Ireland declares war on Utah

Well, not quite, but I couldn’t help noticing this story in the Telegraph. The gist of it is that the Irish Catholic, a publication I really should look at more often, has been doing some drum-beating around the issue of parish records deposited in the National Library of Ireland. The fear is that intrepid Mormons could use these records to identify their Catholic ancestors and arrange posthumous baptisms.

This has me a little puzzled. All right, it is plausible that the parish records in the NLI might be so used. LDS researchers have been assiduous in using all kinds of public records to trace family trees. On the other hand, you would have to be the deceased ancestor of an actually existing Mormon to qualify for the procedure. As far as I’m aware, the LDS Church is not in the habit of trawling through archives and arranging proxy baptisms for just random punters.

There’s also a little theological issue. Posthumous baptism by proxy is a well-established if little understood LDS practice, and I can understand how individual Catholics might be upset at the thought of it happening to their ancestors. But does institutional Catholicism recognise the procedure, and afford it any significance? Any answers would be most welcome.


  1. Nathaniel said,

    August 25, 2008 at 5:28 pm

    There was some controversy about this, when the Mormons decided to baptize Holocaust victims, or at least if intent cannot be proved, decided to cast a very wide net over the world’s dead.

  2. bloggernacleburner said,

    August 25, 2008 at 6:14 pm

    There actually is a program called ‘Name Extraction’ that I knew about maybe 8 years ago that did trawl madly through the names and put them whole-sale into the databases the Mormon church uses for their temple rites. I don’t know what the status of that program is anymore. It was this program that got the LDS in trouble with Jewish researchers. So, I know that they promised to limit Jewish baptisms only to direct ancestral lines, but the rest of y’all might be fair game for the wal-mart necro-dunking

  3. spanishroomscrumpy said,

    August 26, 2008 at 1:38 pm

    I’ve as much use for the theology of Mormonism as Brigham Young had for a double expresso, but to be fair to the LDS they are noted for sharing their data with the “geneology community” far and wide, are they not?

    If they want to do their naff posthumous baptism thing –necro-dunk, as bloggernacle trenchantly has it — with the *names* of my ancestors I’m happy letting them have their fun ( God knows they need some reason to get up in the morning, what with alcohol and caffeine off the menu ) in return for the help they provide when members of the broader community are building family trees and all that business.

    And after all, necro-dunking is a hell of a lot less bizarre a ritual than transubstantiation. In fact, maybe the real danger is that if the Mormons go back far enough they might someday identify the descendant relations of Mary or Joseph themselves, and who could blame them if they called for a halt to the incredibly creepy “necro-noshing” of the body of their kin? Oh to read the editorial in the Irish Catholic that month!

  4. August 27, 2008 at 12:57 pm

    Splinty wrote: “But does institutional Catholicism recognise the procedure, and afford it any significance? Any answers would be most welcome.”

    generally, most mainline churches (roman catholic and member churches of the WCC like orthodox, protestant, anglican churches) recognize and respect official acts like baptisms, marriages, etc. by other mainline churches but also by some “sects” as valid, e.g. they generally recognize a baptism when it is carried out with water, with a trinitarian formula and with a “correct intention” … the RCC generally does not recognize mormon baptisms because they consider the mormon interpretation of the trinity a bit odd (see e.g. here), … the mainline protestant churches in Germany generally have given the advise to their congregations not to hand over church records to mormon genealogists because of respect for the dead

  5. Static Brain said,

    November 21, 2008 at 7:40 pm

    When I was little I was baptized Mormon by force. BY that I mean that my father forced me to become Mormon. I did it but I hated it. I was drug into the temple by my parents and baptized for the dead. So what I know about it is from an ex-Mormon point of view. They baptize any names of dead people they can find. It is utterly crazy. I was baptized for the dead, and was dunked into the water over two hundred times in the space of about an hour or so. I was afraid of being drowned. I still am upset with my parents for making me be Mormon and for making be baptized for dead people. I asked them what good they thought it did. They told me that these people who did not have a chance to accept Mormonism while they were alive, could now do it after they were dead. I said if they didn’t accept it while they were alive they sure wouldn’t want to be Mormon after they were dead. The whole thing was crazy. And that isn’t even the end of all the crazy things Mormon’s believe. They believe that if you marry in their temple and follow their rules you too can become a God and populate your own planet. It is insane. As soon as I was old enough I got baptized again as a Christian to rid myself of that crazy Mormon baptism.

  6. Pat Smythe said,

    January 17, 2009 at 10:03 pm

    The editor of the Irish Catholic newspaper is an obnoxious, irredentist hatemongerer, David Quinn. No true progressive person would ever touch that rag, much less read it. Of course he has been an occasional contributor to the UK Guardian. ‘Nuff said.

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