Fast-track Catholic First communion and confirmation
April 4, 2016 8:16 PM   Subscribe

I was baptized Catholic, but never got my first communion or was confirmed. Circumstances have me searching for a way to achieve both as soon as possible. Is there somewhere online to do this or a way to get this done in the next three weeks?

My best friend asked me to be the godmother to her baby. Yay! I'm really excited as I'm very close to my godmother and can't wait to foster a similar relationship with my BFF's daughter. However, the church that my friend is planning to have her daughter baptized in requires godparents to be baptized Catholic and have received communion and be confirmed. I was baptized, but my family was not religious growing up and I never really went to church as a kid. My mom has since returned to the church and my yearly dose of religion is going to Sunday mass with her when I'm visiting home. Other than the basic ritual of mass, the Catholic church and sacraments are completely unfamiliar to me. I'm totally willing to receive my first communion and be confirmed, but an added level of difficulty here is that my friend and her husband would like to have the baptism on May 1. Is this even possible? My friend is also fairly non-religious and has no idea about this either. She just found out about the requirements beyond baptism. Do we have any options here?

I live in Brooklyn, if anyone knows a local parish that might be amenable to such a thing. Thanks!
posted by Fuego to Religion & Philosophy (60 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
No, you can't do it online. This is the Holy Mother Church, not the bloody Universal Life Church.

Now is about the time in the calendar for First Holy Communion and Confirmation (when it happens to children and teenagers respectively) but any actual Catholic church will expect you to take classes and do things properly, because Catholics (on the institutional, church side) are all about Doing Things Properly, and Properly is defined in Rome, and if you aren't going to do things properly you might as well just go off and be a protestant. (Apologies to Protestants.)

I would very much assume that if you showed up at a church and said that you wanted to receive holy communion and be confirmed, they would slot you in with all of the converts who are having to learn the catechism in a detailed way that is hilarious to those baptised Catholic since Vatican 2, but it is April 4th. You're not going to get confirmed into the Roman Catholic Church by May 1st. There is no fast track.
posted by holgate at 8:45 PM on April 4, 2016 [46 favorites]

Maybe you've already explored this, but if your BFF's church has this requirement maybe speak to someone there about how to go about complying with it? I kind of doubt (based on my experiences growing up Episcopalian, so grain o' salt and all) that you could be confirmed in three weeks, but it's worth asking what the process is at their church and whether they would allow a godparent who was on the track to doing this.

On the other hand you are probably going to have to present a really solid front of giving a fuck about religion if you hope to do this. So if this is *only* for the sake of being a godparent, it might be easier to find ways you can have that kind of close relationship with your BFF's daughter without the "I stood there while a priest sprinkled you with water" part.
posted by Sara C. at 8:45 PM on April 4, 2016 [2 favorites]

All godparents? My experience here is that at least one godparent must be baptised catholic, nothing that I know of about communion/confirmation. This allows other godparent(s) to be non-Catholic. I would check whether the requirement extends to all godparents.

If you are subject to this requirement, I think you will struggle to meet it. The preparation time for both will take some time, and trying to rush the process will likely raise questions about your motivation/bona fides - those administering the programs will not take kindly to a tick the box approach to them.

You might like to start thinking about a fallback, perhaps being an 'honorary' godparent.
posted by GeeEmm at 8:48 PM on April 4, 2016 [2 favorites]

What you're looking for is RCIA, the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults. Any Catholic Church should have this. But no, you can't do it in a month. Also it's meant to be a serious commitment to joining the church, not just a box you tick off so you can say you did it.
posted by MsMolly at 8:59 PM on April 4, 2016 [17 favorites]

Have you considered lying?
posted by andoatnp at 9:02 PM on April 4, 2016 [33 favorites]

For what it's worth, my two official godparents (two of my older cousins) have done exactly nothing for me over the course of my life, despite all of us starting out nominally Catholic. (I've since left the church. Don't know about them.) You don't have to be officially dubbed a godparent to make a commitment to being involved in a child's life. You just have to do the hard work of actually doing it.
posted by MsMolly at 9:03 PM on April 4, 2016 [7 favorites]

Becoming a confirmed member of any church means you intend to dedicate a part of your life to that church, both in a spiritual sense and for the church community. You should be getting confirmed as a part of a broader spiritual path.

It sounds like your only motivation is to have your picture taken with a baby in a church. I think if you presented your motivations to a priest he would turn you down. Unless you can proclaim that you believe in the foundations of the religion and are intending to build a spiritual life in that community, I don't think the priest could confirm you anyway.

Your question seems flip and uninformed, and I think you need to communicate your dedication to studying the church and joining it's spiritual community. If it's not your intentions to do so, you have no business becoming a confirmed member.
posted by littlewater at 9:07 PM on April 4, 2016 [19 favorites]

Have you considered lying?

Yeah - assuming the parents are ok with it, I don't think the church is exactly going to ask for paperwork on this.
posted by showbiz_liz at 9:08 PM on April 4, 2016 [1 favorite]

I don't think the church is exactly going to ask for paperwork on this.

