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Scott P. Richert

Baptism for the Dead: It's Not for Catholics Anymore

By May 6, 2008

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The About.com Guide to Genealogy, Kimberly Powell, has news of a very important directive issued by the Vatican Congregation for the Clergy on April 5, 2008. As the Catholic News Service reported, the Congregation for the Clergy has directed all Catholic dioceses "not to give information in parish registers to the Mormons' Genealogical Society of Utah."

The reason is that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, commonly known as the Mormons, engage in a practice of baptizing the dead. Any Mormon in good standing may stand in as a proxy for a dead relative, engaging in baptism on his or her behalf. Mormons believe that such posthumous baptisms allow those who did not have the opportunity to be exposed to the Mormon gospel while alive to accept or reject that gospel.

While Mormons base their belief in part on Saint Paul's remark about the baptism for the dead in 1 Corinthians 15:29, the Christian Church has, from apostolic times, rejected the idea of the baptism for the dead and pointed out that Saint Paul was actually making an argument about the resurrection of the dead. The statement by the Congregation for the Clergy is based on the need to combat this doctrine which Mormons present as Christian and states that each bishop should

ensure that such a detrimental practice is not permitted in his territory, due to the confidentiality of the faithful and so as not to cooperate with the erroneous practices of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Kimberly, who is herself a Catholic, notes that the Mormons have preserved many parish registers that might otherwise have been lost, and she expresses some confusion over this decision, given that the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith declared in 2001 that Mormon baptisms are not valid (because, while Mormons use the Trinitarian formula for baptism, they do not believe in the Trinity).

But that is precisely the point: The Catholic Church does not believe that Mormon baptisms for the dead have any effect, but She does have an obligation to combat errors that are presented as Christian. Baptism for the dead is one such error, and the Congregation of the Clergy, in order to safeguard the true meaning of the Sacrament of Baptism, has decided that the Church must avoid the appearance of cooperating in that error.

Comments
May 6, 2008 at 12:22 am
(1) JD says:

It is not the Catholic Church’s job to police what practices the Mormons should or should not adopt. Baptism for the dead does absolutely no harm to Catholics, who do not recognize the validity of the ordinance. And yet it has tremendous meaning for Mormons as a way of honoring their ancestors. Seeing as how baptism for the dead has absolutely no detrimental effect on Catholics, it’s hard not to see this latest policy chance as being mean-spirited. Click here to learn more about baptism for the dead.

June 4, 2011 at 1:38 pm
(2) DSH says:

You have got to be kidding me. My devout Catholic grandparents would roll over in their grave if your “cult” took the liberty of “baptism” after they spent 77 years of practicing Catholisim. Stay out of our beliefs and religion. You are a “Moron”.

May 6, 2008 at 1:26 am
(3) James says:

Please note Scott, it is baptism *for* the dead, not baptism *of* the dead.

May 6, 2008 at 7:23 am
(4) Scott P. Richert says:

JD writes that “It is not the Catholic Churchís job to police what practices the Mormons should or should not adopt.” Yet if the Church’s claims about Her teaching authority are true, then, in fact, it is the Church’s job to ensure that erroneous doctrine is not taught by those who call themselves Christians. As JD knows, the LDS Church makes similar truth-claims for itself.

JD further writes: “Baptism for the dead does absolutely no harm to Catholics, who do not recognize the validity of the ordinance.” I’ve already dealt with that question in the post. The fact that Mormon baptism (of the living and for the dead) is not recognized as valid by the Catholic Church does not prove that baptism for the dead does no harm to Catholics; in fact, it is evidence of the opposite point.

The Congregation for the Clergy was reacting to the fact that some Catholics have seen the Church as cooperating in the Mormons’ erroneous doctrine by giving Mormons access to records that are used in an erroneous practice. If such an appearance of cooperation causes even one Catholic to adopt the error, then the Church bears responsibility for that.

Finally, JD seems to believe that Catholics need to do everything that Mormons request in order to avoid the label “mean-spirited.” Yet, even setting aside the question of erroneous doctrine, Mormons have no claim to Catholic parish registers, which are maintained by the Church for the benefit of Her members.

May 6, 2008 at 7:26 am
(5) Scott P. Richert says:

James, I’ve adjusted the language in the title and the post.

May 6, 2008 at 8:33 am
(6) A. Jendrzejewski says:

Your title is still troublesome, because on one hand it’s derived from the quote of St. Paul, but on the other hand it perpetuates the notion that somehow it was adopted “for [or accepted by] Catholics” at one time. The article clarifies that the Christian Church never accepted the doctrine.

Perhaps the Catholic Church could be more open with the notion of releasing its records to people who are trying to trace their ancestry and find family displaced by war, slavery, displacement and oppression. Searching my family history has, oddly enough, helped me return to my own faith, seeing generations and generations of family members in church records. Hmmm. We have the Mormons to thank for that, as well as more tolerant church officials, who released the records to them!

May 6, 2008 at 9:27 am
(7) JustChuck says:

I am so very pleased with this decision. The LDS church is very quick to cry “fowl” and “bigotry” when met with resistance, but never seems to realize the profane nature of many of their beliefs. You simply cannot say to other religions “All your creeds are an abomination and your professors corrupt” and then waltz in the door and ask those same religions to participate in your wholly un-Christian practices. It it the Mormons who drew the line of division, not the Catholics (or the Jews before them regarding baptism of holocaust victims).

And regarding allowing Mormons access to records solely for genealogical reasons, they have consistently shown themselves to be dishonest in this respect. Having once promised to stop proxy baptisms for holocaust victims, they were quickly found doing it again: http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=990CE3DD1130F93AA15757C0A963958260

So, let us affirm the Mormons have the right to practice their faith as they wish, but let us also continue to marginalize the Mormon faith and not allow them access to practice their peculiar doctrines with the blessing of true Christians. Let them finally be seen as the non-Christian sect that they are.

May 6, 2008 at 9:33 am
(8) J. Harrison says:

One need only read Catholic history to see the church’s connection to this now “heretical” practice.

Two of the early church fathers, Epiphanius (A.D. 315-403), in Heresies 8.7, and Tertullian (A.D. 145-220), in Against Marcion 5.10, note that the Marcionites, a Christian group outside mainstream Christianity (like the Latter-day Saints) baptized others in the name of the dead.

