QUESTION: Dear Father Timothy,
How are you? I hope all is well. I have a question regarding Baptism. I am a member of the Diocese of Bridgeport in CT. A while back, several of our parish churches were closed. My particular parish included a parish church and a shrine where a chapel is located. Weekend Mass was held regularly at both the church and the chapel. The chapel is rather large, so we call it a church. But, I guess technically, it is a chapel located in a shrine. Before the closing of the parish church, weddings, funerals and baptisms were performed at both the church and the chapel, regularly. After the closing of the church, we were informed that weddings and funerals would still be allowed at the shrine chapel, but, not baptisms. Could you please explain why baptisms cannot be performed at a shrine? We have asked. But, the only answer that we have received is that Baptisms should never be performed at a shrine. Any additional information regarding why this is the case, would be greatly appreciated.
ANSWER: Hi, Phil:
Greetings: Merry Christmas & Happy New Year!
Without a Code of Canon Law rt here handy with me, I will try to give you the best answer I can from what I remember about such issues as you describe... Hopefully you would be able to verify the matters Chapter & Verse in a personal, more thoroughgoing analysis:
Baptismal Registers are kept in regular circumstances only at Parish Churches (Parochial) that serve families of the Christian Faithful who are likely to bear children to be presented for Baptism... Even Churches or Chapels of Religious Communities do not have Baptismal Registers...
If for some reason, with permission of the Ordinary (or equivalent in Law), a Baptism were to be permitted and carried out in a location such as this that does not have a Register (or in the case of "emergency" Baptism of whatever kind), the Baptism has to be recorded in the Register of the nearest (or at least designated) Parochial Parish Church Baptismal Register.
Funerals don't have much stricture by Church Law concerning their celebration as it pertains to place or location. Of course everything must be in accord with lawful Catholic celebration, and in a place that is appropriate and certainly not contrary to Christian Catholic Piety and Decorum.
Marriages always have the possibility (if it can be obtained through the local Ordinary) of Dispensation from all or certain aspects of Canonical Form, including that of location or place.
So at the end of the day: Whatever policies are in place at the Shrine have surely been put in place by the Local Ordinary. It seems then, that in accord with Law, only Funerals and Marriages can be done at this shrine; and Baptisms (excluding emergencies and danger of death as with virtually every Sacrament) are not permitted there.
God bless you!
Fr. Timothy Johnson
---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------
QUESTION: Thank you Fr. for your timely and comprehensive answer. The part about the baptismal registry residing with the parochial church makes sense to me. But, what confuses me a bit, and what I didn't realize until earlier today is that baptisms are still being allowed in the parochial church that was closed. I'm guessing that since that church is no longer an active parochial church, then baptisms performed there would also have to be recorded at the nearest active parochial church. So that would lead me to ask, couldn't the same be done if baptisms were allowed at the shrine?
I am not 100% certain to the degree of detail you are asking in the follow up. Usually, from my experience and what I've seen, is that the Sacramental Registers of a "closed" church are kept and stored for reference at the active parochial church into which it was consolidated.
If it is still a "chapel" - I suppose the question would be whether the Baptism could be recorded in the old parish book being stored at the current active parish...
I might be able to look into that in greater detail; but would encourage you to look it up in the 1983 Code of Canon Law itself and share with me (and any who might read this site) what you find out. Happy New year!
Fr. Timothy Johnson