Well, maybe they will, and I'm pretty sure that the church where I was confirmed 28 years ago has a record of it, because bureaucracy is the kind of stuff that Catholic churches really excel at.
posted by holgate at 9:11 PM on April 4, 2016 [10 favorites]

But to underline littlewater's comment: being a godparent in the Catholic tradition is about being a Catholic godparent -- my godparents are, decades on, more devoutly Catholic than my parents or myself -- and if you can't satisfy the criteria now, then you ought to be clear with your best friend that while you can be a not-quite-godparent and play a godparently role in the child's life, you can't tick off the boxes to do the churchy stuff, and you shouldn't really try to do so.
posted by holgate at 9:17 PM on April 4, 2016 [7 favorites]

Lying would be unlikely to work. The church provides certificates of baptism, First Reconciliation, First Eucharist, and Confirmation, and you would be asked to produce these certificates as proof. The churches where these sacraments occurred will have sacramental records on file, so it would not work to lie and say you lost them - you would just be told to contact the church where you received the sacraments to obtain certificates.
posted by Mallenroh at 9:26 PM on April 4, 2016 [9 favorites]

Lying WILL work. My godparent was unmarried, not annulled and I was baptized Catholic. You will only probably be asked to provide a certificate saying you are in good standing, the church is actually much more lax and diverse then this thread makes it out to be. Find a more liberal church to get your certificate if you need to. Ask about joining and tything and you won't be turned down.

The morality of all this is a different issue, but the church isn't going to keep every certificate on every sacrament and have a means of easily retrieving them for every parish for every living member.
posted by geoff. at 9:39 PM on April 4, 2016 [2 favorites]

Oh and there is fast tracking for confirmation but it still takes a couple months. You just need the bishop to approve it.
posted by geoff. at 9:41 PM on April 4, 2016 [2 favorites]

My experience echoes that of GeeEmm, in that only one of the godparents had to be a confirmed Catholic. Either way, please don't lie about this. For many people, the whole point of having a Catholic godparent for their child is that it provides another moral anchor for their child in the world, to follow the faith they believe in. So to lie about it really says you're not the person for the job right off the bat.

In your shoes, I would ask the parents to double check that every godparent needs the full whack of Catholic ceremonies behind them, and if so, it's unlikely you'd get it in the time frame needed so you may have to bow out.
posted by Jubey at 9:44 PM on April 4, 2016 [3 favorites]

As a lapsed Catholic mom who just had my kids (2 and 5) baptized is the deal: 1) one godparent must be baptized and confirmed in the Catholic Church, the other can be a "Christian witness"--basically the same as a godparent but much less Catholic paperwork required. Is the godfather a confirmed Catholic? If so, no worries, just be a Christian witness in the eyes of the Church and "godmother" colloquially. You do the same things in the ceremony. 2) if godfather is not confirmed then yes you have an issue. Our chosen godmother was a baptized Catholic but not confirmed (our chosen godfather was a baptized Christian but not Catholic). You can ask the bishop of the diocese for a letter allowing you to be the godmother (this is what our godmother did, she was from an old Catholic family and all her kids went to Catholic school, and even then she had to promise to take the full course of classes to be confirmed the next time it was offered). They are very serious about this. Good luck!
posted by eileen at 10:29 PM on April 4, 2016 [8 favorites]

Also, re: lying. The church does indeed ask for paperwork. Our baptism paperwork for the boys included birth certificates, godparent and our baptism certificates, marriage certificates where applicable, confirmation certificate for godmother (ended up substituting letter from bishop) , basically everything. This was in Seattle so ymmv, but yeah lots of paperwork.
posted by eileen at 10:36 PM on April 4, 2016 [6 favorites]

In case it's important to the parents that you are part of the ceremony, have you considered becoming a witness to the baptism? That's how it was done for several friends of mine when they chose non-Catholic godparents for their children.

On preview: Seconding eileen.
posted by amf at 11:13 PM on April 4, 2016 [2 favorites]

I'm my experience as a godmother to 4 kids, it depends on the priest/parish. Some want proof, others will do anything to get that baby baptized, including, ignoring the fact that no one is currently a practicing Catholic.

They could look for another priest or you could do what I have done with one of my four: I am her godmother even though on the day of her baptism we were thrown out of the church because her parents were not married in the church. Two months later a priest at another parish offered to baptize her but her parents were way over the church by that time.

Good luck. Being a godmother is great fun even without the blessing of the Mother Church.
posted by cairnoflore at 11:30 PM on April 4, 2016 [3 favorites]

If you and your friend are both mostly not religious, how important is it for you to be recognized as a godparent by the church?

I was born into a pretty similar situation—nominally Catholic parents, godparents who were somehow even more nominal. I just finished RCIA and received the sacraments at the Easter vigil. It took about eight months—more than that because I started attending mass again in January and the class didn't start until September. At smaller parishes, or in the Eastern Catholic churches, you might find a different process, but probably not one that'll end within a month.

As the one-in-a-million two-generations-nominal Catholic who did come back, takes it very seriously, and "found out" my godparents as uninterested in the godparent role, I can tell you your godchild probably isn't going to be mad at you if you don't discharge your canonical duties.

