CDW and CDF, Questions Concerning the Validity of Mormon Baptism, 1990, 1991. Private.
In a number of dioceses in the United States, especially in the western regions, the question of the validity of Mormon baptism arises rather frequently, especially in regard to “Privilege Cases” for the dissolution of the natural bond of a marriage. This past year, there was an exchange between a diocese in the United States, and two Roman dicasteries. On March 27, 1990, the judicial vicar of the Diocese of Rocky Mountains wrote to the secretary for the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments about the question of Mormon baptism in these words:
A recent reply from your Congregation stated that the Catholic Church does not recognize the baptism of Mormons and that this has never been the practice of the Catholic Church.
In a reply from the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, dated August 30, 1976, it was stated that the baptism of Mormons, in relation to marriage, must be held to be valid.
This apparent contradiction has created confusion with our priests with regard to Privilege of the Faith cases and it will be appreciated if you could clarify the situation for us.
A reply followed from the secretary for the Congregation in the following month, stating among other things, that the matter had also been referred for further study to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith [English original]:
This is to acknowledge receipt of your letter of 27 March 1990 in which you refer to a recent response given by this Congregation concerning the Baptism of the Mormons and to a certain confusion this has caused among the priests.
Since, in your letter, the pertinent details concerning our response are not given, it is impossible for us to comment or give an explanation of what was meant in that specific situation.
Recently, we have written to a Bishop to ask him to keep the faithful away from erroneous ideas on this point; it was said that, in general, the Church does not recognize Mormon Baptisms.
However, it should be kept in mind that an official response concerning the question (that should come, not from this Congregation, but from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith) has not yet been given and that the question is still under study.
That Congregation, in fact, in a response of 30 April 1976 (private) referred only to the validity of Mormon Baptism in relation to the Sacrament of Matrimony (cf. c. 1070, §2 of the old Code and c. 1086, §3 of the new Code).
Approximately one year later (March 16, 1991), this reply was received from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith [English original]:
The Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments transmitted to this Dicastery the letter of March 27, 1990, of your Judicial Vicar, Reverend Gratian, requesting clarification on the question of the recognition of Mormon baptism.
I am pleased now to inform you of the outcome of an examination of this question by this Congregation. On February 15, 1991, in an audience granted to the Cardinal Prefect, the Holy Father approved this Congregation’s conclusion that “there are insufficient grounds to change the current practice not to contest the validity of Mormon baptism.”
It should be noted that this decision does not indicate simple confirmation of the validity of Mormon baptism. Rather it points to the lack of reasons necessary to warrant a declaration of its invalidity. As a result, Mormon baptism as heretofore should be considered as valid in respect to the application of the Pauline Privilege and the Favor fidei. Also, the practice followed in some regions of conditionally baptizing converts from Mormonism to Catholicism may continue.
CDW and CDF, Spring 1990 and March 1991, Validity of Mormon Baptism, RRAO (1991): 13-15.