The LDS (Mormon) church is courting the Catholic Church in the US, attempting to form alliances over moral and social issues, and Catholic leaders are finally warming to such overtures, writes James Massa in the newsletter Ecumenical Trends (July–August).
Mormons were particularly interested in how Catholics have turned out electable politicians while still being a minority religion. Massa, the ecumenical and interreligious director of the US Catholic Bishops Conference, writes that the failed candidacy of Mitt Romney and the public antagonism towards the Mormon opposition to gay marriage has led the LDS church to increasingly seek advice and alliances with the Catholic Church. The Catholics, for their part, have been appraising the Mormons, along with evangelicals, as new partners on social and moral issues as cooperative efforts with mainline Protestants have stalled.
While evangelicals and Mormons have engaged in in-depth dialogues, this has not been the case for Catholics, who have been hard pressed to determine how the church should view the LDS. The Vatican has declared that Mormon baptisms are invalid, but the LDS church argues that it should be viewed as a Christian church. The dilemma came to a head in 2008 when the LDS church requested to be part of an ecumenical Christian service when the pope visited the US. After some indecision, the Catholics permitted LDS representatives to attend the service (although they were seated in a less prominent position so as not to offend evangelical and Orthodox participants).
While this event strengthened Mormon–Catholic relations, the conciliatory spirit was soon threatened when the Vatican issued a directive to dioceses that would prevent LDS members from drawing information from baptismal records (to carry out their practice of baptizing for the dead). Massa concludes that Catholic–Mormon relations are still “at the beginning of a journey.”
(Ecumenical Trends, P.O. Box 306, Garrison, NY 10524-0306)