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Author Topic: Being asked to be a Godmother for a Catholic...  (Read 3624 times) Average Rating: 0
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ania
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« on: June 30, 2004, 10:42:48 AM »

Hey ya'll,
I'm friends with a Catholic couple, who are going to have a baby boy in October.  They've requested me to be the Godmother, as they know I'm pretty religious.  I've tried to explain that there are differences between Orthodoxy & Catholisism, which they can't seem to grasp.  I've also told them that I would be happy to be acting Godmother, but I wouldn't participate in the ceremony.  Somehow it doesn't quite get through.  They are my very close friends, and I do not want to hurt their feelings.  
Is there any precident for an Ortho being a Godparent to a Catholic (or any other denomination)?  Just curious.  
Has anyone else had this kind of problem, and how did you/ how would you handle it?
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katherine 2001
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« Reply #1 on: June 30, 2004, 10:59:07 AM »

How about asking your priest what you should do.  If he tells you that he'd rather you not be the child's godparent, then you could explain to them that your priest wouldn't give you his blessing to be the child's godparent.  If you become the child's godparent, then you agree to help raise the child in his or her faith.  As an Orthodox, I don't think I could do that.
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« Reply #2 on: June 30, 2004, 11:08:10 AM »

Hi ania,

You know your church and tradition well, of course, and so I'm assuming you asked your dad or somebody else in the know and were told your church doesn't allow you to take part in the ceremony. If that's the case, then what to tell your friends doesn't seem that hard to me at all - just say while you'd love to actually be the godmother, your church doesn't allow you to take part in the ceremony. Not hard to understand. It may sound like you're passing the buck/shifting blame, but it's true, right? So no prob. If your good friends are a little hurt, which is understandable, at least they won't blame you but rather your church, so it shouldn't damage your friendship with them.

If your church won't let you be the godmother, end of story - not the impression I got from your posting but I could be wrong - then the same tack will work. 'I love you guys and I'd love to do it but my church won't allow it. I hope you understand.' Katherine's suggested answer would be a good one in that case: 'my priest won't give me a blessing to do it'.

No need to give them a class on Orthodox/RC differences, IMO - maybe another time if they ask.
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« Reply #3 on: June 30, 2004, 11:09:04 AM »

One of the godparents of my daughter is Orthodox; in the Episcopal Church, however, I don't think the problems are as severe (other than the usual praying with heretics thing  Roll Eyes Grin ). I suppose you could read the promises you would make in the rite, and if you feel you can't go through with make those promises, tell them so and end it at that. You don't have an obligation to explain yourself further.
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« Reply #4 on: June 30, 2004, 11:09:59 AM »

Ania,

Yikes.  You're right, this is a very delicate matter.  I'm not sure if I can think of anything helpful (as in something you haven't tried/thought of already), but I'll take a stab at it.

Tell them that while you are honoured that they would want you to play such an important role in their child's life, that in good conscience you could do this as you believe as an Orthodox Christian believes, and not a Roman Catholic.  Tell them that while you understand that there are important similarities between Orthodox Christianity and Catholicism, you understand that there are also important differences - to the point that while you recognize there are decent, kind people in the Roman Catholic Church (like your friends I imagine), you would not be able (both by conviction and by the instruction of your Church) to receive the ministrations of Roman Catholic clergy as you would those offered by the Orthodox Church.   Tell them the truth - that you are an Orthodox Christian, thus if you were to be a child's Godparent, you'd be required (by conviction) to help them grow as an Orthodox Christian, not a Roman Catholic.   Without implying that they do not take the role of Godparent seriously enough (whether it is true or not), simply say that you do take it very seriously, and it would make little sense for you to act as a guide and role model in a religion which is not your own.

Obviously, this situation is not the time to get into a debate about the errors of Catholicism or anything like this, and probably not a good opportunity to a hearty proclamation of the truth of Orthodoxy - though if the whole subject causes them to ask questions about the Church, I think it would be worth your while to give basic answers on what your believe, and if necessary say politely what you as an Orthodox Christian do not agree with in terms of Catholicism (though you should probably only do this if they press you, after stating the basics of your beliefs with the "well, that's no different than what we believe" type of response.)

