What are the functions and qualifications of baptismal sponsors [God-parents]?
Is it true that being a sponsor creates an impediment to marriage with the
person sponsored? What about Confirmation sponsors? How serious is
the responsibility of God-parents?
Canon 762 tells us that “out of the most ancient practice of the Church, no
one should be solemnly baptized unless he has, insofar as possible, a
sponsor.” “Solemn Baptism” is Baptism as it is normally conferred,
as opposed to private Baptism conferred in danger of death, or conditional
Baptism conferred upon one who was doubtfully baptized at an earlier time
The primary duty of
the sponsor is to look after the Catholic upbringing of the one baptized
should the parents become unable or unwilling to do so. The sponsor must
be a baptized and practicing Catholic, possess the use of reason, and intend
to fulfill his role. The sponsor may not be the mother, father, or
spouse of the baptized, nor may he be a novice or professed religious without
the permission of his superior, nor a cleric in major orders (subdeacon and
above) without the permission of his bishop. (c.765-766) One
person, preferably of the same sex as the baptized, or a male and female pair
may serve as sponsors (c. 764).
relationship arises between the minister of Baptism, and the one baptized, and
the sponsor (c.768). This relationship invalidates marriage between
the related parties (c.1079). In the case of infant Baptism, the age
difference between the sponsor and the baptized generally precludes marriage
anyway, but the relationship might be significant in the case of one baptized
as an adult—making it preferable to select a sponsor of the same sex as the
one baptized. If the sponsor is represented by a proxy, the proxy
contracts no spiritual relationship.
For Confirmation the
requirements for sponsors are much the same as for Baptism, although the
Confirmation sponsor must have been previously confirmed, and will usually be
a different person from the baptismal sponsor unless the two Sacraments are
received on the same occasion, or unless the minister of Confirmation sees fit
to allow the baptismal sponsor to serve. Normally the sponsor is of the
same sex as the one confirmed, unless the minister of Confirmation permits
otherwise. (c.796) There is only one sponsor for each person
confirmed, and, unless the minister of Confirmation decides otherwise, a
sponsor will stand up for only one or two people being confirmed (c.794).
A spiritual relationship arises between the one confirmed and the sponsor, but
it is not an invalidating impediment to marriage (c.1079).
The responsibility of the sponsor(s) to see to the
Catholic education of the one they sponsor is grave, for the salvation
of a baptized soul may well depend upon it. For this reason, sponsors
ought to be chose who will actually be able to carry out their
responsibilities. Things like character, age, and geographical proximity
ought to be considered. It might also be beneficial to chose someone
legally capable of becoming an adoptive parent or guardian if the parents were
to die—although neither adoption or legal guardianship is demanded as a
result of the baptismal relationship.
The role of the sponsor is a bit more tricky if the
parents simply fail in their duties of Catholic upbringing. Clearly, the
sponsor must make the effort to fill in for the parents, but this may not
always be possible if there are parental objections. Moral impossibility
relieves the sponsor of his obligations as sponsor.
But, the good Lord willing, the works of the God-parents
for their spiritual children will bring many souls to the happiness of
heaven. God wills it!
During Holy Week, while He hung on the Cross, our Lord is recorded as crying
out, “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” How could it be
possible for Him to imagine that such a thing had taken place?
.That passage is from Matthew 27: 45-46. But, far from expressing
abandonment, our Lord was reciting Psalm 21 to demonstrate that His passion
had been predicted in the Old Testament:
But I am a worm,
and no man: the reproach of men, and the outcast of the people. All they
that saw me have laughed me to scorn: they have spoken with the lips, and
wagged the head. He hoped in the Lord, let him deliver him: let him save
him, seeing he delighteth in him.
...They have numbered all my bones. And they have looked and stared
upon me. They parted my garments amongst them; and upon my vesture they
cast lots. (Psalm xxi: 7-9,
In spite of the
apparent helplessness, Jesus, speaking through the Psalmist, has the courage
to call on God for His help:
But thou, O
Lord, remove not thy help to a distance from me; look towards my defence.
Deliver, O God, my soul from the sword: my only one from the hand of the dog.
Save me from the lion's mouth; and my lowness from the horns of the unicorns.
(Psalm ibid., 20-22).
The Psalm ends on a
relatively upbeat note:
to him my soul shall live: and my seed shall serve him. There shall be
declared to the Lord a generation to come: and the heavens shall shew forth
his justice to a people that shall be born, which the Lord hath made.( Psalm ibid., 31-32).
