I won't pretend anything other than a highly selfish interest in my dismay at the decision by the Catholic Church to forbid digitization of their parish records.  I disagree with the theology of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Mormons), but genealogists and other historians owe them a great debt for the records they have kept and assembled over the years, records which they make freely available to people of all faiths.

Anyone who has tried to find their European ancestors knows that the parish baptismal records are critically important, often the only record of someone's birth.  This is not an issue of privacy concerns, as the records of interest are for several hundred years dead.

The concern of the Catholics is with not wanting to facilitate the Mormon practice of posthumus, vicarious baptism for their ancestors—which for those of European descent means ancestors who were baptized by the Catholic Church.  I have a problem with that practice, too, but my own faith is strong enough to be assured it's a meaningless ritual, and finding that some of my ancestors have been vicariously baptized into the Morman faith bothers me no more than hearing that some voodoo practicioner had posthumusly hexed them.  They are in God's hands, far beyond the reach of either Mormon or witch doctor.

This action by the Catholic Church says to me that they grant the Mormon ritual more efficacy than I would hope they really believe.  Jewish leaders have chimed in as well, calling the practice arrogant and insulting.  Perhaps, but only in the sense that it's arrogant to believe that I'm right and you're wrong, of which Catholics and Jews are also guilty.  I would hope that the faith of both Jews and Catholics was robust enough to handle this.  If they are so certain that they are right and the Mormons wrong, they can afford to be patient with those who are erring.  If they doubt their own faith, that's all the more reason not to slam the door.
Posted by sursumcorda on Wednesday, May 7, 2008 at 4:02 pm | Edit
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