My fiance was baptised (as well as communion and confirmed) in a catholic church in Sicily and is unable to obtain his baptism certificate. What do we do in this situation? Can we still get married in the Church?
A recently-issued copy of the baptismal record is required for a Catholic marriage for a couple reasons.
First, and most importantly, it establishes the fact that the person in question is indeed a baptized Catholic.
Secondly, it demonstrates that the person is presumably free to marry. Had the person been married in the Catholic Church, notice of the wedding should/would have been sent to the parish of baptism. The fact of the marriage would have been recorded in the parish registers and, therefore, on the baptismal certificate. That’s why certificates have to have been issued fairly recently.
Thirdly, it provides information where this notice should be sent once the wedding is complete.
Baptismal records are sometimes difficult to get. Language barriers, destruction of buildings and record books, war, lack of knowledge of where one was baptized … all of these and other reasons, not to mention lazy priests, hinder attempts.
If a record is impossible to obtain, there are a couple possible solutions.
Someone who was actually at the baptism can provide testimony. If the one baptized was an adult, he could attest to his own baptism. Photographs, notices, family letters can sometimes be used to prove the fact of baptism. In some cases, proof of First Holy Communion or a confirmation certificate can be used.
There would be an explanation of why a certificate was not obtained. Just because the baptism took place overseas is not a good reason. ALL Catholic parishes, through the entire world, are required to keep these records. There would also need to be testimony taken from people who knew the person during his marriageable years, who could attest that the person had not been previously married.
In a worst-case scenario, if there is absolutely no objective proof forthcoming that the person had been baptized, and no witnesses who can attest to this, the person could be conditionally baptized. This is a last-resort option, since we really should do everything we can to avoid giving conditional sacraments.
This is also a reason why marriages at SSPX chapels and completely independent and fringe chapels are so problematic. There are questions not only of validity but also of record keeping.