Skip to comments.Vatican letter directs bishops to keep parish records from Mormons
Posted on 05/02/2008 12:03:45 PM PDT by colorcountry
WASHINGTON (CNS) -- In an effort to block posthumous rebaptisms by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Catholic dioceses throughout the world have been directed by the Vatican not to give information in parish registers to the Mormons' Genealogical Society of Utah.
An April 5 letter from the Vatican Congregation for Clergy, obtained by Catholic News Service in late April, asks episcopal conferences to direct all bishops to keep the Latter-day Saints from microfilming and digitizing information contained in those registers.
The order came in light of "grave reservations" expressed in a Jan. 29 letter from the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the clergy congregation's letter said.
Father James Massa, executive director of the U.S. bishops' Secretariat of Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs, said the step was taken to prevent the Latter-day Saints from using records -- such as baptismal documentation -- to posthumously baptize by proxy the ancestors of church members.
Posthumous baptisms by proxy have been a common practice for the Latter-day Saints -- commonly known as Mormons -- for more than a century, allowing the church's faithful to have their ancestors baptized into their faith so they may be united in the afterlife, said Mike Otterson, a spokesman in the church's Salt Lake City headquarters.
In a telephone interview with CNS May 1, Otterson said he wanted a chance to review the contents of the letter before commenting on how it will affect the Mormons' relationship with the Catholic Church.
"This dicastery is bringing this matter to the attention of the various conferences of bishops," the letter reads. "The congregation requests that the conference notifies each diocesan bishop in order to ensure that such a detrimental practice is not permitted in his territory, due to the confidentiality of the faithful and so as not to cooperate with the erroneous practices of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints."
The letter is dated 10 days before Pope Benedict XVI's April 15-20 U.S. visit, during which he presided over an ecumenical prayer service attended by two Mormon leaders. It marked the first time Mormons had participated in a papal prayer service.
Father Massa said he could see how the policy stated in the letter could strain relations between the Catholic Church and the Latter-day Saints.
"It certainly has that potential," he said. "But I would also say that the purpose of interreligious dialogue is not to only identify agreements, but also to understand our differences. As Catholics, we have to make very clear to them their practice of so-called rebaptism is unacceptable from the standpoint of Catholic truth."
The Catholic Church will eventually open a dialogue with the Mormons about the rebaptism issue, Father Massa said, "but we are at the beginning of the beginning of a new relationship with the LDS. The first step in any dialogue is to establish trust and to seek friendship."
The two faiths share intrinsic viewpoints on key issues the United States is facing, particularly the pro-life position on abortion and an opposition to same-sex marriage.
However, theological differences have cropped up between Mormons and Catholics in the past.
In 2001 the Vatican's doctrinal congregation issued a ruling that baptism conferred by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints cannot be considered a valid Christian baptism, thus requiring converts from that religion to Catholicism to receive a Catholic baptism.
"We don't have an issue with the fact that the Catholic Church doesn't recognize our baptisms, because we don't recognize theirs," Otterson said. "It's a difference of belief."
When issuing its 2001 ruling, the Vatican said that even though the Mormon baptismal rite refers to the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, the church's beliefs about the identity of the three persons are so different from Catholic and mainline Christian belief that the rite cannot be regarded as a Christian baptism.
Latter-day Saints regard Jesus and the Holy Spirit as children of the Father and the Heavenly Mother. They believe that baptism was instituted by the Father, not Christ, and that it goes back to Adam and Eve.
Msgr. J. Terrence Fitzgerald -- vicar general of the Diocese of Salt Lake City -- said he didn't understand why the Latter-day Saints church was singled out in this latest Vatican policy regarding parish records.
"We have a policy not to give out baptismal records to anyone unless they are entitled to have them," Msgr. Fitzgerald said of his diocese. "That isn't just for the Church of the Latter-day Saints. That is for all groups."
Though he said the Salt Lake City Diocese has enjoyed a long-standing dialogue with the Latter-day Saints, Msgr. Fitzgerald said the diocese does not support giving the Mormons names for the sake of rebaptism.
Mormons have been criticized by several other faiths -- perhaps most passionately by the Jews -- for the church's practice of posthumous baptism.
Members of the Latter-day Saints believe baptizing their ancestors by proxy gives the dead an opportunity to embrace the faith in the afterlife. The actual baptism-by-proxy ceremony occurs in a Mormon temple, and is intended to wash sins away for the commencement of church membership.
Jewish leaders have called the practice arrogant and said it is disrespectful to the dead, especially Holocaust victims.
"Baptism by proxy is a fundamentally important doctrine of the Latter-day Saints," Otterson said. "We have cooperative relationships with churches, governments -- both state and national -- going back to the last century. Our practice of negotiating for records and making them available for genealogical research is very well known."
Father Massa said he is not aware of aggressive attempts to obtain baptismal records at Catholic parishes in any of the U.S. dioceses.
He also said the Catholic Church will continue to reach out to the Mormons and carry on the efforts of understanding that have already begun, especially in Salt Lake City.
"Profound theological differences are not an excuse for avoiding dialogue, but a reason for pursuing dialogue," Father Massa said.
In short, now that the Catholic Church knows what the LDS is doing with these records that avenue of research is forever closed to them.
How is hat a re-write of history? Posthumous baptisms, believe in them or not, HAVE been common practice for the Latter-day Saints since 1840.
This is just plain bizarre.
Okay you're in the non-believing category, but still doesn't change that they are and have been common practice for the Latter-day Saints.
Surely if a person wanted to be baptized as an adult, he could have chosen, of his own free will, to do so.
