Baptisms for the dead rub Catholics the wrong way

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I found the following link through another website:

Vatican vs Salt Lake

In an effort to block posthumous rebaptisms by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Catholic dioceses throughout the world have been directed by the Vatican not to give information in parish registers to the Mormons’ Genealogical Society of Utah.


Mormons have been criticized by several other faiths — perhaps most passionately by the Jews — for the church’s practice of posthumous baptism.

Any thoughts on this?

28 thoughts on “Baptisms for the dead rub Catholics the wrong way

  1. It seems to me that if the Catholic Church was so sure we’re wrong, it wouldn’t bother them what we do with the names of their dead, as it wouldn’t affect anything in the eternities. Only if it can affect something is there a valid reason to prevent our doing it. Another thing is that if we’re busy doing baptisms for all of those names we would have much less time to bother trying to make Mormons out of them, and for us to have affairs with their spouses. So, some good does come to them from our wasting our time doing baptisms for their dead. So, keep us busy!

  2. So is your position that they are choosing to be offended by an inoffensive act, or it is the least of evils the LDS could be perpetrating on them?

  3. It amounts to misunderstanding the purpose of proxy baptism. Proxy baptisms do not make the dead automatic Mormons, which seems to be the assumption the Catholics make.

  4. I understand their concern over the wholesale baptism of Catholics by non-family members. I mean, how would we feel if suddenly the Catholics started doing something similar to our members or family? However, I have family members who were Catholic (and maybe still are!). I want to give them the opportunity to choose what path to take. And since they are my great-grandparents (and beyond), I feel that I have that right. I would not, however, go in and just start baptising people I wasn’t related to. I personally think that is wrong. But if they are my family members, I don’t want to deprive them of the opportunity for choice. Just my two cents worth.

  5. I remember going on a temple trip sometime in the early 90’s to do baptism’s for the dead. One of the members, of Jewish descent, had a list of hundreds of Jewish names that had been killed in the holocaust.

    She assured that although there had been some issues about deceased Jews, we had permission to do baptismal work for these people.

    However it wasn’t long after that it came out in the media that the church was offending the Jewish community by preforming these types of proxy baptisms. I wonder if it was this particular selection of names that had caused the problems, or if other Mormons were also doing similar things elsewhere in the world.

  6. how would we feel if suddenly the Catholics started doing something similar to our members or family?

    I think I’d feel fine. What’s wrong with someone copying information out of a genealogical record into another genealogical record and mentioning someone’s name in a private ceremony inside a religious building? What harm comes of it?

  7. So these people are choosing to be offended?
    It’s not actually an offensive act being committed?

    Who gets to decide when it’s offensive? The offender or the offended?

  8. Itbugaf: Kim is right in saying that proxy baptisms do not automatically make them Mormon, and we need to try to educate other faiths to this fact – that even if we baptise our family members, they still have a choice to decide whether to accept it or not. And I don’t think I would be upset if a family member of another faith decided that members of the family should be Baptist or Moslem or whatever (the more choice the better!). However, I go back to the thought that non-family members should not be submitting names for work. If they are my direct family members, it is one thing for me to research them out and submit their names for work. To pluck names out of a register when they have no family connection is another. I don’t blame the Catholics, but I think they should be educated as to what is happening and assured that only direct family members are doing this work out of love for their deceased family members.

  9. So . . . it’s wrong to perform a proxy baptism on behalf of a dead person who is incapable of giving meaningful consent, but it’s OK to perform a live baptism on a baby who is incapable of giving meaningful consent?

    Got it.

  10. I don’t think that’s been said here anywhere. We do not believe in infant baptism – children are baptised at 8 years of age. And while we do believe in proxy baptism, the people we are baptising have the choice to accept the baptism or not. It’s not like we are forcing them to join the church – just like in this life they still continue to have Free Agency and can say “yes” or “no”: we are just aiding them so that if they want to join, they have that option.