St. Chrysostom (A.D. 347-407) tells how the Marcionites, when one of their catechumens died without baptism, would place a living person under the dead man’s bed and ask whether he desired to be baptized. The living person would respond in the affirmative and was then baptized as a proxy for the deceased (Homily 40 on 1 Corinthians 15). Some dismiss this evidence on the grounds that the Marcionites were heretics.

Latter-day Saints, believing that the great apostasy was already well under way by Marcion’s time and that no Christian group then possessed the full truth, see the practice as a remnant of an earlier practice dating from the time of the apostles. Since baptism is essential for salvation (John 3:5-7) and that Christ went into the spirit world to bring the message of salvation to those who had not received it in mortality (1 Peter 3:18-21; 4:6; cf. John 3:25-29), it seems reasonable to expect that the Lord would have provided a means for the dead who had not heard the gospel to receive this sacred ordinance.

Moreover, there is a precedent in one of the books of the Apocrypha, 2 Maccabees 12:43-46, where we read that Judas Maccabaeus, the Jewish high priest and ruler, offered sacrifices to atone for the sins of some of his dead soldiers.

May 6, 2008 at 11:00 am
(9) Scott P. Richert says:

We have the Mormons to thank for that, as well as more tolerant church officials, who released the records to them!

Much of the discussion puts the cart before the horse. The Mormon interest in genealogy flows from the Mormon doctrine of baptism for the dead, not the other way around. The Mormon church collects genealogical records wholesale (through the photocopying and microfilming of entire parish registers) for the purpose of making baptism for the dead possible.

That non-Mormons find the materials useful is indisputable. I’ve used Mormon-gathered genealogical materials myself. But it’s also indisputable that the Mormon church is not doing this primarily as a public service. They are doing it in the service of a doctrine that the Christian Church condemned from apostolic times.

May 6, 2008 at 11:08 am
(10) Scott P. Richert says:

J. Harrison, as you note, “Some dismiss this evidence on the grounds that the Marcionites were heretics.” Of course. Why would Christians consider the practice of heretics to be normative?

The Mormon claim of the great apostasy bears no weight for Christians, since we do not believe that such an apostasy occurred. To argue from it as a way to rehabilitate the Marcionites and, thus, to justify baptism for the dead is putting the cart before the horse.

May 6, 2008 at 11:13 am
(11) Scott P. Richert says:

The passage from 2 Maccabees clearly does not refer to baptism of any sort, thus it cannot be a precedent for baptism for the dead.

May 6, 2008 at 11:23 am
(12) J. Harrison says:

In my opinion, the doctrine of “baptism for the dead” demonstrates Godís infinite mercy in that it resolves one of the thorniest of theological issues; i.e., if salvation is only through Christ, what happens to all the billions of people who lived and died without ever even hearing of Christ? And if we must be baptized to enter into a covenant with Christ, as Christ plainly teaches in John 3:3-5, what of those that never had a chance? The truth is that God loves all his children and wants all to have the opportunity to hear and accept the Gospel of Christ. I know that God is just and will not send a Chinese peasant or an Indian beggar to hell simply because he or she had the misfortune of never hearing about Christ.

The resolution is this: deceased beings, dwelling as spirits and awaiting the time of resurrection and judgment, are given the opportunity to hear and accept the message of the Gospel (read 1 Peter 3:18-21; 4:6; cf. John 3:25-29). Yet these souls in the spirit world are faced with a dilemma: they need baptism to enter into a covenant with Christ and receive a washing away of their sins, etc., but they lack physical bodies in which to be baptized. This is why the early Christians and now the LDS Church have the practice of baptism for the dead, referred to but not explained by Paul in I Cor. 15:29.

The practice is NOT derived from 1 Cor. 15:29, but from modern revelation which restored that practice and the understanding and authority necessary for it to be done. As a result, worthy individuals can now go to the Temple and be baptized by immersion in the name of specific deceased ancestors and others, one at a time, name by name, offering our vicarious service as a proxy for the deceased.

Read “Baptism for the Dead in Ancient Times” (http://maxwellinstitute.byu.edu/display.php?table=transcripts&id=67) with numerous references showing that this was a real practice in the early Church that was one of the first to be lost in the great apostasy when priesthood and temple ordinances perished.

May 6, 2008 at 11:31 am
(13) Scott P. Richert says:

The practice is NOT derived from 1 Cor. 15:29, but from modern revelation which restored that practice and the understanding and authority necessary for it to be done.

And in that central sentence, you’ve proved the point. The Catholic Church does not accept the revelations of Joseph Smith, nor the authority of his successors. Early Christians did not practice baptism for the dead; early Christian heretics did.

The Congregation for the Clergy has declared that the purpose of the ban on allowing Mormons to engage in wholesale copying of parish registers is precisely to combat this erroneous doctrine. Those who believe in this erroneous doctrine act upon their belief; why should they be surprised that the Catholic Church acts upon Her beliefs as well?

May 6, 2008 at 11:33 am
(14) Joe Turner says:

What about all of the “Christian” groups through out the world that say everyone outside of their denomination is wrong and going to Hell? How is it that once the LDS Church is involved these groups claim to unite in doctrine to condemn the Mormons. Baptism for the Dead is also a Gnostic and Coptic doctrine and was one of the heated subjects during the Counsels of Nicea.

As for the bold statement of erroneous doctrine, the Bible clearly states in 1 Timothy 3 that a Bishop must be the husband of one wife and 1 Timothy 4 talks about some groups that will fall away to doctrines of devils, forbidding to marry and abstaining from meats.

The clergy and lint go directly against the teachings of Timothy. So let’s be fair when being critical of another’s faith and examine both sides.

Do some research on early Christian Doctrine and the Trinity, the Trinity divided groups during the Counsels of Nicea. The groups supporting the Trinity were supported by Constantine, a Pagan who received a death bed baptism.

Not all of the modern “Christian” Doctrines were earlier Christian Doctrines. Do your own research from multi sources and you will be surprised.

Let’s be fair and critical in our statements and views of all sides.

May 6, 2008 at 11:44 am
(15) Scott P. Richert says:

Indeed, we should be fair and critical, and do our research. The Council (not “Counsels”) of Nicaea in 325 dealt primarily with the Arian heresy–the belief that Christ was a mere man, and not the Second Person of the Trinity.

