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From: Kathy <>
Subject: Re: [APG] Catholic Records
Date: Wed, 07 May 2008 14:42:00 -0500
References: <635422.86879.qm@web35507.mail.mud.yahoo.com>
In-Reply-To: <635422.86879.qm@web35507.mail.mud.yahoo.com>

I, too, was hoping that this topic wouldn't come up on this list,
precisely because of the turn the discussion has taken.

Jeanette Daniels wrote:
> I'm still not sure why the Vatican believes there is a threat to
> Catholic doctrine by sharing Catholic Church records.

They don't. It's just that they don't see why they should facilitate
practices (LDS ordinances) they don't believe in. It's the same reason
they don't offer abortion in Catholic hospitals. It's a matter of

> I would also want to know more about why the Church was issuing such
> an order. "Grave reservations" doesn't tell me anything. What
> specifically is the problem?

Notice that the "grave reservations" were expressed by the Congregation
for the Doctrine of the Faith. That's a body of theologians who
function as the watchdog of Catholic doctrine. Typically working at the
pace of snails, with large groups of advisors studying the issues
involved ad nauseum from every conceivable point of view, their
pronouncements are very deliberate and not likely to be made in the
absence of information.

So what's the problem? The problem is that the Catholic Church
considers posthumous baptism heresy. Giving church records to the GSU
to microfilm or digitize facilitates posthumous baptism, ergo
facilitates heresy. And heresy is a grave matter. Mormons
excommunicate members engaging in heresy. Catholics do, too.

The Catholic Church certainly knows about what has been done in the past
with respect to microfilming church records. They also know about the
subsequent use of indexes made from those records for Temple Work. In
fact, that's probably why they've issued this directive.

The LDS history with Jewish concerns probably doesn't help, either.
Writings by Jewish commentators have described acquisition of Jewish
records as "under the false pretense of record preservation," have
asserted that the LDS has not honored its commitments in the 1995
agreement, have decried the disengenuous way they dealt with the
definition of "direct ancestor," have described the LDS as engaging in
acts of "deliberate bad faith," and stated "they never intended to abide
by the agreements they themselves made." The LDS response has not been
the least bit reassuring to them-- they simply stated that they have no
control over individuals doing Temple Work. Under these circumstances,
why should the Catholic Church expect anything different?

Finally, keep in mind that the directive went to bishops and priests. It
was not a press release to the public nor a communication with the LDS
Church. That means they consider it a matter of internal governance,
not a matter of public policy. That is, they're telling their personnel
what the rules are and how to comply with them, not making a statement
to the public, or to the Mormon Church, for that matter.

I can't emphasize how much this is a theological matter, not a matter of
public policy. Thus, working to help the Catholic Church understand why
their records are important to genealogists or historians would be
totally irrelevant to what they consider to be a matter of doctrine.

Please understand that I'm not an apologist for the Catholic Church. I'm
just trying to explain where they're coming from. I, too, am a
dedicated genealogist, and would love to see more records
from American Catholic Churches microfilmed or digitized, but I think
the issue here is simply not one that genealogists can address.

Kathleen Lenerz, Ph.D.

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