How Do I Decline the Invitation to be a Godparent?

(CNS photo/Darren Whiteside, Reuters)
(CNS photo/Darren Whiteside, Reuters)

Q: What if someone asked you if you would be his/her child’s godparent but you don’t feel as if you are either ready or you don’t want to take on that responsibility? What do you say or how should you go about it?

First of all, I commend you for taking the invitation seriously enough to discern your answer, rather than just saying yes out of obligation. A godparent plays a sacred role in the life of the baptized child and of his or her family. Serving as a godparent does not merely mean buying the child’s clothes and baptismal candle and smiling in the pictures on the day of baptism. Rather, in Church teaching, a godparent “helps the baptized person to lead a Christian life in keeping with baptism and to fulfill faithfully the obligations inherent in it” (Code of Canon Law, 872). Clearly, your own striving to lead a Christian life is crucial to your ability to be a supportive role model for another person.

Take time to reflect on why you are reluctant to serve. Are you conscious of a particular sinful aspect of your own life, especially any public deviation from Church teaching? If so, you might not be eligible to stand as a godparent at this time. Alternately, do you simply feel overwhelmed by the idea of serving as a lifelong example for a young person? Perhaps your humility shows that you take your faith seriously and actually makes you a better godparent than someone with no hesitation. A conversation with a spiritual advisor might help you to place your concerns in perspective. (And check out Busted Halo’s “Guidelines for Good Godparenting” infographic.)

If, after prayerful consideration, you decide that you cannot serve as a godparent, be gracious and honest in your response to the person who has asked you. Say that you are honored to be invited, but that you do not meet the requirements to be a godparent. In some cultures, declining an invitation to be the godparent of a child is a serious social affront. You may be able to soften its impact by acknowledging that you do not meet the requirements of the Church.

Neela Kale is a writer and catechetical minister based in the Archdiocese of Portland. She served with the Incarnate Word Missionaries in Mexico and earned a Master of Divinity at the Jesuit School of Theology. Some of her best theological reflection happens on two wheels as she rides her bike around the hills of western Oregon.