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.
I, for one, was IRRITATED by it!
--MormonDude(No; I am NOT thinskinned and whiney!)
We MORMON's got to STICK together!!
--FundyMormonDude(Does anyone need a few, hardworking teenaged boys?)
Your response N00B is: 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
Insulting a FReeper in your "second" post is hardly good form, n00b...what is your other screen name? Are you mormon?
Glad you added that so I didn't have to. The church told the Jews that they couldn't guarantee what the members would actually do, didn't they?
“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 were talkin real money!”
I’m not kidding at all, you clearly are since I seriously doubt that in the past 48 hours you have whitewashed your home, installed a golden angle and a bunch of lights, plus received an electricity bill for the cost of running those lights one or two nights.
How disappointing. When some high school wanted to offend whites to get them to change the names of sports teams named after visible minorities they at least had enough commitment to actually rename their team ‘The Fighting Whites’ design a logo and put it on t-shirts for sale. You really should have learned from that fiasco how your suggestion was foolish, immature and only serves to show how unfounded your objections and claim to feeling offended really are.
Your lack of commitment to this makes me wonder if you greatly exaggerate just how offended you are, or just like having something to feel offended about. If the latter, the good news is that you will be able to feel offended over this for a long, long, long time because the work will go on till the second coming and for a thousand years after that.
“You really should have learned from that fiasco how your suggestion was foolish, immature and only serves to show how unfounded your objections and claim to feeling offended really are.”
Never said I was offended personally, Grig. To me, any silly
ceremony that is extra-biblical means nothing, and has no
power to do anything other than get a well-meaning mormon
“Your lack of commitment to this makes me wonder if you greatly exaggerate just how offended you are, or just like having something to feel offended about. If the latter, the good news is that you will be able to feel offended over this for a long, long, long time because the work will go on till the second coming and for a thousand years after that.”
Well, you certainly can dream! And I am happy that you are
Would you like me to also have an Unsealing Ceremony in your
wife’s name this week? We have a BOGO SALE! Buy one ceremony
and get the second FREE!
[and were you planning to call her name to resurrect her??]
I am a Roman Catholic and i really do not care if the LDS baptize the Names of my ancestors. Go ahead because it means absolutely nothing to me. I don’t believe in their baptism. It will have no effect on my ancestors.
I don’t understand why the LDS doesn’t just do a gigantic group baptisimal of all human beings from time immemorial, as potential LDS members if they choose it when they all get to heaven, or for all those there already. The intent seems to be so that families and their lineage will not be separated in heaven because they are not all LDS church members. So, save some time, baptize all the dead and all who will end up dead, in a one-time special ceremony. Why do it one be one? That way, either all other religions (or atheists/agnostics) will be offended by these baptisms, or none will be, as it is such a blanket baptismal generality. The Mormon’s problem with uniting in Heaven would be solved, and the rest of the world wouldn’t care because it would be meaningless to them. Problem solved.
Either way, isn't it about trying to get that person's soul into heaven?
Does praying for people in Purgatory insult the memories of Jews who died in the Holocaust?
I don't think so. It reflects on those doing the praying rather than on those who have passed on. I would imagine some Jews might be upset by it, but that doesn't impact their memory of their loved one.
And what indulgences have to do with anything is beyond me
Are you saying the Catholic Church never sold indulgences to people so that punishment for sins of those who have passed on could be remitted (in full or in part)? Come on - we both know that occurred.
How would sale of indulgences be different from praying for someone or getting baptized for someone who has passed on thinking that act can somehow change the 'destiny' of that individual?
Like I said, it reflects on the person undertaking the action, not on the person who has passed on.
ACTUAL good? I don’t know. For me it is a hobby. Some people collect stuff like lunch boxes or beer cans. Some people drink, some people paint. I love history and geography. Collecting names and dates is interesting, but understanding the historical events and circumstances that have occurred in my family is terribly interesting. From the Bataan Death March to the Protestant-Catholic conflict in Ireland to the Prussian rebellion of 1848-49, family links make these otherwise foreign events more personal for me.
That's nice. However, the tendency of the LDS church to tout the genealogy files as a "great service to mankind" when they are, in fact, a tool for collecting names for the baptism for the dead ritual, is quite mendacious and misleading.
It's a belief either way. What they are doing reflects on them and not on the person who has passed on.
The same is true if Catholics try to pray Jews who died in the Holocaust out of purgatory. The Catholics feel perfectly justified in doing so, but the Jews may well be upset about it.
If one does not believe that the Mormon baptism is valid, then ignore it. Let them waste their time and effort. At least if they are doing that, they aren't trying to convert live people.
I’ve known since day one what the LDS church uses genealogy records for. As I stated earlier, I have no issue with that because I do not believe for a second that baptism of the dead has any meaning at all.
The point is, the general public does NOT know what the LDS uses genealogy for.
The Catholic church and Jews do.
Thanks for the help on this , I will stop saving to there site.
I never gave the rebaptizing a thought!
Now i’m on a hunt for where Ancestry.com and Family Tree are saving there information as most leads go back to the LDS.
