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Kimberly Powell

Vatican Orders Catholic Parish Registers Off-Limits to LDS Church

By May 5, 2008

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A recent letter issued by the Vatican Congregation for Clergy directs Roman Catholic dioceses worldwide to keep The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from "microfilming and digitizing information" contained in Catholic sacramental registers, according to a report in the Catholic News Service. The reason give for the move is to prevent LDS Church members from using the records to posthumously baptize Catholic ancestors by proxy.

The Vatican directive says the purpose of the 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."

One of the core tenets of Mormon faith is that the dead can be baptized into the Church to offer them the opportunity to accept the faith in an afterlife and achieve salvation. Many Jews and Christians have been upset by this practice, and see it as usurping the memory of their departed relatives. Some of this has been due to such names appearing in the International Genealogical Index (IGI) which does include the records of temple work submitted by member of the LDS Church, but also includes names extracted from civil records as part of a Records Extraction Project. In other words, just because a name is in the IGI, doesn't mean the individual was baptized into the Latter-day Saints faith after their death, although stories such as Will Pope Benedict become a Mormon after he dies? seem to appear in the news media fairly regularly. Ironically, the Vatican Offices of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith declared in June 2001 that baptism conferred by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is not valid. The response was signed by the prefect, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger — now Pope Benedict XVI.

I'm often asked if I'm a Mormon when people first learn of my interest in genealogy, but in actuality I'm a Catholic - and on just about every branch of my family tree. I just spent some time this week researching some of my French Catholic ancestors in 17th century parish registers - online, of course! I can't even begin to imagine how long this research would have otherwise taken trying to compose letters in French to request copies of baptism and marriage records for which I did not have an exact date. Without those Catholic parish registers there would have been few, if any, surviving records available to help me piece together my family tree.

The LDS Church has microfilmed millions of pages of parish registers from all over the world -- many of them from Catholic parishes. In doing so, they preserve these valuable records for future generations, and make them available to people all over the world - people of all faiths and beliefs. Restricting access to these records by the Latter-day Saints hurts everyone, and possibly even denies the Catholic church part of its own heritage as unfilmed records are lost to decay, flood or fire. As David M. Bresnahan so eloquently stated in his article Genealogists Need Catholic Records to Find Ancestors - Families Have Right to Family History, "Hopefully Mormons, Catholics, and genealogists of all faiths can unite in prayer that those who are responsible for this decision will reconsider, particularly as the consequences of this policy become manifest."

May 5, 2008 at 11:00 am
(1) Don says:

The Catholic Church has gotten much of “it” wrong. This should be no surprise.

May 5, 2008 at 11:35 am
(2) Shawn from Boston says:

Ironically, the Vatican Offices of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith declared in June 2001 that baptism conferred by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is not valid.

This is a most awesome move by the Leader of the Christian world. It’s nice to see that someone is willing to stand up to the errors of the LDS, FLDS and other false religions.

May 5, 2008 at 12:16 pm
(3) Myrt says:

One more reason to firm up my decision to stay the *%#^ away from that church.
If a Mormon baptism is not valid what harm could it possibly do?

May 5, 2008 at 1:05 pm
(4) Elissa says:

The Catholic diocese where I live doesn’t open their records to the public. You have to write to the diocese with your request, pay for the research, and wait for someone to have time to respond to your request. I can understand their being protective of records from the past 100 years since they may contain information on living people, but it sure would be nice if they would make the older records available. The Mormons do this for free at no cost to the parish or diocese, so why not take advantage of this wonderful opportunity instead of discouraging it? I only hope they have them all microfilmed in case, God forbid, something bad happens.

May 5, 2008 at 2:23 pm
(5) Mike says:

As a practicing Catholic and a genealogist who has used the facilities of local family history centers for decades I would like to make a comment. While I disagree with this action by my church, because I take the view that it can do no harm if the LDS baptize my ancestors by proxy, I think it should be pointed out that as in the situation with Holocaust victims being baptized and the denunciations by Jewish organizations of same, that the issue is more complicated that it appears on the surface.

If all LDS members were doing was baptizing their own ancestors who happen to be yours or mine as well, then I don’t think there would be a problem with other churches. Rather the problem is the very expansive view the LDS church takes of family and where a member can go up their tree to our common 10th gg-father and then work down the tree from another sibling to reach you or me if we are deceased and thus via those sealing lines be baptizing n-th cousins (if my understanding of the process is correct).

Again I personally do not have a problem with this, but this, along with baptizing Holocaust victims who probably cannot even be related to an LDS member via a sealing line (and thus seems the equivalent of baptizing names in a phone book), is what is causing the problems in my opinion, along with the fact that the LDS church has often not explicitly made it clear the expansive notion of family it takes.

Also I would like to point out that the statements by Catholic clergy on this are more conciliatory than one might think, and state that a dialogue must honestly deal with differences. This actually represents an opportunity for the future because if an agreement can be reached on this matter by the two churches at top levels, then instead of the previous situation where it was left up to individual Catholic bishops who did not have clear guidance from above, they then could have a seal of approval from the Vatican which would make them more likely to agree for the records of their own dioceses to be preserved by the FHL.


May 5, 2008 at 2:36 pm
(6) Steve says:

The LDS Church is providing a service for those who have passed on that no other church is willing to or can provide. The proxy baptisms performed hurt no one. If those who have passed on decide not to accept the ordinance on the other side, so beit…no harm, no foul. If they do choose to accept it, then that decision would bless them and their families in the eternities. If you don’t belive in this, then it is just foolish nonsense, ignore it. If you do believe in this and the afterlife, then acknowledge that the LDS Church is true and has the ordinances necessary for salvation in this life and in the life to come.

