You’ll experience plenty of firsts bringing a child into the world. Their first steps. Their first words. And, of course, their first sacrament: Baptism — which signals the beginning of their relationship with God.
Of course, when it comes to launching your child’s journey with God through Baptism, a godparent plays an important role — and selecting the right one will be one of the most important decisions you make.
You likely know there are requirements, but what are the Catholic rules for being a godparent ? Who can be godparents? And how do you choose the right person? We answer these and other commonly asked questions in our guide to help parents choose the perfect godparent for their child.
The Code of Canon Law (cc. 872-872)
Catholic rules for godparents are outlined in the Code of Canon Law, stating:
“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.”
This offers an overview of a godparent’s role as a Catholic faith sponsor, but Canon Law doesn’t stop there. You’ll also need to consider the requirements set forth by the Catholic church for being a godparent.
Basic Requirements to Consider When Choosing a Godparent
When choosing who may make a good godmother or godfather, begin by thinking about your family members and close friends who are devout Catholics, and keep in mind these basic requirements:
- The godparent must be at least 16 years old.
- The godparent must be a baptized, practicing Catholic.
- A baptized non-Catholic may serve as a witness but cannot be a sponsor.
- The godparent may not be a parent of the child.
Common Questions About Selecting a Godparent
How many godparents should a child have?
You may select one or two godparents for your child. Many families select two, a godfather and godmother, but this isn’t required. The child may have both a male and female sponsor, as long as one is a devout Catholics. This may be beneficial, as they can share the role of helping with your child’s faith journey.
If you choose to have two godparents, they may not be of the same gender.
Do godfathers and godmothers have different requirements?
Godfather requirements and godmother requirements are the same. Remember, if you choose two godparents, they must be a man and a woman. Aside from that, they share the same eligibility requirements laid out in Canon Law.
Do godparents have to be married?
You may choose godparents that are not married. As long as you select one female and one male, and follow the other requirements for the Catholic faith, you may select whomever you’d like.
It can be beneficial to choose a married couple if they both serve the Lord faithfully, but the priority is to choose godparents who will best help your child with their own faith.
Can a relative be a godparent?
Relatives such as cousins, aunts, and uncles or even siblings often make great godparents. Your child will likely have a close relationship with these people, and bringing the faith element into that relationship will only help strengthen their bond with each other and Christ.
Can a non-Catholic serve as a godparent?
Canon Law states that the sponsor must be a faithful Catholic. This means that a non-Catholic person cannot serve as a sponsor. If you select a non-Catholic person as a godparent, that person must be baptized, and he or she can only participate as a witness. You must choose a Catholic sponsor in addition to this person.
Remember, the most important role of the godparent is to help your child learn and grow in the Catholic faith. In order to lead your child, the godparent must be a practicing Catholic with a deep connection to the church.
Can the same people be godparents to multiple children in the same family?
There is no rule that a godparent can only be responsible for one godchild. However, the role requires being active in your child’s life and faith. You should consider this when choosing to determine if the person will be able to dedicate him or herself to more than one child’s Catholic journey.
Many families elect to have different godparents for each of their children for this reason. The last thing you want to do is overextend someone to the point that they are unable to truly help your child become closer to Christ.
Do godparents have a legal obligation?
A common misconception about godparents is that they become caregivers if the parents pass away. While you can certainly designate your child’s godparents as guardians, the role is spiritual, not legal.
Can you change godparents?
Once a godmother and godfather are chosen, they’re godparents for life. The role changes as your child matures as a person and a Catholic, but it’s always important to consider people who can make a lifelong commitment. When doing so, prioritize the people in your life who are devout Catholics over superficial requirements, such as proximity. In our modern world, it’s easier to communicate over long distances, and it’s more important to select a godparent who will be there for your child spiritually.
Make the Choice That’s Right for Your Family
Choosing a godmother or godfather for your child is a personal decision. At the end of the day, you’ll want someone you and your child are comfortable with. A godparent will be there not only for your child's firsts, but for every step in their lifelong journey with faith.
Use this guide to follow the requirements set forth by the Catholic church, to help you choose the right person for your child and family.