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casheroo's avatar

Why does a Godparent need to be married in the Catholic Church?

Asked by casheroo (18021 points ) April 13th, 2009

This question has really been bothering me.

My husband was chosen to be the Godfather of our niece, I’m not the Godmother. We weren’t married when he was chosen. We’ve since been married, and we’re just waiting for the baptism of our niece.
Well, we were infomed that because we were not married in a catholic church, that my husband cannot be the Godfather.
I don’t understand this. Do they mean that if I were the Godmother, we’d have to be married in the church?
Also, this may be silly..but does getting married in a catholic church just mean we didn’t have a catholic priest sign our marriage certificate?
Why are they so strict as to who can be a godparent?
My husband says I’m taking it too personally, which of course I am, but I feel it’s an attack on my marriage. I don’t like the fact that people seem to view my marriage as invalid, just because a priest didn’t marry us, and because we didn’t take those classes. I think it also upsets me because now it makes sense why my husbands family didn’t really acknowledge our marriage…other than one Aunt giving us a nativity set as a wedding gift. we got married in august….i’m not religious at all…it will go down in history as the weirdest wedding gift ever

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38 Answers

MrKnowItAll's avatar

It’s what separates us from the animals. Mindless superstition and pointless ritual.

MrItty's avatar

You were “informed” by whom?

Neither my godparents nor any of my siblings’ goddparents were married to each other, Catholic church or no.

kevbo's avatar

They’ve got all kinds of arcane rules about sacramental stuff. My friend who’s getting married next month couldn’t have an outdoor Catholic wedding, but when they found out her fiance was baptized Eastern Orthodox then somehow that made it okay for them to have an outdoor ceremony coupled with a private church ceremony. Something like that. Anyway, it was very strange.

casheroo's avatar

@MrItty No, the fact that my husband is married NOT in a catholic church is what is stopping him. He doesn’t have to be married to the Godmother..

Judi's avatar

I am not Catholic, but I will try to answer as best I can. Catholics take the marriage vows very seriously. They expect the couple to both be committed to their faith and promise to raise their children in the faith. At a Catholic ceremony you vow to do that. Marriage in the Catholic church is a Sacrament and so without the priest blessing is probably not even considered valid. If you didn’t have a Catholic ceremony, then they question your commitment to the faith.
A God parent vows to be responsible to bring the child up in the faith if anything happens to the parents or if the parents neglect their responsibility. If someone is not willing to make the sacred commitment within the sacrament of marriage then their ability to teach the sacraments to the child would be in question.

MrItty's avatar

As for what the mindset is, you have to realize that “marriage” has two very different, if related, definitions.

One is a sacriment among the religious folks who see it as a sacred covenenat between the people involved and the deity they worship.

The other is a legal arrangement, an agreement between two people and the government.

The folks who define “marriage” the first way don’t see it as “real” if their particular deity wasn’t involved.

Poser's avatar

Well, since Godparents are a Catholic tradition, I would think that they ought to be able to dictate the requirements necessary for being one. Also, for a marriage to be considered a “Catholic” one, there are certain requirements. It seems kind of selfish of you to denounce their traditions and then be upset that they don’t accept you anyway.

Facade's avatar

I’ve never heard of that “rule.”

elijah's avatar

By choosing to have a child baptised in a catholic church, they are agreeing to the laws of the church. The church has a right to make the rules. The reason you baptize a child it to say you agree to raise the child according to the church’s beliefs, and that includes their belief of marriages being performed by a priest. The godparents are supposed to be role models of the church’s standards.
I don’t think it should make a difference, but I am not the catholic church. The baby’s parents have to decide what’s more important to them- choosing the best possible role models for their kid or keeping the church happy.

MrItty's avatar

@casheroo – the role of a Godparent is to bring up the child the “right” (ie, as a good dogma-obeying Catholic) way, in the event the parents become unavailable. Your husband has shown he doesn’t necessarily care about the Catholic dogmatic way by marrying a non-Catholic in a non-Catholic religious ceremony. Therefore, he is not qualified to raise the child they way a Godparent is “supposed” to.

casheroo's avatar

@Poser When did I “denounce their traditions”? By not getting married in a church? I would hope that they’d recognize my marriage, just because I didn’t get married in their church. I think my issue has more to do with respect.

And yes, I know they can make their own rules, I’m just questioning why it’s such a strict one. I wonder why that haven’t relaxed on it, I know they ease up on some things sometimes

squirbel's avatar

Godparents is a Catholic tradition, that has been adopted by the general public. So of course they have the right to say what goes and what doesn’t – especially because they began the tradition.

casheroo's avatar

@MrItty Thank you for your answer, makes sense. I still don’t like it lol

elijah's avatar

@casheroo most of the rules imposed by the church make people (who aren’t catholic) feel not respected and not good enough. Welcome to the club.

