Dear Miriam,

I hope you might be able to advise me on a personal issue. We are planning to get our baby boy christened this summer.

I have asked my sister to be godmother. As our little boy’s auntie, she is absolutely mad about him, so she is an obvious choice.

But she is also a practising Catholic and as a primary school teacher, is very involved in the local church, preparing her students for first confession, communion etc. So she ticks all the boxes, so to speak.

My husband wants to ask his best friend to be godfather. I really like him and I think he would be a great role model for our little boy, but he is from a different faith (though still Christian based). I’m not sure if he practices anymore though.

Faith is a very personal thing and I have no issue at all with whether people choose to practice it or not. But I’m pretty sure that in a Catholic baptism, the godparents have to be baptised Catholics themselves.

My husband says we will probably “get away with it” as there will be a few different families having babies christened at the same time, and the priest is hardly going to check if his friend is Catholic or not.

Maybe he is right and we would be able to wing it; but I wouldn’t feel right about lying.

You probably think I’m a right Holy Joe. I’m not really, but at the same time, I’m not comfortable with what my husband is proposing.

I know that he really wants to ask his friend though to be godfather. What do you think we should do?

New Mom

Dear New Mom,

Thanks for your email. I’m afraid that I am far from an expert on anything ecclesiastical; but we had a similar situation in our own family circle before, so I can share a little bit of advice from a personal perspective.

While traditionally we are used to having two godparents, for a Catholic baptism, you actually only need to have one.

It seems that your sister fits the bill in terms of what you want, as well as fulfilling the criteria set by the Catholic church e.g. having completed Christian initiation (baptism, communion and confirmation), practising her faith etc.

With regards your husband’s friend, however, while he might not technically be allowed to stand as a godparent under the rules of the Catholic Church.

As you seem to suggest that he is a baptised member of a different Christian faith, he might be able to participate in the ceremony and be entered in the baptism register as what is called a Christian “witness”.

I definitely don’t have the expertise to get into the finer points of Canon Law here; so I think the best thing would be for you and your husband to speak to your parish priest about your situation, and explore if the “witness” role is a happy medium for all parties if your husband’s friend fulfils the criteria.

I would hope that the priest would appreciate your honesty and work with you to explore a possible solution, if it can be facilitated. I’m sure you would also feel much more at ease too.

If, for whatever reason, your husband’s friend can’t play an official role in the church service, however, you could look at perhaps having another ceremony afterwards, like an unofficial naming ceremony, that recognises him as an honorary godfather (or whatever term you wish to use).

I’m sure that your husband has good reasons for picking this friend for such an important role and there are many ways to involve him in your son’s life as he grows up.

I wish you all a lovely day and the very best of luck.

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