Is your parish strictly your residential address? Baptizing outside of it


My husband and I moved to London this year. We greatly prefer the mass at a church that is technically outside our parish boundaries but still close. The closer one is very different, doesn’t have Latin mass, and we do not see our family going there. However, when I asked the preferred church about baptizing my baby, they will not allow it as it is outside our parish. Is this only geographical? Their reason was so it’s the church the baby attends afterward. We do not attend mass there and we will be moving again in less than a year. What can I do? Do I have to just give up on the church we like and dedicate ourselves to the closer one (it’s closer by about a mile) because of the boundary?


You can attend mass at any church you like. However, your parish is the one in which you live, according to its geographic boundaries. Therefore, administration of the sacraments of initiation is reserved to that parish. Sometimes, you can get permission from your parish to have the sacraments administered in another parish.


That was not our experience (in the UK) - our children were baptized back where my wife was brought up as that was more central for many of the family. The priest who baptized our children also knew all the family well (he also presided over our marriage), so perhaps that made a difference.

It sounds like it depends on the priest and/or your links with different parishes.


That sounds lovely, I wish we had a family connection but we’re on our own. We’re uprooted for a little while, so I suppose I’ll just follow the technical rules :slight_smile:


I have never heard of the “parish of residence” rule being so strictly enforced. I don’t live in the UK, so maybe it’s a local custom of some kind.

The answer, as I see it, is to have the baptism done in the required parish, but apart from that to carry on attending Mass in the parish of your choice.


It varies among dioceses.


In the US, you can belong to any parish you wish to belong to, you may need to get your residential parish’s permission, but it can be done.


Again, that varies by diocese. Although many dioceses allow cross-parish registration, it’s not universal. And as an aside, under canon law, meaningless. You are a member of the parish in which you reside, whether you’ve registered in it or not.


Not so.

Canon law is the same for all countries.

One is a member of the parish where he has a residence (permanent or temporary). People can get on the mailing list (ie register) at other parishes, but that has no bearing on actual parish membership.


When you do your baptismal prep, the office staff will either get permission from your geographical pastor or tell you how to do it. We do this all the time.


I don’t see how it’s helpful to offer advice to someone in the UK to follow what’s done in the US when the parish the person has approached has already said “no, we won’t do that.”


Then I must be breaking canon law, because I’m a member of a parish that is out of my residential boundaries, because i asked the priest and he obtained permission from the priest at the parish right down the street from me.


You are on their mailing list/database. While every parish uses the term “members” for those in the database, Canon Law trumps colloquial terms.


Whatever canon law says, it is quite clear that in practice the rule varies from country to country, from diocese to diocese, and possibly even from parish to parish. When I converted in the nineties, we were living within walking distance of two parish churches – our “own” parish and an adjoining one. The priest who handled my conversion was the pastor of the adjoining parish. He knew where we lived – he visited us at home a couple of times – but there was never the slightest suggestion that I was dealing with the wrong priest in the wrong parish.


I think it may depend on the diocese. When we were kids, we didn’t attend our “parish of residence” because they ran the place as if it was General Motors :slight_smile: My parents took us to a different parish that had a completely different approach. My siblings were baptized in that parish.


Canon law defines who is a member of a parish. A parish is a geographical reality, a territory; like a city or a state. One either lives within the boundaries or does not live within the boundaries.


No, it doesn’t work that way. We don’t get to pick-and-choose which canons apply to us.

As has already been said, one might be “registered” at a different parish, but that’s meaningless. Registration has nothing to do with actual parish membership.

A parish is a territory, like it or not. It is a defined geographical area. Just as a person either lives in North Dakota or South Dakota depending on what side of the state line he lives, a person lives in a parish depending on the parish territory. This isn’t a matter of personal preference.


What does parish “membership” entail? Was my conversion procedure mismanaged in some way because it was conducted in a parish that was not my home parish?


Rights and responsibilities–of both the members and the clergy. It also has to do with the jurisdiction of the pastor (and the vicar(s) parochial and the deacons) such as what they may or may-not do within their own territory.

For example, I can perform a baptism within my own parish territory. The moment I step out of that territory, I cannot baptise (except either danger of death, or with permission). I can dispense from the Sunday obligation, but only those who either live in the territory, or who are present in it on that day. People have rights within their own parish that they don’t necessarily have outside that territory.

Again, a parish is a territory. It’s not a building. It’s not the church-building. It is exactly like a state or a county. It’s a geographical territory.

The parish is not the church, but instead parishes have churches. Sometimes a parish has more than one.


Yes, Father, I know a parish is a territory. I was received into the Catholic Church, and received my First Communion, in a parish that was not my home or “membership” parish. Was the pastor who handled my conversion at fault in any way? Was I at fault in any way?

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit