Hey, Father! Can a godparent be replaced?

Can a godparent be replaced? My sibling is godparent to two of my children and has done something terrible to me and my family and we no longer have a relationship and wondered if it is possible to make a change?

– Anonymous in our diocese

The question that you pose is one that priests and deacons encounter from time to time. Accepting the duty of being a godparent for someone being baptized is a special responsibility. While some in society may see this as just an honor given to a family member or friend, the Catholic Church has always understood this responsibility as both a sacred trust and relationship. A godparent is meant to accompany and assist the person being baptized as they grow in their faith and seek to answer the call of discipleship. Concerning children, parents are their primary teachers in the ways of faith, but godparents are called to assist them and, if necessary, fulfill that role should parents not be able to do so.

To your question, there is no mechanism in Canon Law for a godparent to be changed after baptism. First, as already mentioned concerning being a godparent, the Catholic Church would hope that those who accept this sacred trust would live up to the responsibility that comes with it, either from the beginning or later through a personal conversion. Second, from a practical standpoint, godparents also serve as witnesses to the actual reception of baptism and cannot be substituted for someone else.

I pray that your family will know the grace of reconciliation and that your sibling will faithfully fulfill the responsibility your sibling took on at your children’s baptism. God bless you and yours.

Father Christopher House, S.T.L., J.C.L. is pastor at Christ the King parish in Springfield and is the Vicar Judicial and Director of the Department for Canonical and Pastoral Services for the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois