Legit member of Church?

Hello, I went through RCIA and was confirmed on Easter of 09. I converted from the Protestant faith. I was already baptized as a Protestant in the Trinitarian formula on September 6, 1998. However, I was unable to get a baptism certificate from the church because they didn’t offer them.
This apparently was not a problem as the Priest, a friend of mine, simply took my word for it. Now I’ve read how normally if you can’t provide proof of baptism than the church will “conditionally” baptize you. However this was not offered.
Well just to make sure everything was legit and that I was officially Catholic, I called the front office and to my dismay, they did not have me in their records, even though I graduated from their RCIA class and was confirmed on Easter with the class. Wow.
I told the secretary that I went through the class. She called the priest and confirmed and printed me out an official letter they give to the new Catholics with a diocese stamp on it. It says I was confirmed into the church. I offered to be conditionally baptized but the Priest said it was unnecessary.
This is all shocking to me. Does the Vatican have records so we can prove who we are? If I wanted to be married 20 years from now and lived in a different country (just for example) how would I prove to the Church that I was Catholic?
This is unnerving to me. I just want to make sure I am officially in the Church like everyone else.
I posted this question in the “Ask an apologist” forum but they chose not to answer my question for whatever reason. Rather disappointing.

The quick answer is yes, you are a member of the Church. As far as records, your diocese should have copies of any important sacramental paperwork.

If you were (as I was) Baptized in a protestant church at a young age (such as in one of the Calvinist denominations which practice infant Baptism, such as Episcopal, Presbyterian, or Methodist) then you would be asked to provide your Baptismal certificate, because you cannot be certain of your own Baptism from your own experiences.

But if you remember it, and you are sure that the Trinitarian form was used, then the certificate is not really necessary. And this is especially true if the priest knows you personally, and knows you are not prone to make up wild stories about imaginary Baptisms.

The majority of protestant denominations use the Trinitarian form. The red-flags would mostly be in some pentecostal denominations who baptize “in the name of the Lord Jesus.” Folks like the Baptists know how to read their Bibles (Matt 28:18) and use the Trinitarian form.

The paperwork problem is probably just a clerical error. Church staff are usually overworked and underpaid (or, in many cases, volunteers who are overworked and not paid at all). Unfortunately, some things slip between the cracks. But this does not affect your membership status in the Church. You do not need to be confirmed (on paper or otherwise) to be a member of the Church (technically, you became a member of the Catholic Church the moment you were Baptized, though you did not realize it at the time). And, FWIW, membership in a Parish is not the same thing as membership in the Church. Anyone may join a Parish, regardless of his/her Sacramental state.

But, even so - the Church has a solution to the paperwork oversight - one that you have already mentioned - namely, conditional Sacraments. If many years from now you were asked to provide a certificate of your Confirmation, and your Parish did not have it on record (and your friend, the priest, had gone to his reward), it is trivial to conditionally Confirm you.

no, the Vatican does not have such records.

Brother, thank you so much for this detailed response! Helps a lot!!

Hey Jamison,

I often work in a parish office and based on the little bit of information you provided, I am almost certain that this is a situation involving a clerical error. In other words, your name was accidentally not recorded in the sacramental registry book of the parish in which you were confirmed.

A conditional baptism is usually done if there is a reason to believe a person might have been baptized at an early age, but there are no church records or living witnesses to testify to it. Conditional baptisms are also done if there is reason to suspect that the initial baptism may have been invalid. But neither of these examples apply to you. Because you remembered your own baptism, your pastor simply went with your personal testimony. Other pastors may have also requested a written testimony from someone else who witnessed the baptism, but basically it is the pastor’s call on how to handle this.

Be assured that a requirement of receiving the sacrament of confirmation is to first be validly baptized. Therefore, your Catholic pastor would never have proceeded with your confirmation arrangements unless he, himself, was satisfied that you had already received a valid Christian baptism.

The parish in which you were confirmed is responsible for recording all your sacramental data. I assume that at the end of the events you related in the OP, your parish staff made sure that you were properly recorded in the sacramental registry. But seeing as the pastor is a friend of yours, you may want to ask him to double-check. Catholic records are extremely important, and can have a bearing on your future life in the Church (such as in the example you cited of wanting to get married 20 years from now in a different country).

Eric, thanks so much for that detailed response. I have avoided mentioning it to the Priest because I’m worried it will seem like I am criticizing him. The secretary did put me in the computer though and gave me a confirmation certificate. Is there anything else I should do to make sure I’m in the records as you say?

Even though the secretary put your name into the computer, this would not be the same thing as the parish’s sacramental record book. It is a large book that contains hand-written entries of everyone who has received baptism, confirmation, First Eucharist, marriage and funerals in that parish. When a book gets filled, the parish starts a new one, and older ones are eventually sent to the archives of the diocese. Unless your diocese does things radically different, your parish is required to have such a “hard copy” of this information, even if it also uses a computer to store the information.

The sacramental record book is considered confidential material. Only a priest, deacon or qualified member of the parish staff is allowed to go through it. So you could not, for example, ask to see it to verify that your information is, indeed, there. You are entitled to request information from it which pertains to you or a close family member. A member of the parish staff would then look up the information from the book and issue you an official document with the information. For example, this is what happens when someone contacts a parish office to get their baptismal or confirmation certificate.

As a matter-of-fact, going back to your earlier example, if you wanted to get married 20 years from now in another location, the priest doing the wedding would need a “recently issued” baptismal certificate (or, in your case, a recently issued confirmation certificate which likewise acknowledges your Christian baptism). “Recently issued” means within the past six months. Therefore, the document that you now have would not be acceptable 20 years from now. The reason is because your current parish is responsible for keeping all your sacramental information updated, including any marriages or annulments.

With this in mind, 20 years from now your parish could easily have a different pastor & secretary. And the computer that your name is recorded in could crash. Plus, the data may not be considered old enough to have been turned over to the diocesan archives yet. So imagine the hassle of you contacting your parish for your sacramental records and having the secretary (of that time) saying, “I’m sorry, we have no records of you.” It would be a big mess, and although the mess could be worked out (especially if you still had the documents that you were recently given), it would be best to go ahead and make sure that this issue is addressed sooner than later.

I would suggest at this point to simply tell the parish secretary that you recently discovered how parishes record information in such books, and ask her (for your peace of mind) to verify that your information is properly recorded. She could probably do this on her own without having to involve anyone else. Most parish secretaries are allowed to go through these books because they are the ones who usually prepare the documents (so all the priest or deacon has to do is sign them). As a matter-of-fact, she may have already directly handled this situation and can tell you, “Don’t worry, I made sure you’re in the book.”

Eric! You are a huge help and a wealth of knowledge. I will be checking on this over the weekend and I’ll post back. I wonder what would happen though if they DID have an ardor and not record me in the book and years later I had no proof of being Catholic? Would I never have really been Catholic? Would I have to go through RCIA again? What if a person had died and needed a Catholic funeral and they weren’t in the books? This is scary.

:cool: This may very well hapen to the invisable person in a parish who NEVER attend Mass or any other Holy days of Obligation because nobody knows of his/her existance whether he/she was registered or not.

Just joking :D:D:D

As far as I know the Catholic Church does not withhold burials, even from paupers.

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