Collection Access Policy

The following policy has been adopted by the Archdiocese of Baltimore [hereafter Archdiocese] in order to provide researchers with a statement on the procedures regarding access to and use of the Archdiocese’s records that are part of the Associated Archives at St. Mary’s Seminary & University [hereafter Associated Archives]. While the Associated Archives also houses the archival collections of the Associated Sulpicians of the United States and St. Mary’s Seminary & University, this Collection Access Policy applies only to materials that are owned by the Archdiocese of Baltimore. Drawing upon the guidelines issued by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Association of Catholic Diocesan Archivists regarding the use of ecclesiastical archives, the Archdiocese of Baltimore opens their archives to all qualified researchers. In trying to balance the principles of both the right to know and confidentiality, we believe the access policies that have been adopted reflect a sensitivity to both the interests of the researcher and the Archdiocese. Every effort is made to open the records for research as expeditiously as possible, however, the policies of the Archdiocese require that some of their records be closed to researchers for varying lengths of time. Placing restrictions on the research use of records for specified lengths of time is a standard archival procedure. Restrictions of reasonable length also facilitate research by ensuring the survival and completeness of the historical record. All records transferred to the Associated Archives are stored under secure conditions and in a controlled environment. Access to the area where the records are stored is restricted to Associated Archives staff members and other authorized personnel. Removal of records from the Associated Archives is prohibited unless authorized by the Director of the Associated Archives [hereafter “Director”].

Authorized personnel from Archdiocesan offices may arrange for the transfer of records to the Archives or their retrieval at anytime. Please see the Records Transfer page for detailed instructions.

Administrative records of the Archdiocese, including but not limited to the papers of the Archbishops and Chancellors, are currently open through 1961.

The Collection Access Policy of the Archdiocese is based on a three-part categorization of records: open, restricted, or confidential/closed.

Publications, photographs, other records created for public dissemination, and records designated as historical in nature are available for researchers to work with without restriction. Records more than 50 years old from the “Restricted” series are treated as open for purposes of access.

Records of the Archbishops and those of Archdiocesan offices deposited in the archives are closed to research use for 50 years beginning on the date on which the Archbishop leaves office or for a longer period of time until processing is complete). Files of Archdiocesan officials such as auxiliary bishops and chancellors are closed until 50 years after the last Archbishop served by that official leaves office (or for a longer period of time until processing is complete). Processing of records includes an initial organization of the records by staff of the Archives and then also must include a review by an Archdiocesan official designated by the Archbishop, which may include legal counsel as necessary, to determine whether particular records (most likely legal correspondence, attorney communication, or personal notes) should be designated as Confidential/Closed prior to being categorized as Open.

Records of individual clergy of the Archdiocese of Baltimore that have been donated to the Archives of the Archdiocese are closed to research use for 50 years after the death of that person, unless otherwise specified.

Researchers may appeal to gain access to restricted records. Access is granted only after the Director has received written notice of permission from the Archbishop or his authorized representative specifying exactly which folders and/or boxes the user can examine. Records that are closed longer than 50 years are subject to the same policies.

Files containing sensitive records, including files of deceased clergy, for which access is granted only after the Archbishop or his authorized representative physically reviews the files and provides written permission.

Family History Information

The Archdiocese has designated certain information contained in the records of its deceased clergy as “Family History Information.” This includes: 1) full name, 2) date and place of birth and/or baptism; 3) parents’ names; 4) siblings’ names; 5) education; 7) date and place of ordination; 7) clergy assignments; 8) other similar information such as a photograph. Permission of a person authorized by the Archdiocese is required for access to Family History Information within 50 years of a clergy’s death. After 50 years there is no restriction on access to this information.

Categories of Records Closed Longer than 50 Years

When necessary, records older than 50 years old may be closed to research use if they have not been reviewed and processed sufficiently to ensure their preservation and to identify any records that may require closure for longer than the stated duration. Baptismal records 100 years old and less are closed to the public. Marriage and death/interment/burial records 50 years old and less are closed to the public. No restrictions apply to records of First Communion, and Confirmation.

Use of Records in Connection with Cases at Law or Legal Proceedings
Requests for permission to examine any Archdiocesan records in connection with cases at law or legal proceedings of any kind will be referred to the Archdiocese’s legal counsel.

Appeals to Gain Access to Restricted Records
Appeals to gain access to restricted records shall be conducted in the following manner: 1) researchers seeking access to restricted records are required to complete a Restricted Records Access Request form; 2) each request will be reviewed by the Director and the Archbishop or his authorized representative; 3) decisions will be based on the merits of each case, weighing the needs of scholarship against the privacy rights of individuals and the legal interests of the Archdiocese; the Director and the Archbishop or his authorized representative must be satisfied that a researcher seeking access to restricted records has demonstrated that the records are required to carry out a legitimate scholarly research project or for other appropriate use; in all cases, the decision of the Director and Archbishop or his authorized representative shall be fair and reasonable, permitting the greatest possible access, given the limitations imposed by legal and ethical considerations; 4) in order to come to such a decision, the Director and the Archbishop or his authorized representative shall meet, review the research proposal of the scholar petitioning for access, examine the materials to which he or she is requesting access and discuss the case; in cases where the materials are voluminous, the Director shall review them and summarize their nature and content for the Archbishop or his authorized representative, presenting individual documents of particular concern; in cases of requests for innocuous materials, a less formal review process may be invoked, consisting of a telephone call by the Director; 5) decisions made by the Director and the Archbishop or his authorized representative shall be final.

Restricted Records Access Request Form