Roman Catholics Rule on Mormons

Association Press/July 19, 2001

Salt Lake City -- The Roman Catholic Church, which recognizes the baptisms of most denominations, has decided that Mormons who convert to Catholicism must be rebaptized.

The Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith decided the Mormon view on the nature of God was too different from its own, according to Tuesday's editions of L'Osservatore Romano, the Vatican's daily newspaper.

The doctrine agency said the church could not accept Mormon belief that "God the father had a wife, the Celestial Mother, with whom he procreated Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit." The body therefore decided that Mormon baptism "is not the baptism that Christ instituted."

Two major U.S. Protestant denominations, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and United Methodist Church, have taken similar stands on Mormon theology in recent years.

Catholicism and most other Christian denominations believe God is a divine entity consisting of three persons - the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit - of one spiritual substance.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints teaches that God, Jesus Christ and the Holy Ghost are three separate entities, and that God and Jesus have bodies of flesh and bone while the Holy Ghost is spirit only. Church founder Joseph Smith taught that "God himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted man..."

The Rev. Luis Ladaria, a Jesuit theologian speaking for the Congregation, acknowledged the ruling marks "a change from the past practice" of accepting the Mormon rite.

The congregation took up the matter after receiving a request to look into the validity of Mormon baptisms in conversion. L'Osservatore Romano did not specify the origin of the request.

The Mormon church requires converts to be rebaptized, is "neither concerned nor offended" by the Vatican's decision, spokesman Michael Otterson said Wednesday.

"We value our long-standing relationships with Catholic Charities and other benevolent organizations sponsored by the Catholic Church," he said.

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