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I was looking through Catholic baptismal records, while doing genealogy, when I realized that I didn't know what the purpose of godparents is. What is their purpose? Why are they recorded? Are the godparents held accountable for anything?

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3 Answers 3

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A good explanatation is given in "The Role of Godparents" by Fr. William Saunders

As per Code of Canon Law 872 - 874 the rules are as below:

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.

So the primary purpose is to take care of the Catholic faith formation, and it does not hold them accountable to taking care of the child in the future.

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By becoming a godparent you promise to raise these children if the natural parents are unable to do so because of death or incapacitating illness, or if the parents abandon the children.

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Good answer, but can you add a reference? – El'endia Starman May 15 '12 at 3:53
I have noticed that the godfather and godmother are usually not married. So who gets selected as the caretaker? Do they share responsibility? Who makes the choice? The church, or do they settle it themselves? – user23 May 15 '12 at 3:57
I don't believe this answer is correct. Catholic godparents do not make that promise, Catholic canon law doesn't require that commitment, and it's not universal in statute law either (other family members would come first). A reference for this is required. – Andrew Leach May 15 '12 at 7:11
@AndrewLeach, I suspect that Jay may not have noticed the 'catholicism' tag (I didn't at first). – Benjol May 15 '12 at 10:12
Okay, I'll take a step back. What I wrote is the definition of "godparent" that I learned growing up. Before making the above post I did a quick Google search on "godparent Catholic" or something like that and the first page I found seemed to agree with that, so I went ahead and posted. But after seeing the comments, I checked more references and I see that the Catholic church clearly has a different definition. So ... I retract my answer. – Jay May 16 '12 at 2:54

In times of old, it was not uncommon for the parents of a child to die, leaving no relatives behind. In such a case, who would get the child? Perhaps the church, if parents where part of it, or the child would be on its own. Thus, I think god parenting came out of need for the child. It is called compassion.

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Welcome! Sadly, this answer doesn't cite any sources, which makes it not well suited for this site: please take a minute to learn how this site is different from others, and review how to write a good, supported answer. – Nathaniel Aug 4 at 12:46

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