But just as somebody who has come to find all the bureaucracy and sacraments etc. very meaningful—I have no authority or inclination to make people feel them in the same way I do, and between me and the Pope are millions and millions of Catholics who would be offended by the facileness or desultoriness of my own relationship with the church, and so on all the way up the line. But if there's a way you can do this without trying to rush through a process nobody involved really recognizes as important, it seems like it would be best to do that instead.

Basically: It sounds like the relationship you have with your friend, and that you will have with her kid, is way more important to you than the church, which is fine. So why not attend the ceremony, in whatever capacity you're allowed, and just be the child's godmother for the rest of baby's life? Unless the church matters to you, your responsibility is to—and flows from—your friend and her daughter, not the church.

My Catholic marriage (convalidation) was meaningful to me because it involved my wife and I making commitments to each other, the parish we were joining, and the church we recognize as having been founded by God. But if we didn't believe that about the church, and we weren't attending the parish, it would've just been five minutes in a three-hour ceremony with a lot of standing and kneeling, strangers, and bad music. When we were married civilly, a few years earlier, it was no less meaningful to us—we were making a commitment to each other in front of, and to, all our friends and family, and that was the only responsibility we recognized at the time. Plus the music was better.

It was a pain to get it all sorted out when we did become Catholics later, but given who I was I'm glad it happened that way—it was more meaningful to me at the time than a church wedding would have been because I wasn't pretending to recognize an authority, or a set of responsibilities, that had no meaning to me.

On preview: From personal experience, I will say you might have some trouble being a Christian Witness because you were baptized a Catholic. Being baptized Catholic made me a Catholic for purposes of marriage, which made establishing the validity of my marriage significantly more complicated than it would have been if we were both baptized in protestant churches. Just hunting around online, it seems like the same issue might apply to being a Christian witness: The canon on the matter, 874, doesn't seem to preclude it, but IANA Canon L, and at least some parishes read it that way. (Here's the policy of a random parish that Google caught, for instance.) Those parishes will tell you that "Christian witness" is a role for baptized Christians outside the church, not non-confirmed Catholics. But the parish your godchild will be baptized at has the only policy that matters, in practice, and that sort of thing varies a lot on the ground.
posted by Polycarp at 12:09 AM on April 5, 2016 [13 favorites]

The roman catholic church in which I was baptised and confirmed burned to the ground. (If I believed in god, I'd say it was retribution for that parish's priest raping children, although why not burn the priest to a crisp before the raping of children happened?) Records kept at the church were destroyed. The diocese had copies of baptismal records, but not of confirmation records. Depending on how much effort one might want to dedicate to the deception, and how diligent the baptising priest/diocese is, such a rouse might be successful. But this isn't the sort of question internet people who don't have specific knowledge of the parish / diocese are going to be able to answer.
posted by mattbcoset at 12:09 AM on April 5, 2016

Yes, there exist churches where they will do it by May 1.

You want to look for Catholic Churches that explicitly advertise as allowing something that the hardline churches won't. If you're in Brooklyn, I think one of the ones in Park Slope advertises at Pride and is explicitly pro-LGBT, they'd be a good place to start, as would any that say "divorced welcome!" on their advertising. These are going to be places looking to bring people in, not keep them out.

You may also want to check with either the Catholic priest at the VA over by Poly Prep, or the one assigned to Fort Hamilton - military-serving priests are much more used to rush.
posted by corb at 12:32 AM on April 5, 2016 [3 favorites]

Fast tracking exists. I was raised Catholic but my Father quarreled with the Church (got too liberal in Vatican II for him-- yikes.) When I got married in the church, my Priest was able to confirm me as an adult without the Bishop. It only works if you're already baptized and in my case the Priest who did it had known me for years. See Canon 883.
posted by frumiousb at 1:40 AM on April 5, 2016 [3 favorites]

Re: lying - I was raised Catholic and was confirmed in the church. When my sister asked me to be Godmother to her kids, I hadn't been to church in years. I literally walked into the parish where I lived at the time, gave them a $300 check, and walked out with a letter indicating I was a bonafide Catholic on good standing without research into my childhood church documents . Beyond getting that letter, my sister's church did not care about anything else. Check to see what parish you currently live in and ask for the letter.

Sometimes donations help this process go smoother.
posted by Suffocating Kitty at 1:44 AM on April 5, 2016 [5 favorites]

Roman Catholic here, godmother to four kids.

Personally, I had to bring a certificate of good standing in my own church. They had my communion/confirmation on file and they asked some more questions before they issued me one.

As for your actual question: all of those rites - first communion, confirmation, and participating in a baptism as a godparent involve public proclamation of Catholic faith. Not in a symbolic way, you are literally proclaiming the Catholic faith out loud.
First communion involves participating in Catholic Mass and receiving the communicant (bread, sometimes bread and wine).
You cannot do either of these online.

Also, during the baptism ceremony you will be directly and publicly asked to proclaim your faith to the congregation. They are going to ask you (the godparents and the parents): Do you believe SUCH and SUCH to which you answer, "I do". Then the godparents are asked if they are prepared to help raise the child in the Catholic faith, and they answer "We are". You cannot just pretend / mouth the words same as you cannot just mouth "I do" during the wedding ceremony.

There are plenty of people who baptize their kids or become godparents without being actual believers, so you certainly wouldn't be the first but there is no way to do it without making false public statements, if you are not a believer.