You write, “The groups supporting the Trinity were supported by Constantine, a Pagan who received a death bed baptism.” True enough, as far as it goes. But your remark also points out that Mormonism rejects the Trinity and that Joseph Smith would have sided with Arius, the heretic condemned by the Council of Nicaea.

That is why the claim of the Mormon church to be the true church of Jesus Christ rests on the bedrock claim of the great apostasy. Catholics, Orthodox, and Protestants reject this claim.

Gnosticism is a Christian heresy. Again, the practice of an heretical group tells us nothing about the beliefs of orthodox Christianity.

May 6, 2008 at 12:15 pm
(16) Joe Turner says:

I live in California and just woke up, so excuse my poor spelling ;^)

If the history of the Council is examined, one can say that the Council cherry picked writings to Cannonize.

Is it really fair to just simply say the Gnostics are heretics and move on without examining how their doctrine was developed and why it different from other churches?

You also did not mention Timothy and some of the erroneous practices of the Catholic Church, which are in clear contrast to Timothy.

I’ll use NIV for referencing… or what ever translation I feel like at the moment ;^)

1 Corinthians 15:29 “Now if there is no resurrection, what will those do who are baptized for the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why are people baptized for them?”

If the Corinth’s were practicing Baptism for the Dead while denying the Resurrection how does this passage disprove Baptism for the Dead?

It’s a simple if, then statement. Baptism for the Dead wasn’t the doctrine in question, it was the Corinth’s denying the Resurrection.

As for the doctrine of the Trinity, the account of Stephen is always ignored.

Acts 7:55-56 But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. 56″Look,” he said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.”

Stephen’s vision is not Trinitarian, so why is it in the Bible?

Joseph Smith would not have sided with Arian because Joseph Smith did not preach that Christ was a mere man. He preached that Christ is the literal Son of the Father and not the Father. Which Christ Himself made mention of in John 20:17 “Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet returned to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am returning to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’ ”

If Christ and the Father were the one and the same, as Trinitarian doctrine states, why would Christ make such a statement that He is subject to the same God as the mortals?

It’s passages such as these that seem to be cherry picked out and ignored and used to call other heretics. I’m sure the Gnostic’s have passages they chose and would refer to the both of us as heretics. Heresy and cherry picking need more critical thinking before the first stone is cast.

I’m not here to say I’m write you wrong or you’re write I’m wrong, but I do not agree with erroneous statements about doctrine that are not properly examined, to include the Bible and History.

May 6, 2008 at 12:48 pm
(17) Joe Turner says:

To make it clear, I agree with your point that the Catholic Church has the right to keep their records to themselves and say no. Then if that is used to dispute a single doctrine, then it is fair to point out the doctrines in the Catholic Church.

Fair is fair ;^)

May 6, 2008 at 1:33 pm
(18) J. Harrison says:

Scott, you noted that “The Mormon claim of the great apostasy bears no weight for Christians, since we do not believe that such an apostasy occurred.”

I submit that it is clear that an apostasy was predicted by Jesus Christ and his apostles. Jesus taught that, “many shall come in my name, saying ‘I am Christ’, and shall deceive many” (Matthew 24:5). Paul declared, “Be not soon shaken in mind, or troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, not by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand. Let no man deceive you by many means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first.” (2 Thessalonians 2:2-3).

I note that the Greek word apostasia was translated as “falling away” in the KJV. Thus Paul is saying that the early Christians should not be fooled by false Christs since there would be an unmistakable apostasy before Christ’s return. Consider also the following: Matthew 24:4, 9-13, 24; John 16:2-3; Acts 20:29-30; 1 Corinthians 1:10-13; Galatians 1:6-8; 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12; 1 Timothy 4:1-3; 2 Timothy 3:1-9, 12-13; 4:3-4; Titus 1:10-16; 2 Peter 2:1-3; 3:3; 1 John 2:18-19; Jude 3-4; Revelation 13:4-8.

Moreover, other Biblical verses such as Matthew 17:11; Acts 1:6-7; 3:19-21; Ephesians 1:10; and Revelation 14:6 confirm the LDS belief that a restoration of the gospel was prophesied to occur in these latter days.

May 6, 2008 at 1:43 pm
(19) Michael Karras says:

Rejecting this or that early practice as heretical because it doesn’t square with post-biblical creeds or Catholic teaching is classic circular argument. The whole question is whether it’s heretical (i.e., the Trinity or baptism for the dead) and appealing to creeds or teachings that assume the heresy doesn’t get you very far. The fact is, there is ample evidence that in the very early Church, baptisms for the dead were performed.

Also, I think there’s a subtle but important difference between encouraging a practice, and merely allowing it to take place. For example, sometimes Mormons build new Churches and either donate or sell their old chapels to other Churches. I would call this allowing, not encouraging, another religion’s practices. The same is true here. It’s a bit of a stretch, though reasonable, to say that the Catholic Church is encouraging baptisms for the dead. This strong notion of encouragement can easily be taken too far.

May 6, 2008 at 2:31 pm
(20) Scott P. Richert says:

I submit that it is clear that an apostasy was predicted by Jesus Christ and his apostles.

Absolutely. And orthodox Christianity, from the writings of the Apostolic Fathers on, has regarded that apostasy as a sign of Christ’s imminent return. Mormonism interprets those passages differently.

May 6, 2008 at 2:43 pm
(21) Scott P. Richert says:

Rejecting this or that early practice as heretical because it doesnít square with post-biblical creeds or Catholic teaching is classic circular argument.

Yes, it would be, if the point here were to determine who is right about baptism. But it’s not, because a blog post (and even less, a comment box) is not the place to make such arguments.

The point here is to explain why the Catholic Church, which already knows what it believes and what it regards as heresy (having settled these issues in apostolic times), decided that this was a necessary move in order to avoid the appearance of cooperation with erroneous doctrine.

May 6, 2008 at 4:08 pm
(22) Jann says:

If the Catholic Church does not recognize the legitimacy of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, then it does not make sense that it would care whether vicarious baptisms are performed on behalf of those ancestors.

While non-mainstream LDS (Mormon) theology is logically consistent. If one believes, as Mormons and Catholics do, that baptism is a necessary sacrament to receive in order to return to God’s presence/heaven, then all should have the opportunity to receive it.

