Catholic parish records

At the behest of my mother, back to writing.  First off, there’s this story.  In short, Catholic parishes have been explicitly directed not to share their member records with LDS genealogical researches, so as not to cooperate in LDS baptism for the dead.  When the CNS story came out, I knew it would make a lot of Mormons upset or at least indignant, just like when the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith announced its ruling that Mormon baptisms are not valid.  Indeed, opinions are many and varied.  Steve linked to a Catholic’s perspective on the matter, and here’s the Deseret News story on it, complete with a ton of impassioned comments.  (Incidentally, everything I don’t like about internet discussion is found in those comments.  Ick.)

There were plenty of reactions among blogs I read, too.  Father Richtsteig (whose name I always have to double-check for spelling) is overjoyed.  Clark at Millennial Star is more sympathetic to both sides.  Wilfried at Times & Seasons seemed upset.  And folks are saying the ban will hurt genealogy experts.

So that’s what everyone else thinks.  What do I think?  Well, I’d like to split the whole uproar into smaller issues and address them one by one.

First, will it hurt innocent genealogy?  I don’t know, so I can’t really comment.  If so, it’s an unfortunate side effect, but I don’t think you can really fault the Catholic Church for its decision on this.  Contrary to Clark, I’d hold that the Church is under no obligation at all to cooperate with any genealogical studies. Sure, it’s a nice thing to do, but if more important matters prevail, such as religious issues or privacy issues, then the Church’s first obligation is to her members.

Second, and most popular, why should the Church care?  Why should we call it “erroneous” and “detrimental” if we’re right and LDS baptisms for the dead have no effect?  I have been asked similar questions when in the past I said I’d like not to have any such ordinances performed for me after I die.  My reasoning is simple, and I think it goes along with the statement the Church is making now: we can cooperate with (or merely tolerate) things that are in harmony, or at least are not contrary, to the Catholic faith.  I’d give money, I would commend and praise, I would work side-by-side with Mormons on things like serving the poor, defense of marriage, et cetera.  But I cannot, and the Church cannot, be complicit in baptism for the dead.  It’s contrary to Catholic belief about Baptism, and more fundamentally, to Catholic belief in the truth of the Catholic faith.

That last point is the important part: it’s contrary to the Catholic faith.  With that in mind, I don’t know why Mormons or anyone would disagree with declining to have any part in it.  I can’t think of any ways the LDS church contributes to Catholic rituals of any kind, and I think they would make the same decision if the roles were reversed.  It’s not being petty, or trying to suppress others’ freedom of religion, or anything like that.  It’s believing in the truth of the Catholic faith enough to dare to say that something else is incorrect.

(On a side note, I hope it’s well understood that the reason for the existence of the LDS genealogical program is for proxy temple work.  Or maybe I’m wildly mistaken.)

Third – and this is something that perplexed me when the baptism thing came out too – I’m told that LDS churches would not disclose such records to anyone else.  What’s the deal, then?

Fourth – and I know I will never get anyone to agree with me on this – I do think it’s there’s an element of offensiveness in the practice.  Yes, it’s motivated by genuine belief and love and concern for the departed (I’ll get to that).  But it’s also a public act of denial of the most important choice, the highest and most difficult choice, in the lives of the departed: to believe, heart, mind, and soul, in the teachings of Catholic Church.  As far as I can tell, Mormon culture is very different and Mormons generally can’t identify with my feeling on this.  And it’s certainly the least important of the little sub-issues.  Still, it just rubs me the wrong way a bit.

Finally, Mormons wonder why the Church responds so coldly to acts of love and compassion.  The answer goes back to my second point: we can appreciate the sentiment, but that doesn’t override the fact that we believe it’s false, and our beliefs compel us not to cooperate in it.

So those are my thoughts.  I’m sure I left something out, so discuss away.

104 Responses to “Catholic parish records”

  1. I think we’re talking about two different categories of people John.

  2. 95% of the sinners I met on my mission did not accept the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. Now I do not know, as Elder McConkie, at what point people will be judged to have received a fair and full chance at accepting the gospel. But there is no doubt in my mind that many of these same people that I met on my mission would reject it hundreds of times if it was presented to them. Why would these accept it suddenly in the spirit world?

  3. john f. says:

    But there is no doubt in my mind that many of these same people that I met on my mission would reject it hundreds of times if it was presented to them. Why would these accept it suddenly in the spirit world?

    I agree with that, as I’ve said numerous times on this thread. It’s a complete mystery to me why you are arguing about this with me.

  4. I think we are referring to two different groups of people, and are therefore talking past each other.