From a reader:
What does canon law say about becoming a member of a parish outside of the geographical jurisdiction of the parish closest to you? For example: Joining another parish farther away from you, but in your diocese, because the Mass is more reverent/you receive spiritual direction from that pastor/you fit in culturally with the people at that parish, etc.?
Canon law says nothing about “joining” a parish. “Joining a parish” is a concept foreign to the canonical system.
You become a member of a parish by virtue of where you live.
If you belong to an ethnic or national group, there may also be a personal parish to which you belong.
Recently, bishops have erected “personal parishes” based on factors other than ethnicity. For example, they may establish parishes for the deaf, for those devoted to the Extraordinary Form, for members of the charismatic movement, etc. It is therefore possible for one person to “belong” to several parishes as in the case of a hearing-impaired traditionalist-charismatic Wendish-Laotian.
In North America parishes about 80 years ago began developing this concept of “registering”. As a “registered” member, you get envelopes and other mailings from the parish office, you are listed on the books for easy reference (handy in parishes of 1000 families or more where it’s unlikely that the pastor personally gets to know everyone … especially when the pastor is transferred every six years… but that’s another vat of borscht).
Registering does not in itself allow one to acquire any canonical rights at the parish where one registers. Registering at one parish does not it cause one to lose any rights they have at their proper parish.
Remember: there are rights and duties, too.
Catholics are no longer obliged to attend Mass regularly at their proper parish’s church. They may freely choose to attend a parish across town, in another village, even a parish of another ritual Church (e.g., you are a Latin Church Catholic but you like to attend the Divine Liturgy at the Ukrainian Catholic Church). You may attend a different church every Sunday if you wish.
That said, in North America there are good reasons for registering at a parish. For example, you might have a pastor at your proper parish who doesn’t understand canon law and who refuses to offer sacramental or liturgical service to those folks who are not registered. He, of course, would be entirely in the wrong, but trying to argue over the matter as grandma is dying in the hospital is inconvenient at best.
Canon law doesn’t have anything to say about registering in a parish that is not one’s proper parish. Therefore there is nothing wrong with doing so and it may be of advantage.