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.
“Lets say I created a ceremony to make all their ancestors gay. Now, the fact that they dont believe in my ceremony doesnt change the fact that my doing so is disrespectful to their grandparents and the choices he/she made while alive. Its arrogant of me to assume that anyone but myself wants it and that I have any sort of power to do so.”
Let’s go farther.
Let’s actually create a special Unsealing Ceremony for the Dead.
By Proxy Unsealing, (any dead) Mormon wife can be Unsealed
from her god husband, if she so chooses, for any reason
she chooses. Any living Mormon or non-Mormon can be a proxy
for any dead Mormon wife. It would be a Liberation to
nullify any chance that her previous husband wouldn’t call
her by her special name and resurrect her.
Teach those arrogant god-husbands! Let’s strip away their
Celestial Polygamy (which the oLDS teaches still).
Let’s also create a Celestial Demotion Ceremony. By participating
in this ceremony, you can be a proxy for any Mormon who has died.
By standing in for them, you will renounce every Temple
Ceremony, Mission Trip, Tithe, Marriage Sealing, etc.
The previous works they thought would earn them a spot above
everyone else - and their “godship of their own planet -
will now be nullified.
Surely, they couldn’t get upset about this, could they?
And perhaps they could then begin to realize how offensive
it is when they purport to convert people who have died
believing in a faith already.
Hey, let’s also make them wear pink underwear in the
I don’t know why it really matters. I wouldn’t embrace it and find it crazy, but since I have a Mormon sister, if she outlives me it wouldn’t surprise me if she had me baptized posthumously. I don’t think I will care, and I don’t think it would affect my salvation.
This is too bad. I’m a genealogy-loving Catholic who spends many hours going over records at LDS institutions. Since I do not believe in post-death baptism, my LDS friends who will do so to me after I pass means NOTHING to me. Have at it if it makes you happy.
But to make so many of these records unavailable to those who, for free, go to genealogy centers at LDS facilities is short-sighted.
What the Mormons do is what the Mormons do, they perform a valuable service by preserving these records and they do it for NADA.
I think it’s meaningless as well, but I can also see why people don’t like it.
It takes an unmitigated amount of gall to take it on yourself to do something like that, that you believe is real, for (or to) someone you don’t know without their or their relatives knowledge or consent.
Having been a Mormon at one time, and having a valid Catholic baptism now, I want absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with the LDS church here or hereafter.
To me, this would be the equivalent of a priest walking into a hospital and going around giving Mormons last rites for the Catholic church, without their permission.
That’d go over real well, now wouldn’t it?
I think it’s mostly that it inflates the Mormons’ statistics. Obviously, no dead person can be baptized by anybody of any church, and such “baptism” would have no effect. But then that person is counted as a Mormon (by the Mormons, of course).
It is a hobby, fine, but I must warn you other Christians like you.
1 Timothy: 4 nor to pay attention to myths and endless genealogies, which give rise to mere speculation rather than furthering the administration of God which is by faith
New American Standard Bible ©
Question...If God honors the posthumous "baptisms", why would Catholics want to oppose God. If he does not honor these "baptisms", why should Catholics care what Mormons do?
It doesn’t affect me in any way. I don’t believe it is real therefore it holds no power in my mind. I can see the rationale for it but it is 100% worldly. I can see the new Emergent Church doing it because it would appeal to the spiritually weak who would be more at ease if their dead relatives got a chance to escape Hell. I know people who resist their own Salvation because they don’t want to deal with daddy dying unSaved. “Shoot fire, we’ll just wish daddy into Heaven then”.
I’m not saying Mormons are weak but that weak people may be drawn to the practice.
I agree with you. I still think it’s pretty gutsy.
Actually, they're not exactly doing it for nothing. They're providing a service in exchange for your lists of relatives, for whom they will later be baptized in proxy to make posthumous Mormons out of them (if they choose to accept it in Heaven, etc etc etc). Baptizing themselves for your dead relatives is a type of missionary work for the LDS.
If you don't want your great-aunt Martha to be placed on any LDS posthumous mailing lists, don't accept any free services from them.
A belated “welcome home” :-)
A Humorous, but still apt, parallel to how Mormons attempt to "unCatholicize" deceased Catholics.
Lets also create a Celestial Demotion Ceremony. By participating in this ceremony, you can be a proxy for any Mormon who has died. By standing in for them, you will renounce every Temple Ceremony, Mission Trip, Tithe, Marriage Sealing, etc. The previous works they thought would earn them a spot above everyone else - and their godship of their own planet - will now be nullified.
Also funny but simultaneously utterly sad and full of Lamentations...Imagine a soul having just departed this world thinking his righteousness has exceeded that of the Pharisees (after all, the Pharisees never took a shot @ godhood)...only to see the blinking mansion hotel-like light, "No Vacancy" over God's throne & no other divine throne available on any star, any planet, any universe.
The lack of Celestial Real Estate signs out front would make the lies of Gen. 3:5 & the false tries of Isaiah 14:12-14 would be instantaneously evident.
This is a gift which one can accept or refuses, it not like the LDS are snacking soul!
If one never heard Heavenly Fathers Plan those are the one who would be eligible to hear it.
It is called free will
To make a legal order of over another being options in the hereafter is interfering with ones free agency!
While one is waiting for Resurrection day in the hereafter there is a lot of time to ponder their eternity options!
It will matter not in thousand years of peace this work will continue and those of telestial nature will be vanished and longer to contend!:)
And the very next verse reads
"And as for us, why do we endanger ourselves every hour?"
Note that Paul makes a distinction between "they" and "we".
Sorry, but this is not true. You are under NO obligation to give them anything. If you do not want to share what you find you can just go home and leave nothing behind.
You do pay 23 cents for a scan and copy of old records, a nickel for a copy, and a smile to the lady behind the desk who helps you out. Those are all less than cost.
They do collect their 10 percent from their members, of which I am not one.