Thursday, May 11

Mormon Baptism and Communist Bishops

I found a very interesting post about the comparison of the Chinese Bishops being ordained on the blog of Edward N. Peters, JD, JCD(by way of Thomas A. Szyszkiewicz's blog). It discusses the intent of the Chinese government, and then compares it to the intent of Mormons who baptize. Here's an excerpt:

The excommunications consequent to the illicit episcopal ordinations (1983 CIC 1382) staged by Chinese Communists are so obvious that few commentators have mentioned them. Here I raise a different question: In the face of some sacraments being so obviously celebrated with no discernible pastoral sense and, in fact, driven by little besides a "let's stick it to the Catholic Church" animus, has the time come to step back and ask some hard questions about the canonical validity of such sacraments?

I have suggested that the most theologically significant decision reached by CDF under Cdl. Ratzinger was its 2001 declaration that Mormon baptism is invalid, despite eligible ministers and recipients, and despite proper matter and form. Reopening a debate that seemed settled since the time of Sts. Augustine and Cyprian, Mormon baptisms are invalid apparently solely on the basis of intention, that fifth, and in many ways most elusive, of the factors impacting sacramental validity.

Is it too much to wonder, then, whether Communist episcopal ordinations have crossed a similar line? Just what is a Communist's understanding of and intention in confering, of all things, holy orders? Remember, until a few decades ago, similar questions on Mormon baptism seemed unthinkable, and until a few years ago, everyone assumed they knew the answer.

Full Text

Thomas A. Szyszkiewicz adds to the discussion by contributing some of his own personal experiences while in Salt Lake City.

I had first-hand experience with this. I spent a year as the Director of Education and Formation at the Cathedral of the Madeleine in Salt Lake City, about three blocks east of Temple Square. One of my duties was to be an advocate for those who petitioned the Diocese of Salt Lake City for a declaration of nullity in regard to their marriage. This meant I had to have some quick tutoring in canon law, and was ably assisted in that by Father Robert Moriarty of the diocesan tribunal. One of the things we discussed was the validity of Mormon baptism. That this was even a question was a surprise to me, but he explained that when it came to form and matter, they had everything correct. They baptize with water and use the same formula we do.

But -- and this is a big 'but' -- do they intend to do the same thing that we do?

Full Text


At 8:33 AM, Anonymous Mike said...

Nice's a link that does a good job of explaining the official position of the Catholic Church on this issue:


At 1:51 PM, Anonymous timspalding said...

I think it's important to preserve baptism as the ultimate expression of unity, and the ultimate catch-all.

Technically, in necessity, ANYONE can baptize--as the 1909 Catholic Encyclopedia puts it "man or woman, heretic or schismatic, infidel or Jew." Indeed, for a catechumen to simply DESIRE to be baptized is recognized as valid, if death or some other obstacle comes between (eg., being marooned on a desert island without even a heretic as companion). I was under the impression--although I can't find it--that if you were trapped in the desert without water and dying, sand would be fine.

I'm not an expert in the theology here, but my understanding of the Mormon problem revolves around the intent not being essentially about the same religion, just as if a pagan were to baptize you for Zeus but called him "Father, son and holy ghost."


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