Vatican rules LDS baptisms 'invalid'

VATICAN CITY — The Vatican has ruled that LDS Church baptisms are invalid, the Vatican newspaper Osservatore Romano reported Tuesday.

The ruling, made on June 5 by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, had been in response to a question on the validity of LDS baptisms posed by the Bishops' Conference of the United States.

The Catholic Church recognizes non-Catholic baptisms if they conform to specific rules imposed by the Vatican.

Lutheran, Baptist and Orthodox baptisms are among the non-Catholic baptisms recognized by the Catholic Church. The Catholic Church even recognizes baptisms performed by atheists or nonbelievers if the rules are followed.

"We are neither concerned nor offended that the Catholic Church has determined not to recognize Latter-day Saint baptisms," Dale Bills, a spokesman for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, said. "As a fundamental tenet of our faith, we believe that all people have a God-given right to worship how, where or what they may."

He said that despite differences in doctrine and practice, the LDS Church often works with other religions "to strengthen home, family and community and to serve those in need. We value our long-standing relationships with Catholic Charities and other benevolent organizations sponsored by the Catholic Church."

Tuesday's Osservatore Romano also explains the Catholic ruling.

It says a key reason why the Vatican deems an LDS Church baptism as invalid is found in the phrase used by the Mormons in the baptism service: "Having been commissioned by Jesus Christ, I baptize you in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy (Ghost.)"

In an article written by theologian Luis Ladaria, the Osservatore says the first difference with the Catholic Church is the understanding of the Holy Trinity.

It says the Catholic Church sees the Trinity as three people in which one divinity exists while the Mormons see it as "three gods which form one divinity."

The second key reason for the ruling, the Osservatore says, is the origin of the LDS baptism.

"The Mormon baptism, which would have its origins not in Christ but at the start of creation, is not a Christian baptism," the Osservatore wrote.

In an official statement issued Wednesday, the Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake City said practically and pastorally the Vatican statement means that former LDS Church members who became Catholics will receive the sacrament of baptism just as the LDS Church baptizes all of its new members who were baptized in other churches.

The diocese statement said it's vital to understand what the Vatican response doesn't say. "The declaration of the congregation should not be understood as either judging or measuring a spiritual relationship between Jesus Christ and members of the LDS Church."

The diocesean comment pointed out that Vatican commentary said: "Catholics and Mormons often find themselves working together on a range of problems regarding the common good of the entire human race. It can be hoped therefore that through further studies, dialogue, and good will, there can be progress in reciprocal understanding and mutual respect."