  11. Single Sister, I apologize if my post was misinterpreted. The point is that it is rank hypocrisy for the Catholic church, which baptizes infants who cannot speak for themselves or express their own wishes, to claim offense on behalf of dead persons who are similarly unable to speak for themselves or express their own wishes.

    That said: it’s their records; and they can do what they want with them. Moreover, we church members could be a little more sensitive about the implications of proxy baptism than we currently are.

  12. we church members could be a little more sensitive about the implications of proxy baptism than we currently are.

    The implications are that we want to make what we have available to everyone. Doesn’t sound offensive to me.

  13. “which baptizes infants who cannot speak for themselves or express their own wishes”

    I don’t think infant baptism is much worse than baptism at 8. Have you ever heard of an 8-year-old in an active Mormon family choosing not to get baptized?

  14. Jeff – no you’re right. Personally, I’ve never heard of an 8 year old refusing to be baptised. But I have seen those same 8 year olds going inactive a few years later. Again, it is about choice. That same 8 year old is just like our ancestors: we may “choose” to be baptised for them, but in the end it is their choice whether to stay or not.

  15. “But I have seen those same 8 year olds going inactive a few years later.”

    But the consequences are much greater after the baptism, no? Being apostate is much worse than having never been baptised.

    If the eight year old can’t really be making a decision like that, why risk the consequences at all?

    Shouldn’t you wait until the weight of the decision is understood by the participant?

  16. Being apostate and being inactive are two different things. I was inactive for several years in my early thirties. But I can ssure you that I was never apostate. And who says an 8 year old can’t make a decision? A member’s child is prepared for years before they turn 8 to take on the covenant of baptism. They know the promises they are making – 8 year old are not stupid. I have an 8 year old nephew (his parents are non-members) and I can tell you that if he says “No” to something, his parents listen to him and weigh up the pros and cons of his decision. Sometimes, however, when they know it would be in his best interest and they have had to go against his wishes they have then explained to him why. It’s called parenting. And if a child is baptised (or anything else) against his or her will (for whatever reason), then I believe the consequences will be upon the parents heads.

  17. “8 year old are not stupid”

    I don’t believe I’ve ever met an eight year old child who, in my estimation, could possibly have understood the nuances of what a baptism really means.

    Once you’re baptised your options change significantly.

    You can’t be an apostate unless you’ve been baptised. Sans the baptism your options are much wider.

    “A member’s child is prepared for years before they turn 8 to take on the covenant of baptism.”

    I don’t believe any member children are equally ‘prepared’ for life without a baptism at eight. So, I would use the term ‘indoctrinated’ rather than ‘prepared’ but your mileage may vary.

  18. I guess it depends on your perspective of life – both here and in the eternities. My 8 year old nephew hollers blue murder every time he has to go to the dentist. Should his parents say, “Oh, it’s okay, you never have to go to the dentist”? Of course not – they would be negligent of his physical health if they did that. When he is old enough he can decide whether to continue to go to the dentist or not. We believe that baptism is part of a child’s spiritual health and not getting them baptised would be as much a detriment to their spiritual health as not going to the dentist would be to their physical health. The parents I know both in the church and out of the church are only trying to do the best they can for their children according to their perspective on life. And that is all that anyone – including God – can ever ask of them.

  19. I don’t believe I’ve ever met an eight year old child who, in my estimation, could possibly have understood the nuances of what a baptism really means.

    I’m not going to go so far as to say our daughter fully understood the nuances of what baptism really means, but we did all we could think of to ensure we taught her what baptism means.

  20. And she made the decision on her own, after study and prayer. 8 year old children aren’t quite infants, after all.

  21. 4 Single Sister–we had this happen in 1997, when my wife’s brother died. Catholic friends of her family had a mass said for him; we thanked them for their thoughtfulness and caring for him, and we thought highly of what they’d done–they cared and did what they could do. Why should we have been offended over it? It’s the thought that counts, when someone is trying to do good for someone else. Our society seems to have taken on the idea that if we can be offended over something, hop to it! With all the harping and criticism going on, so little good is done for others that we should appreciate anything that’s done by someone else who’s trying to do good for us–whether we agree with it or not.

