Membership by parish or diocese?

I’ve read a few posts where people were encouraged to try a different parish if they didn’t like something about their current parish.

I’m only familiar with the Anglican style of membership where one is registered as a member of a parish and would have to have that membership transferred to a new parish if he moves (also, Anglican parishes are typically smaller than their Catholic counterparts, so their absence might not go unnoticed).

How is it in the Catholic Church? Are members tied to specific parishes, specifically the one which they attached themselves when they joined the Church, or are they considered members of all the parishes in their diocese and have the freedom to move around within the diocese?

The reason I ask is that I like the mass at a local Japanese parish and would like to join some day if I became Catholic, but would have to attend a distant parish that offers RCIA classes in English.

You are technically a member of the parish in whose geographical boundaries you reside.

You can attend any parish you like and participate in ministries, etc. You can support any parish you like financially but should support your actual home parish.

Your sacramental records will reside at the parish in which you enter the Church. Mine are in TX even though I no longer live there.

In many diocese (like mine) there is a computer system that syncs within the diocese. So, a person can only be registered at one parish. They can be in the database of other parishes as contributors though.

So, for example, I have a family that brings their child to religious ed at our parish because they are in our school district for public school and want to be in RE with their friends. But, they live sort of between us and another parish, and they are members of the other parish b/c that’s where the mom grew up and where her parents go. They are members of the other parish and I have them in my database only for RE.

So, each parish will guide you as to what you do to register.

This has been addressed often on these boards and this is what I’ve come to understand.

Parishes are usually defined geographically, although some are erected to serve a specific ethnic or linguistic group or for other reasons.

The pastor is responsible for all Catholics within his parish’s boundaries. So if you live on street X you may belong to geographical parish Z. But let’s say you’re Vietnamese. Then you may belong to the parish that serves all the Vietnamese in a large geographic area – for example, my former French Catholic Community (too small to be erected as a parish) took in members from as many as 9 different communities with more than 18 ‘geographical’ parishes.

Another example that comes to mind is a military parish. The Chaplain is responsible for all military members and their dependants whether or not they live on Base, yet it’s not unusual for military members who live off-Base to register at the geographical parish within whose boundaries they reside or even at a language-based parish (my case during one posting). The Chaplain is still responsible for them.

While you may have to go through the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults at one parish, it does not mean that you have to belong to that parish. It may well be that the parish you prefer is actually the parish that encompasses the area where you live and so is your geographic parish.

I’ve never heard priests get too worked up about where people register. The only practical experience I’ve had with that is that the pastor generally has to give permission for one of his flock to be baptized elsewhere – often the case when parents opt to return to their hometown to have their children baptized in the church where they, themselves, were baptized. Some priests won’t baptize a baby whose family isn’t from the parish without a letter of permission from the parents’ pastor. Some, like the priest who baptized our two oldest, never even mention requiring permission.

You may have to do a little research yourself because “membership” requirements or guidelines can vary. At one time and some still are very strict, you registered at a parish by your geographical location. A few parishes near me, you must live within the postal zip code to be a member of their parish and participate in any of their programs. In my town, we have seven different parishes for a small area but they do not care where you reside, just that you register at the parish of your choice. You must register though at the parish you want your children to attend any religious educational program, you can not have your children attend at a different parish just for a religious education program.
I’m talking about this being a requirement in my town, other parishes around the country or the world may not be so strict.

Here, where you register is the parish you will receive your weekly financial contribution envelopes and the one you support financially on a regular basis.

Even though you are registered at a certain parish, you are free to attend other parishes. We’ve been attending a different parish once a month to visit the different churches and their features. Its been very enlightening, to see all the different architecture and different styles.

The inconsistency you have noted stems from the fact that in the not too distant past pastors had certain canonical rights with regards to their subjects - baptizing them being one of those. The new code changed this so that it now only speaks of these functions belonging specially to the pastor or some other such phrase that acknowledges the historic link without granting/imposing any specific rights/duties. Thus now any priest can baptize any child without needing express permission from that child’s geographical or personal pastor, but some priests still observe the forms to which they had become accustomed under previous law.

That specific example clarifies why parish membership (as you correctly state, determined in most cases by mere geography) is so overlooked in the modern church in favor of the legal fiction we call parish registration (which does not carry any canonical effects - you remain legally a subject of your geographical pastor or, if you have opted in, personal pastor, no matter where you “register”). Playing fast and loose with membership would have led to widespread malfeasance before when pastors had concrete rights and permissions were required to extend various spiritual services (another example would be marriages). Now that those rights do not exist, there is very little that actually depends upon parish membership, so we can play our registration game with relatively few problems.

The only place this would definitely be a big issue is for those people who might, for whatever reasons, attend a parish in a different diocese than the one in which they have a (quasi-)domicile. At that point there could definitely be situations where you have to remember who your bishop really is and thus to whom you need to turn for permissions and dispensations.

Or in cases of emergency baptism, the parish which the place you received baptism belongs to. Example, the parish who’s territory the hospital belongs to.

Both the children mentioned were baptized before this new Code of Canon Law came into effect. 1979 & 1982.

I came across this entry in a baptismal register for a baptism dated July 26, 1982: “This ceremony performed at St. Anne (de Beaupré) with no permission from this parish. It has been registered by rumour and by inference.”

That was my first hint that you needed permission from your parish to have a baptism celebrated outside the parish.

Very interesting, especially the idea of registering a baptism “by rumour and inference.”:stuck_out_tongue:

No kidding! Not surprising though because the baptismal register for that parish is a mess due to fire & importation of information from unknown sources. For decades they issued certificates for baptisms that took place in other parishes in other dioceses because it seemed to be ‘pastoral’ thing to do. Once I figured that out I started picking up the phone and calling the other parishes to send the certificates.

Some of the early original records were written in French and mistranslated, resulting in given names becoming surnames and two brothers ending up with different surnames. Fun times trying to untangle this Gordian knot and I’ve got no sword.

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