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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- The Vatican has ordered Catholic dioceses worldwide to withhold member registries from members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who perform posthumous baptisms.
The order was issued by a clergy mainstay, the Vatican Congregation for Clergy. Officials said the step was taken to prevent members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from baptizing by proxy their Catholic ancestors.
The order was first reported by Catholic News Service. There was no immediate response from the LDS church's world headquarters in Salt Lake City.
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 LDS genealogist, Russell Bangerter, told the Deseret News that the order cracks down on the free flow of information. Bangerter said the LDS church has an open-door policy at its own Family History Library.
The Vatican's directive calls 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."
LDS authorities haven't seen the letter. "It would really be premature for us to say anything," church spokesman Scott Trotter told The Salt Lake Tribune on Sunday.
Posthumous baptisms by proxy have been a common LDS practice for more than a century. It allows the faithful to have their ancestors baptized into their faith so they may be united in the afterlife, said Mike Otterson, a spokesman at the church's headquarters.
The practice has come under fire from Jewish groups who say the names of Jewish Holocaust victims are still showing up in the church's vast genealogical database for unwelcome baptisms.
Former Church President Gordon B. Hinckley has said the baptismal rite is only an offer of membership that can be rejected in the afterlife by individuals. "So, there's no injury done to anybody," Hinckley told The Associated Press in a 2005 interview.
Information from: Deseret News
(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)