Q&A: Proxies for the scrutinies

Q. One of our catechumens informed us that her godparent will not be able to be present for the three lenten scrutinies, and now she needs to look for a “proxy.” I have three questions:

  1. Who selects the proxy?
  2. Does the proxy need to fulfill all of the canonical qualifications of a godparent?
  3. Does the proxy need to fill out a parish application just as each godparent must do?

A. Canon Law regulates the requirements for godparents. However, as far as I know, it says nothing about proxies. So there are no universal guidelines when it comes to a person who stands-in ritually for the official godparent.

Only you, your catechumen, and her loved ones can know what would work best. But some ideas are to have her select someone she trusts. Whomever served as the person’s sponsor during the catechumenate would seem to be the obvious choice. Or it could be someone else she has come to know well from the parish.

Free Download: "FIVE ESSENTIAL ELEMENTS OF AN RCIA SPONSOR’S JOB DESCRIPTION"

Does a proxy need to be formally approved?

The proxy should ideally fulfill all the usual requirements for godparents or at the very least, be a Catholic who strives to live their Catholic faith as best they can. Although neither canon law nor the rite give us any guidelines, ensuring they fulfill the usual requirements seems to be good common sense.

Note that godparents are not required by canon law to fill out an application, though your parish or diocese may have its own practice. Personally, I would rethink having an application form at all for potential godparents, not because it is not important to determine the person’s appropriateness but because an application form can tend to make this beautiful lifelong relationship seem a bit bureaucratic.

Discerning the appropriateness of a godparent can be more like a series of conversations in which the catechumen can express why they have chosen this person, the person can express their desire to accompany the catechumen for life, and parish community leaders can express any concerns or offer any testimony to the person’s qualifications for serving as a godparent. There of course can be some paperwork involved simply to have a record of contact information or, if desired, any pertinent notes from the conversations, which are shared among all involved.

Note that the comments here apply to the scrutinies only. The use of a proxy godparent for the sacraments of initiation is a different, more serious matter. Be sure to consult your diocesan office for guidelines to help avoid any misuse of this practice.

Your turn

How do you talk about a proxy being present with your elect during the scrutinies? What does discernment around this look like in your parish? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Free Download: "FIVE ESSENTIAL ELEMENTS OF AN RCIA SPONSOR’S JOB DESCRIPTION"

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Comments

  1. At our parish we have a select pool of parishioners upon who we call for help as godparents at scrutinies. They are long term members and some are former RCIA catechumens or candidates. We used one yesterday to accompany Catechumen to Rites of Sending and Election.

  2. Although an application is not required in our parish, the Sponsors Eligibility Form is, as it should be, within Canon Law for the suitability of baptismal/confirmation Godparents/sponsors. This is done only of course for those who are not in the same parish of registration. Otherwise the pastor/administrator can approve verbally after what Diana has called “a conversation.”
    We also had a Proxy this past Sunday. But only our Catechumens sign the Book of the Elect. The proxy should be approved by at least the RCIA Director/Coordinator in advance of the Rite and not asked in the parking lot in the eleventh hour!

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