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My wife and I (both Catholic) have been asked to serve as godparents at our niece's baptism. The child's parents are fully aware of our strong commitment to the Catholic faith. I've received conflicting advice, and I wonder if anyone here can point to clear teaching on whether or not it is licit for us to serve as godparents at a baptism in an Anglican church.

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    According to Catholic rules or Anglican rules? – curiousdannii Mar 28 '18 at 16:20
  • Catholic rules. Thanks for the clarifying question. – David Carson Kidd Mar 28 '18 at 19:13
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    After reading the link in Elemtilas' answer, let me suggest that you actually need to know the Anglican rules. If their rules support the idea that as godparents you'll be responsible for the religious upbringing of an Anglican child, then they'll have similar rules. If they're more liberal, they'll be happy to accomodate godparents of other religious persuasions. The Catholic rules do not appear to limit you (makes sense, not their church), but what do the Anglican rules say? – JBH Mar 28 '18 at 19:48
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It would seem so:

  1. It is the Catholic understanding that godparents, in a liturgical and canonical sense, should themselves be members of the Church or ecclesial Community in which the baptism is being celebrated. They do not merely undertake a responsibility for the Christian education of the person being baptized (or confirmed) as a relation or friend; they are also there as representatives of a community of faith, standing as guarantees of the candidate's faith and desire for ecclesial communion.

    (a). However, based on the common baptism and because of ties of blood or friendship, a baptized person who belongs to another ecclesial Community may be admitted as a witness to the baptism, but only together with a Catholic godparent.107 A Catholic may do the same for a person being baptized in another ecclesial Community.

  • Thanks for this. It looks to me like 98a allows for a Catholic to stand as a Christian witness (i.e. to stand alongside an Anglican godparent, just as an non-Catholic can serve alongside at least one other Catholic godparent). But can we serve as the sole godparents? It looks to me like we can't (though I hope I'm wrong!). – David Carson Kidd Mar 28 '18 at 16:10
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    Right now this is just a link, and links can die. Can you quote some of the relevant text? – Matt Gutting Mar 28 '18 at 17:07
  • That was a fascinating read. Here's what I took from it: At a Catholic baptism, at least one godparent must be Catholic. Makes sense since the purpose of a godparent is to ensure religious training if the parents die. However, despite some wording, this is a Catholic rule for Catholic baptisms. We really need to know the Anglican rules. – JBH Mar 28 '18 at 19:46
  • This may make a distinction between a godparent and "a witness to the baptism". Catholics can be "witnesses" in other ecclesial communities; does that mean they can be godparents? – Andrew Leach Mar 29 '18 at 13:42
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While elemtilas' answer indicates that Catholics might not be barred from being godparents in other ecclesial communities, as far as the Church of England is concerned there may be difficulties and the CofE parish priest must be consulted. Even then, it's not really clear whether the Catholic Church makes a distinction between witnesses to the baptism and godparents: if there is a distinction, then what follows here about Anglican rules is moot.

Canon B23 : Of godparents and sponsors
...
4. No person shall be admitted to be a sponsor or godparent who has not been baptized and confirmed. Nevertheless the minister shall have power to dispense with the requirement of confirmation in any case in which in his judgement need so requires.

(My emphasis)

Confirmation here is confirmation according to the rites of the Church of England. That would cause problems for Catholics. The requirement for Anglican confirmation can be relaxed if the minister (that is, the parish priest of the Anglican parish in which the baptism is celebrated) agrees. The Church of England accepts Roman Catholic baptism, so if the requirement for confirmation is relaxed then Anglican canon law would allow Catholics to be godparents.

  • Are you sure confirmation here means according to the Church of England? Since baptism does not necessarily mean baptism according to the C of E it does not seem to follow from the text of B23 that confirmation does. There is also a service of reception for people confirmed in another denomination who wish formally to convert, though I think it is ok to do it informally. You may be right but I just wonder if you are sure? I have not heard of Catholics who change being reconfirmed in C of E but rather their confirmation accepted, same with Lutherans. – davidlol Mar 29 '18 at 22:03
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    As a former churchwarden, I am sure. The canons of any Church refer only to their own ceremonies. Baptism is accepted as a universal rite where it is acceptably Trinitarian (some aren't, similarly to RC determination and practice). – Andrew Leach Mar 29 '18 at 23:44
  • @David Carson King Best thing to do would be to copy out the relevant RCC & CoE documents; show them first to your own (Catholic) pastor to make sure you understand that right, then talk to the relevant (Anglican) pastor and make sure everything is copacetic at that end. If the RCC priest objects from some personal bias, then I'd say it's up to you. If the CoE priest objects for any reason, then, perhaps talk with your cousin and explain the objections but of course go and celebrate the initiation of a new baby into the Body of Christ all the same! – elemtilas Mar 30 '18 at 1:09
  • @AndrewLeach "The canons of any Church refer only to their own ceremonies." That is just wrong. When setting requirements this often true, but when speaking of validly recieved sacraments it is wrong. E.g. Eastern Orthodox conformation is accepted by the Catholic Church. We need to know if the CoE accepts Catholic confirmation. – K-HB Mar 17 at 13:11
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No. It'd be communicatio in sacris, which is a sin.

§1. It is unlawful for the faithful to assist in any active manner, or to take part in the sacred services of non-Catholics.

§2. At funerals of non-Catholics, at their marriages, and similar solemnities, provided there is no danger of perversion or scandal, passive or merely material presence on account of a civil office or for the purpose of showing respect to a person may be tolerated for a grave reason. (Canon 1258, CIC 1917)

  • It's probably reasonable to believe that communicatio in sacris is a sin, but your quote from the Code of Canon Law doesn't demonstrate that it is - merely that it's forbidden by canon law. (And you're apparently quoting from the 1917 Code of Canon Law, which is no longer in effect in the Catholic Church.) – Matt Gutting Apr 6 '18 at 15:11
  • >755.3. It is never licit act as a godparent whether per se or by proxy in the Baptism of heretics (B.H. Merkelbach, Summa Theologiae Moralis Vol I, Desclée 1930, p. 585. It lists several decrees of the Holy Office). – José del Fuego Apr 6 '18 at 22:32
  • You're still speaking of legalities (liceity in this case) and not of sin. – Matt Gutting Apr 6 '18 at 22:55
  • Quite sorry, I didn't stress I was quoting from a standard manual of Moral Theology. This is taken from Article I, "Of Communication with infidels and heretics", from Question 2, "Of Sins indirectly opposed [to Divine Faith]" - liceity here is taken in a moral sense. Number 754 specifies that "participation in their sacred ceremonies, for example public worship (...) is per se and regulariter gravely illicit for the faithful, both from natural and ecclesiastical law". Which means it's a sin. – José del Fuego Apr 7 '18 at 12:18
  • @JosédelFuego Most important: You quote from outdatet material. The CIC/1917 was superseded by CIC/1983. The Moral Theology book is dated before the fundamental turn of Catholic theology of ecumenism in Vatican II. – K-HB Mar 17 at 13:06

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