May 5, 2008 at 4:07 pm
(7) Stephen Kent Ehat says:

P.J. Toner’s discussion of the Poor Souls in Purgatory (The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume IV. Published 1908. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Nihil Obstat. Remy Lafort, Censor. Imprimatur. +John M. Farley, Archbishop of New York) reflectes a charitable view by Roman Chatholicism toward the practice of baptism for the dead. The reported Vatican directive of a few days ago states that the purpose of the Catholic Church 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.” Toner (Catholic Encyclopedia, cited above) charitably has said of baptism for the dead (as part of his discussion of prayers for the dead):
“Passing over the well-known passage, 1 Corinthians 3:14 sq., on which an argument for purgatory may be based, attention may be called to another curious text in the same Epistle (15:29), where St. Paul argues thus in favour of the resurrection: ‘Otherwise what shall they do that are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not again at all? Why are they then baptized form them?’ Even assuming that the practice here referred to was superstitious, and that St. Paul merely uses it as the basis of an argumentum ad hominem, the passage at least furnishes historical evidence of the prevalence at the time of belief in the efficacy of works for the dead; and the Apostle’s reserve in not reprobating this particular practice is more readily intelligible if we suppose him to have recognized the truth of the principle of which it was merely an abuse. But it is probable that the practice in question was something in itself legitimate, and to which the Apostle gives his tacit approbation.”

I was born a Catholic and became a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at age 10. I have been both active in the Church and most respectful of my Catholic relatives as they have been of me, even knowing that one of my major purposes in performing family history research is that of identifying deceased ancestors, sharing family history research with relatives, and supplying names of long-deceased ancestors for proxy baptism. I have been an avid family historian, delving into the civil and church records that pertain to our ancestors, sharing my findings with very grateful Catholic and non-Catholic relatives. I have been mindful to respect the sensitivities of living relatives, as the LDS Church has encouraged me — and as it constantly encourages all members of the Church — to do. I, and others I’ve never met, have provided for the performance of proxy baptisms for distant ancestors common to us all and have left the near-in-time deceased relatives alone. I no more take offense at the Roman Catholic practice of prayers for the dead than I feel they should take any offense at the practice of baptisms for the dead. See generally http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/04653a.htm (from which the above quotation was taken).

The real issue is the question of the validity and efficacy of the infant baptisms performed for the ancestors while they were still alive. The Roman Catholics believe the infant baptisms to have been wholly valid; the Latter-day Saints believe baptism is appropriate only after cognizant acceptance of the Gospel (hence the practice of proxy baptisms). This comment does not seek to resolve such a fundamental issue that differentiates the two Churchs’ doctrines; there is so much in common between them (hence the comparable practices — sacraments, as it were — of prayers for the dead and baptisms for the dead).

In response to David M. Bresnahan’s call, I join my Catholic brothers and sisters in prayer for the living, those who will see the tremendous value imparted by the invaluable records of the Catholic Church, records that have imparted information about my origins, that have enlighted the lives of all my relatives, Catholic and non-Catholic alike.

May 5, 2008 at 8:00 pm
(8) Regina says:

I forwarded this to a family member to get his response. Here is is in all its glory. I couldn’t agree more.

“This is unfortunate for everyone who is working in genealogy, but, in practical terms, I don’t see how the Catholic Church can implement this. The best they can do is slow the flow of information down but the information will certainly be obtained – the very nature of a genealogist is persistence.

As to worrying about having your (anyone’s) genealogy used for “mormon baptism”… who cares? It’s a meaningless ceremony. If the mormons want to, let em, It has nothing to do with us.”

May 5, 2008 at 11:58 pm
(9) steve says:

i think its outrageous that the vatican thinks that mormon baptisms are’nt valid. in the bible jesus himself was baptized by FULL emersion, and so are the mormons. from what i know, the catholic religion sprinkles their members (mostly babys who dont even know what sin is) as a baptizmal ordinance. so it seems to me that the catholics are performing baptizms for the dead too, from the sprinklers at their cemetaries.

May 6, 2008 at 12:28 am
(10) JD says:

It is not the Catholic Church’s job to police what practices the Mormons should or should not adopt. Baptism for the dead does absolutely no harm to Catholics, who do not recognize the validity of the ordinance. And yet it has tremendous meaning for Mormons as a way of honoring their ancestors. Seeing as how baptism for the dead has absolutely no detrimental effect on Catholics, it’s hard not to see this latest policy chance as being mean-spirited. Click here to learn more about baptism for the dead.

May 6, 2008 at 5:48 am
(11) MoGirl says:

As a member of the LDS Church, I am against the baptism of non-family members and in fact its actually against policy to submit members for baptism in temples that are not your family. Unfortunately, there are lots of members who’s families are long done and feel a bit too ambitious. I for one am not an active card-carrying temple goer. My interest in Genealogy predates any conversion. For me, its a mystery about a handful of travelers from Eastern Europe and a little known ethnic group, the Rusyn.

I am saddened by this action, but really, if I request information on my French Ancestors (who were Heugonat sp?) in Catholic Churches, how are they going to know I’m LDS? This is silly and it hurts the very idea of preserving the past. Not just preventing a misunderstood practice that shouldn’t matter if you don’t believe in my faith. If I want to waste my time inviting ancestors to join me, then its my wasted time. If Catholicism is the One True Church then my priesthood has no power and all those Catholics are very safe.

I guess this is just where we all must have faith that Jesus will sort out the nonsense when he returns.

May 6, 2008 at 9:33 am
(12) TerriS says:

I am of 2 minds about this. I have Jewish friends who have been very upset about finding their ancestors names on an LDS file as being Baptized. This is disrespect of the person who was baptized into a different religion posthumously. Simply being listed in IGI, or something similar, isn’t the issue. I think that the LDS Church themselves need to police/crack down on its members who are offering names for baptism who are not related to them. This is wrong on so many levels. The primary reason it is wrong is that it is dishonest. They are not their relatives.

My other thoughts on this is that the Pope is attempting to stick his finger in a hole in the dike. It’s not going to happen. Too many people are doing research to stop the records being used. That just doesn’t make sense.

