13 March 2010

Circular Letter: Reception of Christians into the Church


Excerpts from Canon Law Digest of the Philippine Catholic Church by Florencio I. Testera, O.P., pp. 31-37


The brethren born and baptized outside the visible communion of the Catholic Church…,have no need to be absolved from excommunication, but after making profession of their faith according to the regulations set down by the local ordinary, they should be admitted to the full communion of the Catholic Church.


The Director on Ecumenism makes a clear distinction between those “born and baptized outside the visible communion of the Catholic Church, are those “who thought baptized in the Catholic Church, have publicly and knowingly abjured their faith,” like heretics and apostates.

What should be done, then, when baptized non-Catholics, say, an eastern Christian, a Lutheran, an Episcopalian, etc., seek full communion with the Catholic Church? The following procedures should be adopted:

1) The pastor is to establish, first of all, the validity of baptism. If the baptism of the candidate is found to be valid, then, it should be recognized as such and may not be repeated. A conditional baptism is not permitted unless there is a reasonable doubt about the fact of baptism or its validity (c.869,2). There can be no doubt cast upon the validity of baptism as conferred among separated Christians. It is enough, therefore, to establish the fact that baptism was administered.

The same is true of Churches operating in the Philippines whose baptism has been recognized by the Catholic Church as valid. The official baptismal certificates should be enough proof of its validity. As
for other Churches or religious groups in the Philippines each case is to be examined individually.

2) The profession of Faith is to be made before one can be admitted to full communion with the Catholic Church. No abjuration of heresy or absolution from excommunication is needed, unlike in cases of heretics and apostates. However, a thorough doctrinal and spiritual preparation of the candidate must precede the rite of admission.

The formula for the Profession of Faith is as follows:

“I _________ with firm faith, believe and profess everything that is contained in the Symbol of Faith, that is:

I believe in God……..and the life everlasting. Amen. I further believe and confess everything the holy Catholic Church believes, teaches and proclaims as divinely revealed.

3) The reception of the candidate is to be arranged without any great burden or inconvenience to him, in accordance with the proper rite and preferably within the Mass and with Holy Communion.

The local bishops have accepted for this purpose the ICEL edition of the Ritual used in USA.


Our bishops agreed to ask their priests to introduce gradually some catechesis at the occasion of baptism and marriage.


The Roman Catholic Church and the Lutheran Church in the Philippines expressed their mutual recognition and the validity of the Christian baptism administered according to the rites of the respective Churches. Therefore, the baptism is not to be repeated under any circumstances, not even conditionally. The agreement is retroactive.


The Bishops’ Conference approved the proposed Agreement on Baptism between the Roman Catholic Church and the Philippine Episcopal Church together with the notation appended to it. By virtue of the Agreement, the Rite of Baptism performed by the two Churches is valid and therefore is not to be repeated even conditionally.

The Agreement does not mean that ministers of either Church are, or even can be, authorized to perform the ceremony of baptism for the other, nor can the said Agreement used as a pretext of proselytism.

The appended notation to the Agreement makes it clear that the concord of full communion between the Philippine Episcopal Church (PEC) and the Philippine Independent Church (PIC) “neither implies nor affects the union of the PEC and PIC, nor are the two Churches in anyway merged.” Therefore, the present Agreement covers exclusively the relationship between the Roman Catholic Church in the Philippines and the Philippine Episcopal Church.

In view of the varying pastoral conditions in the country, even after the signing of the Agreement, a bishop may still decide not to implement it in his diocese.


The following Churches in the Philippines administer a valid baptism:
Lutheran Church in the Philippines (LCP)
Philipine Episcopal Church (PEC)
United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP)
Iglesia Evangelica Metodista en las Islas Filipinas (IEMELIF)
United Methodist Church in the Philippines (UMCP)
Convention of the Philippine Baptist Churches (CPBC)
Presbyterian Church
Seventh-Day Adventist Church

The baptism administered by these Churches is to be considered valid and is not to be repeated even conditionally. The official baptismal certificate should be enough proof of its validity.