Psalm 21 is recited
during the stripping of the altars after the Mass of Holy Thursday, and is
recited each Friday during the hour of Prime. It is one of the several
Psalms referred to as the “Messianic Psalms,” because they seem to point
toward the future Christ or Anointed One of the Lord. Our Lord called
this to the attention of the Pharisees in Matthew’s Gospel:
Pharisees being gathered together, Jesus asked them, Saying: What think
you of Christ? whose son is he? They say to him: David's. He saith to them:
How then doth David in spirit call him Lord, saying: The Lord said to my Lord,
Sit on my right hand, until I make thy enemies thy footstool? If David then
call him Lord, how is he his son?(Matthew ii: 41-45)
In Matthew’s Gospel
our Lord was referring to Psalm 109. Psalms 2, 19, and 44 have similar
You spoke of science becoming “politicized.” How could something as
objective as science be subject to a political agenda.
Answer: We see
the politicization of science in the Soviet Union in an attempt to make
genetics compatible with Marxist ideology. The plague of Lysenkoism has
spread, as well, to the Western World.
Denisovich Lysenko (1898–1976) gave his name to the practice of science to
serve an ideological purpose rather than to determine the truth about natural
phenomena. At a time when people in the Soviet Union were starving,
Lysenko's crackpot agricultural theories were glorified by the State because
they coincided with the doctrines of Marxism. For well over a decade
orthodox scientists who disagreed with Lysenko were persecuted--their works
were not published, they were forced into other lines of research, some were
sent to the gulags, and others just, well, disappeared. Although today
Lysenko is nothing more than a bad memory, his story is important in that it
demonstrates the way in which government can manipulate scientists to
legitimize ideological aspirations and political plans. Unfortunately,
at least in spirit, Lysenko, is still alive and well in government, academia
and the mass media.
genetics is based on the work of Gregor Mendel (1822-1884), a Catholic
priest, abbot of an Augustinian monastery, with a university education in the
sciences--hardly a model for Marxist emulation. Mendel's research on
thousands of pea plants led him to theorize that plants had paired dominant
and recessive characteristics--tall and short, for example. If a plant were
tall it could be so by virtue of a pair of tall characteristics or by having a
pair of short and tall. Only if the short characteristics were paired
would the plant be short. By proper selection of breeding stock it was
possible to produce plants possessing the recessive characteristic that would
breed true amongst their own kind. Around 1900 Mendel's work was
rediscovered and formed the basis for the modern theory of
genetics--ultimately that genetic information was carried on chromosomes that
could be seen under electron magnification. But to the political
theorists of the Soviet Empire, Mendelian genetics seemed to be idealistic
conceptions, almost spiritual in nature, and utterly incompatible with
rival theory theory to Mendel's had been developed by Jean-Baptiste Lamarck
(1744 –1829), holding that new strains could be developed on the basis of
characteristics they acquired. He postulated, for example, that giraffes
that had to eat leaves from tall trees developed longer necks over time--and
passed this acquired characteristic on to their descendants. Today this
is known to be incorrect for there is no mechanism for the reproductive cells
to receive information from the other (somatic) cells of the body--a mechanism
necessary if the trait is to be passed on. The saying goes that "you
might inherit a wooden head, but you cannot inherit a wooden leg"!
theory was picked up by Ivan Vladimirovich Michurin (1855–1935) at the
University of Moscow. Michurin was a Lamarkian who had done some
otherwise useful work in hybridization. Michurin was joined in 1925 by
the Austrian socialist, Paul Kammerer, who claimed to have proved Lamarck's
theory with a series of scientific experiments. Kammerer's "success"
got him a chair at the University of Moscow, but shortly after his appointment
it became clear that Kammerer's experiments had been faked. Fraud tends to be
common in the ideological sciences like evolution,
warming, the alar
and atrazine ban, the DDT
scam, and so forth, Kammerer
tried unsuccessfully to blame an assistant, and committed suicide to escape
disgrace. Nonetheless, the Soviet Regime held Kammerer in respect, making a
movie about him, and blaming capitalist reactionaries for the false evidence.
the 1930s Soviet farmers had been forced to collectivize, a move consistent
with Marxist theory, and quite damaging to agricultural production. With
little incentive to produce, coupled with the harsh conditions of the region,
farm output dropped dramatically. The Soviets responded by starving the
Ukrainian farmers, confiscating their grain to feed the rest of the country.
On the basis of rather wild
claims to produce crop strains suited to the harsh climate of the Soviet
Union, Trofim Denisovich Lysenko (1898-1976), following in the footsteps of
Lamarck, Michurin, and Kammerer, became the director of the Soviet
Academy of Science’s Institute of Genetics Soviet Academy of Science’s in
worked diligently to maintain their Lamarckian genetics of mutation by means
of acquired characteristics. Lysenko, a peasant farmer with little formal
scientific education, was highly esteemed by Stalin regime, which celebrated
him as one of the “barefoot scientists” of the revolution. During
the 1930’s, even before Lysenko was appointed Director of the Institute of
Genetics, scientists who held the Mendelian gene based mutation theory began
In 1933 or thereabouts,
the geneticists Chetverikoff, Ferry and Ephroimson were all, on separate
occasions banished to Siberia, and Levitsky to a lobor camp in the European
Arctic … in 1936, the Communist geneticist Agol was done away with,
following rumors that he had been convicted of ’Menshevik idealism’ in
genetics … it is impossible to learn the real causes of the deaths of such
distinguished geneticists as Karpechenko, Koltzoff, Serebrovsky, and Levitsky….N.I. Vavilov, the most distinguished geneticist in
Russia--internationally famous and respected--was relieved of his many posts
and accused of being a British spy. He died in 1942 in a Siberian labor camp,
although it was not until several years later that biologist outside Russia
were able to learn what happened to him ( Martin Gardner, Fads & Fallacies in the Name of Science (Dover:
Mineola NY, 1957), p. 144-145 quoting Nobel Prize winner H.J. Muller).