If you choose to do this, a certificate of good standing is much easier to obtain than fast-track confirmation, and is more honest.

Congrats on being chosen as a significant person in the baby's life, BTW. It is great :)
posted by M. at 2:54 AM on April 5, 2016 [3 favorites]

I do not remember anyone asking for certification or papers on the godparents of my kids, just verbal "are you Catholic?" "Yes". My brother has not set foot in a church in years and he was godfather of my oldest son. It may depend on the priest and the church as well, I was out of the church for years, then came back and two of my kids were baptized not as infants but as older kids, and the local priests here accommodated that just fine with a private baptism and no questions asked except for the ones always asked at a baptism. To me, making a commitment to be involved in the child's life is the important thing, not details of belief or words said. It is actions that count. My aunt was my Godmother, and she really was a like a second mother to me and part of the reason I came back to church, not because she ever nagged me about it, but because of her example of quiet faith. When my aunt was dying, she said "you are the daughter I never had" as she never married or had kids. I hope you can work this out somehow and get to be a godparent, if not in church then in this child's life.
posted by mermayd at 3:45 AM on April 5, 2016

Have you considered lying?

Yeah - assuming the parents are ok with it, I don't think the church is exactly going to ask for paperwork on this.

Yes, I doubt anyone is going to ask to see your papers. And I can't remember getting certificates for FHC or confirmation. Baptism, yes, but not the others. Just go with it.
posted by james33 at 3:50 AM on April 5, 2016

I'm Jewish, but I attended Catechism (or as I called it, Kittycasm.) I get that the parents are doing this, not because they have a love of the church and want to introduce its newest member, but because someone in their family is putting on the pressure. It all makes me deeply uncomfortable, but I get it. Someone's Nona is kicking up a fuss and we'll walk through all of this to make her happy.

But. If you guys aren't going to take it seriously, then don't do it. Perhaps the parents can select a family member who meets the requirements to be the Catholic Godparent, and you can be the Fairy Godparent.

Being a Catholic Godparent means something VERY specific, and given your involvement in the church to date, I don't know that you're willing to fulfill that particular role in this child's life. Have you read what you're swearing to? It's deep.

For sure, participate in the service, pose in the pictures and spoil the baby rotten. That's awesome, I do it myself for my Godkids. But don't be a hypocrite and mock the church for the sake of photos and a party.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 3:51 AM on April 5, 2016 [13 favorites]

Atheist, godmother to a nephew. But I am Spanish and centuries of Catholicism as state religion means that while baptisms/weddings/first communions are socially obligatory events, most of us don't care about them as sacraments (as the drop in the rate of first communions to confirmation ceremonies shows). I skipped confirmation but nobody asked me about it (or my personal beliefs, either) at the church when my sister baptized her son.
posted by sukeban at 4:01 AM on April 5, 2016 [1 favorite]

There is fast racking but I don't think that fast would be possible. Usually first communion is around 6 years old and communion around 11 but I was whizzed through both at 11 so I qualified for catholic school (I had been baptised as a baby Catholic). A couple of months might be fine but not 3 weeks.

If there are other godparents you'd be fine to be a non officially catholic one. Faking it is just weird and insensitive and why bother, it's not like you'll be a Catholic godparent to the kid but you'll have an important role nonetheless.

jbenben, it works the other way usually. I was raised mixed Catholic/Anglican and the Anglicans were cool with it and welcomed all my Catholic qualifications; the Catholic Church would've preferred I never attend Anglican services. ( And believe me, I used that as an excuse. Sorry, can't join you at your endlessly long services, it's against my religion. I'm going to speedy mass)
posted by kitten magic at 4:35 AM on April 5, 2016 [1 favorite]

Oh and the Catholic Church are the masters of organisation. My dad recently had no trouble obtaining records of his baptism and that was 50 ish years ago. It's like having an FBI file.
posted by kitten magic at 4:37 AM on April 5, 2016 [7 favorites]

The best thing to do is have your friend talk directly to the priest who will be performing the Baptism about the situation. Based on what you said in your post, it sounds like she isn't very religious herself, so if the Priest is OK with baptizing her kid even though she's more than likely to NOT bring the child up "in the Church" herself, he might be more relaxed about the particulars of your circumstances as well. The only way to know this is to sound out the Priest, and that's on your friend to do the legwork. It might help your case that you aren't a "lapsed" Catholic so much as one who was never brought up in the faith after Baptism. If you can at least produce your baptismal certificate (call the parish office of the church you were baptized in), the Priest MIGHT see a way around the full host of technical requirements.

Otherwise, yeah, based on my own experiences of fast track RCIA (unless you are able to find a superchill liberal parish that will "do everything in a day" in terms of your major Sacraments) and what others have already said, I don't see this happening in time for the planned baptism date if the Priest is going to be thorough about verifying that you're in good standing with the Church.

If it really matters to your friend that you be a Godparent AND this happen in this particular church, it might behoove her to delay the Baptism until everyone's ducks are in a row.

