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Newest Catholic saint baptized and 'sealed' to wife in LDS temple?

Published October 12, 2009 5:26 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2009, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Father Damien, the Roman Catholic priest who cared for lepers in Hawaii in the 19th century, apparently is a saint twice over.

Damien, who was born Joseph De Veuster in Belgium, was canonized a saint by Pope Benedict XVI on Sunday in Rome.

But Helen Radkey, a critic of the Salt Lake City-based Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, said Monday that research shows Mormons have both baptized Damien by proxy and "sealed" him for eternity to a wife named Marie Damien.

There is no evidence Damien ever married, which would have been a violation of his vow of celibacy.

St. Damien, who died of leprosy in 1889 after working among those quarantined on the Hawaiian island of Molokai for 16 years, is considered an intercessor for patients with leprosy (Hansen's disease), HIV, AIDS as well as for abandoned children, disoriented youths, exploited women, neglected elderly people and oppressed minorities.

The Catholic Church declares a person to be a saint -- or a model for the faithful and a person who has special pull with God in answer to prayers -- only after extensive investigation and proof of two miracles.

Radkey said research into the LDS Church's FamilySearch database indicates that Damien, born in 1840 in Belgium, was baptized by proxy, given his "endowments" and sealed to his parents for eternity Oct. 22, 1983, in the Los Angeles Temple.

More recently, Damien was sealed to a wife, which Radkey calls "bogus," on March 15, 2000, at the Jordan River Temple in South Jordan.

"It's blatantly wrong to seal a person who took a vow of celibacy as a Catholic priest and is so revered in his Catholic religion," said Radkey, a former Catholic. "It's insulting to perform such an action posthumously. It's very disrespectful."

LDS Church spokesman Scott Trotter said he could not comment on the specifics of Radkey's claim, which echoes her previous reports that Mormons have performed ordinances for President Barack Obama's mother, Holocaust victims and fundamentalist polygamists who were booted from the church.

"It is counter to church policy to submit anyone's name for temple ordinances if you aren't related to that person," Trotter said. "The church reiterates this policy regularly and we follow it to the best of our ability."

LDS doctrine holds that baptisms and other ordinances performed by the living in temples are offered to those who have died, who are free in the afterlife to accept or reject them.

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Message to members

The LDS Church's "Member's Guide to Temple and Family History Work," available online, includes this message: "Do not submit the names of persons who are not related to you, including names of famous people."