2General NormsC. 535 §1 Each parish needs a baptismal, marriage and death register and any other ones prescribed by USCCB or the Diocesan BishopCertain events are always recorded/cross referenced in baptismal registerParishes need to have a raised seal and use it (c. 535 §3)Parish registers are not public registers (no info should be given over phone, , etc.) Certificates are public ecclesiastical documents (c §1) signed by priest or deaconC. 876 the declaration of a single witness may be used to create missing baptismal records.
3RegistersOnly parishes maintain sacramental records and registers / other entities would need special explicit approval from the Bishop to maintain sacramental records and registersRegisters must always be retained as hard copies, (computer duplications are allowed but cannot be official register)Registers may never be destroyed or discardedThe pages of a register should be made of acid-free paperEntries should be printed with indelible (waterproof) inkRegisters must be stored in a safe place (usually fire-resistant or fire-proof) and accessed only by authorized personnelThe loss or destruction of any sacramental register must be reported to the Chancery office immediatelyRegisters should never leave the parish premises, except in case of emergency or for microfilming
4Confidentiality Information collected in registers is private Direct access to registers is claimed only by pastor and his designate (designated persons need proper training on basic recordkeeping before working with the register)Pastor is ultimately responsible for sacramental registersCurrent sacramental registers should never be made available to genealogical researchersRequests for certificates by a diocesan official or parish representative are no problem. In these instances, certificates are always mailed directly to the parish or diocese without any need for a release from the individual
5Confidentiality cont’d The person, the parents, the guardian(s) and a bona fide pastoral minister at another Catholic parish or diocese have the right to request a certificate. (When the request is not made by a church official, some proof of identity should be presented prior to issuing the certificate.)If a person is deceased the previous spouse or an adult child also has right to request the record.If the parents are divorced, either parent may request a certificateOnly the adoptive parents have the right to an adopted child’s certificate.When a record is requested by a 3rd party not included in the above-mentioned list, the request is deniedThe reason for denial is the pastor could be held liable for undue disclosure and we want to protect each person’s privacyRequests for records should be submitted in writing, although telephone request from a Catholic parish or agency are acceptable. No information from sacramental registers should be provided by telephone
6Register EntriesEntries should be made as soon as possible after the eventThe proper parish for recording a sacrament and death is (usually) determined by territoryEntries should be made in chronological order (if not, cross-reference it from the proper location)Index entries according to person’s last name (print last name in uppercase)Enter data in the corresponding title (notations, remarks column will have many different references throughout the register)If space is inadequate in register line, use another line but cross reference to itEntries to the register should only be made with neat printing (no cursive) and fade-proof and water-proof (indelible) inkConfidential data - not to be included on certificates is to be marked as such when entered in register in notations section (i.e. confidential – do not include on certificate)The actual minister of a sacrament does not need to sign the register if the person making entry personally witnessed the event or has a document signed by minister certifying the conferral of the sacrament. (In these cases the name of the minister is printed in the register)
7CertificatesA certificate is an official document that a particular individual has received a sacrament—it is an exact duplicate of data in the register (except adoption)A certificate’s purpose is for internal church useOnly a parish or new location holding the original record may issue a certificate. The actual register should be used when producing certificates.The person, the parents, the guardian(s) and a bona fide pastoral minister at another Catholic parish or diocese have the right to request a certificate. (See confidentiality section for more information)Requests for records should be submitted in writing, although telephone requests from a Catholic parish or agency are acceptable. No information from sacramental registers should be provided by telephone.Certificates should have an official appearance and should be issued in a consistent format. Parishes may obtain blank certificates from commercial vendors or may have them printed locally. All certificates must bear the name and address of the parish.
8Certificates cont’dCertificates must be typed, printed by computer or hand-printed ink.They are to be signed by the “parish priest” or his delegate and impressed with the parish seal.Certificates are to include all data contained in the sacramental register, except that which is marked confidential (i.e. adoption) or which is extraneous to a person’s canonical status.Data in the Notations/Remarks column is included on certificate. If there is no data in the notations column, the words “No notations” should be printed on certificate.
9Changing EntriesOnce data is entered into a sacrament register, data is considered official and permanent.- it should never be modified, except under special conditions- Data is never scratched out, erased, whited out or otherwise destroyed or obliterated.Minor changes (i.e. misspellings) may be made directly to the original entry. Such entries are to be made by drawing a straight, simple line through the word, number or letter to be changed and printing the change immediately above or below the entry.Major changes (i.e. to record an adoption after baptism) may require a new entry to be created. The original information should be reproduced (except the relevant change) with a cross-reference to the original entry. The words “Do Not Issue Certificate from This Record” should be printed carefully across the face of the original entry.