According to LDS theology, a vicarious baptism allows for individuals in the hereafter to accept or reject the baptism performed on their behalf. Otherwise only certain people will have the opportunity to receive the sacrament.

May 6, 2008 at 4:32 pm
(23) John Wilcock says:

If baptism for the dead is not valid and if LDS baptism is not valid and if every other Church’s baptism is not valid, then why is it a problem?

The fact that the Catholic Church is singling out the Mormon Church because of this doctrinal belief just boslters the LDS church’s position. Truth is always opposed.

Baptism for the dead is a true doctrine practiced in the early Christian church. The doctrine was lost during the dark ages. Persons who did not have an opportunity to be baptized during their lives have an opportunity to receive the benefits of baptism by proxy. It shows the justice and mercy of God. Someone who did not have an opportunity to learn the gospel should not be sent to hell simply for that reason. Baptism is available to all God’s Children whether in this life or the next.

May 6, 2008 at 4:41 pm
(24) Michael Karras says:

“Yes, it would be, if the point here were to determine who is right about baptism. But itís not, because a blog post (and even less, a comment box) is not the place to make such arguments”

Then please don’t make such arguments by asserting in fact that the Apostacy, the Trinity, and baptisms for the dead are heretical (see your comments 9, 12, and 14 at least.)

You could avoid making arguments and also be more respectful of others at the same time by making your comments subjective (the Catholic Church believes …) as opposed to objective (this or that idea is in fact heretical).

May 6, 2008 at 4:55 pm
(25) Scott P. Richert says:

Mr. Karras, I suggest that you go back and read the comments that you’re complaining about. They are “subjective” (as you put it). In #9, I say that “The Mormon claim of the great apostasy bears no weight for Christians, since we do not believe that such an apostasy occurred.”

In #12, I say, “The Catholic Church does not accept the revelations of Joseph Smith, nor the authority of his successors.”

In #14, I say, “Catholics, Orthodox, and Protestants reject this claim.”

Moreover, since this is the About.com Guidesite to Catholicism, I doubt that any readers are coming here expecting me to speak of these issues from a standpoint that isn’t Catholic.

May 6, 2008 at 4:59 pm
(26) Scott P. Richert says:

John Wilcock, your statement that “every other Churchís baptism is not valid” according to the Catholic Church is incorrect. The Catholic Church does not deny the validity of other Christian churches’ baptism. The Catholic Church denies the validity of LDS baptism, because the LDS rejects the doctrine of the Trinity. That is why, as you put it the LDS church is being “singled out.”

May 6, 2008 at 5:12 pm
(27) Michael Karras says:

Scott,

I was hoping you wouldn’t do that. I was referring to the following, as I’m sure you’re aware:

Comment #9:Of course. Why would Christians consider the practice of heretics to be normative?

Comment #12:Early Christians did not practice baptism for the dead; early Christian heretics did.

Comment #14: Gnosticism is a Christian heresy. Again, the practice of an heretical group tells us nothing about the beliefs of orthodox Christianity.

Of course, I agree with you that Gnosticism is a Christian heresy, but I wouldn’t assert it as fact when discussing it with a Gnostic, but rather as my own belief out of respect for his belief as a Gnostic.

As to your second point, I assume a large portion of the reading audience is non-Catholic. Thus, while it is clear that you’re speaking from the viewpoint of a Catholic, it would be prudent to state it subjectively as in, “Catholics believe x or y” not to inform readers but out of respect because you know many readers don’t share the same view. If, on the other hand, you were speaking to a congregation of Catholics, I would expect you to speak matter-of-factly as you are.

Unfortunately, I’ve spent too much time here as it is, but I enjoyed the discussion.

May 6, 2008 at 5:29 pm
(28) Scott P. Richert says:

Mr. Karras, the lines that you quoted were in the same comments with the lines that I quoted. How many times in one comment do I need to say that the comment is from the standpoint of the Catholic Church (or, more broadly, orthodox Christianity)?

That said, I’ll take your advice to heart for the future, and I’m glad you enjoyed the discussion. I hope that you will return to the site often and engage in further discussions.

May 6, 2008 at 6:07 pm
(29) Joe Turner says:

Scott, why are you ignoring my question about 1 Timothy?

You are bold enough to run with the claim of erroneous LDS doctrine while ignoring the erroneous doctrine that came from Vatican 2 that forbids clergy to marry?

It is not a single verse that can be flip flopped by the reader and I quoted the scripture.

Karras, who’s a Gnostic?

May 6, 2008 at 6:31 pm
(30) Scott P. Richert says:

Mr. Turner, I did not discuss 1 Timothy 3:2 because it has nothing to do with the question of baptism for the dead. However, since you asked so nicely, I’ll address it.

Earlier you suggested that those who wished to comment should do their research, yet now you write: “the erroneous doctrine that came from Vatican 2 that forbids clergy to marry”.

Priestly celibacy is a discipline that goes back to the early centuries of the Church and was universal in the Western Church by the 11th century. Vatican II was 1962-1965. The only development at Vatican II that had any relation to married clergy was the reintroduction of the permanent diaconate. Permanent deacons can be married.

The Catholic (and Eastern Orthodox) interpretation of 1 Timothy 3:2 (“It behoveth therefore a bishop to be blameless, the husband of one wife, sober, prudent, of good behaviour, chaste, given to hospitality, a teacher”) is that St. Paul was setting limits. It clearly could not be that a man must be married to be a bishop, since the Catholic and Orthodox Churches believe that the apostles were the first bishops, and John–the disciple Jesus loved–was unmarried. (Church tradition and early writings suggest that all of the other apostles were married, though only Peter’s marriage is mentioned in the Bible.)

Therefore, when St. Paul says that a bishop must be “the husband of one wife,” he is saying that he cannot have been married more than once.

The eventual embrace of celibacy, and the restriction of the episcopate in both East and West to celibate clergy, therefore does not contradict 1 Timothy 3:2, as Catholics and Orthodox understand it.

May 6, 2008 at 6:53 pm
(31) Kimberly Powell says:

That non-Mormons find the materials useful is indisputable. Iíve used Mormon-gathered genealogical materials myself. But itís also indisputable that the Mormon church is not doing this primarily as a public service. They are doing it in the service of a doctrine that the Christian Church condemned from apostolic times.

