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.
Heaven is Divided Into Two Kingdoms.
20. As there are infinite varieties in heaven, and no one society nor any one angel is exactly like any other [4.1], there are in heaven general, specific, and particular divisions. The general division is into two kingdoms, the specific into three heavens, and the particular into innumerable societies. Each of these will be treated of in what follows. The general division is said to be into kingdoms, because heaven is called the kingdom of God.
21. There are angels that receive more interiorly the Divine that goes forth from the Lord, and others that receive it less interiorly; the former are called celestial angels, and the latter spiritual angels. Because of this difference heaven is divided into two kingdoms, one called the Celestial Kingdom, the other the Spiritual Kingdom [4.2].
22. As the angels that constitute the celestial kingdom receive the Divine of the Lord more interiorly they are called interior and also higher angels; and for the same reason the heavens that they constitute are called interior and higher heavens [4.3]. They are called higher and lower, because these terms designate what is interior and what is exterior [4.4].
23. The love in which those are, who are in the celestial kingdom is called celestial love, and the love in which those are who are in the spiritual kingdom is called spiritual love. Celestial love is love to the Lord, and spiritual love is love towards the neighbor. And as all good pertains to love (for good to any one is what he loves) the good also of the other kingdom is called celestial, and the good of the other spiritual. Evidently, then, the two kingdoms are distinguished from each other in the same way as good of love to the Lord is distinguished from good of love towards the neighbor [4.5]. And as the good of love to the Lord is an interior good, and that love is interior love, so the celestial angels are interior angels, and are called higher angels.
24. The celestial kingdom is called also the Lords priestly kingdom, and in the Word His dwelling-place; while the spiritual kingdom is called His royal kingdom, and in the Word His throne. And from the celestial Divine the Lord in the world was called Jesus, while from the spiritual Divine He was called Christ.
25. The angels in the Lords celestial kingdom, from their more interior reception of the Divine of the Lord, far excel in wisdom and glory the angels that are in His spiritual kingdom; for they are in love to the Lord, and consequently are nearer and more closely conjoined to Him [4.6]. These angels are such because they have received and continue to receive Divine truths at once in their life, and not first in memory and thought, as the spiritual angels do. Consequently they have Divine truths written in their hearts, and they perceive them, and as it were see them, in themselves; nor do they ever reason about them whether they are true or not [4.7]. They are such as are described in Jeremiah:-
This guy died in 1772.
Wow. He must have talked to God too. < /sarc>
I wouldnt like it, would you?
So I gather you are no longer on the LDS records!:)
But the objections to this interpretation are obvious:
(a) There is no evidence that such a custom prevailed in the time of Paul.
(b) It cannot be believed that Paul would give countenance to a custom so senseless and so contrary to the Scripture, or that he would make it the foundation of a solemn argument.
(c) It does not accord with the strain and purpose of his argument. If this custom had been referred to, his design would have led him to say, What will become of them for whom others have been baptized? Are we to believe that they have perished?
(d) It is far more probable that the custom referred to in this opinion arose from an erroneous interpretation of this passage of Scripture, than that it existed in the time of Paul.
Paul is arguing FOR bodily Resurrection which means the Corinthians were arguing against it. If the Corinthians are practicing baptism of the dead, what is the point if there is no Resurrection of the body?
I am not certain the status of my request.
My dad has passed on, but when he was alive he was heavily into genealogy and researching family history.
He eventually quit using the LDS-based facilities and materials because he was very much against giving or sharing any information that allowed for proxy baptisms, aka, baptizing the dead.
Here is a Wikipedia article about the practice: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baptism_for_the_dead
I don’t know a whole lot about the LDS Faith in general, but I have to say that I find this particular act to be deplorable, especially the fact that they have baptized not only plain old Christians and Jews, but also Holocaust victims; former Nazi officials, including Hitler; martyred Catholic saints, and so on.
I am not saying that innocent LDS members are deplorable; only those who allow and/or participate in these actions.
The Holocaust victims and martyred saints bother me the most, honestly, since they died as a direct result of their faith in God.
I am not certain the status of my request.
In a short few words: respect for the dead.
It is an insult to people who may have died for their faith to say that their faith may not have been enough after all.
Members of the LDS have, at various times, baptized Jews who died in the Holocaust, Catholic martyrs, and so on.
The third Mormon "prophet" John Taylor--the same person who was in jail with Joseph Smith on charges of vandalizing/detroying a printing press...the same person who said that the LDS church would never backtrack on polygamy despite up to 1300 men being jailed in the years during (or surrounding) his Mormon presidency...also said:
"...we are the only people that know how to save our progenitors, how to save ourselves, and how to save our posterity in the celestial kingdom of God;...we in fact are the saviours of the world..." (Journal of Discourses, vol.6, p.163).
Of course, what Taylor was referencing was the ritual practicing of baptizing dead folks. (LDS even conjure up a vision of LDS priestholders going over on the other side & assisting with folks receiving the perverted Mormon gospel).
So I ask: Why would the Catholic church want to continue a practice that only continues to elevate Mormons in their own minds as "the saviours of the world?" (This is, pure & simple, idolatry to place themselves in the lone Savior role reserved for Jesus Christ).
As the book of Revelation makes it clear: Only "One" slain-One Redeemer (Rev. 5:9) was "worthy" to open the scrolls; there's only ONE Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.
If proxy baptism would have been the route to world salvation, he would have done it himself. But he didn't. In fact, he rarely even baptized any living person:
I am thankful that I did not baptize any of you except Crispus and Gaius, so no one can say that you were baptized into my name. (Yes, I also baptized the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I don't remember if I baptized anyone else.) For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospelnot with words of human wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power. Christ the Wisdom and Power of God. For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. (1 Cor. 1:14-18)
And that's what is telling...no crosses on Mormon facilities...But proxy baptism tanks in their temples...Ones that could be utilized 24/7 in dozens of temples if only the Mormon claim that the apostle John is still alive would come forward with all the names of the dead that you would think he'd have access to with a 2,000 year lifespan...but no...(same about 3 supposed ancient Nephite disciples still walking the earth)...but I guess proxy baptism just isn't a priority to them...)
How many Jews were forced to accept Jesus vicarous gift?
Then they ought not be concerned about this. Why not just let the LDS people play their little baptism games? Who is it going to hurt?
That's the very point Paul is making to the Corinthian saints. :-)
It won't hurt anyone, but there is no reason that the Church should take an active role in this nonsense.
I think the Catholic church should give them the names of so many people, that they have to take some of their missionaries off the street to help! LOL
I think that's the point: we don't want to be seen as in any way approving of it.
OTOH, see #55.
Hmmm. . .something about indulgences and praying for those in purgatory comes to mind.
Just hand them the Baltimore Metro Phone Book. That should keep 'em busy for a while.
150 MILLION John Smiths
200 MILLION Jane Jones
Come back when you need more names.
Whether you agree with Catholicism or not (we know you don’t), we CAN show justification for Purgatory in the Bible, Mormons CANNOT show justification for baptism of the dead. The Catholic Church NEVER authorized the sale of indulgences, though it was done by some against Church teaching.