The Godfather

On Sunday, I become a godparent for the first time, to the second child of a dear and long-time friend (a Catholic) and her husband. Those of you who know me might raise an eyebrow at this news because, yes, I’m not a Catholic. I’m a Christian only in name, and while my atheism is far less belligerent than it used to be (a mixture of greater tolerance and greater tiredness), I’m really not a booster for anything that promotes religion.

The Catholic church has some suggestions – well, okay, rules – about people becoming godparents. The candidate must:

  • “be appointed by the candidate for baptism, or by the parents or whoever stands in their place, or failing these, by the parish priest or the minister; to be appointed the person must be suitable for this role and have the intention of fulfilling it;” (Canon 874.1.1)
  • “be not less than sixteen years of age, unless a different age has been stipulated by the diocesan Bishop, or unless the parish priest or the minister considers that there is a just reason for an exception to be made;” (Canon 874.1.2)
  • “be a catholic who has been confirmed and has received the blessed Eucharist, and who lives a life of faith which befits the role to be undertaken;” (Canon 874.1.3)
  • “not labour under a canonical penalty, whether imposed or declared;” (Canon 874.1.4)
  • “not be either the father or the mother of the person to be baptised.” (Canon 874.1.5)
  • “a baptised person who belongs to a non-catholic ecclesial community may be admitted only in company with a catholic sponsor, and then simply as a witness to the baptism.” (Canon 874.2)

Oops. On the plus side, I don’t have any canonical penalties under which I labour, and I promise I’m not the father of the baby. And I haven’t been less than 16 for almost twenty years. I think Canon 874.1.3 is the one I fall foul of, and as a result I am very much aware of the hypocrisy of my acceptance of this particular honour.

Or is it perhaps not hypocritical, since I don’t believe in the institution to which I am showing a blasphemous lack of faith? In honesty, I don’t buy that for a second. Even though the mother and father are absolutely happy with me taking a secular approach to the position, the Church is the one who gets to impose the rules we are all choosing to follow and can reasonably expect us to respect them.

Whatever the moral issue is, I am thrilled to be able to offer some kind of support, advice, company and extra birthday presents to the little chap, deeply flattered to have been asked, and I will take my responsibilities as seriously as if I were a spiritual locus.

    • becky
    • February 19th, 2010

    You will be the most lovely godfather – edward is v lucky. See u on sunday x x

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