Q. 1. What are the conditions regarding the admission of a Christian Witness to the baptism of a Catholic child?
A. 1. The Christian Witness, as the godparent / sponsor, must meet some conditions.
- He cannot be a Catholic.
(A ex-Catholic is still a Catholic, one who is under canonical penalty, having been excommunicated, therefore not in good standing with the Catholic Church.)
- He must be at least 16 years of age.
- He must be validly baptized.
(A baptised person who belongs to a non-catholic ecclesial community may be admitted only in company with a catholic sponsor, and then simply as a witness to the baptism.) [Canon # 874.2]
- He must be living an upright life.
- He cannot be the mother or the father of the person to be baptized. [Canon Law # 874.1.5]
- He cannot labour under a canonical penalty, whether imposed or declared. [Canon # 874.1.4]
(This means he cannot be an ex-Catholic who was automatically or publicly excommunicated because of his support or practice of abortions, heresies, etc...)
Q. 2. What are the expectations of a Christian Witness?
A. 2. First it is necessary to understand the role of the Godparent / sponsor.
According to Canon Law # 872, "In so far as possible, a person being baptised is to be assigned a sponsor. In the case of an adult baptism, the sponsor's role is to assist the person in christian initiation. In the case of an infant baptism, the role is together with the parents to present the child for baptism, and to help it to live a christian life befitting the baptised and faithfully to fulfil the duties inherent in baptism."
In simple words, a Godparent, over and above being an example of how a Catholic should live his faith, takes responsibility for the religious education and spiritual formation of the baptized person. He represents the Catholic Church and the faith community into which the person is being baptized.
The Christian Witness, although he may be a very holy Christian, cannot fully attest to the teachings of the Catholic Church. He cannot be an example of how a Catholic should live his faith through the Sacraments when he is not a Catholic. He cannot represent the Catholic Church and the faith community when he does not belong to the Catholic Church and one of its faith community.
A Christian Witness cannot give what he does not have.
So what is expected of the Christian Witness? As a person witnesses a car accident, the Christian Witness attests, by his presence at the ceremony, to the fact that the baptised person did receive the Sacrament of Baptism. That is it!
Q. 3. Since such is the case, should a person chose a Christian Witness for the Sacrament of Baptism?
A. 3. Many Catholic parents are under the impression that should they die before their child reaches adulthood, their chosen Christian Witness will raise their child as a Catholic. They fail to realize that a Christian Witness is not a Godparent / sponsor. He is just a witness!
Catholic parents are unaware that most Protestants believe all religions are equal. For that reason, many Protestants bounce around from religion to religion during their lifetime.
With such a flawed belief, how could a Christian Witness possibly commit himself to raising a child in the Catholic faith? History has shown that the opposite is true; they steer the children in a different direction of faith, either knowingly or through a lack of care for the spiritual life of the baptized. I have yet to find one non-Catholic who has raised a child as a Catholic! You cannot pass on to another person the faith, knowledge and understanding that you do not possess.
Parents are accountable to God regarding the soul of their child that has been placed in their care. Should they entrust the salvation of their child to a Godparent / Sponsor or to a Christian Witness? Which one is most likely to guide the child in the One, True, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church?