FWIW, if Grandma & Grandpa are worried about the baby's immortal soul if some terrible event occurs between now and then, the Church will recognize a lay Baptism done on the fly (Anoint the kid with some water while saying "I baptize you in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit") as sacramentally valid (Baby is in good standing with God) although it will not be considered canonically valid (Baby is in good standing with the Church) until a Baptism performed by a priest and a baptismal certificate is issued.
posted by KingEdRa at 4:40 AM on April 5, 2016 [1 favorite]

Those baptisms are supposed to be performed only when the baby is in danger of death. The Church doesn't like amateurs doing a priest's job, it might give them ideas. It was usually performed by midwives when the baby looked like it was going to die shortly after being born.

(I am not against teaching my godson about the RCC, but they might not like what I say about them)
posted by sukeban at 4:47 AM on April 5, 2016 [2 favorites]

Sukeban, you are right on that-- I forgot that one important caveat. That of course has never stopped Nervous Nellie parents/grandparents/family members from doing lay baptisms as soon as possible after birth (in my experience).
posted by KingEdRa at 5:03 AM on April 5, 2016

If you are indeed actually serious about being this kid's Catholic godmother, with everything that actually means, the priest at your BFF's church may let you take part so long as you are signed up for RCIA classes and intend to be a proper Catholic in good order at a church somewhere. A good priest will have heard it all before and seen the results of all the people in this thread encouraging you to lie, which will make this route require a lot more trust of you than it has any business needing, but if you're genuinely serious it'll have a much higher likelihood of success that hunting after some kind of expedited pathway to getting right with Rome.

To be this kid's Catholic godmother, you kinda need to be actually Catholic.
posted by Blasdelb at 5:03 AM on April 5, 2016 [4 favorites]

First Communion is a Thing, not a Required Thing. You are a baptized Catholic; go to church, take communion, done. Every Communion is a sacrament, not just the 1st one.

Confirmation is when you, as an adult (heh, I was 12), choose to be a Catholic. Find a friendly priest who will confirm you. The Internet part - study on how to be Catholic, what Catholics believe, and be ready to profess your faith.

I don't personally care if you fudge the Catholic part, but godparent means you take responsibility for the child's spiritual and moral health, and that requires some thought and study.
posted by theora55 at 5:16 AM on April 5, 2016 [1 favorite]

Honestly? Tell your friend you cannot do it because you are not a practising Catholic and you don't qualify.

There are so many ways in which you can contribute to the child's life that, in retrospect, having held the baby in front of the altar as they poor water on her forehead won't mean much as she grows older.
posted by Kwadeng at 5:37 AM on April 5, 2016 [4 favorites]

The Roman Catholic church is all about connections, capiche? While you may not have attended mass or shown your face during palm sunday, you may find an 'in' through your friend or someone else who is tight with the priest. It helps. I don't think you can get the trifecta within a month, though, unless you're friends with the family. You're required to attend catechism and a million rehearsals. I have the baptism, the holy communion, the confirmation and if they awarded certificates that people could forge, i'd give you mine, but they don't. You have to do the work. Roman Catholicism is no joke.

It's a bit wrong to do this since you don't seem to actually want to be part of the faith. Can't you become protestant or whatever they call in? Seems like they take anyone in.

Remember: Once you're in, you're in. You'll be a Roman Catholic for Life. You're locked in. Shackled. No escape.
posted by ihaveyourfoot at 5:47 AM on April 5, 2016 [3 favorites]

As a flip-side answer, I was asked to be the godfather for my niece. I've had my first communion, confirmation, etc - in fact, at the parish the baptism took place.

Rather than affirm that I'd raise the baby in the church should something have happened to my sister, I refused - and I'm more a part of her life, to this day, than my actual godparents were to me.
posted by notsnot at 5:58 AM on April 5, 2016 [3 favorites]

Also, Baptism as a sacrament can be performed by any Catholic, because it's only a handful of water and some words*, but there is usually a nice ceremony around it.

On the other hand, Confirmation, because you are assumed to have reached the Age Of Reason (which is why it's done in middle school, whereas baptism can happen any time) and actively assented, involves education in church teachings. And therein lies the thing: that sacrament is you saying that you want to be a full member of the church and of the faith. (Do you?)

RCIA can roll up Baptism+First Communion+Conformation in one, and begins with Baptism, but it's not an overnight or weekend thing. Nth'ing talking to the pastor to see what he says.

* Namely, "I baptize you in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen." We were taught that we could even do it in the event of, like, an accident or something where someone was about to die and suddenly converted.
posted by wenestvedt at 6:00 AM on April 5, 2016 [1 favorite]

I would just ask the church what proof they require. We had our kids baptized at two different churches in the same diocese. I wouldn't say one was more liberal than the other. Church One just asked for verbal confirmation that the godparents were good catholics. Church Two required letters from my wife's sibling's parish certifying they were mass goers.
posted by JPD at 6:14 AM on April 5, 2016

I will say though that given none of my close personal friends of good character are baptized in the Catholic Church, my wifes side is all the godparents.

The dog is a Unitarian like me.
posted by JPD at 6:16 AM on April 5, 2016 [3 favorites]

I'm a non-Catholic Catholic godparent to my nephew and also did the RCIA and chose not to sign up. I got through the loophole by being Catholic-married to the actual Catholic godparent in a pretty lax parish. Because of the laxity, I didn't realize until the baptism weekend that being in the catechumenate at the time (I hadn't finished the RCIA) was not sufficient and so I panicked and basically lied by omission. The priest made assumptions.

