Q. 1. My daughter was baptized when she was a month old. She had two Godparents (sponsors) in accordance with the teachings of the Catholic Church. Both Godparents (sponsors) moved out of our city within three years and are no longer part of her life. Can I have her Godparents (sponsors) changed? I mean, can I get new ones for her that will be more active in her life?
A. 1. According to the teachings of the Catholic Church, during the Sacrament of Baptism, a child can only have two Godparents (Sponsors), a male and a female. These are the official witnesses that the child was baptized. Their names are recorded on the Baptismal Certificate. This record cannot be changed. You cannot replace the name(s) of the original godparent(s) because any newly chosen person would not have been the witnesses to the Sacrament of Baptism. Nor would the new Godparent(s) be the one(s) who spoke up for the child, asking that the child be admitted into the Catholic Church.
In a situation where the child has not yet received the Sacrament of Confirmation, there is hope for a "new" Godparent. During the Sacrament of Confirmation, as during the Sacrament of Baptism, in accordance with Paragraph # 1311 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church and Canon Law # 892-893, the child will need at least one Godparent, a maximum of two, a male and a female. At this time, one or more Godparents can be appointed, providing that the original Godparents are no longer part of the child's life.
Being given the opportunity to change the Godparent, in the choosing of a new Godparent(s), it is stronghly recommended that the parent(s) of the child to be confirmed abide by the guideline set up by the Catholic Church in its Canon Laws. This is to ensure that the Godparent(s) will be there to support the parents in their Christian role as models and to guide the child in his/her Christian life.
Q. 2. I heard that there was a ruling sent to the Bishops of both, the United States and Canada, (Reply of November 13, 1984; in 1985 Roman Replies of the Canon Law Society of America) that permitted a change of Godparent under certain circumstances. Have you heard of this ruling?
A. 2. The November 13, 1984 response states:
"The nomination of a new sponsor (godparent) by the bishop to take the place of the original Sponsor who presented the candidate for baptism (c. 872) in the event of incapacity or death, is not foreseen in the new code, indeed it is specifically excluded for just reasons."
"There is nothing, however, to prevent the Diocesan Bishop for just reasons, from nominating even officially a 'substitute' of the Sponsor who could be inscribed on the same baptismal register."
Based on the aforementioned, there is no official replacement of the Godparent. Rather, there is the nominating of a substitute of the Sponsor. The original name of the Godparent (Sponsor) can never be removed from the Baptisam Register.