ASK FATHER: Can I change my children’s godparents?

From a reader…

QUAERITUR:

I’m from Indonesia. So glad to read your postings.. all of them
really strengthen my Catholic faith…

My question regarding: can parents (which is my wife and me) change our daughter (now almost 2 years old)’s Godmother? The response of this question actually can be found around internet, for example by Deacon Greg Kandra and by Father Christopher House, S.T.L., J.C.L., from Diocese of Springfield.
But I want to ask how if we replace with my other best friend which I know very well has a good faith life, also a catechist and also attended in the ceremony?

My daughter was baptized almost 2 years ago on 9 Nov 2019. We chose my wife’s best friend as a Godmother. But as the time goes, her life doesn’t show as a good standing Catholic. I especially, as father, worry if this will have any effect to my daughter’s spiritual life, since according to one answers in the internet, godparents “ were the historical witnesses to the baptism and entered into a permanent spiritual relationship with the baptized.”

Is this true Father? There is a permanent spiritual relation?

That’s my concern about my daughter’s faith.

Firstly, I’m glad this blog is of help.  It’s nice to know that I can reach from my desk to yours across the world.

Secondly, Rev. Mr. Kandra and Fr. House are reliable.  You don’t have strong occasion to doubt them.   Of course their answer was “No”, you cannot change your children’s godparents.

So, the short answer is: “No.”

Then, you ask, “But….”

The longer answer comes next: “Noooooooooo.”

The Code of Canon Law can. 872 says:

“In so far as possible, a person being baptized is to be assigned a sponsor. In the case of an adult baptism, the sponsor’s role is to assist the person in Christian initiation. In the case of an infant baptism, the role is together with the parents to present the child for baptism, and to help it live a Christian life befitting the baptized and faithfully to fulfill the duties inherent in baptism.”

“Assist the person in Christian initiation…”  When does that end?  In a sense, after a short period of catechism, etc.  In reality, it doesn’t end until we draw our last breath.

“Help it live a Christian life…”  So long as life goes on, this relationship and the obligation endures.

It is alarming how many parents ask friends to be godparents even though those friends don’t show any evidence of practicing their faith.  It’s a kind of reward or a token of affection.   They really should consider the spiritual good of the child, not the fleeing moment of bonomie.

The role of godparents or sponsors is manifold.

Initially, they are the official witnesses to the baptism.  Their names are entered into the parish register.   This record cannot be changed.  The baptism is a matter of record.

Also, there is the spiritual relationship.  During the rite of baptism, the godparents speak in the person of an infant who cannot speak for himself.  They answer the questions put to the infant during the rite.

Godparents enter into an important spiritual relationship with the newly baptized.  They are to help in the spiritual development of the new Christian, whether the newly baptized is a child or an adult.

If you choose wrongly, not having considered the longer term, or if the people you chose swerve into a life that doesn’t jive with their spiritual role, both you as parents and even the godchild or god children have an obligation to help those errant sponsors, godparents, straighten things out.

The relationship is not one way.

If it becomes clear to parents that the godparents they chose for children aren’t working out in the Christian role for which they are to fulfill, it is a good idea to find others to help pick up the slack.  However, the fact of being godparents cannot be changed.

So, a couple questions for the sake of those who are reading this.

Do you know the date of your baptism?   After all, that’s a pretty important day.  Coming into the light of this world as a little heathen dominated by the “Prince of this world” is one thing and being baptized into the mystical Person of Christ, becoming a member of the Church, risen from sin and made a child of God is another.

Do you know who your godparents are or were?   If they, one or both, are alive, what’s up with them?  Have you had a relationship with them?  Is it too late?   Are you concerned for their souls?

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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10 Comments

  1. voxborealis says:

    My wife and I asked some younger friends to be the godparents for our youngest child. They were extremely devout, knowledgeable and serious Catholics, who at the time were already godparents to a few other children. Then within two years, they went off the rails: increasingly at odds with Church teaching, followed by apostasy and then divorce. It was heart wrenching. My wife and I looked into “changing” godparents, but of course the answer was “no.” Fortunately, the godparents of our other child took our youngest under their spiritual wings. They pray for child, offer catechesis, etc. In effect, doing everything (post-baptism) one could want from godparents. It is not the same as replacing godparents formally, which is impossible, but it’s not an option.