Thanks again for all the info.
Sorry ampu, when in post 123 you talk of “how offensive the mormonism practice of baptizing people of other faiths is” then switch to saying “Never said I was offended personally” you lose all credibility. You can’t embrace the idea that is is offensive in one post, then deny being offended in another post and hang on to your integrity.
“Would you like me to also have an Unsealing Ceremony in your wifes name this week? We have a BOGO SALE! Buy one ceremony and get the second FREE!”
And so we go back to square one.
As I said before, go for it, it wouldn’t bother me in the least, even if you really did know my name and her name.
Again, don’t be half-hearted about it. If you really believe it, put some sacrifice into it. I doubt you will, I doubt you’ll even invest 5 minutes to do some cheapo imitation made-up-on-fly ceremony because you don’t really believe it has any real purpose or function. Of course it’s easy enough to claim you did it, so if you really want me to believe you actually did it, and put some effort into it, post a video of you doing it on youtube.
Denying a couple can be sealed and creating an un-sealing ceremony to un-seal a couple you don’t believe are really sealed in the first place take a special kind of double-think that not many people can achieve (thank goodness). You don’t believe in it, you just want to try and put the shoe on the other foot, and don’t like it when we say it fits just fine with us.
No. It's telling the world that the Jews who died as a result of being Jews wasn't really good enough for God and need fixing in the afterlife.
It is also a direct breech of the agreement the LDS Church made with Jewish groups.
See: Vatican trying to avoid baptism by proxy - from today's Salt Lake Tribune
The practice of LDS baptism for the dead has come under fire from Jewish groups that say the names of Jewish Holocaust victims are still showing up in the church's vast genealogical database for unwelcome baptisms, even after the church agreed in 1995 not to proxy baptize Jewish Holocaust victims.
Make no mistake about it. Jews have asked specifically and repeatedly that the LDS Church stop this practice and have received numerous assurances that it would stop... but then it doesn't.
Which is precisely the reason that Israel, exactly like the Vatican, has gone out of its way to bgin keeping the records from the LDS Church because the LDS Chruch cannot keep it's word.
See: Mormons meet with Jews over baptizing Holocaust victims
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (AP) -- Mormon and Jewish leaders met Tuesday in New York City to discuss the Mormon church's apparent breach of its agreement not to posthumously baptize Holocaust victims and other deceased Jews.
So, if the LDS Church has agreed to stop the practice, why haven't they?
In what way is breeching their agreement with Jews a moral thing to do?
“...when in post 123 you talk of how offensive the mormonism practice of baptizing people of other faiths is then switch to saying Never said I was offended personally you lose all credibility.”
No problem. As a mormon, who by definition views all non-mormons
as apostates, I doubt you ever viewed me or others with any
credibility at all anyway.
Never the less, it is very offensive to those Catholics and
Jews - and I’m neither.
“As I said before, go for it, it wouldnt bother me in the least, even if you really did know my name and her name.”
Since you continue to write about this, I suspect it does
bother you... :-) or you wouldn’t keep writing to tell me
it doesn’t bother you.
“Of course its easy enough to claim you did it, so if you really want me to believe you actually did it, and put some effort into it, post a video of you doing it on youtube.’
I can imagine that if someone took time to make a video
for YouTube, showing an Unsealing Ceremony, it would be
widely viewed and copied by tens of thousands or hundreds
of thousands of mormons who left the cult and became
Christians! For them, it would ceremonialize their freedom
from oppression, legalism and bondage.
Someone should do this for the benefit of the huge ex-mormon
population. Really, it should be an ex-mormon, for authenticity
sake. Color Country, here’s a great ministry for you!
Since it would be widely watched by mormons (those still
trapped in the cult), it would also serve another great
CC, what do you think? I think Grig is really onto a great
“You dont believe in it, you just want to try and put the shoe on the other foot, and dont like it when we say it fits just fine with us.”
No doubt it fits you perfectly.
OH NO! Since leaving Mormonism, I want nothing to do with ordinances, ceremony, or oaths.
I truly understand what the Bible says when in talks about the "heart" being the "true" indicator of a person. You can swear oaths all day long but it's the heart that counts, and God sees your heart.
Unless the Jews believe they may be right, so what? Sure, it's annoying, but it really isn't a big deal if they are secure in their beliefs. I'd certainly say it was different if the Mormons or Catholics were grabbing Jews off the street and forcing them to be baptised, but that isn't what is happening.
It is also a direct breech of the agreement the LDS Church made with Jewish groups.
I'm not aware of such an agreement, but if that's the case, the issue is breaching the agreement, not that they were doing it in the first place. It amazes me that Jews would get so bent out of shape over this as to demand an agreement in the first place. No one except Mormons actually think it is anything but silly.
So, if the LDS Church has agreed to stop the practice, why haven't they?
Don't know. It is dishonest to say they will and then not follow through. But it is rather amusing that anyone would get bent out of shape over this in the first place. Who cares? (Unless, of course, one believes there is a shred of truth to the LDS reasons for post-death baptism.)