As of other Churches or religious groups in the Philippines, each case is to be examined individually.


The problem of the validity of the baptism administered by the various Aglipayan groups is a particularly difficult one. The main group the Philippine Independent Church (PIC), is juridically and officially the “Iglesia Filipina Independiente”. The official Rite of Baptism of “Iglesia Filipina Independiente” is in itself valid. However, the practical implementation of its official baptismal liturgy is not universally certain. Hence, the validity of the baptism administered by all Aglipayan groups, including the Philippine Independent Church, is still to be examined individually.


The baptismal certificates, issued within six months, for the purpose of marriage, shall always be required from parties, if they are not baptized in the parish where the investigation is conducted or where the marriage is solemnized.

Whenever the baptismal certificate cannot be obtained, a sworn statement according to c.876 will suffice.


The ordinary proof of baptism is the one established by the baptismal certificate (c.877) as transcribed from the baptismal register signed by the pastor in charge of the records and, if possible, duly authenticated through the parish seal. A baptismal certificate drawn in this way meets all the requirements of a public ecclesiastical  document (c. 1540) and as such affords complete proof of the items directly recorded therein (c. 1541).

This, however, is not the only legitimate way of establishing the fact of baptism as evinced from c.876. The law admits the sufficiency of an affidavit whenever the proof of baptism cannot be ascertained through official records:

“If  it is not prejudicial to anyone, to prove the conferral of baptism, the declaration of a single witness  who is above suspicion suffices or the oath of the baptized person, if the baptism was received at an adult age.”

It is obvious that, under ordinary circumstances, the admission of a person to the sacrament of matrimony is prejudicial to no one and, therefore, the affidavit prescribed  by law could be accepted as a substitute for the baptismal certificate. On the contrary, a sworn statement cannot be considered  sufficient proof of baptism in a case of declaration of nullity. In this instance someone will be prejudiced thereby.
Who are the persons that may be considered trustworthy in bearing witness in such cases? Of course, the minister himself, the sponsors, the parents and close relatives should come first in line. If still none of these persons is available to bear testimony, the pastor himself can draw an affidavit on the basis of these or similar data: the person, whose baptismal certificate cannot be reproduced through the parish records, was born in a place where everyone is baptized Catholic educated in the Catholic religion; he knows the Catholic doctrine and has lived as a Catholic; he still remembers the names of the deceased Catholic sponsors, the church where he was baptized…Whatever the findings, the pastor ought to attest in the affidavit the evidence gathered and the sources thereof.

An affidavit drawn up by the pastor in this manner and under such circumstances should, by all means, be regarded as a sufficient proof of baptism. The parish priest should not content himself by merely reporting the loss of official records in the parish. He must make it a point to research and gather all possible evidence on the case.


Taking into account c.877,3, regarding the baptismal entry of an adopted child, the following norms are to be observed:

a) If the adoption takes place after the baptism of the child, the full name of the adopting parents shall be added to the baptismal entry mentioning at the same time the number and date of the decree of adoption issued by the civil court;

b) If the adoption in the baptismal before the baptism of the child, and the adopting parents request that the name of the natural parents be  kept confidential, in accordance with civil laws, the following norms are to be observed:

1) The full name of the natural parents shall not be entered in the baptismal records of the parish, but shall be forwarded to the secret archives of the chancery, to be released only upon approval of the local ordinary and for a serious reason.

2) It shall be annotated in the baptismal register with the following remarks: “for marriage purposes, consult the secret records of the diocesan archives.’


The pastor of the place where the baptism is celebrated must carefully and promptly enter in the baptismal book the names of the baptized, the minister, the parents, the sponsors, witnesses, if any, the place and date of baptism and of birth (c. 877,1).

The recording of baptisms of illegitimate and adopted children presents a special problem when it comes to the insertion of the natural parents’ names. Even in such cases, the recording  should be as complete as possible but protecting the reputation of the parents. In case of an adopted child, the names of the natural parents may be recorded or kept confidential in accordance with civil law and the norms issued by the local Bishop.