Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Chaz Muth

5/3/2008 (6 years ago)

Catholic News Service (www.catholicnews.com)

Vatican issues an order to Bishops to not allow Parish records to be given to genealogical societies of the Mormon Church.

Highlights

By Chaz Muth

Catholic News Service (www.catholicnews.com)

5/3/2008 (6 years ago)

Published in U.S.


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.

---

Copyright (c) 2007 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops



Comments


More U.S.

Bill Clinton Panders to Homosexual Activist Human Rights Campaign in Washington, D.C. We Will Resist Them Watch

Image of Pictured: Bill Clinton

This is the same President who, one year after he signed the Defense of Marriage Act, told the Homosexual and lesbian magazine The Advocate - I remain opposed to same-sex marriage. I believe marriage is an institution for the union of a man and a woman. This has been my long-standing position, and it is not being reviewed or considered. So, what has changed? Certainly not the truth about marriage. It cannot and will not change. Rather, this politician has changed. And, his wife wants to be President of the United States.

By Keith A. Fournier

All people of good will who recognize the vital role that marriage and the family play in serving the common good must get ready for what lies ahead. All people of good will who respect free speech, free association and the free exercise of religion must not be ... continue reading


Why Christians Should Celebrate Halloween - and Transform the Culture Watch

Image of Noah dressed up as the Incredible Hulk

By Deacon Keith A Fournier

The International Association of Exorcists sponsored a gathering in Vatican City on the last weekend of October in 2014. The organization was formally approved by the Holy See in June. The global Press was enamored with the notion that the Church even recognizes ... continue reading


Three men sentenced for participation in Internet child pornography ring Watch

Image of The 13 defendants, who range in age from 23 to 66, are from Indiana, New Jersey, Washington, Virginia, Maryland, Oregon, Missouri, Montana, Kentucky, Arizona and Massachusetts.

By Stella Dawson, Thomson Reuters Foundation

The United States this week sentenced to prison three men involved in an international child pornography ring that exchanged online pictures and videos of children engaged in sexual acts, the government said on Wednesday. WASHINGTON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - ... continue reading


How could he let it happen? 92% of Afghan war Marine KIA under Obama Watch

Image of During the entire, 12 years war in Afghanistan, 92% of U.S. Marine casualties took place under the six years of President Obama's term.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Earlier this week the U.S. Marine Corps withdrew its forces from Camp Leatherneck in Helmand province in Afghanistan, effectively ending their 13 year involvement in the Afghan war. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - "U.S. Marines and service members from the ... continue reading


VIDEO: Antares rocket launch fails with fire and smoke Watch

Image of The Antares rocket was set to launch on October 27, but was postponed a day because a ship was in its expected trajectory.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

A private contracted, unmanned NASA rocket exploded just after launch along coastal Virginia early on the evening of October 28 . LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The Antares rocket and Cygnus cargo spacecraft, products of Orbital Sciences Corp., were set to ... continue reading


Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox Christian Leaders Stand in Solidarity to Defend Marriage Watch

Image of Marriage as existing solely between one man and one woman was not an idea manufactured by the Christian Church. It precedes Christianity. Though affirmed, fulfilled, and elevated by Christian teaching, the truth that marriage can exist only between one man and one woman is not based on religion or revelation alone, but on the Natural Moral Law, written on the human heart and discernible through the exercise of reason

By Deacon Keith A Fournier

The Marriage Solidarity Statement was drafted by Deacon Keith Fournier, Founder and Chairman of Common Good Foundation and Alliance, and Mat Staver, Chairman of Liberty Counsel and Liberty Counsel Action. It was vetted among other Christian pastors and leaders ... continue reading


A 'Living legend': Dr. Joseph Medicine Crow, last of the Crow war chiefs, turns 101 Watch

Image of Dr. Joseph Medicine Crow, a living legend at 101, and a renown historian and scholar of the Crow people.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Dr. Joseph Medicine Crow, the last Crow war chief, turned 101 on October 27, and spent the day at the Bighorn Battlefield, with his son. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - "I was fortunate when I was growing up," he said. "The Crow Indians were still retaining the ... continue reading


Former TV reporter says computer was bugged by Obama administration Watch

Image of

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Former President Richard M. Nixon was notorious for the surveillance he used on who he perceived as being enemies - but it appears that current U.S. president, Barack Obama could have taught "Tricky Dick" a thing or two. According to former CBS reporter Sharyl ... continue reading


School shooting in Washington state leaves 2 dead, five injured Watch

Image of Kids and parents react to news of the shooting.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

A shooting has occurred at a school in Washington, in which authorities believe a bullied student shot and killed another. The shooter is also believed to be dead. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - A school shooting has taken place at Marysville-Pilchuck High School ... continue reading


Guns Do Not Have Rights, People Do. Legitimate Self Defense is One of Them

Image of Guns have no rights, only people do.Yes, one of them is the Right to Self Defense - and the Right to defend your neighbor. You may ask,

By Keith A. Fournier

We live in a precarious time in the United States of America. Many of us are deeply concerned about the effort to infringe upon the fundamental rights which were delineated in the Bill of Rights to the United States Constitution. I have written extensively about ... continue reading


All U.S. News

Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Philippians 1:1-11
1 Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, to all ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 111:1-2, 3-4, 5-6
1 Alleluia! I give thanks to Yahweh with all my ... Read More

Gospel, Luke 14:1-6
1 Now it happened that on a Sabbath day he had gone ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for October 31st, 2014 Image

St. Wolfgang
October 31: Wolfgang (d. 994) + Bishop and reformer. Born in Swabia, ... Read More

Inform, Inspire & Ignite Logo

Find Catholic Online on Facebook and get updates right in your live feed.

Become a fan of Catholic Online on Facebook


Follow Catholic Online on Twitter and get News and Product updates.

Follow us on Twitter