May 6, 2008 at 11:31 am
(13) Mlynch says:

I left the catholic church long time ago…..this has nothing to do with LDS…this is just another money making scheme by the Catholic Church….Isnt there reputation bad enough…..that they are going to force us to pay for information on our dead ancestors….I appeal to all genealogists that have catholic information to put in on the web to avoid making them richer than what they are…

May 6, 2008 at 12:11 pm
(14) Muna says:

For the Catholics who are reading this blog, I am going to quote something from a man on another blog. I would like your opinion on his thoughts. “It is sad that the Pope and the Vatican take this position. My family and I are LDS and we embrace working together with other faiths. Here in Colorado, the Catholic and LDS Churches join with many others in common charitable undertakings… Unfortunately, I lay this edict at the door of Pope Benedict. I served an LDS mission in the Germany Munich Mission from 1977-1979. The Pope, who at that time was Cardinal Josef Ratzinger of the Archdiocese of Munich, personally undertook to shut out LDS missionaries from the city of Freising, home of the Archdiocese (he made sure no one would rent to them, etc.), and from the heavily Catholic city of Passau. Just look at his history of antagonizing Lutherans in Germany, provoking Muslims since becoming Pope, etc. This too will pass, but in the meantime he is needlessly picking fights with other faiths. However, we should turn the other cheek and keep the dialogue with Catholics open.”

May 6, 2008 at 2:56 pm
(15) Mike says:

In line with my previous comment as a Catholic I just want to say that all the bashing of the Catholic Church or the Pope serves no useful purpose. The question is how can the LDS church and the genealogical community, including Catholics, try to work things out so that the Catholic Church and individual bishops are willing to allow the FHL to archive Catholic parish records.

Despite the fact that the LDS Church now apparently forbids the practice of baptizing those who are not the relatives of a member, I have read in the past that such has continued in some cases and that the Church cannot find out who performed/submitted same. Is that correct? That is, cannot each and every modern day temple ordinance be tied to who performed/submitted it?

If the LDS Church can not only state that they have a policy not to perform mass ordinances based on extractions, but also that they have the means to stop same by identification and punishment of “renegade” church members, then I think that would go a long way to help reach an agreement in the future with the Catholic Church and other denominations/religions as well.

But the more personal attacks that are made on the Pope or the Catholic Church in general on this, then the less willing the CC is likely to be to discuss this with the LDS leadership and hopefully reach an agreement. So people can continue to bash and rant or they can work for a solution. But they cannot do both.


May 6, 2008 at 4:14 pm
(16) Cathy Gill says:

I think it is a great shame that the catholic church is trying to prevent people trying research their family history in an affordable way. I am a member of the LDS church and have only ever submitted names to the temple of my direct ancestors. We are asked to obtain next of kin permission to submit names of anyone else. I do family history research, not just for temple ordinances to be doen, but I enjoy finding out all about my ancestors. I think it is wonderful that the LDS church provide so much information for genealogists free of charge. If the catholic church says that LDS baptisms are not valid then what are they afaid of?

May 6, 2008 at 5:05 pm
(17) Genegal says:

“One of the core tenets of Mormon faith is that the dead can be baptized into the Church to offer them the opportunity to accept the faith in an afterlife and achieve salvation.”
Now let’s look at this again. It offers our ancestors “the opportunity”. Our ancestors, being dead and of many faiths or denominations, now know what we do not about life on the other side. When a gentleman at the library asked if I knew what my submission would involve I replied, “Yes, my ancestors will make the right decision. Do what you want to.” Yours will make the right choice too,have some faith, people!
As for the Pope, those old bachelors don’t have control of much any more, so they take it where they can or think they can. It makes a good smoke screen for the real issues and good genes everywhere will find a way around this.

May 6, 2008 at 5:20 pm
(18) Susan Lythgoe says:

Yes, it is sad, but no reason to panic. My advice would be to hang in there, pray and have faith in God. This is His work, and to quote President Gordon B Hinckley: ‘It will all work out.’

May 6, 2008 at 7:11 pm
(19) Kimberly says:

In line with my previous comment as a Catholic I just want to say that all the bashing of the Catholic Church or the Pope serves no useful purpose. The question is how can the LDS church and the genealogical community, including Catholics, try to work things out so that the Catholic Church and individual bishops are willing to allow the FHL to archive Catholic parish records.

Very well said, Mike! Religion is supposed to be about peace and understanding, and saying “I’m right, and you’re wrong” doesn’t resolve anything. What’s important here is how the Catholic Church chooses to preserve and share its records. It has, in general, been left up to the individual bishops and parish priests in the past. I actually think that a more blanket policy could be helpful; access to parish records can be really difficult in places as it stands now. But I also hope that the two churches find a way to come together so that the policy isn’t just a blanket “no.”

May 6, 2008 at 7:25 pm
(20) Judy says:

So does the Pope believe that a Mormon baptism will affect the dead? Is he suggesting that it will really make a difference to the dead? If Mormon baptism is meaningless, what does it matter how many dead they get baptized for? Genealogy has a worldwide interest. I am not Catholic, but I want to do genealogy and find out who my ancestors were and what they did, and some of them were Catholic. The Mormon Church goes to a great expense in time, effort and money to provide much of this information free to all, no matter their religion. If they feel better baptizing their dead, who cares? Unless this position means that the Pope is admitting that the Mormon baptism really does make a difference in the afterlife. Everyone who is now living benefits from all of their work and free access to it. The Mormons aren’t being selfish with what they gather, so let’s all share and get along.

May 6, 2008 at 7:33 pm
(21) Toni says:

This is an interesting move by the church. Does it mean that the CC believes in the processes/traditions of the LDS church? I understand withholding records for the most recent 100 years even 125 years but to comment on the practices of another faith and sounding like they believe in the practice of baptism after death….oh my! Privacy I can certainly understand for 125 years but to reason beyond that is just dumb. This is why I left the church because of man made ideas that have nothing to do with the spiritual growth ones soul.

