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Archiver > APG > 2008-05 > 1210231074

From: "Kate Foote" <>
Subject: Re: [APG] Catholic records
Date: Thu, 8 May 2008 02:17:54 -0500
In-Reply-To: <68760.37442.qm@web31603.mail.mud.yahoo.com>

Ok, I told myself that I was going to stay out of this one - but what the
heck. I am an ex-Catholic (some would say a Recovering Catholic.) I was
married to a Baptist (he's an ex too!) My ancestors, as far as I have
learned, were Protestant, Catholic, LDS - and possibly Jewish; as are my
living relatives. (And, Elizabeth W., my father was a Catholic convert so I
do understand, and respect, your very strong beliefs.) At some point in my
ancestry I expect someone worshiped the sun, the moon, the stars, and
Amon-Ra! So I approach this subject with many viewpoints and some

I thoroughly (after twelve long, tortuous, years of Catholic schooling)
understand where the Holy See is coming from - this is most certainly a
matter of theology, and yes, re-baptism would surely be considered heresy.
I also recognize the doctrine of the LDS Church which hopes to reclaim souls
for their belief of a higher, or saving, state of being (if they can help my
soul after I'm dead I say "have at it!") However, if I'm passionate about
one thing - it's genealogy. I really do wish that this Pope had not issued
these instructions to the Bishops, etc. It would be so wonderful to think
that one day I could click on an LDS site and read marriage and baptism
records of deceased Catholics - I could find out who the witnesses were, who
was who's godfather and godmother (think of the family connections that
could be made!) But I know this; if the Pope has issued an instruction he
did not do it without numerous discussions and input from dozens of
theologians and advisors. It was definitely not a decision made lightly or
quickly. In general, the Vatican moves slower than any other institution
ever known to mankind - and a reversal of this decision, if it ever comes,
will not likely be in my lifetime. The Holy See has spoken. It is not even
probable that it would take another viewpoint into consideration at this
point. Maybe in two or three hundred years - but not now, and not because
every genealogist in the entire world is unhappy.

And, as much as it saddens me, that decision was theirs to make. The
Catholic Church *owns* those records. They are not public, they are private
- and many Church records address deeply held spiritual issues. As an
example: it is not often known that there actually is a way to obtain a
"divorce" in the Catholic Church. The term used would more correctly be
"annulment", but it does not only apply to unconsummated unions as in a
civil process. When an annulment is sought - even after years of marriage
and one or more children - the Church holds "Court." All claims are
thoroughly investigated and depositions are taken. No question is too
personal and no subject is off limits. Spiritual issues are addressed in
great detail. I cannot see the Vatican allowing those types of records to
be made public any more than they would hand out transcripts from the
confessional! If the Church is going to clamp a seal on records that belong
to them they have every right to do so.

This discussion is not about what we, as genealogists, would prefer. It is
about where the line can be drawn and who can draw it. As I mentioned
above, my father was a convert to Catholicism. As a result, he was, at
various times in his life, both a Mason and a Knight of Columbus. Two
religiously based organizations which are highly secretive. Yes, I can
obtain records on his memberships - name, order, and dates. Nothing more.
I don't like it; but I respect it. If a member of the Jewish faith tells me
they feel it is sacrilegious to baptize victims of the Holocaust I can
understand and acknowledge that there is actual pain involved. If a member
of a Native American tribe tells me that a burial site is sacred and they
don't want archeologists digging there, I would have to agree with them,
though I would love to know what insight could be learned by the digging.
Only a couple of days ago we had a thread on this list where we were all
outraged because one man wants to move a "private" cemetery in Vermont. We
are against that because we respect and revere our dead, and because we want
everything preserved for everyone's descendants. We are obliged, in return
to respect and acknowledge that there will be times when we can not, and
should not, cross the line between public and private. In the United States
we have both Freedom of Religion and a Right to Privacy - we have to
treasure both, regardless of our own beliefs or non-beliefs.

I hope I have not offended anyone, such is not my intention. We gain
nothing as individuals, or professionals, when we scold others on this list
for their personal opinions.


> -----Original Message-----
> From: [mailto:] On Behalf
> Ray Beere Johnson II
> Sent: Thursday, May 08, 2008 12:26 AM
> To: APG Posting
> Subject: Re: [APG] Fw: Catholic records
> Jeannette;
> > We as genealogists should feel the obligation to work together
> > for records preservation and not nit-pick over unimportant
> > issues to most reasonable people.
> How exactly do you suggest *anyone* work towards *any* goal when they
are not
> willing to make an effort to understand the *reasons* behind the policies
they wish to
> change? In what way is this attitude "reasonable"?
> I am not a Catholic, therefore I do not feel comfortable taking a
position on Catholic
> Church policy regarding their own sacramental records and who may access
> However, for the sake of my argument, let us assume that this decision is
a bad one, that it
> will have an effect greater than preventing representatives of the LDS
Church from gaining
> access to and filming Catholic Church records. Let us assume that we have
agreed as
> genealogists we need to make an effort to persuade the Catholic Church to
alter their policy
> in some way.
> *How*, exactly, do you suggest we persuade Catholic officials without
first determining
> what *their* concerns are, so we can seek a solution that meets the
concerns of *both*
> sides? Or, because you don't share their specific beliefs, are you
suggesting we simply seek
> to bully them into doing our will? I thought that type of behaviour was
left behind in the
> "dark ages". While I have no wish to force LDS Church members to change
their beliefs, I
> also have no wish to force Catholic Church members to change theirs. If
those beliefs
> conflict, then for one church to refuse to cooperate with the other in
those areas is the
> *only* reasonable compromise.
> To my shame, many of my Irish ancestors were anti-Catholic bigots. To
my joy, those of
> my family now living in Ireland are much more tolerant. Perhaps that is
because Ireland has
> suffered so long the injuries of intolerance that her sons and daughters
have had to learn that
> lesson to survive. Just because you don't share Catholic beliefs, and
because their policies
> aren't tailored to your wishes, is no excuse for you to sweep those
beliefs aside as if they
> don't matter. Why should those whose beliefs you have shown disrespect for
bother to
> respect *your* beliefs? If you were to attempt to negotiate with the
Catholic Church to
> ensure genealogical records preservation, and you argued as you did here,
I think *your
> actions* would do more harm to that cause than the original policy.
> Ray Beere Johnson II
> __________________________________________________________________________
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