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Fatherly Advice: Can You Select a Godparent Who Is Divorced?

A listener named Laurie asks Father Dave a question of faith about baptism. She asks, “Can an individual who is a faithfully practicing Catholic be a godparent if they have recently become divorced due to their spouse cheating on them? This individual has not been in any other relationships and currently remains single since the divorce.” Laurie notes that this person is currently going through the annulment process.

Father Dave begins unpacking the different elements of Laurie’s question. He says, “It doesn’t really matter the cause [of the divorce], like you said, it’s somebody whose spouse was cheating on them. That’s neither here nor there when it comes to this situation, and as a matter of fact, in some sense, so is the fact that she’s divorced. Having a civil divorce certificate does not bar you from any Catholic participation [in a child’s baptism].”

LISTEN: Can Divorced Catholics Receive the Eucharist?

“You did add some important information that does help me answer this question more particularly: ‘’This individual has not been in any other relationships, and currently remains single since the divorce.’ That’s really the key right there,” Father Dave continues. “The issue is not with the divorce itself, the issue is with someone who’s divorced and remarried or is even, as you indicated, in some other physical or sexual romantic relationship. Essentially, the Church doesn’t recognize the power of the state to dissolve the bond of the marriage. The state thinks they do have that power. We don’t think that because we believe [marriage] is sacramentally entered into and only God has the power [to annul].” 

He says, “According to the teaching of the Church, there should not be a problem with a person in the situation that you described being a godparent,” though he can’t guarantee a positive response at every local church.

Father Dave expands on the larger concept of picking qualified godparents. “We tend to think very linearly in our world, and even in the Church, that if you do this step, and then boom, you’re cleared…in some cases that may be appropriate. I don’t believe it works that way in all cases,” he says. “God is working outside of time. He is working on people’s souls, and their awareness of their own sin and situation in a nonlinear way. If somebody is given this honor and privilege, and the parents tell them, ‘We’re putting a great deal of trust in you to be a godparent and expect you to live up to what that call is,’ in some cases, that may just be what gets the person off the fence [in rectifying their sin].”

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Krista echoes this in her own experience choosing godparents for her young daughter. She says, “Carmen’s godfather is a friend of ours from college, and it’s just really wonderful to see him live into this role that I think he was surprised to have.”

Father Dave responds, “If we’re thinking totally literally and say, ‘Who do I know that is already the perfect practicing Catholic?’ That’s one approach that could work. I’m not saying that you should say, ‘Let me find my least-practicing Catholic friend and make them a godparent just so that stirs up their faith.’ No, but I’m saying it’s not only those two poles. Most of us humans fall somewhere in between, and let’s be open to how God works on that spectrum.”