May 8, 2008 at 12:23 am
(22) Jeanette says:

I am unhappy about this decision by the church to try and stop people from trying to connect to their past. Especially considering that during some of those years people were baptized Catholic, not by choice, but to avoid religious persecution. Who cares what someone says over a list of names…it’s not the physical body. I thought people were judged by how they lived their lives. Most of these ancestors have been gone 50 – 100+ yrs…how would a so called “baptism” at this point change what has become of their soul?
If the Catholic Church does not want the LDS to copy these records, why doesn’t the church make these copies available to the families? That move could possibly bring more people back into the church and maybe help people forget the church scandal that’s going on.
In the hopes that they hear any of these opinions…finding information on my ancestors has helped with the physical health of myself & my children.
I really hope the church reconsiders.

May 8, 2008 at 6:09 pm
(23) James says:

I, too, found this to be pretty ridiculous, and I question the motives of the Pope in this action. I wrote a blog posting about it, even.

In the long run, though, those records exist in the first place thanks to the efforts of devoted Catholic church leaders in the past. The organization has given its leadership in a steady line down to the current day Pope. It’s his church, and if he wishes to keep information out of the hands of other people, it’s his prerogative.

Mormons, I’m sure, will take solace in knowing that “no unhallowed hand” can really stop their work from progressing. As long as we’re faithful, God will see to it that we get the information we need.

May 9, 2008 at 6:13 pm
(24) John says:

Sure, Mormons have a right to practice what they wish, but is’nt going a bit far for them to demand that another Church assist them in those practices, especially when those practices directly challenge the beliefs of the Catholic Church (Baptism)?

May 9, 2008 at 8:36 pm
(25) Patricia says:

You have it wrong. The Mormons don’t demand something, they offer something. They offer to preserve disintegrating records not only for every living persons use, but for generations to come. I have used their facilities, and it is wonderful. You don’t have to be a Mormon. They don’t keep the records they copy secret, but that is exactly what the Pope is trying to do. Who cares whether Mormons want to do baptisms or not, it you don’t believe the Mormon Church is true, what possible difference could it make to anyone? But everyone else benefits from the Mormons efforts in this area. It is really a great blessing to us all. And to the Catholic Church in particular. These records are really old and will be gone in not many years. Is the Catholic Church willing to step up to the plate and pay for copying themselves or are they just going to let these priceless records disappear? We should all be thanking the Mormons for doing this instead of getting after them.

May 11, 2008 at 3:00 pm
(26) Joy says:

The Catholic Church owns its records and has the right to decide whether or not it will share them with LDS or any other denomination or organization, and that’s the bottom line. If you want to discuss theology with each other and learn from each other, you ought to create a website or blog or forum to exchange ideas.

May 13, 2008 at 3:43 pm
(27) Eileen Fullenwider says:

The Catholic church has far weightier matters to tend to rather than limit access to geneology information that serves the entire human family.

When did the Catholic Church provide such a service to the world?

Appears to me that we could all link-arms, behave with civility and work towards the common good.

May 13, 2008 at 5:03 pm
(28) Nancy says:

I for one am very grateful for the Catholic church for preserving these records. I am also grateful for my early ancestors in the LDS church who researched and gathered those records. I am benefitting from those records today.

I have faith that this will all work out. The Lord can use all opposition for His good.

And as for those of other faiths who have found their ancestors on the IGI and are angry. How do they know that it was not one of their relatives who has joined the church who submitted the work??

Even within the last 100 years a person can have literally hundreds of descendents. Can they really be sure that not one of those descendents has not joined the church and submitted those names as their direct ancestors, because they are?

I once had person yell at me because her great grandfather was listed on the IGI for being baptized. I asked her how she was so sure that it wasn’t one of her relatives who had descended from this ancestor who had submitted the name. Sure enough she said she did have relatives on that had joined the church.

May 13, 2008 at 5:17 pm
(29) Judith Brancazio says:

Baptism by proxy is about as good as trying to pray someone else into heaven,,,,Hey if they’re not interested and not willing to follow the laws of God, it won’t do much good…..

May 13, 2008 at 5:39 pm
(30) Leigh says:

As a practicing Catholic and avid genealogy researcher, I am of two minds about this matter. I have direct ancestors who were neither Catholic nor Mormon, in fact one was hailed in her obituary as “a faithful and consistant Methodist”. I was upset to read on a distant relative’s site that this woman was “sealed in the Temple”. Since I am her only direct descendant, I know no one gave permission for this, nor had the right to do so. She chose her religion while on this earth, had she wanted to belong to the LDS, she would have done so. While I think that baptism after death is invalid, I do resent some distant cousin taking the liberty of forcing their religious beliefs into my family records.
As an earlier poster said, the baptismal records of the Catholic Church belong to the Catholic Church. I have never been refused information from any of them, and no other honest researcher would be either. What they are attempting to do is prevent the wholesale manipulation of records in order to satisfy the tenets of another eligion.

May 13, 2008 at 7:31 pm
(31) Sue says:

I must disagreee with those who said that the baptismal records recorded in the Catholic Church belong to the POPE and/or the CATHOLIC CHURCH. Those records BELONG to the person baptised and his/her family as any records of any religious organization. That is like saying that the b/m/d records of a person belong to a certain STATE, COUNTRY, DISTRICT, ETC.

My grandmother and her parents were of the LDS faith, but you won’t find my name or my father’s there as being baptised. IGI is NOT only for people of the LDS faith, but rather for people of the world. I think the Pope is wrong and is doing the people of the world an injustice. Sue

May 14, 2008 at 5:03 am
(32) Another Sue says:

My thoughts are that no-one can claim to ‘own’ baptismal records. If a person is baptised in the name of god, or Jesus Christ, then surely the records belong to God or Jesus Christ, no matter which ‘religion’ looks after those records. Surely we are all God’s family, with stewardship over all, and as such we therefore we all have a right to access the records, and to safeguard them….

