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Catholic Church and protection of adopted children data – HFHR next moves

The HFHR has asked the Commissioner for Human Rights, Children’s Rights Commissioner and the Inspector General for the Protection of Personal Data to ensure that the personal data of adopted children processed in parish records are adequately protected. In March this year, the Foundation presented a similar call for action to the President of the Conference of the Polish Episcopate Archbishop S. Gądecki.

Good practices abroad

According to the HFHR, a crucial need is to introduce a set of detailed rules governing the introduction of changes in parish records after a complete adoption of a child. Moreover, transparent rules on the disclosure of data of a baptized adoptee and his or her new parents to the child’s biological relatives and his or her godparents should be introduced.

The HFHR pointed out that domestic conferences in many countries around the world have adopted appropriate regulations in this area. However, in Poland, only some archdioceses adopted relevant manuals or guidelines. In the remaining ones, personal data are processed based on the established customs. This situation creates legal uncertainty and does not guarantee a proper level of personal data protection.

Secrecy of adoption in practice

One of the complaints the Foundation received is an excellent example of problems resulting from the absence of an appropriate legal framework. More than ten years ago a woman (let us call her Agnieszka for readers’ convenience) adopted a child together with her husband. It was a “complete adoption” so the child was issued a new birth certificate, in which the child’s adoptive parents were named its legal parents. However, there were many indications suggesting that appropriate changes had not been made in parish records. For example, it has happened several times that a certificate of baptism issued by a parish contained data of the child’s biological parents and no data on the child’s adoptive parents.

Moreover, the child has been contacted by a person who introduced herself as the child’s relative. She said a priest had given her the child’s data as he was named as the child’s godmother in the certificate of baptism. Even if the situation described above is an isolated case, it seems clear that the lack of uniform and precise intra-ecclesial provisions that would set the rules for the processing of personal data of adopted children creates a threat to the right of privacy and respect for family life of children and their parents.

Letters to human rights and data protection bodies

In its letters, the Foundation noted that future, unified provisions on the rules of processing personal data of adopted children should guarantee the confidentiality of personal data and respect for the right of privacy of both the adopted child and his or her adoptive parents. In addition, they should be consistent with the regulations contained in the Personal Data Protection Act, which must be observed also by churches and religious associations.

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