My nephew is 16 and struggling with earthly matters. He's a great kid who has been let down by a lot of adults in his life. Part of the pattern of his life has been people doing things badly. Even though it is kind of no big deal on a daily basis because he cares way more that I support his vegan ideals, the way that I fudged that has left me with some minor regrets. One of the amazing things kids bring you is a new lens on all the old traditions.

I think that I would go with your friend to the church (or call in) and ask about it together. God parenting is 90% showing up.
posted by warriorqueen at 6:35 AM on April 5, 2016 [2 favorites]

This is probably all backwards in approach from someone who's trying to go through the Catholic rites and Do It Right, but honestly, if having a positive impact on your friend's kid's life is what you're after, just show up in whatever form you can, and keep showing up.

I could write paragraphs about what an amazing impact my totally-not-religious godparents have had in my life, but the point is even though I ended up nonreligious and they were non-religious and I don't think anyone took the religious parts of the baptism particularly seriously. It was an Episcopalian baptism, though, and I think they pretty much define themselves as "the friendlier, cuddlier Catholics," so there were none of the record-keeping boojums you're up against.

I suspect that "very involved family friends" would've had almost the same impact as "godparents" in my life, functionally speaking, but I guess there's something to be said for making the commitment at the ceremony in terms of showing you're serious? Hopefully there's a way you can get what you and your friends want out of your presence at the ceremony honestly, though, because as much as I don't care for organized religion's particular quirks, I also don't care for lying as the foundation of a social contract. This 'witness' business seems like it might be an in, and still provide the social framework. Like warriorqueen's saying, though, 'just show up,' and I would add, keep showing up.
posted by Alterscape at 7:16 AM on April 5, 2016 [2 favorites]

I dunno how this applies or helps, but I am godfather to my friend's sons, and I'm absolutely not Catholic and did not pretend to be. Maybe that particular parish in St Louis was just lenient.

Missing in this dialog is the question of to whom OP is committing. The answer, by my lights, is clearly her friend, her friend's husband, and her friend's baby. Whatever plan they jointly approve, up to and including just lying about it, is a good plan. If they're okay with fudging OP's status because they want OP to be the godparent, then I say go for it.
posted by uberchet at 7:42 AM on April 5, 2016 [1 favorite]

Another avenue to try: Get confirmed in one of the more easy-going anglican churches. If you're already a confirmed Christian, you can't be "re-confirmed" in the Catholic church just like you can't be re-baptized. If you were a baptized protestant and wanted to become Catholic, you wouldn't be baptized again, they just dump some water on you and say "If you're not already baptized (cause who knows if those protestants even do it right!), then I baptize you..." but since you're already assumed to be baptized, this isn't considered an actual second baptism. Ditto confirmation. Can't be repeated.

So get confirmed elsewhere and then they can't expect you to be confirmed Catholic. For communion, I'd just go to mass and go to Communion. I mean read up a little first and do it in respectfully and in good faith, but there's no particular "first communion" ritual/sacrament. It's just the first time you do it like every other time you'll do it.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 7:45 AM on April 5, 2016

Find a friendly priest who will confirm you.

Confirmations can't be done by a priest. The bishop does them. A bishop is unlikely to be this friendly.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 7:50 AM on April 5, 2016 [8 favorites]

In high school I got confirmed in one afternoon by consultant nuns at my rebel, ultra-liberal, suburban Catholic Church. Compared to what my cousins went through with their ultra-conservative rural Wisconsin churches, it was like I discovered a secret Catholic loophole/space vortex. Perhaps you could call around and ask some of the more liberal parishes in your area what they'd recommend? (They may be liberal if they: have a website, are huge and suburban, do not offer any Latin anything, have women in visible roles, and do not own a pipe organ)

I did have to go to the local cathedral to do the official thing with the bishop at the end, though.
posted by Maarika at 8:07 AM on April 5, 2016 [1 favorite]

I was a godmother to my nephew, but this was about 10 years ago or so. No paperwork was required from me, even though I had been confirmed when I was a teenager.

I will refer to this thread when/if I ever forget why I left the church. RULES, PEOPLE, WE HAVE RULES. WE ARE BUT NOTHING IN THE FACE OF GOD WITHOUT OUR BLESSED RULES!
posted by three easy payments and one complicated payment at 8:55 AM on April 5, 2016 [2 favorites]

Congratulations on being asked to be godmother! It's a wonderful role to perform for a kid, and I hope it brings you even closer to your BFF.

Catholic here. I was baptised Methodist, converted and married Catholic, and just received my first communion and was confirmed. Because I'd gone through RCIA somewhat piecemeal in two different countries, it took me three years to get it completed, which is much longer than normal -- but it took three years because it is regarded as hell of important to cross all the t's and dot all the i's.