May 14, 2008 at 10:05 am
(33) Helen says:

I agree with Elissa, (#4 on this list).
You cannot easily get records from the Catholic Church — LDS provides a very useful service to genealogists.

On the issue of baptism and salvation — read the Bible. No amount of baptizing or sprinkling is going to save one person. For Christians, there is only one way of salvation and that happens before you die.

May 14, 2008 at 12:59 pm
(34) Stefany says:

In response to comment #29, proxy temple ordinances are for those who did not have the chance to hear the gospel of Jesus Christ while on the earth, and/or did not have the opportynity to receive the ordinances from someone with priesthood authority. There are billions of people who have lived upon the earth without ever even hearing the name of Christ. We of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints believe that a just God would not let his spirit sons and daughters to be cast out of his presense for eternity after not getting a fair chance to hear and accept the gospel. Proxy temple ordinances give those in the spirit prison who would have been faithful, had they heard the gospel during their mortal life, the opportunity to accept these ordinances for themselves. They are not valid unless accepted by the deceased individual.
This is a labor of love which members of the Church provide to their deceased family members. Over the years, the church has done a lot to minimize the offense that some people feel when they learn of the practise being done on their ancestors of another faith. We have been asked to make sure that we get permission from closer relatives if we desire to perform ordinances for our relatives who were born less than 90 years ago, and to stick to our own families.

All told, as many others have said, if the Catholic Church believes that baptism by a priest of our church is invalid, than what is the harm? This is all, simply put, another attempt to slow the fast-paced growth of the LDS Church by publicising practises that are unusual to members of other faiths.

May 14, 2008 at 10:34 pm
(35) Curious Person says:

It if finally time for those who understand the real meaning of the Sacrament of Baptism, to step forth and acknowledge the truth.

Baptism can take at least three forms, as I remember in my catechism lessons. All of those who understand this can only begin to wonder why all this uproar about changing the record.

Do these people, really think this is less than cosmetics. Is the Sacrament of Baptism to be taken so lightly so as to change the records after death.
How do we really know that these same death records reflect the real desire of these people to become Baptised.

I would also say that if the action of the Catholic Church had not caused a ripple in the money flow for the geneological industry, this might not have been worthy of the print.

Cardingl Ratzinger, is a more than adequate defender of the faith. I am sure that there is more to this story than is being related.

May 17, 2008 at 3:37 am
(36) MK says:

I have seen many comments on this all over the internet, and I saw several professional genealogist mention that all civil records in countries such as Europe, were all from the Church, as those countries were Catholic. All records were made in sets of two by the Church, one for them and one for the government. Apparently all those types of records have been copied, and were accessible from the government anyway. I found records years ago online for France from their government sites. I recently tried to get copies from the LDS Church History Library and I was denied as they said the item is marked “restricted access.” It is the diary of my ancestor of which I only have a partial copy. So not all records are available from LDS either. I am happy with anything I can find for my research, especially if I can find it online.

May 20, 2008 at 1:52 am
(37) Mary Lou says:

Oh, please. I am a Catholic and believe the Catholic Church is more concerned of the positive assistance the LDS is providing individuals who seek ancestral information. The Catholic Church should open the vast and very important documents not only to assist Catholics, butalso people of all faiths seeking ancestors members. Displaying the records would display good faith, and show the world the historical strength of the Catholic Church. Unfortunately, Catholics are leaving the Church seeking support which is not provided by the Catholic Church. As displayed by this action.

June 5, 2008 at 12:12 am
(38) Fred says:

Wouldn’t it be a shame if a church was destroyed by an earthquake, fire or some other natural disaster and the church records were lost forever because no one was allowed to preserve them electronically! Why not embrass technology and share it with the world of genealogy

June 17, 2008 at 12:01 am
(39) La Genealogista says:

Genealogy has been my passion for years now and I spent just about every day working on something to add to my research.

That said, I think that the Catholic Church has every right to prohibit their records from being used for another religion’s REbaptising of their Catholic members. I should also add that I am an Episcopalian not a Catholic and respect everyone’s right to worship in their on way.

Unfortunately though I have had the experience of being told by my own family members who are LDS that because my family and I do not accept Joseph Smith as a savior all my family are doomed to Hell. These people are respected elders in their church. One is considered a High Priest. They told me that no one who does not believe in Joseph Smith and the LDS Church will be allowed into Heaven, no matter what good a life they lead. While I do not believe their doctrine for one minute, being told this by supposed loved ones was very upsetting to me. I am sure that the Catholics feel no differently.

No one has the right to posthumously change anyone’s ancestor’s faith! It is just WRONG! I would no sooner change a Methodist, Muslim, Jew or any other person’s faith to suit my “collection of souls”. There is no doubt in my mind that the Catholics are more than offended by this practice and they have the right to not aid the LDS church in their ridiculous quest to give everyone the chance to become Mormon, especially those who already have met their Maker! Shame on them and their cult!

June 25, 2008 at 10:43 am
(40) Ron H says:

For # 39 above and all other non-LDS. The Latter-day Saints do not believe or teach of Joseph Smith as their savior. There is one “Savior”, that is “Jesus Christ” The Son of God. You have surely misunderstood what your relatives have told you. What you are stating here is absolutely wrong and not the doctrine of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, headquartered in Salt Lake City, Utah. Members of the LDS Church do baptisms for their ancestors only. They are the ones who provide the genealogical records. We certainly believe that all individuals will be judged on their own merit, not what religion they belong to. As a director of the local Family History Center in Mobile, Alabama, I will advise all that records in our archives which are “restricted” are so designated because the owner of the originals have requested that they not be distributed. This may be due to copyrights or just their own personal desire. Another thing that might be of interest to you is that when you visit the FHC we ask if you are LDS Members (This is for our own record.). We do not ask what church you belong to. More than 98% of the patrons to our library are not members of our church, but they use our facilities free of charge and are grateful for them. They do not judge harshly our doctrines, but rather they enjoy our hospitality and their relationships with us.

