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HFHR appeals to Catholic Church for unification of provisions governing protection of personal data of adopted children

The HFHR has appealed to the President of the Conference of the Polish Episcopate Archbishop Stanisław Gądecki asking for the unification of intra-ecclesial provisions governing the rules of processing of personal data of adopted children.

According to the Foundation, of particular importance is the introduction of precise rules regarding the introduction of changes in parish records after the complete adoption of a child. One should also specify transparent principles of disclosing data of an adopted (who has been baptised) child and his or her new parents to the child’s biological relatives and his or her godparents.

History in parish records
The appeal has been developed based on the case of one of the Foundation’s clients. Over ten years ago, Agnieszka (personal data have been changed) and her husband adopted a child. It was “complete adoption” so the child was issued a new birth certificate, in which the child’s adoptive parents were named as 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.

Secrecy of adoption
In its letter to the President of the Conference of the Polish Episcopate the HFHR noted that even if the case described above is an isolated issue, one may not overlook the fact that a lack of uniform and precise intra-ecclesial provisions that would regulate the rules governing the processing of personal data of adopted children creates a threat to privacy and respect for family life of children and their parents. This may also lead to the violation of the secrecy of adoption.

The HFHR pointed out that domestic conferences in many countries around the world have adopted proper provisions in this regard, which is allowed by the Code of Canonical Law. However, in Poland, only some archdioceses have adopted instructions or guidelines on this issue. In the remaining ones, data are processed based on the established customs. This situation creates legal uncertainty and does not guarantee proper personal data protection.

The Foundation underlined 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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