    The Catholic records will disintegrate sooner or later and then no one will have access to them, instead of them getting a free copy of each parish record for backup purposes and easier reading. But, whatever is most important.

  22. Dan, I wouldn’t be lamenting the Catholic church’s stinginess just yet. As I read it, the letter doesn’t prevent the activities of commercial entities like Nor does it bar individuals from getting the records they need for their own family history by contacting the parishes directly.

    I think we do need to at least recognize that by performing proxy baptisms–especially for people still in living memory–we are basically saying that we know that individual’s wishes better than the individual’s own family did/does. To someone who was close to the decedent and knew of the decedent’s religious devotion (and often, the decedent’s ardent wish to not be associated with Mormonism)–that kind of “we-know-better-than-you” condescension comes off as a slap in the face.

    The irony is that if more church members (persons doing their own family history, as well as those working in the Extraction Program) followed the church’s own guidelines regarding the baptisms of recently-deceased persons, this wouldn’t be nearly the issue that it is today.

  23. 1 Cor. 15:29

    This chapter is NOT an endorsement of the practice of baptism of the dead, rather it is an indication by Paul of all that was going on in Corinth after he began the Church there. Notice he says “they” and the rest of the references after admonitions against intolerable goings on he states the “we” things that christians do. In addition, the Bible DOES give references to “Whole families being baptized”. This gives rise to the practice of ALL members of a family being baptized, including babies…nothing hypocritical there. Also, lest we forget the foundation of protestant religion “sola scriptura”, we need to remember the rich man who died at the same time as Lazuras…Remember what was said by GOD, That they must make their choice while living…and he would not allow the man to get a message to his living brothers, let alone any dead ones,that the man could NOT change his mind once he found out after death that he really wanted to be in heaven.

    Notably it would bother the Catholics to give away such information even though they know Mormonism is “wrong” as the first reply states for a single reason….you cannot cooperate with evil as they see it. Screwtape was very inane too…in the beginning.

    Also I believe it is important to identify the significance and matter and form of baptism…It is not simply a ritual for initiation. It is more than that. The real reason that Catholics take issue with this mormon tradition is because the Mormon idea of baptism is at odds with ALL christianity. This is why people who join the Catholic church later in life, if they have been baptized in a protestant denomination, are not re-baptized…an occurence that is at odds with the meaning of baptism altogether, and why it is that Mormon baptism is NOT considered valid in the Catholic Church. re-baptizing is like re-removing your apendix…it is already been done and no amount of doing it again will perfect what has been done already. The only way Mormon baptism could have any significance would be for it to be at odds with the centuries old practice of baptism. Otherwise Mormons would accept when a person has already been baptized.

  24. lest we forget the foundation of protestant religion “sola scriptura”, we need to remember the rich man who died at the same time as Lazuras…

    I’m having just a little trouble following you. Why are you talking about the Protestant doctrine of Sola Scriptura, which you know is entirely rejected by Latter-day Saints?

    See this link for an explanation of our views on scripture:,5232,23-1-851-30,00.html

  25. Of course…how ignorant of me to not think that LDS would reject sola scriptura…however, do you believe in scriptures?

    I guess I always considered Mormons to be protestant as they accept only the protestant bible…not the septuigent that Catholics and Orthodox use. This also is somewhat of a puzzler as Mormons according to the education I received by mormon friends in school, that the Church fell into an apostate of unknown origin and the Church fell away until Joseph Smith. This would make one believe that mormons would use the Septuigent as that is the original of the torah before Jamnia in 96 AD… However if you do not believe in sola scriptura how do mormons choose to treat the story of Lazuras and the rich man…are mormons protestants? I am sorry that you had trouble following me :(.

  26. For an explanation of our view on the apocryphal books, see Doctrine & Covenants 91.

    For an explanation of our views on scripture that should dispel your other questions, please see the link I already gave you.

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