Way to go, fellahs.
After 104 years, some bureaucrat in the depths of the Vatican finally noticed that the LDS church was collecting baptismal records from far and wide for their geneology collection…And (gasp! Horrors!) once in awhile, a good member of the LDS church will undergo a ceremony to baptise his ancestors so that they can join the extended family (if they want to) in the next life.
Don’t you have enough sin and heresy in the Catholic church to worry about without stopping a practice that is harmless to the souls of Catholics, and extremely valuable for families and historians who wish to search the geneological records for information?
The LDS church has been collecting geneology records since 1894. Some came from converts’ own data (e.g. family bibles) but many of them came from baptismal records.
When civilization broke down, or when government data was sketchy, one treasure trove for historians is the birth and death records kept by Catholic priests in the parish records.
Government records might have information for the past 300 years, and some countries have other historical documents, (e.g. the Doomsday book) but a lot of historical data can be mined from baptismal records.
Want to find the death rate from the black plague in 1469? How about deaths from smallpox among the Pueblo Indians in 1776? Check the records.
Yet much of this data is in danger of destruction from various wars or simple fires.
So the LDS church has taken their collection to store underground, much of it on microfilm. And they have enabled anyone: LDS, gentile, expert historian or layperson, to access these record, simply by going on line to the Family Search website. Many of the records are copies of baptismal records, collected by various LDS members from local churches in the US and Europe, but it includes census and other records.
So why is the Vatican objecting now?
I can think of two reasons.
One, because a bureaucrat, noticing that since 1985, because of objections of Jewish leaders, the LDS church has stopped it’s members from baptising those who died in the Holocaust.
So that unnamed bureaucrat has decided to worry that an LDS convert with Catholic ancestryÂ might do the same for his own family members.
So how to prevent this? Stop them from collecting and copying Catholic baptismal records.
Except that collecting baptismal records doesn’t mean that these people will be baptised, and that a lot of European baptismal records have been in the collection for decades. A little late, don’t ya think?
But the real reason behind this regulation is probably the “elephant in the living room”: That the strict morality and family orientation of the LDS church has attracted many converts in Catholic countries, especially those in which “liberation theology” has led to churches that preach Marxism rather than Jesus, and where hundreds of years of complacency due to lack of competition has led to lax church practice and a thin veneer of cultural Catholicism that quickly evaporates when moved into the modern world.
Here in the Philippines, the LDS church estimates a 17% growth. I don’t know if that number is accurate (a lot of converts revert, or go back to Protestant churches), however, in our small rural town, we have a large LDS church (technically, it is a stakehouse) down the street.
The LDS tithe, and stress the need to follow the commandements and cleanliness in living.Â Many who seek a stricter form of religion join these churches, or one of the many growing Protestant sects. And this has the local Catholic church worried.
So I suspect the Vatican edict came because they don’t want the LDS who are already converting live Catholics to now start in on baptising the dead too. But I suspect it is also a way to stop confusion in lands where Catholicism is cultural, and few know the basic beliefs of their religion.
As a Catholic who has worked in LDS areas, I have no problem with the geneology collection, including gathering baptismal records.
The Catholics should recognize their real problem in losing “cradle Catholics” is due to a lack of holiness in many prominent Catholics (e.g. crooked politicians) and an ignorance of what Catholics actually believe, since often their faith was transmitted by traditional, non intellectual methods (stories, fiestas, devotions).
Ironically, here in the Philippines, the competition has spurred lay movements toward prayer groups and bible study, so that the ultimate result is a vibrant renewal of the church, because Catholics are now more aware of what the church teaches, and why they teach that.
Yet the problems of this country is something that needs the cooperation of all men of good will.
The Vatican does not enhance this cooperationÂ when some bureaucrat in the basement perceives an action of charity on the part of the LDS members as an insult.
Nancy Reyes is a retired physician living in the rural Philippines. Her website is Finest Kind Clinic and Fishmarket.