VATICAN CITY (RNS) -- The Vatican's authoritative Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has issued an unprecedented ruling declaring that the Catholic Church does not regard baptisms in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints -- the Mormons -- as valid. The Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano said Tuesday (July 17) that Pope John Paul II personally approved the ruling, dated June 5, at an audience with Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, prefect of the congregation. The ruling consisted of the one-word reply, "Negative," to a question in Latin as to the validity of Mormon baptisms. It was signed by Ratzinger and the congregation secretary, Archbishop Tarcisio Bertone. The article in L'Osservatore Romano that disclosed the ruling said it was the first by the Catholic Church to question the validity of any form of baptism, the sacrament by which the baptized is cleansed of sin and becomes a member of the Christian church. "Given that this decision changes the past practice of not disputing the validity of such baptism, it seems suitable to explain the reasons that have led to it and to the consequent change in the usual procedure," the Rev. Luis Ladaria, a consultant to the congregation, said in the article. Ladaria said that the ruling was based on the "substantial difference" between the Catholic and Mormon churches regarding "the faith in the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, in the name of whom baptism is conferred, and regarding the reference to Christ who
instituted it." The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints holds a modified view of the Holy Trinity and contends that men may become gods in the same manner as was Jesus. While Catholics believe that the Trinity is made up of "three persons in whom the one divinity exists," Mormons hold that the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are "three gods that form one divinity," Ladaria said. "There is not, in fact, basic doctrinal coincidence." But he said the ruling was not intended as a judgment on Mormons with whom Catholics often work "on a series of problems regarding the common good of the entire humanity." "One can thus hope that through further studies, dialogue and goodwill it might be possible to progress in reciprocal comprehension and mutual respect," he said.
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