What of my ancestors that were born prior to 1840? I have my family history going back to 1450. That's about 400 years of ancestors that I know of that didn't ever have the chance to be baptized due to chronology of birth. What of those that never had a chance to be baptized or learn about my, or any other church for that matter, due to geography of birth?
Doesn't sound like to me they had any choice at all in the matter.
The LDS believe that even though the baptisms are posthumous the person receiving the baptism still has the choice to accept it or not even after death. If not accepted it changes nothing for them.
I like you, but really didn’t think there is any
way to communicate how offensive the mormonism
practice of baptizing people of other faiths is.
I did my best to try.
This afternoon, in the privacy of my home temple,
I will name you and renounce your works for you,
using similar Masonic practices, just like mormonism’s
Masonic rituals. You will soon be freed from works
righteousness, which is false.
I am sorry, it really was a typo, but you have to admit an easily made one.
That is horse poop, you got to be dead to be rebaptised and you have to have LDS relatives. In the main you have to be an Ancestor of an LDS member to qualify.
Actually, she would have to say, "DAMN! The mormons won't let me drink at all...be back in a jiffy!"
Hey, lets also make them wear pink underwear in the afterlife ...
And use wine in their communion service ;)
At the risk of being flamed, I have to ask..what actual GOOD comes out of all this genealogy research? Is it used to trace inheirited diseases or something? Of what value is the notion that your line can be traced back to Adam as I have seen claimed here? Really, I am curious.
The dead aren't counted as members, however I'm sure that the mormon infatuation with statistics requires the tally be kept for some reason. I have heard that some names are being baptized over and over, and if the Catholics have cut off access to their records, that may become in fact necessary.
The LDS temple baptism for the dead has to keep going in order to give the members the initiative for temple attendance and coincidentally, keep the tithes coming in to insure temple worthiness.
If they stopped baptizing for the dead, then they would have no reason to go to the Temple and hence no incentive to be "Temple Worthy".
Well I guess they could always start a practice of "Marrying for the Dead".
Perhaps if these dead were proxy baptized into Jesus Christ, and NOT confirmed into the mormon church and required to undergo OTHER proxy ceremonies before they are "worthy" of reaching the Heaven where God resides, your claim about "holes in theology" would be valid.
Gee, what an idea...perhaps you could suggest it?
We are supposed to be surprised that the "vicar general of the Diocese of Salt Lake City makes such a statement??? ROTFL! Utah?
Do you believe baptism is necessary for salvation? If so, how does your faith answer the question?
Morbid Mormons: Since the 1990s the Mormon Church has been posthumously baptizing Jews and adding them to its genealogical database in Salt Lake City. But the Latter Dayers went too far when they baptized by proxy legendary and dead Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal, according to the Jewish Telegraphic Association.
The Simon Wiesenthal Center has called on the Mormon Church to remove its namesake from the church�s on-line database of posthumous baptisms, and to be quick about it.
Proxy baptism is a caring expression of faith that provides deceased persons the opportunity to accept or reject what we believe to be a blessing offered in their behalf.Rabbi Marvin Hier, dean of the Wiesenthal Center, made the urgent request after being informed by Salt Lake City researcher Helen Radkey that Wiesenthal�s name had been added about a week ago to the Mormons� International Genealogical Index.
�We are astounded and dismayed that after assurances and promises by the Mormon Church, Mr. Wiesenthal�s life and memory, along with so many other Jews, would be trampled and disregarded,� Hier said.
Wiesenthal �proudly lived as a Jew, died as a Jew, demanded justice for the millions of the victims of the Holocaust and, at his request, was buried in the State of Israel,� he said.
�It is sacrilegious for the Mormon faith to desecrate his memory by suggesting that Jews on their own are not worthy enough to receive God�s eternal blessing.�
Hier also urged the Utah-based Church to remove the names of all other Holocaust victims from the list.
Many Jews, including Holocaust victims, have been found on the index.
Mormon officials promised in 1995 to stop the practice of posthumously baptizing Jews, but did not. They reiterated the pledge in 2000.
Strangely, the Mormon Church is not just baptizing the Jewish victims of the Holocaust, it also has baptized the architect of the Holocaust Adolf Hitler as well as Hitlers parents and his girlfriend Ava Braun. That happened back in 1993, as uncovered by intrepid researcher Helen Radkey. There has always been controversy surrounding the question of whether Hitler was Jewish, due to the fact that his father might have been illegitimate with an unnamed Jewish father, though most sources agree that there is no convincing proof he was Jewish. What authorities do agree on is that Hitler was afraid of discovering that he was a Jew, which was a driving force in his decision to pursue the Final Solution.
Apparently, the Mormons have been doing this kind of thing since the mid 1800s
Perhaps cutting off the furnishing of Catholic names will be successful in stopping the practice for Catholics.
What question? The one on "You play defense for a while"?
” Strangely, the Mormon Church is not just baptizing the Jewish victims of the Holocaust, it also has baptized the architect of the Holocaust Adolf Hitler as well as Hitlers parents and his girlfriend Ava Braun. That happened back in 1993, as uncovered by intrepid researcher Helen Radkey. “
I guess this means the Mormon church thinks Hitler was just misunderstood, and wish him well. What else can this mean?
TOTALLY OUT OF DATE!
You left out the part that in part because of the Jewish controversy the new policy is that you have to be a direct descendant of the person you submit to be posthumously baptized. Previous it was just to stop posthumously baptizing Jews, the new policy is any ancestors must show direct lineage.
To be fair, there may be some areas that are less enforced then others. My area is most definitely enforced though.
...We thank thee oh lord for a profit...
I see no humor in this that is very borderline of you Foxx!:)