Like I said, this is probably all stuff you've already thought of...but I hope there is something in there that is helpful.

« Last Edit: June 30, 2004, 11:32:21 AM by Augustine » Logged
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« Reply #5 on: June 30, 2004, 11:12:00 AM »

Quote
One of the godparents of my daughter is Orthodox

Just read that before adding to what's above: IIRC historically the royal families of Europe, most - including the Russian royals - related to each other through Queen Victoria and through intermarriage (another 'ecumenical' issue that didn't seem to bother them), and belonging to different state churches as required by their respective countries' laws, were godparents to each other's children all the time, no problem.
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« Reply #6 on: June 30, 2004, 11:56:55 AM »

Ania,

From the Catholic view point the opposite is true.  You would be able to be a witness to the baptism, but because you are not Catholic you cannot be a godparent as obviously you cannot agree to help raise the child as a Catholic.  Are you forbidden by your priest from going to a Catholic baptism or just being a Godparent to a non-Orthodox?

Fr. Deacon Lance
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« Reply #7 on: June 30, 2004, 12:47:43 PM »

Quote
From the Catholic view point the opposite is true.  You would be able to be a witness to the baptism, but because you are not Catholic you cannot be a godparent as obviously you cannot agree to help raise the child as a Catholic.

Is that what Rome says? It makes sense. Because I have some 'guidelines' for pastors from the Archdiocese of Los Angeles in the 1970s or ’80 (IIRC) that say from their standpoint Orthodox can be godparents at RC baptisms.

It seems more likely to me that somehow the Orthodox don't allow it but ania can answer that.
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ania
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« Reply #8 on: June 30, 2004, 01:57:57 PM »

Deacon Lance,
I would have no problem going to the ceremony.  I went to Catholic school for 8 years & went to monthly masses with my class, I was a bridesmaid in my Catholic bestfriend's wedding, so I have no problem being present.
The problem doesn't stem so much from them being hardcore Catholics, they aren't (they rarely go to church, and lived a rather "liberal" party life before getting married & settling down).  They want me to be Godmother for several reasons, one being that I am religious.  Several other factors come into play.  They are from the Phillipines.  In the Phillipines, Godparents not only guide their spiritual children in matters of faith, they are also next in line to take care of these children in the material sense if something happens to the parents.  It's considered a great honor to be trusted to that extent.  If I refuse, to them it would mean to a point that I do not feel honored by their friendship.  
Now if I lived in 19th Century Russia, I would not have this problem...
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« Reply #9 on: June 30, 2004, 02:12:47 PM »

"Been there, . . ."  Yes, it is a delicate and uncomfortable situation!  Nonetheless, if these are at all "close friends", they will respect that you simply are not allowed to stand as a godparent for other than an Orthodox baby.  When this happened for me, the other family were Episcopalians.  I attended the baptismal service, somebody else stood as the godmother, but I always have been considered an "honorary godmother."  (rather like an "honorary aunt")  Ask your friends if you could do the same.

Wishing you well!

4Truth
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« Reply #10 on: June 30, 2004, 02:30:54 PM »

Hmmmm.... This is an interesting case.

I suppose one thing you could do is ask their priest how he feels about this, making it clear that if you were to end up raising the child, he/she would be raised Orthodox. If he objects, then you have an out. If he doesn't, and you can imagine carrying this through and raise the child in you church instead of theirs, then maybe it would be OK.

Also, you do have to ask yourself, "Am I willing to witness that I saw a valid baptism?"

