A sponsor is one who binds himself to answer for another. According to Canon Law, sponsors are required at baptism and confirmation.
Baptism. In accordance with ancient custom a sponsor is to be employed in Baptism whenever possible (CICc. 872; CCEO c. 684). The Latin code states that there should be but one sponsor of either sex; at the most two sponsors, one male and one female, are employed (c.873).
For sponsorship: (1) The sponsor must be so designated and have the intention of fulfilling this function. (2) The sponsor generally should have completed the sixteenth year. (3) The sponsor must be a fully initiated Catholic who leads a life of faith. (4) The sponsor may not be bound by any canonical penalty legitimately imposed or declared. (5) Finally, the sponsor may not be the father or mother of the one to be baptized. A non-Catholic Eastern Christian may be admitted to the role of sponsor in a Catholic baptism, but always in addition to a Catholic sponsor (CCEO c. 685 §3). A baptized Christian belonging to a non-Catholic ecclesial community (e.g., Lutheran, Methodist, Presbyterian communions) may not function as a sponsor, but may be admitted as a witness to the baptism if a Catholic sponsor is also had (CIC c. 874 §2).
Spiritual relationship is a bond arising between certain persons from the Sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation. In the Eastern Catholic Churches, the spiritual relationship resulting from Baptism constitutes a diriment impediment to marriage (CCEO c. 811).
Sponsors assist in preparation for Baptism, testify to the faith of an adult candidate or profess the Church's faith with the parents of a child to be baptized, and help the new Christian persevere in faith after Baptism (ChrInitGenIntrod 8–9).
Confirmation. A sponsor should be present at Confirmation insofar as possible (CIC c. 892). There should be only one sponsor for each person confirmed.
The qualifications required of a confirmation sponsor are the same as those required for a baptismal sponsor (CIC c. 893 §1). It is desirable that a person's baptismal sponsor also serve as the sponsor for confirmation (CICc. 893 §2). This stresses the unity of the two Sacraments. It is also possible to choose a sponsor other than one's baptismal sponsor.
Bibliography: j. c. bennington, The Recipient of Confirmation (Washington 1952). t. l. bouscaron and a. c. ellis, Canon Law (3d rev. ed. Milwaukee 1957). h. davis, Moral and Pastoral Theology, 4 v. (rev. ed. New York 1958) v.3. r. j. kearney, Sponsors at Baptism (Washington 1925). j. f. waldron, The Minister of Baptism (Washington 1942). s. woywod, A Practical Commentary on the Code of Canon Law (New York 1963).
[e. h. sullivan/