ASK FATHER: Godparent by proxy?

From a reader…


I am an American living in Europe, and I was baptized and confirmed by a priest (not the bishop) in the Roman Catholic Church at Easter in 2009 (at the age of 35) in the Czech Republic. In the months leading up to the baptism, I went through the various rites of preparation as a catechumen. I asked a man in our parish to be my godfather, and he agreed. But during the time of preparation he moved away to another continent on business, about four months before the baptism. He was not able to return in the meantime, so his wife stood in for him during the various rites and at the baptism itself. My cousin is my godmother (and was present for the baptism), and therefore the man’s wife cannot be my godmother. I think that the wife may have written the man’s name into the church’s baptism registry and signed for him.

I have read conflicting information about whether a sponsor must be physically present for the baptism, and therefore I am not certain if I really have a godfather. What do you think?

The current Code of Canon Law is silent on the topic of godparents serving by proxy, though it does provide norms for marriage by proxy (can. 1105).

The prevailing opinion is that, since proxies for godparents have a longstanding tradition, and the current law, while not speaking of proxies does not forbid them, the practice remains a licit practice. The only requirement for a proxy is that said proxy clearly represent the intention of the person for whom he or she is representing.

Therefore yes, you have a godfather, the man from your parish who agreed to serve in that capacity.

There may be some who disagree, and who point to the silence of the Code on the matter as somehow invalidating that practice. To them should be pointed out the complete and absolute silence of the Code on the subject of the necessity of gin in a true martini.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. gracie says:

    I ran into this situation living in Japan when it came time to baptize our daughter. The expat community is like a flock of geese that stay for awhile in one place and then move on to other places. There were no Catholics there with whom I would be in contact once we moved on ourselves. Otoh there were Catholic friends back in the States whom we would be seeing for many years to come (God willing). Therefore it only made sense – and the pastor agreed – to have a Catholic couple we knew in Tokyo stand in for our stateside friends who were listed as the actual godparents.

  2. A.D. says:

    I was told that when I was baptized – many, many moons ago – my aunt (my mother’s brother’s wife) was my Godmother by proxy. I rarely saw her as I was growing up, but appreciated later that she prayed for me and was a good example of a faithful Catholic all her life.

  3. Federico says:

    I agree with your canonical assessment but I must object to your last sentence; your example does not hold.

    I could argue, mutatis mutandis, that the code is silent on the use of Vermouth in a martini as well and that, therefore, Vermouth is licit matter. This, of course, is nonsense, although it is permissible for the minister to have the intent of Vermouth whilst mixing said martini.

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