Rocking the Mormon world

Sometimes it is easy to predict when a CNS story is going to stir a huge buzz in the blogosphere, and that was certainly the case with our story last week on the Vatican’s effort to block posthumous rebaptisms by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, also known as the Mormon or LDS church. The story, which has been viewed more than 10,000 times as of this afternoon, reported that Catholic dioceses around the world have been directed not to give information in parish registers to the Mormons’ Genealogical Society of Utah.

That may not excite many ordinary Catholics in the pew, but it predictably struck a nerve in the Mormon world, where posthumous baptisms by proxy have been a common practice for more than a century. As CNS staff writer Chaz Muth reported, the practice allows the church’s faithful to have their ancestors baptized into their faith so they may be united in the afterlife.

One Mormon blog said the news “rocked the LDS genealogical world.” And stories this past weekend in The Salt Lake Tribune and the Deseret News generated hundreds of comments. A Utah Catholic priest also devoted a blog entry to the issue, generating his own set of a dozen or so comments.

Faithful readers may remember that this is the second time in just over two weeks that a CNS story has generated an interreligious buzz with the Mormon church. Our story during Pope Benedict’s U.S. trip on how representatives of the LDS church came to participate in a papal event for the first time — a story that came in second for most views during April –generated both gratitude from Mormons glad to see an emphasis on common beliefs as well as a huge debate on one evangelical site wondering why LDS representatives bothered to participate since, according to this site, Mormon founder Joseph Smith believed “that all other churches were wrong, an abomination and corrupt.”

Divine intervention for the Nationals after papal Mass?

Pope Benedict XVI arrives to celebrate Mass at Nationals Park in Washington April 17. (CNS/Paul Haring)Did Pope Benedict invoke divine intervention for the Washington Nationals when he celebrated Mass at Nationals Park last month? Probably not, but over the weekend I heard two local sportscasters here in Washington credit the pope with the Nationals’ recent winning ways.

Since the altar and other liturgical accoutrements at Nationals Park were disassembled and the field returned to its original purpose, the Nationals have won eight games at home and lost only three. Before the Mass, the team had won only two games at home and lost five. Overall, the team had a woeful 6-15 record before returning home the week after the papal Mass. (They’re now 14-18.)

To vest before the Mass, the pope used Nationals’ manager Manny Acta’s office, while bishops who concelebrated used the Nationals’ clubhouse (left). The local sports network here that televises the games claims that the pope actually blessed the Nationals’ clubhouse after celebrating Mass here, but it’s pretty unlikely that he would do that on the way out of the stadium.