10Changes to Entries Cont’d Those persons authorized to request a certificate are also allowed to request a minor change due to error.More significant errors or other changes require authentic supporting documentation. Such documentation will ordinarily consist of civil or ecclesiastical certificates. When the error involves data pertaining directly to the celebration of a sacrament or rite of Christian burial (i.e. date, identity of godparent), but cannot be verified with documentation, written or oral testimony by a reputable witness will suffice.Once specific data has been changed in the register, the original data is not transcribed onto the certificates (i.e. biological parent’s name after adoption)
11Extraordinary additions When a record is missing and there is no possibility the sacrament took place elsewhere—Canon 876 may be applied to add an entry into the register book.- Only the data which can be vouched for with certainty should be added (even if entry is incomplete) (See affidavit form)- The name of the witness, the date of his/her testimony and the words “Based on the testimony of…” should be printed in the notations/remarks column of the register.
12Baptismal Register Entries Source of data: Sacristy record taken by baptism preparation team verified by parent, guardian or adult candidate—have a clear procedure to transfer this information from record to baptismal register (birth certificate is ideal)When persons from several parishes are baptized or received into full communion at a single ceremony, the event should be recorded only at the parish where the actual rite was celebratedEmergency baptisms outside of parish churchInform local parish in writing so this may be included in baptismal register (Good idea: bulletin announcement)Celebrate rite of Bringing a Baptized Child to the Church and create a record of this event
13Baptismal Register Cont’d Conditional baptism – indicate in notationsRCIA – even though baptized in another church need to make entry in confirmation and baptismal register.- original baptism data placed in baptismal space- data from Rite of Reception placed in notations- if married, record name, date and place-use special care to follow this procedure when bringing in young children
14Baptismal Register Cont’d Unmarried parents (follow Canon 877)-Unjust to place unauthorized name of parent in Baptism Register. (If unmarried father declares he is the father (and accepted by mother) or some other proof of paternity, his name should be added to register-have him make this declaration in writing: signed, dated, witnessed by pastor, one other witness and sealed with parish seal.Note: keep proof of paternity in the“Sacramental records” file.
15Baptismal Register Cont’d • Do not use the expression “Father unknown” in the register or any certificates.• No more than two godparents/sponsors• If proxy is used, indicate the godparent’s name in the register but write proxy over the name.• If a person is a witness, (c ) “Christian witness” should be placed after the person’s name.
16Baptismal Register Cont’d Ascription to the proper Catholic Church is determined by the rite of the parents, not the rite of the minister or the parish of baptism, unless the person is 14 years of age or older.- an inquiry should be made to determine the rite (Latin or Eastern) of the person being baptized.- if a person is ascribed to an Eastern Catholic church, a notation should be made in the “Notations” column
17Baptismal Register Cont’d When recording the baptism of adopted children (c. 877,3)- see hand-out of USCCB complementary norm (rule is very explicit)- record is different if adoption is finalized before or after baptism- Baptismal certificates should not reflect the fact of a person’s adoptionNote: Special care/confidentiality of registers should be obvious given the sensitivity of this type of information.• If adoption is in process, baptism should be delayed until the final order of adoption and amended birth certificate is issued.Note: Due to potential liability issues, no copy of final order for adoption and amended birth certificate are to be retained in parish “Sacramental Records” file
18Changes to Baptismal register This register is the most commonly used, so the most commonly changedSee previously pages on “Changing Entries”Sacraments should be recorded, when a sacrament (virtually always marriage) is declared invalid by a tribunal. It must also be added to the notations columnIf a person formally asks and the Bishop (or pastor) accepts the person’s defection from the Church this may also be added as a notation to the register.When doing this state “Formal defection from the Church” and the date of this event. Reunion with the Church should also be noted with a date of re-entryNames, dates, places and protocol numbers are usually the information needed to be retained in notations columnThese notations are normally included on certificates
19Confirmation Register (cc )Canon 535,1 indicates parish is not required to keep this, however, you must prove confirmation before ordination and you must be confirmed to be a godparent.Have a process to collect data, one person to collect it and communicate it accurately to the parish or parishes of the recipients for proper recordingWhen confirmation includes persons from several different parishes there are two acceptable methods for recordingAll recorded at parish where confirmation was celebratedRecords are made at the recipient’s respective parishA baptismal certificate of each recipient should be received prior to confirmation
20Confirmation Register Cont’d Date and place of baptism should be noted in confirmation register (this can be very helpful when the person is looking for a baptismal certificate later.)Notification of the church of baptism of the fact of confirmation should be made asap. Notification should include name of the recipient, the date of baptism, the place and date of confirmation. The names of the minister, parents and sponsor are not required.Note: when a person is previously baptized in another Christian denomination, the church of reception is notified—not church of baptism.
