Catholic News Service (CNS) reported last week on an April 2008 Vatican directive sent to Catholic dioceses throughout the world. In the letter, Catholic bishops are instructed to prohibit Latter-day Saints from microfilming and digitizing information contained in parish registers. CNS explained:
“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.”
The Vatican directive says the purpose of this policy is to:
“ensure that such a detrimental practice is not permitted in [each bishop’s] 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.”
Father Massa commented that the directive has the potential to strain relations between the Catholic Church and Latter-day Saints,
“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.”
On Sunday (May 5, 2008) LDS-owned Deseret News reported on the Vatican directive, logging many comments from readers. Through these comments, the Catholic Church is accused of bigotry, secrecy, stinginess, closed-mindedness, being pawns of the devil, etc. Many Mormon comments include disbelief and the question of why the Catholic Church would even care about LDS proxy baptisms if it doesn’t recognize that rite as efficacious anyway.
A fascinating theme repeated over and over by Latter-day Saints on this forum is this: The fact that the Catholic Church has decided to deny the LDS Church microfilming and digitizing access to Catholic parish records proves that the LDS Church is true. And not only that; it also proves the Catholic Church knows the LDS Church is true.
Though the Vatican says that the LDS practice of baptism for the dead is understood within Catholicism to be “detrimental,” “erroneous,” “unacceptable,” and outside the boundaries of “Catholic truth,” according to these Mormons, Rome’s actions speak louder than words. Consider a few comment excerpts:
“Strange that the boys in Rome are concerned with what they say [is] erroneous doctrine. Perhaps they are slowly realizing that Joseph Smith is indeed a prophet and they see a threat to their man-based religion with all its wealth. More confirmation that the gospel has been restored…”
“I don’t understand why the Catholic church would withhold family information from people of all denominations, who are trying to make links with their ancestors, unless the Catholic church believes that there just might be some credibility to the work done for the dead in LDS temples.”
“It makes the Catholic Church sound as if it is afraid LDS doctine might be correct! If the doctrine is wrong, what difference does it make? If it is correct, do you really want to put yourslf in direct opposition to God’s will? This makes the Catholic Church appear unsure of its doctrine.”
“… perhaps they consider the possibility that mormons are right but don’t want to admit it.”
“Like the Jews, apparently he [the Pope] must believe in the LDS doctrine of baptism for the dead and sealings of families or there would be no reason to fear how these records might be used by the church.”
The Catholic Church has plainly stated that it does not want to “cooperate with the erroneous practices of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints” in regards to proxy baptism. Is it possible that this is the real reason for the Vatican’s directive? Could it be that the Catholic Church has read and taken to heart God’s Word where it teaches that cooperation is sometimes equal to participation (2 John 1:10-11; 1 Timothy 5:22)? Perhaps the Catholic Church finds these words appropriate in the current situation:
“…the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore, do not become partners with them… Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness…” (Ephesians 5:6-11).
What if that’s the motivation behind this directive after all?