The parents of child recently approached me and told me that their child was baptized in the parish several years ago. The baptism was duly recorded, including the names of the godparents. Recently, the parents of the child had a “falling out” with the godparents. They now wish the names of the godparents to be stricken from the official register and substituted with the names of two other persons who have agreed to assist the parents in the Christian formation of the child. The parents want a new baptismal certificate issued with the names of the substituted godparents. Is this possible?
The nomination of a new godparent or a substituted godparent (whether for the reasons in the question, or because of death or incapacity) is not foreseen under canon law (c. 877 - 878). Accordingly, the diocesan pastoral manual states that new godparents cannot be added or altered to the baptism register after the fact (E-23).
A pastoral response may be in order explaining that godparents fulfill several interconnected and inseparable functions: together, with the parents, they present the child for baptism, witness the act of baptism, take part in the rite of baptism, help the baptized lead a Christian life in keeping with baptism, and help the baptized fulfill the obligations of such a life. Some of those functions are historical and cannot be changed. It is not required that a godparent act as a friend or family member, but rather that they serve as a representative of the Christian faith in presenting the child as a new member of the church. Parents are the primary educators in the way of the faith, not the godparents. The child does not have a right to godparents, but does have a right to a Christian education. If the Church were to allow the appointment of godparents after the fact, either designated as "new" or as "substitute", then the naming of godparents would not be naming godparents as canon law sees their role. While it is not possible to change the historical register, parents may ask any good Catholic to assist them in the Christian education of their children. One does not have to be a sponsor or godparent in order to assist in this way.