and Stalin’s regime spared no effort to “butter one another’s bread.”
Lysenko replaced Vavilov in 1940, and did not tire of praising Lenin, Stalin,
and the Central Committee of the Communist Party as wise leaders, great
scholars , and paragons of science, having “raised the Michurinist tendency
in biology to the position of the only correct and progressive tendency in all
the branches of biological science…. Long live the forward looking
biological Michurinist science! Glory to the great Stalin, leader of the
people and coryphaeus of forward looking science!” (Gardner,
p.146, quoting Pravda, 10 August 1948.) “… the wise leader and teacher off the Soviet people, the greatest
scholar of our epoch, Comrade Stalin…. (Gardner, p.145).
to be out done by their minion, the regime twice conferred upon Lysenko the
Stalin Prize, and once the Order of Lenin, making him also a Hero of the
Soviet Union. He was for a time a vice president of the Supreme Soviet.
Governments, it seems, can always get meaningless prizes for those who lead
the masses in toeing the line of ideological science. Alfred Nobel must be
rotating in his grave!
for all of this mutual admiration and glory, the theories of Lysenko proved to
be disastrously wrong. To begin with, it seems that Lysenko had no theory in
the scientific sense. There was no trace of the Scientific
Method in his work. He had made no hypotheses, conducted no empirical,
controlled, experiments to confirm his claims, no statistical analysis of
results, and published no data or methodology that could be checked by
Lysenko was doing was “try it and see if it works.” His idea was that by
exposing a plant to harsh conditions, he could “shatter” its
heredity--somewhat as a revolution “shatters” a society--making it highly
susceptible to change. Lysenko, following Lamarck, held that through this
process, which he called “vernalization,” the surviving plants would pass
their new heredity on to future generations. His departure from the Scientific
Method cut years off the time required to bring a new strain to
productivity--this pleased the Regime immensely, and put the real scientific
establishment (or what was left of it) at a serious disadvantage. Lysenko
mocked real science with its careful method as “reactionary idealism,
groveling before the slave masters of bourgeois western capitalism” (my
collection of adjectives mentioned by Gardner).
was successful some of the time, but for reasons that he did not understand.
The plant that survives exposure to harsh conditions may well be the one that
was hereditarily best suited for survival. That is called “getting lucky.”
But the survival had nothing to do with “vernalization”-- it just happened
to be a hardier plant. But if the hardiness was carried on a recessive gene
there was a four to one chance that it would not “breed true” when
fertilized by another plant. And, even if it did, the hardiness might be
“bred out” in a few generations. There was no theory of dominant and
recessive genes in Lysenko’s thinking, and consequently no attempt to keep
the strain pure--and certainly no attempt to use pure strains as would be
necessary in a controlled experiment. Nonetheless, it took until a year after
Nikita Khrushchev’s dismissal from office in 1964 for the Academy of
Sciences to remove Lysenko from the Institute of Genetics. His influence is
said to have persisted in Communist China for some years.
one has to ask why the Marxist government would tolerate a system that failed
far often than it succeeded to remain for over thirty years. Gregor Mendel was
a Catholic priest, and the Nazis had made use of the genetic theory in a
perverse explanation of their claim to be a “super race.” But the real
answer to the question seems to lie more in the nature of Marxism itself. The
dialectical materialism of Hegel and Marx is based on the idea that a new
reality is formed when antithetical elements collide (thesis + antithesis → synthesis).
The changing of an organism or a people through a violent collision with an
external agent would seem to bear out the reality of the Marxian dialectic,
and bear it out without any “idealistic” constructs like natures, souls,
we have seen with “cultural Marxism” in the west, the general strategy of
Marxists is to destroy the culture they are intent on remaking. Destroy
religion, philosophy, music, and art; destroy the morals of the society,
destroy its science, its economy, and even the means to feed itself, and that
society will be a plum, ripe for picking. Fortunately for us, at least for the
moment, Marxism has not fully succeeded in “shattering” our society, and
the folly of Lysenkoism in the Soviet Union bought us some time. Now if only
we can resist a similar folly in our own Republic!
This article appears at www.rosarychurch.net/comment/lysenkoism.html