Catholic Parish Registers Off-Limits to LDS Church

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?

Of related interest:
Mormons Should Try Walking in Jewish Shoes
Will Pope Benedict become a Mormon after he dies?

About Sharon Lindbloom

Sharon surrendered her life to the Lord Jesus Christ in 1979. Deeply passionate about Truth, Sharon loves serving as a full-time volunteer research associate with Mormonism Research Ministry. Sharon and her husband live in Minnesota.
This entry was posted in Baptism for the Dead, Mormon Culture. Bookmark the permalink.

61 Responses to Catholic Parish Registers Off-Limits to LDS Church

  1. jer1414 says:

    As far as Baptism for the dead, what is the deep motivation? Do Mormons lay awake at night in torment over the lost souls in purgatory? Or is it necessary to baptize all they can for their own exaltation to godhood? And as Berean mentioned, doesn’t Alma 34:31-35 dismiss any such notion of Baptism for the dead and second chances?

    Amanda, I “reject your rejection” of my rejection of modern day prophets and apostles… what?
    You go on, “a model I KNOW that you must have noticed in all of your serious bible studies”

    A few things come to mind, if we can get past the way you present your comments. Perhaps you have also noticed in your “serious Bible studies”…

    Heb 1:1 Long ago God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom he also created the worlds.

    Notice “long ago”… “But”… “in these last days”…

    Matt. 11:13 For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John came;

    Luke 16:16 The law and the prophets were in effect until John came; since then the good news of the kingdom of God is proclaimed, and everyone tries to enter it by force.

    Eph. 2:20 built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone.

    Notice the apostles and prophets are the “foundation”. When a house is built, there is only one foundation laid, not many foundations on top of each other. Christians are the spiritual “house” built on this foundation (1 Peter 2:4-5).

    As far as you not only invalidating the feelings of another (Renee), as if you have determined she has no right to feel the way she feels, but insults on top of that? I truly feel sorry for you, as I realize you must have no idea regarding the way you present yourself.

  2. Sharon Lindbloom says:

    Amanda wrote in response to Renee:

    “How do you know the wishes of OUR ANCESTORS? The only wishes you can speak for are your own, LIVING, wishes.”

    Perhaps you missed it, Amanda, but Renee was talking about her “very near and dear” ancestor who — she believes because she knew him — would not have wanted a proxy LDS baptism. The family was upset because they believed his faith (and I would add his memory) had been “disrespected and trampled over.” You asked for an example of how LDS baptism for the dead could be harmful, Renee answered your request and asked only that you make an effort to understand this issue “from [her] perspective.”

    Amanda also wrote:

    “I do think it is highly selfish of you to ask that an entire group of people (in the millions) stop practicing their religion simply because you reject it.”

    I’d like to point out that nobody has asked for Mormons to stop practicing their religion. The Catholic Church has asked that the LDS Church not microfilm and digitize Catholic sacramental records; Renee (and others on this forum) have asked that the LDS Church not do proxy baptism for themselves; some have expressed regret or negative feelings from unwelcome proxy baptisms of their loved ones; but nobody (as far as I can recall) has called for a wholesale end to the Mormon practice.

  3. Ralph says:

    MichaelP,

    How is the fact that members can ask for their own ancestors’ records from the Catholic church to do their genealogy ethically questionably? I think it would be rather unethical for the Catholic church to disallow a person their rights to their own ancestry. What they do with that information afterwoods is their prerogative because its their own ancestor not someome else’s.

    As for the Jewish Holocaust, as far as I understand the Church has promised not to knowingly do any of their ordinances unless it is a direct relative that has submitted the name and given approval for the ordinances to be done. I see nothing wrong with this. Note the word ‘knowingly’. Some times names slip through or the names presented were not screened thoroughly.

    As for those of you who say you do not want your ordinances performed for you, if we are the true church, then the whole world’s population, past, present, and future, will be done during the Millenium, including you (that has been promised by God). But that’s if we are the true church. If we aren’t, then we may not get up to your data before the Millenium, meaning you will be missed out.

  4. Michael P says:

    Ralph, I thought all of us only got the one chance since we reject it in this life?

    As to the ethics, I think it in very bad taste to get the records under false pretenses. Saying you are going a family tree is only part of the equation for you. It is also, and primarilly, to baptize those on that tree. And given that the Catholic church has expressed disdain over the practice, isn’t it going against their wishes to distort the purpose of the inquiries?

    Also, isn’t it practice to baptize for any, let alone family members? Isn’t there a Mormon man who has baptized hundreds and thousands of people? He knew them all? Where did he get the names?

  5. Ralph says:

    MichaelP,

    No, we all get one proper chance before judgement day to learn about and accept Christ. This chance for some is in the spirit world before resurrection. Regardless, all need to be baptised by the proper authority. Why, I don’t know but it can probably be found written somewhere.

    Your family tree/genealogy is yours to own, not an institution/organisation. It is not under ‘false pretenses’ to do your own research into your family history regardless of what you are going to do with the information later as it is none of their business. How would you like it if you were trying to trace your genealogy only to have an organisation saying “Sorry but you can’t have the information because we do not know what you are going to do with it later.” And if they were to stop only the LDS only from retrieving their family records then that is discrimination and can be fought in court if necessary. Just remember I am talking about direct family records, not someone going in pretending to be family.

    As for your last question, I do not understand its relevance to my last post. Yes we do get baptised for others besides family, but the church ‘pushes’ (can’t think of a better word at the moment its just after midnight here) the members to do mainly family tree. If you are refering to my comment about the Holocaust victims I said that the agreement was that none of the Holocaust victims would be post-humously baptised unless it was by a direct family member. Most other people (as far as I know) can be baptised by anyone else.

