Athe­ist could step into ‘gosh­fa­ther’ role

The Washington Post Sunday - - DIVERSIONS - AMY DICK­IN­SON

Dear Amy: I am a hap­pily mar­ried man with two won­der­ful chil­dren, ages 6 and 8. Re­cently, a close friend and his wife (who are Catholic) asked me to be the god­fa­ther to their child.

I in­stantly re­minded them that I am an athe­ist. My chil­dren weren’t bap­tized, and my un­der­stand­ing is that a god­par­ent is a re­li­gious men­tor; in­deed, in a re­cent col­umn, you noted that a god­par­ent pro­vides a spir­i­tual back­drop to a child’s life.

Although I am not Catholic, re­li­gious or spir­i­tual, I would be de­lighted to be a men­tor, close con­fi­dant, friend, un­cle, etc., to the child.

If any­thing hap­pened to my friend and his wife, as­sum­ing it was con­sis­tent with their wishes, my wife and I would hap­pily pro­vide for and love the child and raise it as our own, on equal foot­ing with our chil­dren.

None­the­less, in my head the ques­tion re­mains, is it ap­pro­pri­ate for me to be a god­fa­ther? Athe­ist God­fa­ther Athe­ist God­fa­ther: First there is this: Are you will­ing to par­tic­i­pate in the church ser­vice dur­ing the child’s bap­tism and swear in front of your friends, priests and the con­gre­ga­tion not only to re­nounce the devil (my fa­vorite part) but to also up­hold the tenets of the church?

The fol­low­ing is from Catholic Church canon re­gard­ing the role of god­par­ents: A god­par­ent will “. . . help the bap­tized to lead a Chris­tian life in har­mony with bap­tism, and to ful­fill faith­fully the obli­ga­tions con­nected with it.”

If you are not com­fort­able par­tic­i­pat­ing at this level, it would be most eth­i­cal to de­cline.

If you are com­fort­able par­tic­i­pat­ing in the bap­tism ser­vice and other church ser­vices, and if you feel able to ful­fill this role for the child, then you should ac­cept.

The sec­ond hur­dle is the church it­self.

Chris­tian churches dif­fer re­gard­ing the god­par­ent role. But a Catholic priest might not be will­ing for a non-Catholic, nonChris­tian, non­be­liever to take it on. Your friend should check with his priest.

If you are not com­fort­able ful­fill­ing re­li­gious-ori­ented roles as a god­fa­ther, you should thank your friend for this honor and gesture of friend­ship and trust. Ask him whether you can be given an al­ter­nate sta­tus, whereby you will forge a spe­cial friend­ship with the child. Per­haps you could be the “gosh­fa­ther” — a spe­cial friend and hon­orary un­cle. Dear Amy: “Mom” was wrestling with how to en­cour­age her un­der­achiev­ing daugh­ter to suc­ceed at an ex­pen­sive col­lege.

I, too, had a child who skated un­der the wire in high school, and I thought was too im­ma­ture for col­lege.

They should let her go to her dream school, un­der the caveat that she ap­ply for and use stu­dent loans for tu­ition. If she achieves the C’s her par­ents want, then they can re­im­burse her, se­mes­ter by se­mes­ter. If not, it’s her dime. It worked for us. Hav­ing some skin in the game can make a big dif­fer­ence. Been There Been There: This seems po­ten­tially ex­pen­sive and risky (if the stu­dent doesn’t get Cs, stays in school and con­tin­ues to com­pile debt), but I agree that this stu­dent must have skin in the game. Amy’s col­umn ap­pears seven days a week at wash­ing­ton­post.com/ad­vice. Write to askamy@amy­dick­in­son.com or Amy Dick­in­son, Tribune Con­tent Agency, 16650 West­grove Dr., Suite 175, Ad­di­son, Tex. 75001.  You can also fol­low her @ask­ingamy.

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