Poser's avatar

@casheroo By not following their guidelines for what is or isn’t a Catholic marriage, you denounced their traditions. If they say you must do X, Y, and Z before they will recognize your marriage, and you refuse to do that, what right do you have to demand that they recognize your marriage?

For the record, though, the Catholic church does recognize marriages made outside the church (I’m not speaking of a physical church building, I’m talking about the sacrament of marriage, as dictated by Catholic dogma). Otherwise, I wouldn’t have to go through a Catholic annulment for my previous marriage in order to marry a Catholic. They have rules for what is considered a valid (read: sanctified by God) marriage. I’m certain a google search will find those rules.

Poser's avatar

@casheroo Also, I don’t see how they are disrespecting your marriage by saying that it doesn’t fall within the guidelines of their organization.

jsc3791's avatar

I am Roman Catholic and know of countless sets of godparents who were not married in the Catholic Church. I think someone is using this as an excuse or was ill informed.

MrItty's avatar

I’m with @jsc3791. This certainly not an actual “rule”, which is why I asked my original question – you were informed by whom? It may have simply been the priest of that specific parish who told the parents “I’d rather not have him be godfather”. But I don’t believe for a second it was “Catholic law prevents him from being the godfather.”

casheroo's avatar

@jsc3791
http://www.stjosephbcs.org/documents/godparents.pdf
If married,m ustb e marriedi n the CatholicC hurch, regularly
attending masso on Sunday, and living their Faith. The two
godparents do not have to be married to one another.

That’s just one church’s site. Google “godparent must be married in catholic church” a ton of information comes up.

Judi's avatar

@casheroo ; In the Catholic tradition Marriage is a sacrament. getting married outside of the Church shows at least a lack of understanding of the importance of this sacred act and at worst a disrespect for the Church. (I am not Catholic, I am just trying to explain their reasoning)

casheroo's avatar

@MrItty My husband’s family are devout Catholics. His grandmother works in a rectory, and has her own room at one. She knows the rules, and I trust her information. Also, I don’t know why they wouldn’t want him to be the Godfather, he knows all the priests, he went to Catholic school up until high school, they all remember him and know his family well.

elijah's avatar

I believe casheroo is right, but I’m not catholic so I’m not completely sure. Why would the church contradict themselves by allowing the godparent to not follow catholic procedure? It doesn’t make sense. A godparent can’t enforce catholic values if they themself had shunned it.

MrItty's avatar

@casheroo The link you cites refers to “Canon 874”, claiming that it imposes this “rule”. A quick search reveals this is simply not true: http://www.catholicdoors.com/faq/qu28.htm#answer1

She knows what she wants the rules to be, and/or what the rules for her specific subset of Catholic affliates are.

casheroo's avatar

@MrItty Well, I guess it’s a rule in my area, and at multiple churches where I’m from, but not where you live.

fireside's avatar

My Godmother was not married in a Catholic church and is not Catholic.
And my Godfather was Catholic, but had been divorced by the time I was born.

Sounds strange to me, but maybe the rules changed since I was baptized 30 years ago.
Or maybe the relatives are making up rules?

MrItty's avatar

@casheroo that’s exactly correct. It is not a Catholic rule. It’s a rule of the subset of Catholics that include those you associate with.

fireside's avatar

@casheroo – Maybe point the Church or the relatives to the actual Vatican website:

Can. 872 Insofar as possible, a person to be baptized is to be given a sponsor who assists an adult in Christian initiation or together with the parents presents an infant for baptism. A sponsor also helps the baptized person to lead a Christian life in keeping with baptism and to fulfill faithfully the obligations inherent in it.

Can. 873 There is to be only one male sponsor or one female sponsor or one of each.

Can. 874 §1. To be permitted to take on the function of sponsor a person must:

1/ be designated by the one to be baptized, by the parents or the person who takes their place, or in their absence by the pastor or minister and have the aptitude and intention of fulfilling this function;

2/ have completed the sixteenth year of age, unless the diocesan bishop has established another age, or the pastor or minister has granted an exception for a just cause;

3/ be a Catholic who has been confirmed and has already received the most holy sacrament of the Eucharist and who leads a life of faith in keeping with the function to be taken on;

4/ not be bound by any canonical penalty legitimately imposed or declared;

5/ not be the father or mother of the one to be baptized.

§2. A baptized person who belongs to a non-Catholic ecclesial community is not to participate except together with a Catholic sponsor and then only as a witness of the baptism.

——
Well, I guess it depends on how you interpret the last line there. Hmm…
Guess my Godparents are both not valid?

