Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Hands off the baby?

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This should be filed under either "Things I should know" or "Things they didn't teach in seminary." Today, I came across the passage on baptismal sponsors (or "godparents") in Donald Attwater's Catholic Dictionary. One detail took me by surprise. At one point, the entry notes:

For validity sponsors must be Catholics over seven, have the intention of undertaking the office, and touch the person in the act of baptism or confirmation.


Anonymous said...

For validity of the baptism???? I'd like to see the documentation on that. Is any provided?

Fr Timothy Matkin said...

No. Here, it means "for a person to be validly considered a sponsor."

Anonymous said...

Ah. Interesting use of the term "validity". In any event, it seems that Atwater's book dates to the 1930s or 1940s, and what you have quoted here is in general agreement with the 1911 [Roman] Catholic Encyclopedia article on Baptism

According to the RC canon law then in force, sponsorship of a candidate for baptism created an impediment to marriage between the sponsor and the one baptized, so it would seem whether or not a sponsor was in fact "valid" would be a matter of some importance. However, none of this is mentioned in the current (1983) RC Code of Canon Law, in either the section on baptismal sponsors or on impediments to marriage, nor, for that matter, in the new RC Catechism.

Fr Timothy Matkin said...

Very interesting, thank you Fr. Gregg. The practice certainly gives the bond between godparent and child a heightened intensity, almost a kind of spiritual adoption. I guess that's also why you were not supposed to have more than one godparent of the same sex.

Courageous Grace said...

How interesting. I knew about the first two but didn't know about the touching part.

Oh, this reminds me...Sean and I need to choose godparents for George. I know he's not arrived yet but he will soon and Easter is going to be here sooner than I realize and that's not a decision we want to leave till last minute.

Anonymous said...

The Anglican tradition, at least since 1662, has been three godparents, two of the same sex as the child, one of the opposite sex. Earlier Prayer Books aren't specific but refer to Godfathers and Godmothers in the plural. BTW, the 1549 BCP has this after the water: "Then the Godfathers and Godmothers shall take and lay theyr handes upon the childe, and the minister shall put upon him his white vesture, commonly called the Crisome."