RCs can be astonishingly casual about this. When my brother (married into RC) had his daughter baptized, my other brother was pressed into duty as a surrogate godfather/witness when the real godfather was unable to attend. This was done just before the service started! For our own part, there was no problem with having non-Episcopalian godparents, but our priest did insist that some of the godparents needed to be members of the parish.
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« Reply #11 on: June 30, 2004, 02:33:09 PM »

Also, it occurs to me that the fact of you being religious is tacet acceptance of you raising the child Orthodox should something happen. Again, their priest could veto that, but if he doesn't (and you don't have a problem with him not vetoing it) then again maye it's OK.
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« Reply #12 on: June 30, 2004, 02:56:02 PM »

Serge,

Perhaps there was a clarification that an Orthodox could if he/she is willing to raise the child Catholic.  Since Ania is saying she cannot do in good conscience, it is a moot point however.  The requirements that I am familair with state that at least one of the baptismal sponsors must be a Catholic the other can be a non-Catholic, but they must be a baptised Christian, and is technically only a witness.
 
Part of the problem is the interpretation of Godparents.  Many today see them as someone who has to buy the child a gift, others see them as the person that will get legal custody of the child should something happen to them, others take the religious part seriously but do not intend for them to get legal custody.

Fr. Deacon Lance
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« Reply #13 on: June 30, 2004, 11:19:45 PM »

I guess it depends on the priest and the jurisdictions.

In Mexico, many Roman Catholic priests would not accept a godparent who is Orthodox no matter how close both churches are; and it's the same about the Orthodox.

Now, if some Orthodox priest allowed a member of the Church to participate and be a godparent for an Episcopal Protestant ceremony without problem, he would most likely allow him to take part in the Catholic one.

RC has validly ordained clergy and a valid Baptism (some would say the way it's performed by the Latins is illicit), if we get "conservative" we could say that if I become the godparent I would be a supporter of schism or take part in a schismatic ceremony. But if I do so in the Episcopal Church it would be much graver since it's taking part in fake sacramental rites, simulation of sacraments and public mockery of the mysteries.
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Jennifer
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« Reply #14 on: July 01, 2004, 12:08:55 AM »

I'm confused.  I'm godmother to my neice and nephew and their other godparent is an uncle on the other side of the family who isn't Catholic.  Also when I was considering 'doxing' I asked a priest if that would affect (a or e?, I never can remember) my 'godmother' relationship with my neice and nephew and he said that my sister wouldn't need to find a new godmother for the children.  

The whole 'godparent' thing seems strange to me given that I don't even know my godparents.  They were friends of my parents who moved away soon after the baptism.  I have no memory of them.  In fact, I don't even know their names.
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« Reply #15 on: July 01, 2004, 05:56:34 AM »

The Catholics won't let you act as a Godparent, probably.  I have had personal experience with this.  Someone close to me who is Orthodox (and ex-Catholic) was asked to be the godmother for her new nephew.  The Catholic priest said that this was not doable because she was not Catholic.  She could act as a "Christian witness", but could not be the "official" Godmother.  She then proceeded to raise Cain with the Catholic priest and after much haranguing she was allowed to be a Godparent provided that there was also a Catholic godparent (similar to what Jennifer describes above).  I understand that this is questionable under the Catholic canon law, but I think the fact that a blood relative was involved made a difference.

The Orthodox priest had no problem with her participating in the Catholic baptism as an official Godparent.  Again I think the fact that people were all in the same family was an important factor.
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« Reply #16 on: July 06, 2004, 03:12:02 AM »

Why don't you ask your friends what a God Parent means to them?  I mean ask them what it really means to them and for them?

  if its important to them for thier child to have you as the God parent then ask them if they wouldn't mind having the child baptized in the Orthodox faith, you said that they weren't religous so its worth a shot I say, since you are active in the orthodox faith.


I would also tell them what being a God Parent means to an orthodox person.
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ania
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« Reply #17 on: July 06, 2004, 10:08:17 AM »

Canmak,
I have, at some times, considered asking them if the would mind him (they found out last week that it will be a boy) being baptised Orthodox...  As far as religiously I don't think it would be a problem.  Culturally, it would be a huge problem though.  They hold great stock in First Communion & Confirmation & lots of other Catholic customs.  Also, his 2 older sisters are already Catholic.  Thirdly, if they ever move back to the Philipines, (they plan for the kids to be there at least 2 months of the year as it is) there is no Orthodox church there that I know of.  
Anyway, I've asked my dad about it, and he's looking into precidents.
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