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.
Home temple? Come on, where is the sacrifice in that, where is the depth of commitment? You can do better than that.
Anyway, I hope it makes you feel better at least. I guess since you believe your ceremony will do me so much good you won’t need to come around here and spend so much time trying to talk me out of my faith. Perhaps you could spread this practice to other anit-Mormon posters. I think FR will be a much better place without so much contention.
As for ‘how offensive the mormonism practice of baptizing people of other faiths is’. It is 100% your choice to feel offended. All we do is offer people a choice they never had in their life, and we offer them that choice out of love. I will not apologize for doing that. If you want to get all bent out of shape over it, that is YOUR problem.
A re-write of history is a creation of fiction. Like attributing a newly written book to Mark Twain. Like baptising a dead person.
Maybe my five or six thousand LDS cousins lied to me. Me; I am a Calvinist, though of a Free Will type, I think that people who take retro Baptism seriously have a problem.
It’s an honest question. Inquiring minds want to know!
I'm sure you can get the whole thread pulled just because it doesn't suit the mormon agenda, resty.
Oh, I’d rather get the thread pulled like you guys do than have a discussion.
Why did the thread on Jos. Smith’s sermon get pulled?
Very strange! Why would mormons be upset about one of his sermons?
They obviously have the power to shut down the discussion when it isn’t going their way.
Like little kids. waaaaaaaaaaaaaa!
Wonder if they found some obscure telecommunications law?
Mom, HE’S LOOKING AT ME!!!!!
I’M GONNA TELLL....MOM DID YOU SEE? MAKE HIM QUIT! (hit abuse)
“Home temple? Come on, where is the sacrifice in that, where is the depth of commitment?”
Are you kidding! Just the whitewash and electric bill alone
are killers. Add in the golden angel and legal bills to
fight with neighbors and we’re talkin’ real money!
“I guess since you believe your ceremony will do me so much good you wont need to come around here and spend so much time trying to talk me out of my faith.”
Don’t think I’ve ever once tried to talk you out of your faith.
Only God can open a person’s eyes to the truth of salvation.
But, perhaps I can answer best with your own words!
“It is 100% your choice to feel offended. All we do is offer people a choice they never had in their life, and we offer them that choice out of love. I will not apologize for doing that. If you want to get all bent out of shape over it, that is YOUR problem.”
And now you know why I post here - particularly to those
caught up in the cult of mormonism - and of course, to warn
those away who may be tempted to think mormonism is truth.
It is not.
LOL! It’s a tough question for most denominations to answer. I’m not surprised there are no takers.
Don, you will have to try that tactic on someone who hasn’t dealt with you mormons on here for months. I’m not playing defense. This thread is about the Vatican and the mormons...I am neither Catholic nor mormon.
Yes I know what a re-write of history means. Your claim of revisionist history didn’t fit the quoted portion, because it is fact that baptism for the dead is common practice for the LDS church.
Spoken by a true intellectual and diplomat.
Your ignorance is embarassing. Genealogy is used for a number of purposes beyond the traditional practice of searching family lines as a hobby or for religious purposes. In fact, the Mormons’ Family History Library has openned, and contnue to do so, its collection to the University of Utah and other institutions for genetic research to fight cancer and other inherited diseases. Firthermore, the Family History Library has worked not only with genetic and medical researchers, but also with social, demographic, historical and other scholars using the collection to help better understand human beings.
Are YOU now infected with the same thing that has taken over OMM??