Catholic Church bans Godparents in Sicily

Image Courtesy of the New York Times

By Zachary Lichter

In Sicily, an infant named Antonio is getting ready to be baptized. His mother has been preparing for him to receive the Sacrament of Baptism. The priest does all the baptismal rituals, except for one: there is no godfather or mother. 

On October 16th, Cardinal Salvatore Gristina, who is the Archbishop of Catania, banned godparents from baptisms for three years. Gristina feels that godparents could have ties to underground bosses and potentially the mafia, which could pose threats to the Catholic Church. Italian prosecutors have been tracking baptisms to figure out how godparents could have these potential ties.

“In my opinion, although the ban had good intentions, it was unwise,” said freshman theology major Michael Ellison. “I think that the treatment of illegal exploitation of godparents is not enough to ban the practice entirely. If the Cardinal is worried that the practice might be exploited illegally, I think that should be best solved by confronting those who might use it illegally, or by reporting it to the local authorities, but not by banning godparents altogether.”

Godparents are very important figures in a Catholic child’s life. Godparents consist of a man and a woman, who are both Catholic and are supposed to help raise the child spiritually and guide them in their education of Catholicism. They are also there to provide a sense of reassurance and security for the parents of the child being baptized. Without godparents, Catholics feel that a child is more likely to stray from their faith and live a life of sin. In many of today’s cultures, having godparents is a way of increasing family ties and improving the family’s fortune.

“Godparents are supposed to pray for the faithful life of the child and they’re supposed to be treated like an extended member of the family,” said Flather Hall resident minister Father Michael Kueber. “They’re supposed to pay for the party of the first communion and confirmation. The godparent attends those events later on.”

The opinion of banning godparents has been continuously debated in the last couple of years. It has mainly become an issue in Sicily because the Catholic Church has been threatened by social blackmail, thus posing potential threats to the parish priests. While some people think godparents are considered necessary for the Sacrament of Baptism, other people think that they are not. 

“I think they’ll lift the ban,” said Kueber. “The major issue is that there has to be some reasonable assertion or reasonable hope that this child will be raised Catholic. If neither the parents nor the godparents practice the faith, they can delay the baptism.”

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