Many Catholic baptismal records from Spanish California (circa 1800) list the same clergyman as officiant and recorder (example), while some records separate the roles (example).

I guess this distinction represents a team effort: some visiting priest performing the ceremony and the resident priest writing it down. To help nail down their identity, though, does canon law require that both officiant and recorder have holy orders?

(Source: the Early California Population Project is a large database that restructures the contents of the sacramental books of the Franciscan missions in California.)

  • 2
    Could you please add the time and exact place you are interested in? Canon law changed through the centuries and is sometimes regional.
    – K-HB
    Apr 25, 2020 at 18:10
  • 1
    My gut feeling: "Recorder" will normally be the pastor of the competent parish. As only priest can become pastors (in modern times, normally), they will be priests.
    – K-HB
    Apr 25, 2020 at 18:12

1 Answer 1


I am going to extrapolate from the behavior of the California fathers under the assumption that they followed canon law. The answer depends on which sort of officiant is involved. It turns out there are lots of examples of an Officiant who is not a priest — they could even be women — for provisional (partial) baptisms. Then the sacrament could be completed later by a priest, the Supli Ceremonia Officiant. I quote from the guide to the database:

There are two types of baptism: standard or provisional. If the baptism was a standard baptism — one in which the ego was healthy and able to participate — it was coded as normal ... the padres also baptized individuals who they feared were in danger of imminent death or were otherwise unable to travel to the mission due to ill health.

Usually the officiant is a missionary, but in the cases of provisional baptisms, the officiant could have been a layperson.

In many provisional baptisms no godparents were assigned at the time of baptism. At a later date, if the ego survived, the Franciscans would execute the complete rite of baptism, stating in the record that they had “supli las ceremonias,” or in a crude translation, supplied the full ceremonies. It should be noted that this was not a second baptism, but the completion of the original baptism. It was at this time that the godparents might be assigned.

The database also contains Nuptial Officiants and Dispensation Officiants for other specific cases with regard to marriage.

  • related: christianity.stackexchange.com/q/66437/42721 - As a (as you call it) provisional baptism is a full and valid baptism I'm not sure which rites will be performed later.
    – K-HB
    Apr 28, 2020 at 6:25
  • @K-HB Good question. Apart from the assignment of godparents, maybe the baptism being written down by a priest was the final step? AFAIK those non-priestly officiants never recorded their baptisms themselves. Apr 28, 2020 at 14:58
  • @K-HB they would historically "supli las ceremonias," or in English "supply the ceremonies" which means the parts of the full baptismal rite besides the actual pouring of water (necessary for it to be valid). This would include anointing with oil, placing salt on the tongue, various prayers and minor exorcisms.
    – eques
    Apr 30, 2020 at 14:03

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