It sounds to me like you neither want nor need to get confirmed, Fuego -- you certainly can't do it in the time with your background: if it were the case where you were attending Mass every Holy Day of Ob. and simply hadn't got around to taking your first communion for some reason, then I'd say that you did have a possibility of speaking to your priest and fast-tracking it. But thankfully, you can participate and be a non-Catholic godparent/witness in your own right without needing any of this! As has been mentioned in this thread by Eileen, so long as there is another Catholic godparent who has received baptism and can take communion and hasn't been excommunicated for any reason, you are totally fine to be there as a witness and a more secular godparent in your own right. Parishes may have their own sets of preferences, as per polycarp's brilliant answer, but if they're baptising your friend's baby despite your friend not being a frequent attender they may be on the more lenient side anyway.

It sounds like being the Christian witness would suit you down to the ground if you can swing it -- getting confirmed just for your friend would be like having a baby so that you can attend a mums' coffee morning.

Please don't take some of the advice here and lie, whether by omission or otherwise. Considering you wanted to go through with getting all your ducks in a row I imagine you won't anyway, but: please please please don't take Communion, fudge it with a non-Catholic confirmation, or bother finding someone to randomly confirm you for a donation. You don't need to, and even if it seems like a victimless crime, it's seriously awful.
posted by monster truck weekend at 8:59 AM on April 5, 2016 [11 favorites]

There is so much wacky advice on this thread. Either you can be confirmed by a priest or my confirmation was fake, because the archbishop of Milwaukee definitely didn't show up at my confirmation. I got married in the same church 11 years later, so apparently the priestly confirmation was good enough for them. I'd ask your friend to speak to the priest and be honest about the situation. My guess is you will stand in as a Christian witness and the baby will never know the difference because you'll be present as her godmother throughout her life. I was recently a witness at my Lutheran nephew's baptism because that synod didn't allow Catholic godparents, but he'll never know me as anything other than his godmother, and ultimately, that's what matters.
posted by notjustthefish at 9:34 AM on April 5, 2016 [1 favorite]

Another avenue to try: Get confirmed in one of the more easy-going anglican churches. If you're already a confirmed Christian, you can't be "re-confirmed" in the Catholic church just like you can't be re-baptized.

Please don't exploit our relatively open-handed approach to the Sacraments as an express lane to your goal of circumventing the rules of another church that you would like to pretend to be an active part of for a day. In my small Episcopal church there are a lot of people who mysteriously pop up halfway through a pregnancy / engagement, participate faithfully in the community until baptism time / wedding time and then disappear. It's disheartening and feels gross to be unsure if newcomers are looking for a cheap ceremony of whatever, or if they're genuinely looking for a faith community.

Your options are to decide that you're genuinely going to become more religious as a part of the duties to which you're formally committing yourself at the child's baptism; or to lie; or to participate at the ceremony in a non-religious role. It's your moral prerogative to decide on your own ethical course -- but as a religious person I would say it's pretty disrespectful to us, for what it's worth. I should think that unless the parish is quite rigid, you should be able to explain to the priest your relationship to the child and find a way for that to be affirmed within/around the ceremony in a way that works for you / the family and the Church -- but of course I am Catholic but not Roman Catholic and as noted above, these things vary wildly. Are there family friends or whatever who are active members of the parish? See if you can get a sense from them about the general outlook of the parish and priest(s) on these issues.
posted by tivalasvegas at 9:35 AM on April 5, 2016 [12 favorites]

Another avenue to try: Get confirmed in one of the more easy-going anglican churches.

This isn't really an option. All churches are going to want you to express an honest interest in becoming both a practicing Christian and also a member of their church community. It's not like this whole "believing in stuff and showing up weekly" is a crazy whim of those unreasonably staunch Papists or whatever. Wanting to join a religion is a baseline requirement to join pretty much all religions.

The only idea along these lines that might really work would be to kick it down to one of the Protestant denominations that doesn't really go in for ceremonies and bishops and all, and simply pledge to become a member of that church. You will still have to pay a lot of religious lip service, but you probably won't have to attend classes for months or only truly "count" as a member after being blessed by a high official. But then I'm not sure that would fly with this Catholic congregation or in your particular "I wanna be a godmother" situation.
posted by Sara C. at 9:36 AM on April 5, 2016 [4 favorites]

Oh god look. I am actually Roman Catholic, and this stuff about "you have to do X or you are mocking God/the faith" is just flat ignoring what the reality of life is like for most actual Roman Catholics that the church is just happy to embrace to its bosom after Vatican II. Are you baptized? Have you at some point in your life taken communion? Do you go to church from time to time, especially at Christmas and Easter? Do you occasionally find yourself reciting a Hail Mary in terrible situations, even if you haven't been inside a church in six months? Congratulations, you're a Catholic just like lots of other Catholics.

Don't go to an Anglican Church if you were baptized RC, just go to your friendly neighborhood priest. They really want you in the faith for the most part. All that stuff is really hard for people trying to become Catholics, but if you are baptized you are already a Catholic, and the rules are much easier.