  6. Michael P says:

    Well, Ralph, then my point about having a chance after I die stands, and you told me earlier that that wouldn’t matter as I reject it now. Do you see this problem of reasoning you provided? We will be baptized after we die and ergo have another chance.

    Actually, that information is theirs, not yours. Kind of like credit inforation. Not available to anyone just because.

    The last point is to suggest it goes beyond just family. Suggested practice and reality are two different things.

  7. Berean says:

    Ralph,

    Unfortunately, Mormon doctrine doesn’t agree with you on the “one chance” theory. I’ve heard LDS missionaries say this as well when they point out that if one rejects the Mormon gospel in this life there won’t be another chance for them later. I’d like to point you to the reference that disputes that.

    Doctrine and Covenants Student Manual (Religion 324 & 325) on page 165 says: “Those who reject the gospel in this life and then receive it in the spirit world go not to the celestial kingdom, but to the terrestrial kingdom.”

    If the LDS religion were true, that statement would make me very lazy to do anything in this life except enjoy the sinful offers that are available and have a grand ole time because I got another chance while I am hanging out in the spirit world. I think that is why there are so many “jack Mormons” around here where I live. They have “settled” because they have resolved within themselves that they cannot live the Mormon gospel/law. Their fine with going to the terrestrial kingdom and partying there because it’s better than the telestial. The “jack Mormons” can be with the Christians from the LDS view.

    Coming from Christianity, we reject any second chances after death and the Bible is full of scripture that refutes any idea of another chance after dying. If Christians believed what Mormons do about the LDS slant of 1 Peter 3&4, then no persecuted Christian would be encouraged to endure abuse for Christ and suffer in the flesh with the possibility of leading to martyrdom knowing that non-believers (including their persecutors) would be given another chance after death. It just wouldn’t happen. I’d like for the Morms to tell that to all the Christians that have been killed up til now or those awaiting death in some prison somewhere in the world that their suffering is for nothing and they should just do and say whatever it takes to be let free and go back to a happy life and give it another go when they die. Ridiculous!

  8. Ralph says:

    MichaelP,

    What I said does not vindicate your reasoning. I said all will get one proper opportunity to accept the gospel before judgement day. Even if you are baptised post-humously, if you have rejected the gospel in this life you cannot accept it in the next. Like I said, I do not know why everyone has to be baptised, but that is what we have been told would happen.

    Berean,

    did you not read my little anecdote in an earlier blog about the party? You say that the scripture you quoted gives you a second chance. The Terrestrial Kingdom is not living in the presence of God – that is what this whole life is about, returning to live with God again. If you miss out on the Celestial Kingdom you have failed in that respect. As Aaron and some others have pointed out in the past our church teaches that anything other than the Celestial Kingdom is damnation regardless of how much better it is than this life. Our scriptures also refer to anything outside of the Celestial Kingdom as spiritual death, or the second death, which again implies some sort of damnation. Go back and find the anecdote to see what I mean, its too long to write in here at the moment. But if you think that living for the rest of eternity outside of the presence of God is good enough for you then that is your choice, I cannot force you in the right direction.

  9. Berean says:

    I am fully aware that Mormonism teaches that anything short of reaching the top level/tier 1 of the celestial kingdom is damnation. After all, that is the end-all of Mormon adherents: to become a god, have polygamist wives and have endless celestial sex just like the Mormon god does on his planet near Kolob, get your own planet as well, create spirit babies in which one of them will be the savior of your new planet so that your spirit children can pray and worship you and complete “after all we can do” to get back to you, right?

    The quote I wrote in my earlier posts shows that in the Mormon view a person can reject the Mormon gospel in this life and still eternally progress at least up to the terrestrial. When uniformed Mormons say that there is absolutely no chance of moving up anywhere if you reject their gospel in this life is simply not true. Isn’t the terrestrial better than the telestial and outer darkness? That’s an improvement, right? It would make people spiritual lazy to think that they could at least go from the spirit world to the terrestrial by not doing anything in this life.

    If the Mormons choose to dismiss the Bible and what it teaches and want to put their trust in the religion that Joseph Smith created by looking through a seer stone with his face buried in his hat, then that is their choice and it’s a sad one to make. You won’t be able to blame it on Joseph Smith or Brigham in that they tricked you when you stand before God.

    I have eternal life right now (John 6:47 – make sure you read the footnotes in the LDS Bible). If I die right now I will be with Heavenly Father and I have that assurance. Mormons don’t have that assurance and are still hoping and trying by completing “after all we can do” and living the Mormon law. Ralph, if you died right now would you be with Heavenly Father in the celestial kingdom? Have you done enough on your own to warrant being there? What you do will never be enough. It’s an insult to Christ.

  10. Michael P says:

    Then Ralph, why bother? Why bother if I say I reject it now to baptize me later? It does not line up, and raises more questions about the doctrines integrity. Its like you are hedging your bets that maybe, just maybe, I didn’t really reject it now.

    I also love your last sentance to me: that is what we’ve been told will happen. Who told you and can you verify? Do you care to find out? can you find out? Do you even want to find out? If not, then you are blindly following your leaders and are not testing everything, as has been charged against you.

    Does this make sense?

  11. falcon says:

    Ahhhhhh the wonder of Mormon revelation. If it wasn’t for Mormons, we wouldn’t know about this second chance system. Reading Berean’s little synopsis of Mormonism, I think we can all agree that Mormonism is an entity on to itself, distinct from and holding no similarity to what we call Biblical, historical, orthodox Christianity. So which Gospel has the pathway to eternal life? It’s pretty clear, the point of view of Mormons is not the Biblical view nor that of traditional Christianity.

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