Scott, while the primary reason for the gathering of genealogical records by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is to help its members in their family history research, the Church is also most generous in sharing everything they’ve gathered with everyone, no matter what their personal or religious beliefs. Over the past century, they’ve acquired over 2.3 million rolls of microfilm from more than 110 countries. It costs a lot of time and takes a lot of resources to operate the FamilySearch Web site, Family History Library, and over 4,000 Family History centers around the world. Again, the primary purpose is to support the LDS church members, but a lot of time and resources go into supporting and sharing with the rest of us as well. By allowing the LDS Church to microfilm sacramental records (the older ones, say over 100 years), the Catholic Church would be taking a step to further preserve these invaluable records for future generations. I can’t thank the LDS Church enough for making it possible for me to access Catholic parish records in France and Poland that would have otherwise been very difficult to obtain.

I can understand the point of the Catholic Church in not wanting to appear that they in any way support or condone the LDS practice of baptism for the dead, but the records are still open to LDS members through an individual request to the parish or diocese. Therefore, I still don’t see the harm in making them more readily available to everyone through microfilming. If the Catholic Church wants to take on the task themselves, great! But I don’t see it happening any time soon, and I personally feel that the preservation of those records – which detail our personal family history, as well as the history of the Church, should be a top priority. There have actually been cases such as in Osijek, Croatia where Catholic parish records no longer exist outside of the copy filmed by the Genealogical Society of Utah. So I’ll continue to pray for a dialogue between the two churches, and a resolution that is hopefully a little more understanding than a blanket “no.”

May 6, 2008 at 6:59 pm
(32) Joe Turner says:

I checked 15 translations and found 3 of them that are not requirements, using “behoveth” and suggesting it, not requiring it.

So I can see where that interpretation comes from, though the majority of translations disagree, as do I.

Of course tradition leads to interpretation.

You’ve answered my question as to 1 Timothy 3, but you fall short in answering 1 Timothy 4.

I’m not going to agree that it is correct doctrine, but I am curious and would like a clear explanation. Something no Catholic has ever been able to give me.

I appreciate the explanation given, but am asking for more.

I know celibacy has been practiced prior to Vatican II, but that is a notable historic event.

If you’re reporting on something happening between two entities, such as the Catholic Church and the LDS Church, should you not keep your personal beliefs out of the article? IE, LDS believe this, Catholics believe this, therefor, the Catholics are not allowing the LDS access to records. Shows less bias on your part, also avoids this comment sessions.

May 6, 2008 at 7:01 pm
(33) Joe Turner says:

Kimberly makes a good point.

May 6, 2008 at 7:28 pm
(34) Scott P. Richert says:

the Church is also most generous in sharing everything theyíve gathered with everyone, no matter what their personal or religious beliefs.

Of course, and I hope that nothing I wrote came across as suggesting otherwise. But from the standpoint of the Catholic Church, the fact that the reason that the LDS church does this is to facilitate baptism for the dead is an important issue.

the records are still open to LDS members through an individual request to the parish or diocese.

Yes, which shows that the Catholic Church is acting in good faith here. The descendants of parishioners have a right to copies of those records.

Therefore, I still donít see the harm in making them more readily available to everyone through microfilming. If the Catholic Church wants to take on the task themselves, great!

From the standpoint of the Church, that’s putting the cart before the horse. The preservation of doctrine is more important than the preservation of documents. That’s not to say that documents shouldn’t be preserved–they should–but making their preservation more important than doctrinal considerations is a problem.

I personally feel that the preservation of those records – which detail our personal family history, as well as the history of the Church, should be a top priority.

So do I. But don’t lose faith: This decision itself may actually spur others to step in and ensure that the records are preserved. And, as you suggest, there’s always hope for a reconciliation on this point. Chances are, however, that such a reconciliation will need to take place at a doctrinal level.

May 7, 2008 at 3:07 am
(35) John Wilcock says:

I have a question.

Does the catholic church recognize other chuches’ baptisms as valid and saving ordinances? What about method of baptism ie. sprinkling, immersion?

I know that they don’t accept LDS baptism but I am interested to know about other churches that have “valid” baptism in the eyes of the catholic church.

May 7, 2008 at 11:39 am
(36) Karen says:

The LDS was baptizing dead Jews. That is crossing a very broad line. They were baptizing Jews who died in the Nazi death chambers. There was never a sense that these people, who died BECAUSE they were Jews, ever wanted to be Christian, let alone Mormon. This is a disgrace. They said they stopped it but I’m not sure I believe that. Fortunately, I don’t think God holds it against the souls of the Jews or considers them Christian. I don’t know what God will say to the Mormons when THEY arrive. Maybe they will all be circumcized on arrival.

May 8, 2008 at 12:42 am
(37) Tracy Hall Jr says:

This regrettable action is based on a complete misunderstanding of the Latter-day Saint practice of proxy baptism of the living for and in behalf of the dead.

We believe that God has given man his freedom of choice, and that this freedom continues when the eternal spirit leaves its mortal body.

An LDS proxy baptism is not forced on the dead. Rather, it is an offer to the deceased and has no validity unless the deceased accepts it. We have no way of knowing the outcome — and neither does the Catholic Church.

As others have pointed out, the Genealogical Society of Utah does a great work to preserve the vital records of the world and make them available to people of all religions who are wish to seek out their ancestors.

Millions of people around the world who are not now Catholics (including most Protestants) are descended from people who were Catholics. By closing its records to the Genealogical Society of Utah, the Church greatly hinders access of those millions to the records of their ancestors.

For a fuller discussion of this issue, see
hthalljr.googlepages.com/choice.html

hthalljr’gmail’com

May 8, 2008 at 7:41 am
(38) Scott P. Richert says:

This regrettable action is based on a complete misunderstanding of the Latter-day Saint practice of proxy baptism of the living for and in behalf of the dead.

Where is the misunderstanding? The Congregation for the Clergy says that the action is “so as not to cooperate with the erroneous practices of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.” From the standpoint of the Catholic Church, this practice is indeed in error.

The only way that there can be a “misunderstanding” is if you are claiming that the Catholic Church and the Mormon church believe exactly the same thing.