21Marriage Register (cc. 1121-1123) Source of info – priest or deacon, premarital file normally contains all necessary info, however, last minute changes are sometimes madeConvalidation – same as normal ceremony but date, place and official of original ceremony are to be noted in Notations columnSanation – When a marriage is sanated, the data of the original ceremony are to be placed in the usual columns. (The date, diocese and protocol number of the sanation should be recorded in notations column.
22Marriage Register Cont’d Previous civil marriage by a person baptized or received into Catholic Church is not recorded in the Marriage register, unless the previous marriage was invalid.Note: a notation concerning the marriage is to be placed in the person’s baptismal record, in the notations columnNotation of dispensations/annulments should be made in notations column (the date, diocese and protocol number and type of dispensation or the word “annulment”/declaration of invalidity should be explicitly named)Note: Retain a copy of letter notifying the parish of annulment in “sacramental records” file.The church of baptism should be notified asap when a marriage is celebrated, convalidated or sanated. (notification should include the names of the couple, the date and place of the wedding, fact of convalidation or sanation) FYI - names of the official and witnesses are not required.
23Premarital filesEach parish is required to maintain a file of papers collected during the period of marriage preparation.This file includes: prenuptial forms, baptismal certificate (issued within last six months) questionnaires, correspondence, notes and dispensation documents. The minister’s portion of the civil license is also retained in this file. The fact of delegation expressly given (orally or in writing) should also be noted in file.The premarital file for each couple should be retained by the parish where the marriage is recorded in the marriage register
24Marriage Register Cont’d The file for each couple should be kept in its own envelope or folder, clearly marked with the couple’s names and date of the marriage. The files should be arranged in chronological order and kept together in a file cabinet or safe that may be locked.Retain marriage files permanently or at least until you know both parties have died. Expired files are to be destroyed, so no one may have access to them.A copy of the file may be transmitted if requested by an ecclesiastical tribunal or chancellor has approved the surrender of the file to civil authority. Note: The original file should be retained by the parish, unless otherwise advised.
25Death RegisterccRecord deaths of parishioners, when funeral takes place outside parish boundary it needs to be communicated to the parish of the deceasedData is usually provided by funeral directorWhen a body is cremated, no reference to the date or place of cremation is made. However, the fact of cremation should be noted as well as date and place of the ashes’ interment. Scattering ashes is not permitted.No notice of death needs to be sent to place of baptism
26Helpful tidbitsWhen a priest serves as pastor of more than one parish, separate registers are to be maintained for each. For security and convenience, the registers may all be stored at one of the parishes. (It’s a parish’s not priest’s register.)Certain data entered in sacramental registers is based purely on the word of someone else (i.e the date of birth) we aren’t certifying it is true.When a parish closes or merges, formal arrangements are made for the transfer and retention of its sacramental registers. Contact the Vicar General’s office for a listing of the locations of sacramental registers of former parishes.
27Helpful tidbits cont’d There is no central diocesan registry available to assist people searching for a sacramental record. (future project)The names of godparents should not be changed even if parents feel they are no longer suitable or they have died. Parents should be be told to ask someone to serve in this role without making a change to the permanent record or certificate.Latin rite priests do not automatically have the faculty to baptize persons who by law are ascribed to an Eastern Catholic Church. If it is determined that one or both of the parents are ascribed to an Eastern Catholic Church, contact the Chancery prior to celebration of baptism. Similar requirements apply to Orthodox Christians who are received into full communion with the Catholic Church.
28Helpful tidbits cont’d Some parishes still give notice of First Communion, but this is no longer required.When a marriage is celebrated at a place other than the place where its record is maintained, both places should be noted in the notations column.Make cross references when necessary and be complete, accurate and legible when making entries.When a situation is not clear of what to do regarding the register, please call the tribunal or Vicar General’s office for clarification.Much of the work of this presentation was sourced from the Handbook of Sacramental Records for the Archdiocese of Cincinnati and the Policy of Sacramental Recordkeeping for the Diocese of Beaumont.