There was an interesting show today on Radio West. (The MP3 should be up later today) It was on last month’s reaction by the Vatican regarding baptism for the dead. As you may know the Vatican sent a letter to all dioceses telling them to not give parish records to the Church for genealogy. That was primarily over the baptism for the dead.
What really surprised me as I listened to the show was just how upset many people were with vicarious ordinances. I’d never have called people being that concerned. I could understand Jews upset about holocaust records entering the Church’s genealogical records and leading to baptisms. But it seems to me that is a much different situation.
It seems to me that the last guest of Doug Fabrizio made the best point. I think a lot of people don’t understand that at best the practice is preparatory. That is you aren’t really baptizing them as Mormons. Rather you’re performing a baptism such that if they ever decide to become Mormon in the next life the opportunity of baptism is available. That’s a crucial difference but one I suspect most don’t quite see.
Anyway, listen to the podcast as it was quite interesting. The interview with Kathleen Flake was probably my favorite part.
I should note that it’s interesting that Peggy Fletcher Stack has many genealogists suggesting that this will cause many problems and perhaps mainly affect Catholic attempts at genealogy.
The Vatican’s recent ban on Mormon microfilming and digitizing of Catholic parish records out of concern they will be used for the LDS practice of baptizing the dead may have a wide-ranging and chilling effect on the whole family history enterprise, some professional genealogists say.
“It’s going to close off a great many countries and even Catholic dioceses in America whose records haven’t been microfilmed,” says Jim Petty, past president of Utah’s chapter of the Association of Professional Genealogists. “This makes it difficult for genealogists of any religion.”
But Kathy Kirkpatrick, another past president of Utah’s professional genealogist association, says the irony is that the prohibition will be felt most by Catholics who want to pursue their family history back beyond civil records.
“Most parishes can’t or don’t answer letters because they are understaffed and their highest priority is the living (as it should be),” Kirkpatrick, a member of the Society of Friends (Quaker) said in an e-mail. “Most folks don’t have the resources to visit a parish in person (or send an agent) and sometimes even a personal visit doesn’t get access to the records if the priest is busy and can’t delegate supervision to another or if the priest isn’t agreeable to family research (for whatever reason).”
My sense is that it’ll have correspondingly less effect on Mormons. That’s because most of the records are already digitized and those that aren’t are more contemporary records that individuals could fairly easily access anyway.