent is the Confirmation Sponsor- as long as the Godparent is still living and a practicing Catholic in good standing with the Church.

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  18. Philangelus says:

    The blog went down yesterday right after I submitted a follow-up comment, so I’m going to try again: since my son has two godfathers (his uncles) and you said that’s forbidden, does that mean his baptism was invalid or illicit because of a defect of form? Because I don’t want to mess around with that.