  2. Clare says:

    Voxborealis, I’m sorry you had that experience. I too, knew a couple that would have seemed perfect for such a role…Trads, homeschoolers…only to end up divorced. Sometimes you never can tell. It can be really hard to find godparents though. My husband and I felt desperate. We were both converts and frequently newcomers to a parish (happens when you keep moving for a job). We had no Catholic family members, still don’t. The people we chose all stayed good Catholics, but most don’t keep in touch, and in one case stopped returning our calls. The one exception is an English couple, and I only wish the Atlantic didn’t separate us!

  3. ajf1984 says:

    This comment does not directly relate to the question at hand, but it may be helpful to some others to recall that there is no obligation to have more than one Godparent for a Baptism–that may come in handy for parents who are striving mightily to come up with two solid witnesses of the Faith for little stupor mundi! And, if you should be so blessed to find one such person, there’s surely no reason why that person cannot serve as Godparent to all of your children! The family of a close friend from college had that practice, and it seems to have worked wonderfully!

  4. voxborealis says:

    I meant to say “but it’s an option.”

    Yes, Clare–finding good godparents is very difficult, especially these days. The usual root for “cradle Catholics” is a sibling and his or her spouse, but that is often not a very good option in practice, outside of keeping the family peace.

  5. cathgrl says:

    I was born shortly after Vatican II ended. By a special grace, my godparents are still alive. They are my aunt and uncle. By another special grace, they have stayed Catholic their entire lives and, among other things, pray the Rosary together daily. They’ve been married 60+ years. You are correct, Father, that I should pray for them more often. Thanks for the reminder. My own spiritual director told me this fairly recently.

  6. Elizabeth D says:

    I became a godparent to 2 girls without being informed they would immediately be moving back to Mexico with their parents. I pray for them every day and that seems like about the best I can do. I was never taught anything about duties of godparents, though. My own godparents were 2 relatives in their late teens who did not grow up to practice the Faith. I have tried to reach out to them and let them know I pray for them every day. But, one of them did not even have an interest in being in contact, the other was nice enough but stopped responding since I was discussing religion.

  7. JabbaPapa says:

    Change no — but you can always look for someone suitable to be a child’s sponsor for Confirmation. This is an important rôle in adult Confirmation in a Conversion to the Catholic Faith and during the preparatory period ; and there’s no fundamental reason why someone similar should not be sought for similar reasons and for a cradle Catholic preparing for Confirmation, even in a very early stage of that preparation.

    (My own godfather is a year younger than me, we were in the same class at the Lycée and we used to be next-door neighbours too.)

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  9. Discipula says:

    My mother once told me that she had thought of asking Archbishop Sheen to be my godfather, as he was in the state around that time and she had no friends in the area (my parents were in the Navy). I wish she had, what a story that would have made! In the end she chose two of her sisters to act as witnesses, not knowing what else to do. Her family was nominally Catholic at best then, and except for my grandparents, have since long left the faith. By the time my younger siblings were baptized my parents had given up on choosing practicing Catholics as they knew so few good ones. The areas we were stationed in were often desolate wastelands, as far as religion went. My youngest brother’s godparents being the exception. I would not be surprised at all to hear someday that his godmother was declared a saint. It’s almost as if she has a direct line to God who delights in granting miracles just because she asks for help. I’ll never forget the time during my father’s retirement a massive storm was expected for the area (it covered nearly the entire state). Everyone was “battening the hatches,” but not us. We were expecting a crowd and there was no way that everyone would fit in our tiny quarters. There was my brother’s godmother, chaplet in hand, praying non-stop the entire afternoon. That night an utterly baffled weatherman showed the day’s radar showing where the storm was split neatly in half without cause or explanation. He said it was like a hand had divided it and protected this one area. The rest of the state got socked. Faith like that is a gift to the world.

  10. Mightnotbeachristiantou says:

    I have a question:
    How do I find that answer?
    I was baptized later at about age 7-8.
    So I know the church. But who do I ask for the information?

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