Like Mitt Romney really needed this today…

Elie Wiesel, seen in a file photo with an area man.

If we’re not having a Kulturkampf in one direction, it’s coming at us from another:

Elie Wiesel, the Holocaust survivor who has devoted his life to combating intolerance, says Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney “should speak to his own church and say they should stop” performing posthumous proxy baptisms on Jews.

The Nobel Peace Prize winner spoke to The Huffington Post Tuesday soon after HuffPost reported that according to a formerly-Mormon researcher, Helen Radkey, some members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints had submitted Wiesel’s name to a restricted genealogy website as “ready” for posthumous proxy baptism. Radkey found that the name of Wiesel had been submitted to the database for the deceased, from which a separate process for proxy baptism could be initiated. Radkey also said that the names of Wiesel’s deceased father and maternal grandfather had been submitted to the site…

To which I can only say, Proxy baptism? Really? That doesn’t sound kosher to me, somehow.

Anyway, the Mormons are saying they didn’t really “baptize” Wiesel, even though his name pops up in their records. Nor did they intend to sorta, kinda baptize Simon Wiesenthal’s parents:

SALT LAKE CITY — Mormon church leaders apologized to the family of Holocaust survivor and Jewish rights advocate Simon Wiesenthal after his parents were posthumously baptized, a controversial ritual that Mormons believe allows deceased people a way to the afterlife but offends members of many other religions.

Wiesenthal died in 2005 after surviving the Nazi death camps and spending his life documenting Holocaust crimes and hunting down perpetrators who remained at large. Jews are particularly offended by an attempt to alter the religion of Holocaust victims, who were murdered because of their religion, and the baptism of Holocaust survivors was supposed to have been barred by a 1995 agreement…

The church immediately apologized, saying it was the actions of an individual member of church — whom they did not name — that led to the submission of Wiesenthal’s name…

Hey, it could happen to anybody, right? Right?

I don’t want to cast any aspersions, but this seems kind of… out there. I mean, we baptize babies who don’t know what’s going on, but dead people? Dead people who are not of your persuasion?

23 thoughts on “Like Mitt Romney really needed this today…

  1. Brad

    Hey, Burl, I unintentionally lapsed into pidgin there. I wrote, “this seems kine of… out there” instead of “this seems kind of… out there.”

    You know, it’s da kine OUT there, bruddah.

  2. Tim

    This is a pretty well known practice in the LDS Church. That’s the primary reason they are such fantastic geneologists. Its their duty to trace back the names of folks to enlist as baptised.

    From Wiki:
    As a part of these efforts, Mormons have performed temple ordinances on behalf of a number of high profile people. Of particular interest are: the Founding Fathers of the U.S., Presidents of the U.S., Pope John Paul II, John Wesley, Christopher Columbus, Adolf Hitler,[36] and others.

    Nothing loopy at all. Really. I think they are working back towards Ward Cleaver and his relatives.

  3. Brad

    Who was that math teacher at Radford who, in writing variables on the board, didn’t refer to the values as a, b, c, and d, but rather “dees one, dat one, beegah one and smallah one?

  4. `Kathryn Fenner

    Why on earth would anyone care if dead people are baptized? The Mormons are doing it because they think it’s a good thing. They are welcome to baptize me in absentia any time they like. I’m guessing they probably don’t consider my infant baptism kosher.
    You can light a candle for me, too.

  5. Tim

    I agree Kathryn, and sorry I misspelled your name in a previous post. I feel like I have this baptism thing in my back pocket, so if I have really screwed up and picked the wrong belief system, I have this kind of Plan B sitting there.

  6. Brad

    Good point, Kathryn. I’m big on covering the bases, too.

    I have a mezuzah on a doorframe in my house. My daughter brought it back from Israel. When I remember, on my way out of the house, I touch it and cross myself. I don’t so much intend to; it just happens. I wasn’t born Catholic, but I’ve picked up the habits. You see or touch something that bears upon the holy, you cross yourself.

    Anyway, this has to be giving me double points, right?

    I’m not making this up.

    Nor am I making this up: The first time my Jewish sister-in-law visited our house, she informed me that the mezuzah was upside-down. I had assumed that the stars of David went at the top.

    I got a screwdriver and fixed it, so it’s all good now.

  7. Kathleen

    Taking offense where none is intended is a version of intolerance. Letting the unknowing offender know you have taken offense is rude.

  8. Brad

    So what — are you saying Jews are rude?

    This is getting out of hand, people. First, some guy imitating the way Hawaiians talk, now this. 🙂

  9. Lynn

    Mormans baptize the dead so their souls can be claimed and then allocated to deceased Mormans (males only) who have been given planets they will rule for eternity. They need souls to populate these planets. It is also why Mormans marry for eternity.

    You can’t make this stuff up you know. This why Mormans are considered a cult.

  10. Scout

    Oh I don’t know about that. Taking offense where none is intended can be any number of things – miscommunication, misperception, cultural mismatch, etc. Letting the unknowing offender know you have taken offense, depending on the manner in which it is done, can be an opening to clear up the miscommunication, begin to understand the other culture, etc.

  11. Steve Gordy

    I disagree with Kathleen. Baptism is either an act of parental commitment (for those baptized as infants) or an act of personal commitment (for those baptized as adults). No other denomination of which I am aware believes that a baptism performed without such commitment is valid.