Since the issue at stake is a proper understanding of Christian doctrine, pointing out the “great work” that in incidental to what the Catholic Church (and the Orthodox Church, and all mainline Protestant denominations) regard as heretical practice is putting the cart before the horse. It’s a useful rhetorical technique to shift the debate from the doctrinal issue, but it avoids addressing the reason this action was taken.

May 10, 2008 at 11:49 am
(39) ajarizona says:

Baptism?

And show me one single place in anyones Bible where infants were baptised?

Seems to me the Catholics have been getting this Baptism thing wrong for a very long time.

Dictating to another Faith, what they can and cannot beieve is arrogant to the exteme.

Thank God the Protestant Reformation is behind us, and now when one disagrees with the Catholics the Wood piles and matches are left in the shed.

Mormons will continue to gather Family History for the whole World to share, for whatever reason, while the Cathloics take their ball and go home.

Will Rome also give an edict to all Catholics to not use the LDS Libraires anymore, as they do now?

ajarizona

May 11, 2008 at 6:02 am
(40) Annette says:

“If the Catholic Church does not recognize the legitimacy of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, then it does not make sense that it would care whether vicarious baptisms are performed on behalf of those ancestors.”

I’m so tired of reading this ridiculous statement all over the Internet. It apparently doesn’t make sense to you, but it makes sense to millions of others.

May 11, 2008 at 6:03 am
(41) Annette says:

“If baptism for the dead is not valid and if LDS baptism is not valid and if every other Churchís baptism is not valid, then why is it a problem?”

Because Catholics have already been baptized. Do you think it didn’t “take”?

May 11, 2008 at 6:19 am
(42) Annette says:

“Dictating to another Faith, what they can and cannot beieve is arrogant to the exteme.”

The Catholic Church isn’t dictating. It’s just not making its parish registers available for microfilming or digitizing.

May 13, 2008 at 4:48 pm
(43) Tammy says:

The problem I have with the LDS baptisms are that people are not choosing it for themselves.
I guess it’s interesting to think that maybe they could “accept” it after death but if they didn’t in life, why would they then?

It’s like someone putting a symbol on your tombstone that you never authorized. A swastika if you’re Jewish, a pentagram if you’re Christian, a cross if you’re Mormon.

It just seems disrespectful and dis-honest.

October 1, 2008 at 6:42 pm
(44) gary williams says:

As a direct descendent of Saint Ferdinand, I am continually appalled at the narrow-mindedness and fear of the church clergy. Come on guys (I would like to call you ‘saints’ too, but obviously you don’t have the guidance of God with you–’tradition of the fathers’ is often an excuse for ‘permitted ignorance’), embrace truth and goodness, no matter what it’s source!!!! Good grief–thank heaven the LDS are more open-minded than the Catholic clergy. The LDS donations to Catholic Social Services are large, frequent and commendable. The LDS are not enemies of Catholicism!! Lighten up, you pompeous, uninspired clergy who could help strenghten the church more if you would spend more time with your parishioners, and less time worrying about the LDS!!! Grow up!!!!!

January 1, 2009 at 11:54 am
(45) Bob says:

Maintaining genealogical records is the goal. Man-made interpretations of the Word of God is human vanity. In Acts 2: 38, Peter tells us the requirements of coming to Christ. “Repent(main condition)and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and you shall receive the gift of the (God’s)Holy Spirit.” You can’t repent as a infant/minor or if your dead. When you rise in the Judgement appointed for you, you will get you chance. Read Revelations without bias!! And history shows that your ‘Trinity’ explanation was supported and pushed by a Roman Emperor and not inspired by God’s servants. Shame, shame, Roman Empire.

January 1, 2009 at 2:28 pm
(46) TBonz says:

If the Catholic Church doesn’t wish the Mormons to have the records due to the (futile) practice of offering baptism to the dead, then what they should do is digitize and offer the records themselves, for a REASONABLE fee. Clutching the books to their chests in obscure archives is worthless for most genealogists as most can’t afford hundreds (or thousands) of dollars to either pay a researcher (and where is the fun in having someone else research?) or flying to the ancestral country of origin.

We need access to records, at a reasonable price. If the Mormon filming is unwanted, fine, but please give us access.

January 15, 2009 at 7:45 am
(47) Scott P. Richert says:

TBonz, your suggestion is a distinction without a difference. It doesn’t matter whether the Mormon Church or the Catholic Church digitizes the records; they can still be used in the same (illicit) manner.

The point of the decision by the Congregation of the Clergy is to provide those records only to those entitled to them–that is, the descendants of those contained therein–in such a way that the illicit practice of baptism of the dead is not encouraged.

April 12, 2009 at 11:12 am
(48) Ben maddux says:

I keep reading 1 Corinthians 15 in the KJV and, thou I not really a bible scholar, when I put the whole chapter together It seems that Paul is trying to prove the resurrection doctrine true, to a bunch of fairly new christian converts. My wonder is, Why would an apostle try to prove that one doctrine true by using a doctrine of Heresy? Only an idiot would try to prove a doctrine true using a false doctrine. I’ts like teaching your child that the sky is blue because cats are barking it blue. The sky being blue is true doctrine, cats barking is false doctrine. Again, why would Paul try to prove the resurrection true by using a false doctrine to prove it, all of his other example in the chapter are true doctrines to prove the resurrection. At least the Corinthian christian were practicing baptisms for the dead, I dare you to find anything in ancient catholic writings to prove they didn’t. Wow I think I just convinced myself to call over those mormon guys with the name tags and learn a little more, I’ve become vary intrigued about the mormons by this blog. I hope they’ll let me do the baptisms for the dead too.

Thanks scott

November 9, 2009 at 2:01 am
(49) Sarah says:

Hello Scott,
Yes, you can do baptisms for the dead too. All you have to do is become baptized yourself as a member of the LDS faith and keep the commandments and covenants you made at baptism for a year and you can go to the temple and be baptized for others as spoken of in 1 Corinthians.

I’ve been reading the comments and it is innteresting that none of you mentioned that the early Catholic church itself believed in daptism for the dead. If you don’t believe me, visit St. Paul’s without the wall. At one point it was considered one of the four papal basilicas in Rome.
If you ask to see the baptistry where they baptized people for the dead all you have to do is ask. It is not on the standard tour. But, if you go there and ask to see where they did the baptisms for the dead they will show you a room that has, written in gold lettering around the room just below the ceiling, it says in latin, baptisms for the dead and there is a baptisty there.

