Godparents Gone

A second Italian diocese has put godparents on temporary leave. From the original article cited at the link:

The presence of these people in these roles in the sacraments of baptism and confirmation often “is a kind of formal fulfillment in which the dimension of faith is hardly visible.”

That’s not far afield from the role in much of Christian history, at least according to this piece:

(T)heologians suggest the term originated around the time that infant baptism came into practice—but it is rooted in cultural tradition. Historically, it held more social weight than spiritual, says Bernadette Sweetman, a postdoctoral researcher in adult religious education and faith development at Dublin City University. The role of godparent carried a certain prestige. It was a sign one was considered a good friend of the parents or a well-connected member of the community.

And the appointment could be strategic. Throughout history, in Central American countries, “it was common to ask your rival or enemy to be godparent in order to put an end to a feud,” Sweetman says. “Similarly, in Europe, business partners were asked to be godparents to ensure a good working relationship or [so] they wouldn’t embezzle [from] you. Also, it was common that a craftsman or merchant would act as godparent and was expected to teach the boy the trade or offer an apprenticeship.”

Of course, bishops can do as they wish. I don’t find this decree particularly helpful, given the witness of scholars that the spiritual role of godparent has waxed and waned over the centuries. It strikes me that parents who are oriented to the religious and/or spiritual will find like-minded people to serve a child. And those who seek relatives might have a closer-knit family as a result.

I suppose it’s possible a person asked to be a godparent might take the church element more seriously as a result. Abolishing the role might be seen as insulting to families well-connected to the faith and even otherwise. Another reason to dismiss the Church. Nobody asked me, but I think bishops have better things to do with their time.

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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4 Responses to Godparents Gone

  1. Devin Rice says:

    Another possibility is that the development might be welcomed by the laity. I know a few recent parents who are mulling over the decision. Rules they have to follow plus family issues, who gets picked and who doesn’t. A few couples may relish not having stir up a hornets wasp in their families.

    • Todd says:

      You might be right, Devin. On the other hand, I suppose if a family insisted on the “secular godparent” role, they could just name the person as such, invite them to the liturgy and party, and rake in the largesse from the affair. It’s not like anybody ever checks the baptismal record.

  2. Pingback: Being A Good Godparent Part 1 | Catholic Sensibility

  3. Pingback: Godparent Ban Again | Catholic Sensibility

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