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


Rosaries, Crosses, Prayer Cards and more... by Catholic Shopping .com


Comments


More U.S.

Personal assistant to Mississippi Senator arrested for trafficking meth and date rape drugs Watch

Image of Assistant Fred Pagan was paid $160,000 in his Senate role last year, according to newspaper reports. The 49-year-old Pagan has worked for Cochran since he was 16 years old.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

A Mississippi Senator's personal assistant has been charged with trafficking drugs from China to use as payment for sexual favors. An investigation was launched after police seized a package on April 9 with over a kilo of the date rape drug GBL addressed to ... continue reading


Oregon bakers who refused to make lesbian wedding cake get $100K from online fundraiser Watch

Image of Melissa Klein and her husband Aaron disapprove of gay marriage for religious reasons. They refused to  make the cake for a commitment ceremony in June of 2013.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The bakery Sweet Cakes by Melissa, in the Portland suburb of Gresham, made international headlines when they refused to make a wedding cake for a lesbian couple two years ago. The bakery was fined $135,000 -- $100,000 was raised on an online fundraising page ... continue reading


The Obama Administration to bring waves of immigrants to refugee settlements in the United States Watch

Image of You could look for clues if you're community is selected for immigration settlements, says WND.

By Talia Ramos (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The Obama administration is no less than discreet. From the "Strengthening Communities by Welcoming All Residents: A Federal Strategic Action Plan on Immigrant and Refugee Immigration" report from the White House Task Force on New Americans, certain clues and signs ... continue reading


Infant Exposure: Newborn Baby Rescued from a Dumpster Reunited with Hero Who Saved Him

Image of Officer Michael Buelna reunited with the baby he had saved from the trash, twenty five year old Robin Barton.

By Deacon Keith Fournier

Michael Buelna is a Police Officer in Santa Ana, California. In 1989 he heard a sound coming from a trash bin. When he looked closely, he discovered a newborn baby boy with his umbilical cord still attached. The child was only four hours old. He weighed four ... continue reading


Lifting the Christian flag on Georgian government grounds raises concerns Watch

Image of

By Talia Ramos (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

After seeking legal recommendations, Cochran, Georgia was advised not to raise the traditional Christian flag outside City Hall. However, the city council decided to determine this through votes that eventually turned in favor of lifting the flag. The flag raising is ... continue reading


California's extreme drought causes rodents to raid homes Watch

Image of

By Talia Ramos (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Rodents are being forced to forage into houses and residences for water to survive during the high temperature in California causing an extreme drought. The rats are going through various lengths and pushing themselves into small holes just to get some food and water. ... continue reading


It just might be the largest eruption ever! Fire in the belly - much more magma underneath Yellowstone volcano than thought Watch

Image of The recently discovered magma reservoir alone has a volume 2.5 times that of the Grand Canyon. However, these new expanses do not mean that the two hellish hollows could overflow the Grand Canyon with molten rock.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

A research group, using seismic technology to scan Yellowstone National Park's depths has made a literally earth-shaking discovery. Yellowstone's magma reserves are many magnitudes greater than previously thought, making the notion of an eruption far more ... continue reading


Islamic State's seduction, recruitment of Americans under scrutiny Watch

Image of At least 25 Probable American recruits have been detained since January.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

U.S. prosecutions of would-be recruits to Islamic State has grown exponentially. ISIS has used both brutality and perceptive propaganda to attract members worldwide, in ways that are far more sophisticated than al-Qaeda and other jihadist adherents. LOS ... continue reading


'Man of peace, tenacity and courage,' Cardinal Francis George dies aged 78 Watch

Image of Polio during childhood had left the prelate with a weakened leg and a pronounced limp throughout his life. With his death, the College of Cardinals has 223 members, of whom 121 are under 80 and thus eligible to vote for a pope.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Retired Archbishop of Chicago, Cardinal Francis George has died after a decade of battling cancer at the age of 78. The first native Chicagoan to head the archdiocese, he is being remembered as "a man of peace, tenacity and courage" by his successor Archbishop ... continue reading


Genetic rescuing considered for shrinking wolf population on remote Michigan island Watch

Image of

By Nikky Andres (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

There are only three wolves left on Isle Royale, a small island in Michigan Lake's Superior, according to biologists. Researchers said that they do not know what to do or what should be done in order to save the wolves from dying and disrupting the ecology. MUNTINLUPA, ... 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, Acts 11:1-18
1 The apostles and the brothers in Judaea heard that ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 42:2-3; 43:3, 4
2 I thirst for God, the living God; when shall I go ... Read More

Gospel, John 10:1-10
1 'In all truth I tell you, anyone who does not enter ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for April 27th, 2015 Image

St. Zita
April 27: St. Zita was born into a poor but holy Christian family. Her ... 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