June 27, 2008 at 1:31 am
(41) NCJE Culver says:

To Stefany (#34) above.

Whether or not real spiritual harm is done is nearly beside the point. The LDS practice is, as has been discussed, offensive to many. Should I discover not merely that my lifelong Catholic grandfather was baptized LDS by proxy (thereby disrespecting his religious choice while alive) but that it was made possible because his own parish turned over records to the LDS church, I would be doubly offended.

But I’m surprised by the assumptions implicit in all the negative comments, such as Cathy’s (#16), or Patricia’s (#25): that genealogical record-preservation is somehow synonymous with the FHL. It is not.

Patricia’s comment, in particular, about the Pope trying to keep records secret is not only off-base (parish records are as accessible as they have ever been) but seems to presume that a genealogical record not available through the FHL is not available, period. As a genealogist who has rarely made use of the FHL, I can attest this is far from true.

And as to Stefany’s comment about Mormon growth, the fact is actual LDS church membership has been in decline since at least the mid 1990s. Of the church’s own claimed 13 million members, some two-thirds are inactive; there are some 12 thousand fewer full-time missionaries; convert-per-missionary rates are down by nearly half; and convert retention rates are essentially zero. Even in multi-generational LDS families retention is an increasing problem.

June 30, 2008 at 12:07 am
(42) Dave says:


I would just like to comment on your post from 5 May. The guidelines established by the LDS church dictate that while you are encouraged to conduct family history research on all known ancestors, you are not encouraged to perform vicarious ordinances for anyone not in your direct line. More specifically, this means direct ancestors, their children, and spouses of those children. In addition, if you are attempting to perform ordinances for any relatives who were born more recently than 110 years ago, you must receive permission from the closest living relative before doing so. Members who do not follow these guidelines are acting contrary to church policy.

I wonder if some of the antagonism stems from differences in our perceptions of baptism. Many view the act itself as an indelible stamp on your identity. Mormons only view it as such if the individual actually consents to the ordinance and agrees to follow the obligations entailed in the covenant attached to the ordinance. To put it more plainly, no one becomes a Mormon without choosing to do so, in this life or the next.

July 1, 2008 at 4:44 pm
(43) Bob says:

Many earlier posts are concerned that a loved one from the past has been baptized into another faith; “Mormonism”. They are upset that we would force others to join our religion. Please understand our perspective. Baptism is an outward sign of an inward conviction. No one (as stated in previous posts) is “forced” into “Morminism”. No person who has had a proxy baptism is ever considered a member of Christ’s (Our) Church. Free agency (choice) is always respected. No one can be forced into heaven.
We believe that we are members of Christ’s church. This church, we believe in has existed off and on from the beginning of time through Patriarchs like Adam, Enoch, Noah, Abraham. It existed to prepare the Jews for the coming of Christ. It existed though Jesus and His Apostles in the Early Church. We also believe it was restored in 19th century by the return of Christ, ancient apostles, and Prophets. We also believe we are preparing for the 2nd Coming of Christ.
If others are correct that Christ is not responsible for directing this work then proxy baptisms mean nothing and will be of no affect in this life or the one to come. It will not matter that someone from the past was a Jew or Christian or a Moslem or a Hindu. Where authority is of no affect, the action (Baptism) means nothing.
On the other hand, if the great Jehovah or Christ is leading this work as directed by the only true and living God; those that challenge the pursuit of this work do so at their Jeopardy.

October 22, 2008 at 4:57 am
(44) Vº says:

Ok, so here is my take on this…I was born and raised Roman Catholic, just like all my Italian Ancestors before me. Here is the dillema I face…I made my first communion, my confirmation, etc., but in 6th grade became pagan, and I could not tell my family about it until after I had been forced to make my confirmation and even was forced to become a born again christian for a few months until I was 18, at which time I told my family what I had been studying privately, etc.

Now, all this being said, I still am very respectful to all religions, mostly because I had studied them all, and still go every week for at least one hour to my local branch of the LDS Family History Center, and even have some “friends” there now, who seem to know that I am not of their ilk, but all the same, we can all get along, and I do all the research on my family from Italy there.

I think it is atrocious that I should not be able to find the baptismal records or marriage records that the church has on my family, especially considering we are talking about people from the 1700′s and back!

I think the catholic church is mostly upset because they charge a ton of cash for this service that the mormons are giving away for free…I think that is really what got their panties in a bunch, and what has caused all of this drama between them and the LDS…

Like I said, I have no problems with anyone of any religion…just don’t force your beliefs on me and I will not force mine on you, and there we have a good neighbor policy started…

It’s my honest opinion that the Vatican and the LDS leaders should get together for a long lunch or something, and just hash out what their problems are, and then work through them, and then find some sort of mutual understanding…

Just my two cents…

January 17, 2009 at 1:35 am
(45) Holly says:

Aw, if it “does no harm” as some of you say to baptize someone after death in a faith they never accepted in their lives, then how about other churches make you a Muslim, Hindu, or a Baptist after you die? You shouldn’t be upset because it does no harm. What a load of bs. You should be so ashamed for this betrayal of people all over the world.

February 8, 2009 at 9:40 pm
(46) Steve says:

I was raised Catholic and I am now a member of the LDS Church. I feel that I have the right to have the information of my family and its history throughout the years (my geneology) whether the Catholic Church or any other organization has it. To also do with it what I believe to be true. If the Catholic Church does not believe in proxy baptism that is ok, this will not effect them.

We believe that all have the right to worship how they may. This is one of the beliefs that the LDS Church teaches. The Catholic Church has its doctrine and we respect that (as well as other religions), we might not believe what they teach, but we respect their right to do so.

As to the baptism of the Jewish people that the church did years ago, we do not do that anymore. We do make mistakes and admit that we do. Look at a lot of examples of the prophets of old and the mistakes they made and how they learned from them. We as a Church and as members do make mistakes and learn from them.

