Q. What are the requirements for being a godparent? Do both godparents have to be Catholic? Must there be a man and a woman? Can godparents be changed later if the first ones turn out not to be very good role models?
A. Canon 874, #1, of the present Code of Canon Law says that the person selected must:
- be appointed by the person to be baptized, his/her parents or the parish priest and be suitable for the role and have the intention of fulfilling it,
- be at least 16 years old unless the local bishop sets a different age or the parish priest considers that there is a just reason for an exception,
- be a Catholic, be confirmed and have made his/her First Communion and “lives a life of faith which befits the role to be undertaken,”
- not be under any canonical penalty, and
- not be the father or mother of the person who is to be baptized.
Canon 874, #2, indicates that at least one of the godparents must be a Catholic. In fact, only one godparent is required (Canon 873).
When there are two godparents, they need to be a man and a woman so that the newly baptized will have a role model for each gender. Should the original sponsors later turn out not to be good role models in Catholic faith, the best solution is to find better role models and involve them more closely in the baptized person’s life. Under some circumstances, paperwork at the parish where a Baptism is registered can be changed. Doing that, however, will change little unless better role models have already been identified.