  12. bud

    I think we should stop the practice of baptizing babies as well as the dead. Let a person grow up and make their own decisions about religious beliefs. Is there a process of getting unbaptized?

  13. Lynn T

    The LDS Church has maintained in the past that the deceased are given a choice about their baptism. I was amused to find in some family history research that they had “baptized” an individual who was a member of Cardinal Wolsey’s Commission for the Recantation of Heretics and a member of the Commission on Heretical Books. If they gave him a chance to comment on his planned baptism it is just as well if they didn’t hear the response.

  14. Mark Stewart

    I guess no one has had the quessy experience of opening the front door to find “long lost”, distant relatives on one’s doorstep one afternoon? And then have them try to stick around until all memebers of the family have returned to the house – the Mormons want to “know” all their living relatives to be able to carry them on into the afterlife with them (or something like that). A 10 minute conversation seems to be all that’s required for them to cross you off of their to-meet list. It feels both perverse and anti-religious to assault people in such a manner. All take and no give. I found it very creepy; and still do thirty years after the fact.

    Mormonism strikes me as being not really a cult, but then also not really being a religion either. It’s just simply very hard to catagorize the concept; this is a very complex institution.

  15. Bart

    “…It’s just simply very hard to catagorize the concept; this is a very complex institution.”…Mark

    If you stop and think about it for a moment and then do a little research, the comment by Mark can apply to every religion practiced in every locale on this planet.

    The difference in beliefs or tenets within the Protestant religion alone are enough to confuse most, let alone the novice. Catholics, Baptists, Methodists, Presbyterians, Lutherns, Seventh Day Adventists, Episcopalians, Quakers, Mennonites, Amish, and the entire spectrum of variations of church doctrine or denominations supposedly worship the same God except they each do it a little differently and what is sin in one faction of a denomination is not in another. The issue of gays has split many churches because group accepts, the other does not. The same with abortion or whether Christ would be a liberal, conservative, socialist, or communist.

    Going to the trouble of “defining” the problem with Mormonism is another issue to use against a candidate you don’t like. When JFK ran for president, one of the big concerns and campaign issues was that the Pope would make decisions for America. Yet, JFK was elected and the Pope never cast one vote on how to run this country.

    I am not an Obama supporter but if he wants to declare he is a Muslim, that is his choice. However, if he were to declare start trying to move the country toward Islam, then it becomes a problem. Separation of church and state applies to any church or religion, whether it is Protestant, Muslim, Hindu, or any other religion you can think of.

    The entire discussion reminds me of an old joke, some may not find it funny and offensive, but if you do, get over it. It pretty well describes the entire hollow argument on the religion issue.

    A young boy ran to his father who was plowing in the field. He told his father that the preacher was at the house and he needed to come. The father asked the boy what denomination the preacher was. The boy replied that he didn’t know. The father told the boy to go back to the house and ask. He instructed him that if the preacher was of one denomination, “hide my cigarettes”. If he was of another denomination, “hide my liquor”. If he was of another denomination, “sit in your mother’s lap until I get there”.

  16. `Kathryn Fenner

    @ Mark — There are cult-like aspects to many religions. I think you have to define “cult” first.

    @ Steve Gordy– Sure, those are your beliefs, but if a Yoruba wants to sacrifice a chicken for my soul, where’s the harm?

    My tolerance of others’ religious beliefs ends where my rights begin. Not to reignite the Culture Wars discussions or anything.

  17. Mark Stewart


    To define a cult, one should look to the Supreme Court’s identification of pornography.

    There is something extra creepy about people trying to appropriate one’s family tree. The offense is to the living; and that’s exactly the point. Such actions are invasive of others; never so clearly as to baptize Holocaust survivors (or those murdered).

  18. bud

    I’ve had this “what is a cult” discussion before. One definition is that it is any religion that identifies itself strongly with a single individual as oppossed to an office. Using that definition the Moonies are a cult but the Catholics are not since the Pope, although a strong, central persona to Catholics, is not one individual but rather many individuals occupying the same office over the course of time. Not sure exactly where the Mormons fit in.

    Not sure I entirely buy that definition but if you find this an important distinction then so be it.

  19. `Kathryn Fenner

    The Supremes have gone far more specific than Potter Stewarts “I know it when I see it” standard–it’s now got to do with prevailing community standards and no redeeming value.

    What defines a cult– size plus restrictions on exit? Charismatic leader? Separating adherents from the rest of the world? I mean, you can call the Amish a cult, or the Catholic Church, depending on your definition. Obviously, the Rajneeshis and Hare Krishnas are a cult, and mainline Protestantism isn’t (too wishy washy, for one thing). Scientology?

  20. Silence

    @ Kathryn – Scientology, definitely a cult. People’s Temple = Cult. Chabad Lubavitch = cult. LDS = cult.
    Charismatic leader? Check.
    Cut off from world? Check.
    Science fiction writer author? Check.
    Gold plates translated inside a hat through use of a special rock? Check.
    Faith in the absence of reason? check.
    Just because you are in a cult, doesn’t mean you aren’t good people. Do the Amish have a charismatic leader or any type of a centralized structure?

  21. Karen McLeod

    Kathryn, Under most circumstances I would agree with you about unintended insults, and about people of one religion praying for or baptizing another in absentia (death being about as “in absentia” as you can get). But in this case, millions died precisely because of their belief system/tribal affiliation. To baptize one of their dead, one who died in the Holocaust, is a bit much. I can see how that could be taken as a personal affront by the survivors.

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