Q. I was wondering whether you’re allowed to change your child’s godparents and, if so, how to go about it and have it be acceptable to the church. The situation is this: When we chose our daughter’s godparents, seven years ago, they were Catholic and went to church. But over the years, they stopped going to church, and I’m not even sure that they still consider themselves Catholic.
My daughter will soon be receiving her first Communion, and she has begun to ask questions about her godparents. I would like to be able to tell her that they are faithful religious people who are setting a good example for her, but I can’t honestly say that. It’s further complicated by the fact that my son’s godparents are very strong Catholics, and my daughter wants to know why her own godparents are not like his. Any advice as to what I might do? (Gering,Neb.)
A. You are not allowed to change your daughter’s godparents. They are the ones who served as official witnesses to her baptism and the ones who, at the time, along with the parents, asked to have the child baptized into the church. Their names are inscribed on your daughter’s baptismal certificate and in the parish’s baptismal registry, and history cannot be undone.
However, you understand correctly the proper role of godparents, which is to assure the religious and spiritual development of the child, particularly if anything should happen to the parents, and there are some options.
You could ask someone else to step into that role, perhaps a trusted friend or family member who might serve as an example of religious fidelity and help guide your daughter’s growth as a Catholic.
Also, in a few years, your daughter will receive the sacrament of confirmation, and although the church’s Code of Canon Law in No. 893.2 says that it is “desirable” to have the same sponsor as at baptism, it is not required.
So you could pick someone else as the confirmation sponsor. That new person would then become responsible for monitoring your daughter’s religious development and, in many parishes, would attend confirmation preparation classes with your daughter.
Q. Many years ago, when I was in my 20s, a girl I was dating became pregnant by me. She then had an abortion. Not only did I not try to stop her, but I helped to pay for the abortion. I have confessed this and have received forgiveness. Just recently, I have begun praying for the soul of that aborted child.
I was wondering whether I could schedule a Mass intention in my church for the child. (I could make up a generic name like “Jackie” since we didn’t know the child’s gender, and the Mass intention could be in that name.) I still feel guilty and would like to do as much as I can for that child’s soul. (Columbia,S.C.)
A. What you describe is not uncommon: Parents of an aborted child years later feel regret and remorse. As to having a Mass for the child, I feel quite confident that the child is in heaven and needs no prayers.
The child, of course, bore no responsibility for his or her own death, and theVaticanannounced in 2007 that there are reasonable grounds to believe that an infant who dies before being baptized will be brought by God to heaven.
What you might do instead is to have the Mass offered for “a special intention” and have that intention be for the mother, that she will have repented for the sin and, if a Catholic, have sought forgiveness through confession; and next, for our nation, that the scourge of abortion will be lifted from us. (With respect to the hundreds of tiny children who are aborted each day, I believe that historians a century from now will say — as they now say of the rise of Hitler in Nazi Germany — “How could a civilized nation have let that happen?”)
Questions may be sent to Father Kenneth Doyle at email@example.com and40 Hopewell St.,Albany,NY12208.