Of course, I’m not Catholic anymore either.

galileogirl's avatar

Like Mritty said the sacrament of baptism represents bringing the child into the church and the godparent steps in for that purpose if the parents are unable to do so. The godparents don’t have to be married in the church but they need to be practising Catholics. I asked my stepmother to be my daughter’s godmother and a longtime friend, both practising Catholics.

Actually you don’t even need a church to have a baptism. On the night my daughter was born I asked her nurse to baptise her because she was having a very bad time and then the next day I asked the priest to do it again (belt & suspenders) and when she was 5 mos old we had the ceremony in the church w/godparents and the big party after. Most often in our baptisms in the church are parents, godparents and grandparents with everybody else just going to the party.

Almost every culture has a naming day ceremony between the age of 6 wks and 1 yr. Last year I went to a red egg party which is the Chinese version. It is basically a welcoming of the child into the community.

Poser's avatar

@elijahsuicide “most of the rules imposed by the church make people (who aren’t catholic) feel not respected and not good enough. Welcome to the club” I’m sorry that you’ve been made to feel that way. I’ve found the opposite to be true with the Catholic church. I started RCIA as a way to understand my SO’s religion, and am now thinking about converting. But through the entire class, I was always reassured that disagreement with Catholic dogma was nothing to be ashamed of. It was always presented simply as, “This is what we believe. If you don’t, hey, that’s cool.”

SuperMouse's avatar

@casheroo that doesn’t sound right to me. All three of my sons were baptized Catholic and two out of three of them have godparents who were not married in the Catholic church. Neither of my middle son’s godparents were married in the Church. As a matter of fact, only two of the six godparents are (or were at the time) practicing Catholics!

Darwin's avatar

I have found that it varies greatly from priest to priest and parish to parish, as well as from believer to believer.

My daughter’s birth parents were both Catholic and they asked that she be baptized in the Catholic church. It took us three different parishes but eventually we found a priest who was willing to baptize her. Her godparents were required to be Catholic, and they were. However, both were divorced at the time through civil divorces and the priest didn’t seem to mind. Their first marriages were church marriages. Their subsequent marriages were civil marriages. As far as the Catholic church was concerned, both were still married to their original first spouses.

But if we had been able to have her baptized at the cathedral (they said no, because my husband and I are not Catholic) then neither of the Godparents could have served, although both are members of and regular attendees at the Cathedral.

We have found that within our town some Catholic churches and priests are much more strict than others. Also bear in mind that churches are made up of people and thus are subject to all of the foibles and inconsistencies of the human mind.

bea2345's avatar

According to my baptism certificate, I had 7 godparents – yes, count ‘em, 7. One was a Seventh Day Adventist, one was Catholic. The baptism took place in an Anglican church.

fireside's avatar

@bea2345 – your parents must have thought you would need a lot of guidance : )

bea2345's avatar

@fireside I don’t think they were so wrong.

BBQsomeCows's avatar

God**ther is to set a CATHOLIC example for the child.

If you are not willing to be Catholic you cannot be a God**ther

Yetanotheruser's avatar

A Godparent is required to make a profession of faith for the one being baptized, assuming the child is to young to make such a profession. According to the New Catholic Dictionary article on the subject, the godparent(s) are also required to “to assume perpetual guardianship over the baptized and instruct them in the obligations of the Christian life, to insure fulfillment of baptismal vows,” if the parent(s) neglect or are otherwise unable to fulfill that duty..

zenvelo's avatar

The problem is with the local Diocese if they are holding strictly to this rule.

My son’s Godmother is not Catholic. His Godfather was divorced at the time. My daughter’s Godparents were married by a judge, they are both in their second marriage.

marytmiller's avatar

I am a church secretary who handles the Baptism paperwork for my parish. The requirement that a godparent, if married, be in a valid Catholic marriage, trips up a lot of people. Essentially there is a conflict between asking your favorite relative or friend to be a godparent and choosing a person who will be a spiritual role model for the child being baptized. The two do not necessarily go together. As a religious institution, the Catholic Church has the right to set the rules for who can be a godparent.
I think the Canon Law 874 has been in force for a long time (... leads a life of faith in keeping with the function to be taken on and is not bound by any canonical penalty legitimately imposed or declared) but some churches and dioceses choose to enforce it more strictly that others, which leads to confusion. When a couple marries, they have the choice to go through the rigorous preparation that the Church requires and be married in a church by a priest or deacon. If they choose not to do this, the marriage is not considered a Catholic marriage. This has repercussions on other things. So if you don’t choose to do things according to the Church’s guidelines, it will not allow you to participate fully in the life of the Church. And that means you can’t be a godparent.

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