As far as proxy work goes Jesus Christ did the greatest proxy work of all which was to atone for the sins of all mankind before he came to earth and after he left. This atonement and his crucifixtion on the cross and him overcoming death was proxy work for all that accept him as the Savior throughtout all time.

August 29, 2009 at 2:09 pm
(47) rpbasc@comcast.net says:

Once again the Vatican has spoken, let all the World obey.
I am a member of the LDS church and feel that all people have the
right to worship as they will “It’s called Agency” something the LDS Church
gives great value to. I have many deceased family members that
were Catholic and I plan on submitting all of their names to the church for baptism.
Personally I believe that the LDS is the only true church. I was baptized and hold Priesthood Office and it is all valid, but that is my Agency.
Being a victim /survivor of Catholic Priest child abuse I have first hand knowledge of the honesty and truth of Catholic Church Leaders.
Withholding names is useless, because there are many paths to the same end.
Personally, the Vatican means nothing to me, they are not valid.

December 10, 2009 at 9:03 pm
(48) QueeniNub says:

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December 12, 2009 at 4:45 pm
(49) Bruce says:

The proxy baptism is done by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints as an expression of Love for those people and it is totally up to the one who has passed on and has the ordinance performed on their behalf to accept or reject the ordinance. Nothing in the beliefs of the LDS church is in anyway about forcing anything as in the Church’s beliefs that is Satan’s way to do things by force and Heavenly Father’s way is to give all of his children a choice in all things.

Anyone who is against this practice is against free agency as that is what it is all about. While Missionaries can go and ask live people if they want to learn more and if they accept they can get baptised which millions do decide to do just that, they obviously cannot teach people who have died. If you are against the Church and are so sure it is not the true Church then why would you feel concerned if a relative who has died would decide to join the Church when they most likely have much more information and understanding about things as they have died and most likely have met their maker and can receive guidance by their God whoever you may consider him.

Another point is no other organization has done such a complete and vast work in compiling records that are freely shared with people of all faiths. Do you really want to see that service be hindered?

December 15, 2009 at 7:49 am
(50) QueeniNub says:

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December 17, 2009 at 3:08 am
(51) QueeniNub says:

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August 15, 2010 at 6:20 pm
(52) Julia says:

Food for thought: I have a friend….who used to be of the Jewish faith…. who then converted to being a Christian….a Latter-Day Saint Christian. Said person then started their geneology research, submitted names for baptism in the Temple and so forth.

I’m sure my friend is not the ONLY Jewish person who has converted and therefore brought family to the faith by proxy.

And lastly…..what I hope anyone reading this will fully understand: no one will be forced to accept this baptism. As submitter #49 (and others) have already stated. God’s plan is all about us choosing [Him]for ourselves. Satan’s plan is about forcing.

March 14, 2011 at 11:59 pm
(53) Danielle says:

As a Catholic and genealogist enthusiast I have different thoughts on this matter. While I agree that it would be great if the Catholic Church would open these records. I understand the reason that they are opposed to it. I was shocked that the after death baptisms by the Mormon community was a reality. I understand that it is part of the religion and belief system, but it is not part of mine. I also believe that these deceased ancestors made a religious choice for themselves while they were alive and had they wanted to be converted to Mormonism, they would have made this choice for themselves. I know that if I found out that this religion had posthumously baptized my deceased grandmother who was a proud Catholic, I would be quite upset. I think it is a matter of respect for the deceased. So I do agree with the Catholic Church’s decision on this matter. Even if this makes things a little harder on my family research

May 21, 2011 at 3:35 am
(54) Mark says:

Danielle; your comment in respect to deceased ancestors that “had they wanted to be converted to Mormonism, they would have made this choice for themselves” is one sided and lacks insight. Latter Day Saints believe that The Church of Jesus Christ (and its asscoiated Priesthood Authority to Baptise) was not on the earth in its entirety from shortly after it was set up from (let’s say) circa 90 AD to 1830 AD (when it was restored). Therefore, converting to the “mormon church” at this time was not an option. In fact, in retrospect, the church of the day didn’t give people many options on what they could beleive…

However, the point here is about records; Latter Day Saints should follow their current policy that only direct ancestors are to be baptised vicarisouly…

July 13, 2011 at 1:10 pm
(55) Jules says:

Whilst I can understand the reluctance for the Catholic Parish Registers being made easily available and in particular to the Mormons, it does not excuse families from being actively prevented from tracing the baptism of their close kin. As one who has Italian ancestors but is prevented from establishing their origins due to my request for details of a baptism being ignored I feel it can only do the Roman Catholic Church’s reputation on this issue.harm and goes against anll Christian morals to deny this knowledge to families.

July 19, 2011 at 5:05 pm
(56) TLBROWN says:

• Franklin D. Richards, “Happiness and Joy in Temple Work,” Ensign, Nov. 1986, 70
The ministry of Christ was not confined to the few who lived on the earth in the meridian of time, and it is not confined only to those living now. The apostle Peter made it clear that those who do not have the opportunity to hear the gospel on this earth will have such an opportunity in the spirit world (see 1 Pet. 3:18–20; 1 Pet. 4:6). And the apostle Paul in writing to the Corinthians asked, “Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? why are they then baptized for the dead?” (1 Cor. 15:29).
Temple worship provides an opportunity to do ordinance work for our kindred dead and for others, an opportunity for us to serve the dead. This service is the source of eternal satisfaction. However, it is well to remember that vicarious service for the dead by the living does not affect the right of the dead to accept or reject such vicarious service.

October 14, 2011 at 8:41 pm
(57) Susan says:

I have rarely contribute to this sort of forum, but I have a distinct reason for making my remarks. In 1984 my husband and I went to Hermosillo, Sonora, Mexico to research my husband’s family history. We first visited the archives of the Archdioses in Hermosillo, thinking we could cover all our bases in one fell swoop. We were told by everyone who claimed to know about researching the parish registers of this region that we could do it all at the Archives in Hermosillo; and further that they maintain copies of all the parishes in that region.

