Sicilian diocese bans godfathers, saying they’re not pious enough

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EXCEPT a horse’s head in a bed, one of the most memorable scenes from the 1972 film The Godfather shows Michael Corleone (played by Al Pacino, above) becoming his niece’s godfather and his mafia family.

Going through Schmoop:

There is a heavy irony in the scene, as Michael stands in the church saying that he “renounces Satan and all his works” as a slaughter he has ordered progresses in the outside world. This demonstrates the great divide between appearance and reality: this church dude, renouncing Satan, is in fact semi-secretly embracing the evil of the world.

I now learn that the Catholic Diocese of Catania is so concerned that “spiritually dubious personages” like Michael Corleone are chosen in real life to be godparents that they have banned sponsorship for three years.

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Archbishop Salvatore Gristina of Catania, above, said he has decided to temporarily suspend the appointment of Sponsors and Confirmation Sponsors because the tradition has become:

A social custom in which the dimension of faith is barely visible.

The Archbishop said that in the “socio-ecclesial context” of today in Catania, in particular with “the irregular family situation of so many people”, often those who have been chosen by the families to be the godparents or Confirmation sponsors do not meet the canonical requirements for the role.

The sponsorship ban was presented in a New York Times article ($) on October 16, which said Italian prosecutors used baptisms as a measure to map the influence of Mafia bosses.

He quoted a priest in Catania who said that in some cases “threats against the parish priest” had been made to pressure the cleric to allow certain “spiritually dubious figures” to be appointed as godfathers.

During a visit to southern Italy in September 2020, Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin said that Marian devotion in particular must be protected from exploitation by the Mafia. Without a trace of irony he said:

Popular piety is a great treasure which the Church cannot do without precisely because she supports the faith in all circumstances. But he also needs to be cleansed of certain unsuitable elements, especially if it is the underworld or criminal elements.

Bishop Salvatore Genchi, Vicar General of Catania, told the Times “It’s an experience.” He estimated that 99 percent of the godparents in the diocese were not “spiritually fit” for the role.

Genchi expressed his hope in an interview with Italian magazine Famiglia Cristiana that the temporary three-year suspension of baptismal godparents would be an opportunity for renewal where Catholics come to a better understanding of the Church’s expectations of godparents.

We hope that things will change, and the one who is about to become a godfather or godmother will really do so because he intends to be a witness of a path of faith.

Gristina’s decree, which was first issued in March, came into full force on October 1 after an interim period from May 25 to September 30 that allowed for baptisms already scheduled with selected godparents – many of them have been postponed due to previous COVID-19 lockdown restrictions – to take place.

catholic site Aleteia reported that:

Primarily, the problem is rampant secularism in society and among Church members. But there is also a concern about the Mafia.

He cited the Times saying :

Church officials argue that the once essential figure in a child’s Catholic education has lost all spiritual significance. Instead, they say, it has become a networking opportunity for families looking to improve their fortunes, secure endowments of gold necklaces, and make beneficial connections, sometimes with local power brokers who have dozens of referrals.

According to church officials, divine parenthood had fallen to earth as a secular custom between relatives or neighbors – many of whom lack faith or lived in sin – and was now a mere method of strengthening family bonds.

The Vatican created a task force earlier this year to study how best to separate criminal organizations such as the Mafia from Catholic traditions.

No wonder, really, because the Catholic Church hates competition from rival crime syndicates.

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