When my family and I went there in the summer of ’95 and asked to see it the man working there said to us, “Oh, you must be Mormons. This way.”

The room isn’t well lit, but it’s there. I have a picture of it.

St. Paul’s without the wall (in Italian it is Basilica Papale di San Paolo fuori le Mura) is a beautiful and sacred place to visit.

September 4, 2011 at 12:45 pm
(50) Ron says:

Wow Sariah, thanks so much for that referrence at St. Pauls. I knew that baptisms for the Dead were practiced by the early church and you have just given me a great referrence.

Lord bless you

Ron Cook

and to Russ, thanks for your information. That makes two witnesses to the truth.

November 9, 2009 at 6:14 pm
(51) Scott P. Richert says:

Sarah, I’m not quite sure what you think you saw. There is a very beautiful baptistery in St. Paul’s Outside the Walls that does indeed have Latin inscriptions in gold lettering, but none of the inscriptions say “baptisms for the dead” (or anything close).

Moreover, St. Paul’s, while built on the site of an earlier church, is a 19th century structure. The baptistery that you visited was built at that time.

I don’t doubt that the gentleman working at St. Paul’s responded to your request with “Oh, you must be Mormons. This way.” You might consider, though, that if a significant number of Mormons have visited St. Paul’s with the mistaken idea that they could see a baptistery where baptisms for the dead were carried out, the guides at St. Paul’s may simply have decided that it is easier to pretend to give you what you want, rather than to try to disabuse you of your error.

March 4, 2010 at 7:15 am
(52) RESTORED APOLOGETICS says:

Baptism for the Dead became later legends & traditions!

Modern Christianity has ignored, forgotten & many don’t realize that Baptism for the Dead was taught & practiced by many earlier Christian sects. It was the ritualistic type of Christ’s descent into limbo, hades, hell, purgatory, the watery abyss; where John Baptist, Christ, his apostles, saints & angels go to preach gospel, (John 5:25-29; 1 Peter 3:15-22; 4:5-6; Eph.4:7-14; Shepherd of Hermas, Sim.9; Preaching of John Bap. in Hades – Church of Holy Apostles, 13th c. fresco; Pec. Serbia; Anastasis). In early Christian writings & art works they’re depicted as descending & seen in hell preaching gospel & freeing captive spirits of dead to escort their spirits or resurrected into paradise. Liturgical & Masses for dead illustrations also show this being done too. Baptism for Dead eventually was discontinued, while prayers & masses & liturgical rites for dead continue even to this day in Catholic & Orthodox churches. LDS testify to having restored these earlier doctrines & ritualistic types, that of baptism for the dead, (1 Cor. 15). Paul testified of the physical resurrection & points out inconsistancies of those who practise the ritualistic type of resurrection, baptism for dead; while not accepting physical resurrection which eventually was turned to a spiritual resurrection in later centuries, when it was debated over.
Councils of Carthage, North Africa, & Hippo towards end of 4th c. discouraged & discontinued later versions of baptism for & of dead, while prayers for dead were encouraged. Later mystery plays, legends & creeds include Christ’s descent into hell; & even baptismal prayer formulas to free fairy type creatures near watery areas– who are spirits of unbaptized babies, haunting & crying for baptism, cause they’d died without it. So eventually, baptism for dead was legendized in later centuries. That’s why LDS believe & testify it was restored as part of the temple endowments.

DT, Upon them Hath the Light Shined, 1995-9; Anna D Kartsonis, Anastasis, Princeton Un. Press, 1986; Ariel L. Crowley, BAPTISM FOR THE DEAD; Geoffrey R King, The 40 Days, Michigan: WMB Eerdmans, 1949; Huge Nibley, Baptism for the Dead in Ancient Time, SLC, Utah: Improvement Era, 51–52, (12 1948-4-1949; Jeffrey B Russell, Satan, The Early Christian Tradition, Cornell Un. Press, 1981; John P Lundy, Monumental Christianity, NY: J W Bouton, 1882; Linda J Ivanits, Russian Folk Belief, NY: M E Sharpe, 1989; KTKK 630 AM Radio show, Religion on the Line, 3-1-92, Martin Tanner & Matthew Roper on Early Christianity & Baptism for the Dead; Hallenfahrt Christis, in Richard Paul Wulker, Bibliothek der Angelsachsischen Poesie, Leipzig: Wigands, 1897, 3 vols; Himmel HŲlle Fegefeuer, Das Jenseits im Mittelalter, 1994, Schweizerisches Landesmuseum, Zurich, Wilhelm Fink Verlag, Munchen.

http://baptismforthedead.blogspot.com/
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cVXVJ5ujJFM&feature=related
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lw8tCE8fa1s&feature=related

May 17, 2010 at 12:08 am
(53) Jim Herrin says:

Very interesting discussion. The fact is that the truth is truth and that no matter what man says, or is decided in a group, i.e. Nicea, it will not change what the truth is. Paganistic traditions crept into the early Christian church and the doctrines taught by Christ and the Apostles became so bastardized that protestant founders, i.e. Martin Luthur, we looking to return to the original doctrines. However, the other fact is that, if the Catholic Church had the authority, they would not have given it to the protestants, and if the Catholic Church did not have it, then the protestants could not have the authority unless it was restored from God. A “restoration of all things” as prophesized by early prophets and Christ and the Apostles, was necessary. There is only one truth, one God (Godhead – the Father, Christ and the Holy Ghost, separate personages, but one in purpose). The protestants kept many of the false doctrines that crept into the Catholic Church, i.e. Nicene Creed, infant baptism, sprinkling, original organization of Christ’s Church with Prophets and Apostles, etc. The original gospel was restored by Jesus Christ and exists today, with the proper priesthood authority. No amount of editorializing or opinionating or public poling will change this truth. The reason that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is growing so rapidly is because those souls that are receptive to the promptings of the Holy Spirit recognize truth and can decipher that from false doctrine and manmade tradition. All Christian Churches have some truth. They must because they evolved from Christ’s early Church. They all have wonderful teachings and if people practiced their religion, they would be well prepared for the life hereafter. Bring all those good things, and partake of the restored blessings that are available to all.

