Today Craig at Geneablogie posted about a new the crisis with Catholics, Mormons at Odds Over Genealogical Records? In his post, Craig mentions the news report about Catholic dioceses forbidding LDS access to church records for fear of the Mormon practice often referred to as baptizing the dead. Craig notes that several of us genea-bloggers are Catholic, so I’d like to offer my thoughts as well.
I saw the story on some Catholic blogs I read before it made it to the genealogy blogs, and I struggled with how to address it here. Frankly, I’m surprised it took so long for this to happen – I was surprised that records were made available at all after I learned that the Mormons use them for their faith, so to speak, in addition to their genealogy. Other faith groups have often complained about the “re-baptism” of deceased ancestors into the Mormon faith, most especially Jews, who were greatly (and rightly) offended by this practice.
As a genealogist, I am saddened to think that one day records may not be available – for without them, I would know very little about my ancestors. That is to say, without the Mormons taking those records, microfilming them, and making them available for me to look at.
As a Catholic, I can sort of understand why the Church, or why other faith groups, find offense in the Mormon tenent that they can baptize any deceased person into their faith. When I first heard of this, I was somewhat taken aback. What? They can make my great-grandfather Mormon? He’d “roll over” as the expression goes. I think my great-grandmother was Protestant, but I haven’t prayed to “make” her accept my faith today! It was her life to live, and I respect her choices and her life.
I say I “sort of” understand because I find it more humorous than offensive. To me, my faith is very important. I love being Catholic, and I love the Church. Because I have accepted this particular faith as “my” faith, I obviously think it’s better – at least for me – than other faiths. If you can’t believe in your particular faith all the way, what’s the point of believing it? As such, it doesn’t matter to me if some other faith decides to make me one of their own long after I’m gone. Why? Because my faith is chosen by me and nothing will change that unless it’s my decision. If any Jew, Muslim, Mormon, or Protestant wants to pray for me or if they want to pray to convert me, okay! I doubt I’ll be leaving my faith any time soon, but I’ll accept your prayers on my behalf. I respect other religions, but they can’t change me or my faith whethere through prayer, re-baptism, or any other practice.
As Kimberly Powell points out, the Mormom re-baptism isn’t “valid” in the sense of the Catholic faith – so denying them access to the records to prevent this is only hurting those of us who use them to enrich our understanding of our family history. Can’t we all just get along and respect that we all believe different things? I think the Mormons need to separate their religion from their genealogical efforts…for them, the two may be intertwined, but for others it is confusing. As Craig said, we all need each other. And we’re likely all related, too.
On a completely unrelated note, this is my first-ever post written remotely on a laptop. And I like it! I think I have to get one of these…