Honestly the best thing to do is start going to confession at parishes in liberal areas. Also because you'll have to take confession before communion anyway, and if they give you a billion Hail Mary's you may as well start now, but also because you'll be able to tell by how bad the penance is what the priest will be like.
posted by corb at 9:46 AM on April 5, 2016 [2 favorites]

My apologies to the Anglicans. I had been thinking of being confirmed in an ANglican church as a thing to do sincerely -- as in sincerely wanting to be confirmed Christian. I wasn't meaning to imply that this person should lie and cheat the Anglicans just to get their way. Note that about communion I said it should be done in good faith etc. I had not thought this trough as a community-thing, however, and what you've said about the effects on the community makes sense, it's just not something I had thought of. My apologies and I retract that piece of my advice.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 10:07 AM on April 5, 2016

Either you can be confirmed by a priest or my confirmation was fake, because the archbishop of Milwaukee definitely didn't show up at my confirmation.

Not sure when you were confirmed, but it looks like Bishops do all the Milwaukee confirmations now. If there was no bishop at your confirmation, it's probably best that you not bring this up at any confirmation-requiring events.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 10:16 AM on April 5, 2016 [1 favorite]

Parish priests confirm RCIA participants. The bishop confirms RCIA participants if they are parishoners of the cathedral.

Exceptions to things "for pastoral reasons" do happen (mostly for weddings, like having the groom's Protestant minister uncle playing a role in the ceremony [I don't mean by doing a reading]), and "for pastoral reasons" is duly noted on the records. (Many years ago, I helped the parish secretary get the records in better order [don't remember why], and I saw everything.)

If, and only if, you take a serious and committed view of being a professed Roman Catholic, in a manner beautifully explained by Polycarp and several above, then approach the baptizing priest to see if "pastoral reasons" could enable you to be confirmed and receive Holy Communion in time for the baby's baptism. You would probably be required to attend instruction, if the priest or an associate had the time to do it at all well.

(To me, there is a great difference between "taking" Holy Communion and "receiving" Holy Communion. I suppose it's neither here nor there for this question, but think about that.)
posted by jgirl at 10:35 AM on April 5, 2016 [2 favorites]

My apologies to the Anglicans.

Sure, no worries. I think that Episcopalians generally are pretty sympathetic to this sort of issue, in my diocese there are lots of people who converted from the RCC because they got sick of this sort of nitpickery. So it's not like this is a horrible sin but it is kind of annoying or bemusing to see people trying to please the conservative rulemakers in Church A by getting sign-offs on things from the liberals in Church B.

(To me, there is a great difference between "taking" Holy Communion and "receiving" Holy Communion. I suppose it's neither here nor there for this question, but think about that.)

Oh yeah, this is another sticky wicket. From the OP's original question it sounds like they are regularly receiving Holy Communion at Christmas and Easter so presumably they have no ethical issues with receiving at the baptism. Which, I think that's more widely acceptable in the Roman Catholic Church even though on a strict theological basis I think it is probably a more serious violation of the Rules. (Myself, I have only received Communion once in a Roman Catholic church, with the explicit permission of the priest who knew I was not RC, but that's my own ethical line and others will be different.)
posted by tivalasvegas at 11:00 AM on April 5, 2016

From the OP's original question it sounds like they are regularly receiving Holy Communion at Christmas and Easter so presumably they have no ethical issues with receiving at the baptism.

It just says the OP goes to mass at Christmas and Easter, not that they receive communion. It says explicitly they've not received their first communion (if they were receiving communion at Christmas and Easter, one of those would be the first). Lots of people go to mass every week and don't receive communion.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 12:08 PM on April 5, 2016 [1 favorite]

Just be clear: Bishops (or specific priests they have delegated the authority to) are the only ones who are able to Confirm people. If you were Confirmed by a priest (and have the Confirmation certificate to prove it), he was delegated the authority to do so by his Bishop. A priest isn't supposed to Confirm people on his own initiative.
posted by KingEdRa at 8:11 AM on April 6, 2016 [1 favorite]

Hi everyone, thanks for the answers. To answer a few questions, I have not ever taken communion, although I do go to mass with my mom a few times a year (not just Christmas and Easter) and am familiar with how all that goes. I wouldn't say I'm completely UNinterested in getting confirmed; in fact, I did consider doing it in college and now I regret not going through with it then. This would definitely not be simply for the "party and pictures," as some people put it. I'm pretty uncomfortable with just lying about it, and that wouldn't be feasible anyway, as the church is requiring full documentation. They also are not allowing only one godparent to be confirmed and the other be a Christian witness. I know my friend is not religious at all, but I suspect her husband's family is, hence the choice of church. I don't know why this church appears to be so strict vis a vis some of your experiences, but there's no moving it to another, more liberal parish. In my previous godparent experience (I'm also a godparent to my niece, along with all her other aunts and uncles), only proof of baptism was required, so having all the rest of these requirements was a surprise to me.

Also, let me apologize for coming off as flippant about this. I didn't mean to disrespect anyone's religion, I know this is not a decision to be taken lightly and I am not treating it as such--this is something I've considered for a long time but now there's a renewed sense of urgency given the circumstance.

As it is, it looks like the baptism is postponed until later this spring/summer but given the timing I will still probably not be able to receive communion/confirmation in time. We're looking at the option of having someone else be the official godmother in the eyes of the church but I will be the godmother in the family's eyes. Not perfect, but we'll make it work. Thanks again for your feedback, everyone.
posted by Fuego at 9:12 AM on April 8, 2016 [2 favorites]

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