August 3, 2010 at 4:05 pm
(54) russ says:

the vatican also has a room that reads in latin: “This Room Has Been Dedicated and Consecrated for the Baptizing of the Dead” I have been in it many times and have pictures of it. It is no longer is open. It was closed, as other rooms were after 9/11 for turists. Catholics performed Proxy Baptism for the Dead many centuries ago but have now lost the meaning of the ordinance.

October 18, 2010 at 12:29 am
(55) Peter says:

” You simply cannot say to other religions ďAll your creeds are an abomination and your professors corruptĒ and then waltz in the door and ask those same religions to participate in your wholly un-Christian practices.”

First, our practices are wholly Christian.

Second, we no longer say that your creeds are abomination and your professors corrupt, because your church has repented and renounced the two corrupt doctrines condemned in the Book of Mormon:

FIRST, You have renounced the corrupt doctrine of predestination to the exclusion of any free will. For that reason, Calvinists now call Catholics (and most other Christian groups) “semi-Pelegians.” Welcome to the club.

SECOND, You have renounced the corrupt doctrine that an unbaptised child goes straight to hell. The very year that you changed your Catechism, expressing the hope that God would not send an unbaptized child to hell, the LDS church began donating a large portion of our tithes to Catholic Charities. This occurred in the early 1990s, and the LDS church continues to work through Catholic Charities. We recognize you as fellow Christians whether you recognize us as such or not.

If you must condemn us, please first take the effort to understand who we are. Very few Christian churches today teach the doctrines which the Book of Mormon condemned as corrupt and hateful. It seems childish for you to dispise us for renouncing doctrines that you yourselves have since renounced.

October 18, 2010 at 1:03 am
(56) Peter Nuttall says:

“Comment #9:Of course. Why would Christians consider the practice of heretics to be normative?

Comment #12:Early Christians did not practice baptism for the dead; early Christian heretics did.

Comment #14: Gnosticism is a Christian heresy. Again, the practice of an heretical group tells us nothing about the beliefs of orthodox Christianity.”

You also consider Protestants as “heretics” and yet you recognize them as Christians. You even accept their baptisms. In that light, it makes no sense for you to claim that mormons aren’t Christians. If you respected your own history at all, you would call us Christian heretics.

December 1, 2010 at 1:01 pm
(57) MJ Ericksen says:

I read some of the comments made about this article and, while I think some of them are entertaining, the dialog moved off-course. I am not sure Catholics and Mormons will ever agree on the the validity of baptism for the dead. The main point here is that the records should be made public to those who wish to see them. The reason? In many countries the Catholic records are the ONLY records available, since there was no separation between church and state, therefore these records are more than manifestations of their religious beliefs. If the Catholic church has a problem with Mormons preserving these records, then the church should preserve these records themselves and make them available to all faiths, just like the Mormons do. Given the condition of some of those volumes, the sooner the better!

April 9, 2012 at 9:54 am
(58) Mag says:

I think you guys need to look at the History. It seems that most of the Catholic history has disappered from eyes, and this principlally because the Church had political power and used it for bad.
Besides, how is a Church a Church when the apostles were all dead before constantine solidified it.

If God is the same yesterday today and forever, why has he so ceased to communicate with man. It seems odd also, that God allows no worship of Mary until Much later. That is a massive change of doctrine and also a hypocrisy of the statement of Godly messengers.

The old records (not available on the Internet) state of Catholic Adoption for Baptism for the Dead well after the Vanquishing of the Cathars.

Tell me… Was the First Crusade against the Cathars justified. An unarmed people who adopted the True faith of Christ to turn the other Cheek.

POPE INNOCENT (aptly named); ” Kill them all, God will sort out his own!”

How is that Christian????

March 3, 2013 at 1:11 pm
(59) Mel says:

Baptism for the dead was practiced in Rome by Cathlics in bygone years.

I have pictures were taken in Rome at St. Paulís Cathedral which is centuries old. Kevin found a chained off area of the Cathedral, which he shouldnít have entered but did, and discovered this old unused, Iím sure for hundreds of years, Baptismal font with a mosaic inscription above it indicating it was used for Baptismís for the dead.. There are probably more old Cathedrals in Italy (If they havenít been remodeled) that still have these closed off fonts that were used centuries ago.. I wonder why they stopped ? This is truly profound and amazing..

March 3, 2013 at 9:01 pm
(60) Scott P. Richert says:

Mel, please read my response to Sarah in comment 51. I don’t know what you think you saw, but Saint Paul’s Outside the Walls (it’s not a “cathedral”) was built in the 19th century. Baptisms for the dead were never practiced there.

June 30, 2013 at 9:10 pm
(61) Jacster says:

Evidently Catholics baptized for the dead at one time. In the Cathedral in Rome there is an old ” now long unused fount ” that says it is for baptisms for the dead.

August 8, 2013 at 9:19 pm
(62) Luc Hansens says:

I think it is funny to see how somebody being confronted with the proof that other ( their) religions knew of the practise of the baptism for the dead, even then try to deny what is there. Even making assumptions for other people, that they rather lie than explain to “mormons” that it is not a baptismal fond for and in behalf of the dead. To deny that there was a falling away from the true doctrines of Christ is to me just a matter of lying to yourself and falls in the same categorie as denying the holocaust. And speaking of the holocaust, yes surely people have put in names for baptism of people that died during this time but you can read in the guidelines of the church that this is not allowed. But what are you gonna do, people are people, are imperfect and make mistakes.

In the end it all comes down to this: everybody, willing to humble him or herself can, like myself receive revelation and an undeniable testimony from the Holy Ghost that through Joseph Smith, Christ restored his church and gospel. That Joseph is a true prophet, as was Brigham after him and every successor ever since. I know and testify that the book of Mormon is true scripture and translated from the golden plates through the power of God. There is no doubt in my mind that these are eternal truths available to everyone that is willing to look with a sincere heart. And after this testimony, it doesn’t matter what people say or how much they criticise the church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, for all it’s doctrine is true and the work won’t be held back by the hand of other people or churches. If the Catholic church thinks they are going to stop the Lords work by this decision, fine, but it won’t . It is a sad decision but the work will continue.

I apologise for any spelling mistakes but my native language is not English.

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