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Patrick Duggan wrote:

Dear AskACatholic,

I have recently arrived at a conflicting moment in my life as a Catholic. Namely, I have found the issue to be the matter of my Godfather and specifically his religious legitimacy and spiritual competence (or rather the lack of).

Not only has my Godfather ignored and flouted the sacred vows which he took on the day of my Baptism, but has also acted in a way unbefitting of a Catholic by openly denouncing the Holy Church and associating with those who may seek to do harm unto Her.

  • I accept that the sacrament of Baptism may be performed once and only once, but I wish to know whether or not it is possible to unofficially adopt a more Catholic, and therefore, more appropriate Godfather in his place?
  • Also, how far may I religiously and spiritually distance myself from him in favor of this new candidate?

I do accept that pushing someone away from the faith is not in accordance with the love of Christ but given the fact that I am 15 and he 50 and well-set in his ways, I do wish for assistance in this field.

Kind Regards and Peace Be With You,

Patrick Duggan

  { If my current Godfather is not doing a good job can I unofficially adopt a better Godfather? }

Eric replied:

Hi, Patrick —

What a pleasure to hear a 15-year-old so zealous for the Faith!

God children have no obligations toward their godparents per se. If your parents were deceased and you were straying from the faith and your godfather was trying to set you on the right path, then perhaps you'd have an obligation to listen, but as it is, you definitely have no obligation by virtue of the godparent relationship to listen to someone who is a bad example. (You may have an obligation by virtue of some other relationship, say if he were now your legal guardian, but certainly no obligation to do something contrary to the faith.) You are free to choose as you see fit an unofficial godparent or mentor or spiritual father who lives out the faith.

Distancing yourself from someone who is a bad influence on you (or is harming you) is not being uncharitable. You can love him and pray for him from a distance. How much you should distance yourself is a judgment call and I don't have all the details. It depends on his relationship with you apart from being your godfather. The safe thing to do is to distance yourself enough to prevent harm to yourself and provide the necessary buffer without going further than that.

I guess I do have some questions though.

  • Why does the godfather relationship play such an important role in this situation?

The purpose of a godfather is to help[] the baptized person to lead a Christian life in keeping with baptism and to fulfill faithfully the obligations inherent in it. (Canon 872, Code of Canon Law).

I believe that's the extent of what canon law says about the role of a godparent. If someone is not doing that it's unclear why their role as godparent is relevant to the situation.

  • Are your parents (or godfather) wielding this relationship over you to try to control you?
    e.g. You have to listen to me because I'm your godfather?

That's not what being a godfather is all about. There is no Catholic reason to obey or submit to an unfaithful godparent (as a godparent).

Be strong in the faith and carry on boldly in Christ!!

Eric

Mike replied:

Hi, Patrick —

In addition to Eric's fine answer, I thought you may find this posting interesting.

It is a comparable web posting that our previous priest-helper, Fr. Jonathan added his views to at the end.

Hi, Mike —

There was a ruling by Rome that Rachel may find helpful.

In 1984, the Congregation for Worship and the Discipline of Sacraments Issued a ruling [Prot. No. 1031/84, October 20, 1984] stating,

If a sponsor dies or the parents are angry with the sponsor, the parents may request that the names of substitute godparents be added to the baptismal records. It is evident that it is impossible to replace a sponsor, who was physically present at the time of Baptism for the presentation of the candidate or was present through a proxy. However, another person can be named to fulfill the duties of the sponsor. This may be done by the diocesan bishop, if he judges it opportune.”

Others have interpreted based on this that:

“It seems reasonable that this could also be done by the pastor. However, the names of the sponsors at the Baptism must not be removed from the Baptismal register.”

I would argue, based on this reference that they might actually be able to do what they asked; namely, add to the record for the peace of their family.

Fr. Jonathan

  • How would your parents or whoever baptized you feel about this?

You said:

  • . . . it is possible to unofficially adopt a more Catholic, and therefore, more appropriate Godfather in his place?

Sure!

Talk to your local pastor about faithful Catholics in the parish that may be able to help out in:

  • being good Catholic role models for you, and
  • who are open to giving you good advice.

Hope this helps,

Mike

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