Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Chaz Muth

5/3/2008 (7 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 (7 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.

America's MOST and LEAST patriotic states in 2015 Watch

Image of Virginia [not pictured] has been named the most patriotic state.

By Nikky Andres (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

A recent American pride survey, published on June 29, 2015, revealed Virginia to be at the top of the current list of the most patriotic states in the USA. WalletHub, a consumer website, evaluated the military and civic engagement of all 50 states, included in the ... continue reading


The Martyrdom of the Apostles Peter and Paul Invites Us Into a New Missionary Age Watch

Image of On this great Feast we need to rededicate ourselves to being true witnesses, with an adult faith, willing to participate fully in this new missionary age of the Catholic Church. May the blood of the Martyrs continue to be the seed of the Church. St. Peter and St. Paul, pray for us!

By Deacon Keith A Fournier

Since at least the Third Century, Christians have commemorated this day as a Solemnity, the day when the two pillars of the Church, the great Apostles, Peter and Paul, met the Lord whom they served with such beauty, face to face in the communion of eternal love. ... continue reading


Junior lifeguard competition cancelled after 15 great white sharks spotted swimming near shore in California beach Watch

Image of

By Talia Ramos (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The NorCal Junior Lifeguards competition was cancelled following the reported sightings of at least 15 great white sharks swimming near the shore in Aptos, Santa Cruz. Helicopters and boats were sent off to determine the situation before the event, confirming that ... continue reading


Fear of ISIS expansion along U.S. border grows Watch

Image of The fear of the ISIS breaching security in the southern borders of the U.S. is being addressed by the government.

By Linky C. (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The United States is considering the possible breach in the security of its southern borders. With drugs, illegal immigrants and several illegal activities being localized in this area, the militant group, ISIS may actually target this region for their terrorist plans. ... continue reading


United States Population: More minority children than whites, more whites dying than being born Watch

Image of Minority children are currently dominating the number of native Americans in the US.

By Linky C. (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The United States' population is composed of Americans and millions of immigrants and foreigners considered to be part of the "minority group." As the years pass, the American population is now starting to become dominated by the "minority group."roup. MUNTINLUPA, ... continue reading


8-year-old boy bitten by shark in knee-deep water, fourth case over past two weeks in NC Watch

Image of

By Talia Ramos (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

A frantic 911 call was made after an 8-year-old boy was bitten by a shark while swimming in knee-deep water at a beach in North Carolina. During the emergency call, the boy is heard screaming, as the caller tells the operator that his foot has punctured holes and ... continue reading


California legislature's who HATE Catholics want Father Juniper Serra statue OUT of Capitol Watch

Image of Bl. Junipero Serra played a leading role in California history, helping to convert thousands of native Californians to Christianity and teaching them new technologies.

By CNA/EWTN News

A statue of Franciscan missionary and saint-to-be Father Junipero Serra has stood in the U.S. Capitol since 1931, but its future may depend on an upcoming hearing in the California legislature and the success of a "Let's Save Serra" campaign. SACRAMENTO, CA ... continue reading


HERE COMES THE POPE - As many as 1.5 million faithful expected to greet Pope Francis in Philadelphia in September Watch

Image of More than 1.5 million people are expected for the Mass with Pope Francis in at that time. About 12,000 people were registered for the congress earlier this month.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Excitement is building for the visit from Pope Francis in Philadelphia this coming September. The Pope will be there for the once-every-three-years World Meeting of Families from September 22 through 25. Archbishop Charles J. Chaput met with the Pope after the ... continue reading


At least 10 Islamic State suspects living in the U.S. arrested by FBI Watch

Image of The FBI is targeting individuals thought to be planning attacks in the U.S. The bureau is concentrating on direct arrests in lieu of surveillance.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

In response to a perception of increased attacks on U.S. soil by Islamic State - following the thwarted attack in the "Draw Muhammad" contest in Garland, Texas -- the FBI has rounded up more potential "lone wolf" terrorists with ties to ISIS. LOS ANGELES, CA ... continue reading


Homosexuals welcome to greet Pope in Philadelphia - but they cannot seize event to protest Watch

Image of Currently, the only event dedicated to gay issues at the event features the founder of the Spiritual Friendship Initiative Ron Belgau, a celibate gay Catholic.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Archbishop Charles Chaput says that homosexuals will be welcome to attend the Catholic family congress in Philadelphia when Pope Francis visits the U.S. September. However - they cannot use the event to attack the church's teachings, he says. LOS ANGELES, CA ... 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, Genesis 21:5, 8-20
5 Abraham was a hundred years old when his son Isaac ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 34:7-8, 10-11, 12-13
7 The angel of Yahweh encamps around those who fear ... Read More

Gospel, Matthew 8:28-34
28 When he reached the territory of the Gadarenes on ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for July 1st, 2015 Image

Bl. Junipero Serra
July 1: Miguel Jose Serra was born on the island of Majorca on November ... 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