The move is to prevent LDS Church members from baptizing by proxy Catholic ancestors. An April 5 letter from the Vatican Congregation for Clergy directs all Catholic bishops "to keep the Latter-day Saints from microfilming and digitizing information contained" in parish registers, according to a Catholic News Service article published Friday.
A main tenet of LDS Church doctrine is to baptize posthumously, by proxy, all who have died without an LDS baptism, to enable them the opportunity to accept the faith in an afterlife. Baptisms for the dead are performed in LDS temples worldwide.
The church collects birth, death, christening, marriage and other related information of deceased people, from archives and registers of churches and denominations, when access is permitted.
The Vatican letter calls LDS baptisms for the dead a "detrimental practice" and directs each Catholic diocesan bishop "not to cooperate with the erroneous practices of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints," CNS reported.
LDS Church spokesman Scott Trotter said Sunday that he hasn't seen the Vatican letter. "It would really be premature for us to say anything," he said. Church leaders will obtain and review the letter today, he said.
Msgr. J. Terrence Fitzgerald said the Catholic diocese in Utah already has a policy to restrict baptismal records only to those entitled to see the records.
One Mormon genealogist, Russell Bangerter, said the order cracks down on the free flow of information. Bangerter said the Mormon church has an open-door policy at its own Family History Library.
The practice of LDS baptism for the dead has come under fire from Jewish groups that say the names of Jewish Holocaust victims are still showing up in the church's vast genealogical database for unwelcome baptisms, even after the church agreed in 1995 not to proxy baptize Jewish Holocaust victims.