Saturday, December 28, 2013

Can someone with Down syndrome be a godparent?


from Catholic Answers:
Hello, I have never used this site before, perhaps this question is answered elsewhere but I could not find it.
My husband has a cousin with Down syndrome. She is high-functioning and it seems to me that she has "reached the age of reason" despite her condition, but then I'm not clear on how that is defined.
We would love to ask her to be a godmother for one of our children. She goes to church with her parents and siblings, loves God in her innocent and joyful way.
We would also have a godfather and would make sure that godfather is also a practicing Catholic in good standing.
I am thinking that the answer is yes, because one sponsor alone is sufficient and therefore the godfather would already fulfill that requirement, right? But would the answer change if she were to be the only godparent?

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To be permitted to take on the function of sponsor a person must:
1/ be designated by the one to be baptized, by the parents or the person who takes their place, or in their absence by the pastor or minister and have the aptitude and intention of fulfilling this function;
2/ have completed the sixteenth year of age, unless the diocesan bishop has established another age, or the pastor or minister has granted an exception for a just cause;
3/ be a Catholic who has been confirmed and has already received the most holy sacrament of the Eucharist and who leads a life of faith in keeping with the function to be taken on;
4/ not be bound by any canonical penalty legitimately imposed or declared;
5/ not be the father or mother of the one to be baptized.I would say it is a judgment call of the pastor in such a case regarding the criteria I highlighted. If they meet all of the other criteria, then yes.

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Interesting question. You are speaking, however, as if the person in question is a child. You said she has apparently "reached the age of reason" and "goes to church with her parents and siblings".
I must assume that you don't mean this, since that wouldn't make sense, but just checking.
In this case, I can only say that it depends. There are different levels of functionality for people that are down-syndrome, and some can function at a higher level than others.
Remember the the role of "godparent" is not just a title, or an honorary position. It is a very clearly defined role which states that the person in question has a spiritual obligation to help their godchild in the Faith. If the down syndrome person you are speaking of is capable of that, she can certainly be a godparent. If not, there is no reason for her to be a godparent and it will likely only invite complications if the other godparent is, for some reason, unable to participate in the the faith formation of the child.
Use careful reasoning and ask for advice if necessary. I'd start with my parish priest.
Hope this helps.

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I have been teaching the pre baptism classes at my parish for the last 12 years and have encountered many different situations. As long as she meets the eligibility requirements then she can be a godmother. Her sincerity of heart and her devout faith will be a wonderful example to the child being baptized. I'm sure by your post that you have considered her capabilities and know that she would offer great spiritual assistance to the parents. If you still have any doubts then, as mentioned before, you can always speak to your pastor regarding any specific concerns. May God bless her and the child that will have her as a godparent. Merry Christmas!!

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