As we entered the archival offices we spoke to a woman in the vestibule of the building who told us there were many parishes whose registers were NOT archived in the Archives of the Archdioses – the ones we wanted especially! Then she received a phone call, and while speaking to the other party she was writing notes from her conversation in the margins of one of the 18th century parish register books. I nearly fell over in shock of the treatment of these records. I called her on it and she said essentially that no one cares about the records, so it didn’t matter that she used them for keeping notes.

The Catholic Church is going to lose their ancient records if something isn’t done about them. The LDS church has always microfilmed parish records and given the parishes two copies of the microfilmed records back to them. I won’t even go into the cultural or religious mores regarding the research of LDS church members – my experience was enough for me to be upset with the Catholic Church’s remembrance of those ancient members of their church. I was appalled at the mishandling of ancient records by the clerk.

If it was being done in Hermosillo, Mexico, it has most assuredly been done elsewhere in the world. A sad state of affairs indeed.

July 30, 2012 at 6:57 pm
(58) Catholic Mike says:

First of all, as you can tell, I am Catholic. I was baptized as a baby. However at age 12 I was “dunked” Mormon. Being a “nonmember” in the boyscouts at 12 at a LDS meeting house probably had a little to do with it. My sister is Mormon, and the rest of us have always been Catholic. My question is WHY are Mormons the only “Christian” denomination that doesn’t recognize other baptisms? You only get ONE baptism. I recently made my glorious return to the Catholic church as an adult and made my Confirmation. To the church that JESUS HIMSELF STARTED. My mom didn’t tell me I could’t, which says a lot about her faith, and the Catholic church. Mormons won’t let their kids let alone READ anything not approved by the general authorities, or whatever they call themselves. A great book is “when Mormons call”, written by a Catholic priest, Isaiah Bennett. He himself got dooped by the empty promises of Mormonism, before returning himself to the Catholic faith. My point is, you should never be afraid to read ANYTHING, let alone have someone or some religion TELL YOU YOU CAN’T. If your “testamony” is as strong as you say it is, then one book shouldn’t scare you. The Holy Spirit does the converting, not books. Isn’t that the basis of Moroni 10 ? Asking God if “HIS WORD” is true? I don’t mean to be harsh, although there seems to be a double standard. Faith is a PERSONAL choice, and doesn’t need to be “given” to them by some mere mortal getting “dunked” in a pool on 12 oxen. That’s the OLD Testament of the Bible to those of you who ONLY read the Book of Mormon. By the way, when will Mormons stop defending places that DON’T exist. Isn’t DNA enough PROOF ? Please pray to the ONE TRUE GOD, and ask. Not some posthumously baptized relative that lives on some planet called Kolob. REALLY ?


December 27, 2012 at 10:58 am
(59) Quintin says:

So, the LDS take these records, digitize them and then use them for nefarious purposes resulting in a bunch of Catholics complaining at the Catholic Church for bringing it to a halt. I ask myself “Why?” Well, because it’s inconvenient for their genealogical research.


Shame on all you Catholics who have expressed this opinion. Unite as Catholics and stand behind the institution Jesus left to guide us in our everyday lives. Stand behind that institution’s defense and protection of the truths handed down for 2000 years. Have faith that even though things go on that are beyond our understanding, we are lead by the Holy Spirit through this institution that has stood as a beacon of truth for so long.

The effects of these practices on the afterlife are irreverent. It’s not harmless as many of you contend. The harm imparted by those practicing these teachings are eternal. If you stand with the Church and it’s teaching on Mormonism, this is a matter of eternal life or eternal death. The Church has an obligation to cease any cooperation in such teachings.

If you want to complain, take it to the LDS. Demand that they cease using our data for these practices. Ask them to have a little respect for us, our beliefs and the living memory of our dearly departed. That sure does not seem like too much to ask.

April 24, 2013 at 7:14 pm
(60) Barbara says:

I’d just like to bring to light one thing. When someone gets “Baptized” they do so as directed by God, and as led by Christ when he was Baptized by John. No one is Baptizing anyone into any religion. You are Baptized as in to be born again unto God, YHVH, being cleansed of your sins by Jesus Christ. I am LDS. I do believe that folks caring forward have the ordinances to Baptize. If you feel your church carries such than so be it. But if your church doesn’t Baptize for the dead, and your ancestor did not have a chance to seek forgiveness, then what is to become of your relative?

I don’t remember reading anywhere in any scripture, (and I read, trust me) where by other then God chose Jesus from a Jewish family ie: at that time meaning he was from that area of that country), BTW, That is also where the Laws of Abraham and David were established, hence the first five books of all of our Old Testament, as well as the rest of our Old Testament, there was no religion stated, You either believed in God, or you were a sorcerer.

So, You either believe in God or you don’t. Some folks believe in Jesus, and some don’t. In any event God obviously wants folks who want to be with him, to be baptized in accordance to HIS wishes.

Now aside from that. When any one is Baptized by an LDS member by proxy, it simply gives them a second chance so they desire. And that is the Key. They have to want and accept it.

October 3, 2013 at 10:39 pm
(61) Tricia says:

I know that this is an ‘opportunity” but it dismays me to no end, to see someone in my family, who lived and died as an Episcopalian Methodist be rebaptised 100 years later into the LDS church. I think that this form of proselyting needs to stop at death. Leave family religions intact, is my one request.

April 2, 2014 at 7:47 pm
(62) Willis says:

What a lot of bickering!
The Mormons have collected a treasure trove of records that are available to anyone.
Yes, they do proxy baptisms for their ancestors who are also the ancestors of many others. They believe that these will open opportunities to them in the hereafter.
Others don’t believe this.
If their ordinances are going to be valid we have no reason to deny that opportunity to anyone. If they are not valid their is certainly no harm done.
But this forum is not about that; The old records are valuable to many of us and we appreciate those anything that can be done to preserve them and make them available.

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