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In the era of handwritten parish registers, when a diocesan or missionary priest performed a sacramental rite, he wrote it up in a semi-structured form in a record book. Sometimes that priest was the only literate person around, making the parish books essentially internal documents, but some parishioners were literate too. Who was allowed to look at church registers: only priests, anyone the priest saw fit to share it with, or anyone at all that was interested? Did canon law and local practice differ on this point?

Modern norms might be different because of the legal concept of privacy, so this question is about the past. I am particularly interested in the policy of Franciscans in the Spanish Empire, but information on how this was addressed elsewhere could be helpful too. I have the specific case of a recently converted godparent who was described in the register as falsely pious; the remark was presumably not meant for the public. Who did the priest expect would ever be able to read it?

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    Looking at the linked question, the Baptismal record has a space for comments. Yet the godfather in question 's name is said to be Mocho. Isn't the most likely explanation that his name was Mocho. It would be odd for a priest to describe someone on an official form as falsely pious, but quite incredible to twice use it as if it were a name or title. Anyway, regardless of that, its n interesting question about the registers being secret or open. . – davidlol Sep 1 '17 at 18:58
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    @davidlol i think the duplication is an artifact of using the name as a pivot between the two tables. the fellow's name was José. – Aaron Brick Sep 2 '17 at 15:43
  • @AaronBrick I am pretty sure they didn't use spread sheets, nor MS Excel, in those days. the name as a pivot between the two tables Also, why the presumption of ill intent for a mundane activity? – KorvinStarmast Sep 4 '17 at 16:41
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    In 1808, Aaron, Excel was more than a century away. – KorvinStarmast Sep 4 '17 at 17:23
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    Registers we're handwritten well into the twentieth century, hundreds of years after there was any chance the priest was the only literate around. – DJClayworth Dec 27 '17 at 16:54

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