The move is to prevent LDS Church members from baptizing by proxy Catholic ancestors. An April 5 letter from the Vatican Congregation for Clergy directs all Catholic bishops “to keep the Latter-day Saints from microfilming and digitizing information contained” in parish registers, according to a Catholic News Service article published Friday.
A main tenet of LDS Church doctrine is to baptize posthumously, by proxy, all who have died without an LDS baptism, to enable them the opportunity to accept the faith in an afterlife. Baptisms for the dead are performed in LDS temples worldwide.
The church collects birth, death, christening, marriage and other related information of deceased people, from archives and registers of churches and denominations, when access is permitted.
The Vatican letter calls LDS baptisms for the dead a “detrimental practice” and directs each Catholic diocesan bishop “not to cooperate with the erroneous practices of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,” CNS reported.
LDS Church spokesman Scott Trotter said Sunday that he hasn’t seen the Vatican letter. “It would really be premature for us to say anything,” he said. Church leaders will obtain and review the letter today, he said.
Msgr. J. Terrence Fitzgerald said the Catholic diocese in Utah already has a policy to restrict baptismal records only to those entitled to see the records.
One Mormon genealogist, Russell Bangerter, said the order cracks down on the free flow of information. Bangerter said the Mormon church has an open-door policy at its own Family History Library.
The practice of LDS baptism for the dead has come under fire from Jewish groups that say the names of Jewish Holocaust victims are still showing up in the church’s vast genealogical database for unwelcome baptisms, even after the church agreed in 1995 not to proxy baptize Jewish Holocaust victims.
[…] The real issue is not theology, but privacy. The Vatican does not recognise Mormon baptisms anyway, so it has long ignored the proxy baptism issue. However thanks to the Internet, large numbers of names of saints, popes and average Catholics have been published in recent years on Mormon baptism lists that are available for all to see. Pontiffs have even been “sealed” in eternal Mormon marriage to fictitious wives despite the celibacy rule for Catholic clergy. Is publishing names for posthumous baptism on the Internet (in its International Genealogical Index – IGI) an invasion of privacy, especially when done without the permission of the living families of the people concerned?
This is not just an issue for Catholics, Jews asked similar questions in the 1990s, after finding Holocaust victims on the IGI.
When the names of those proposed for baptism are published on the Internet for all to see (even if lists with all details of the baptisms are kept in genealogy centres only open to Mormons), is this still an internal affair or does it enter the public sphere?And if it does, what should the LDS Church do to respond to other faiths offended by this? The usual answers — that this is an important Morman practice, a gift to the dead, one that they can decline — have not convinced Jews or Catholics.
While trying to come up with a counter-example to illustrate this problem, I came across a post by Sharon Lindbloom on the Mormon Coffee blog (whose name alone shows it is not orthodox Mormon). She asked what the LDS Church would think if “a powerful and influential group” created a public database of prominent Mormons and “attached to each name is a letter of resignation from LDS Church membership, sent by proxy to Church headquarters in Salt Lake City.” She concluded: “I suspect Latter-day Saints would be very upset over Mormon pioneer proxy resignations from the LDS Church. They may even believe it to be an injustice to the memories of their loved-ones…”
– Source: Tom Heneghan, Catholic-Mormon tension over LDS baptism of the dead, Reuters Faithworld blog, May 8, 2008
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