Mormons set to build new temple in Rome, Italy

The Mormon Church has been on an ambitious temple-building spree for the past 30 years. With 134 currently operating temples and nine under construction, the group recently announced 14 new temples, including one in the Eternal City. This, of course, is something they consider to be a milestone in their expansion, in part because Italy has been a country where Mormon missionaries have not had great success in finding converts.

The two major reasons for their overall lack of proselytism progress there is, in my view, 1) because Italy is more than just ostensibly a Catholic nation and, 2) because Mormonism is so very, very “American” that Italians, as with other Europeans who tend to look down on America and Americans, are even less interested in buying what the Mormon missionaries are selling than they might otherwise be.

In any case, I am disappointed but by no means dispirited by the news of this new temple. It may well be that Catholics in Italy who are still serious about explaining, sharing, and defending the True Faith will see in this development an opportunity to renew their efforts to reach out and evangelize Mormons and others. I certainly do pray for that and hope that the appearance of this new Mormon temple in Rome serves as a much-needed catalyst for Catholics to stand up for the Truth in the face of a Made-in-America theological off-brand.

Dinne s’alcun Latino è tra costoro

che son quinc’ entro, se l’unghia ti basti

etternalmente a cotesto lavoro.  — Dante


  1. Chad Myers

    There have been many catalysts. Some of our Baptist friends went on a mission to Italy to convert Catholics and, according to them, they were quite successful.I predict that Mormonism will spread well in Italy and Europe in general due to it's lax focus on doctrine and high focus on personal experience and "testimony." I have a theory that, in the modern secularized, industrialized world what everyone wants is to just tell someone their story. So a religion whose practice is based heavily on this (i.e. Mormonism) will do very well in that situation.I've long been thinking that with things like email and the Internet, people (especially those families who reject children or have only a few) have become so isolated and alone that they long to have real community with someone. I know this is the way the liberals talk and they tend to focus on "sharing" and community more than religion, but can't us conservatives find a way to do both? To invite people into solid liturgy, solid philosophy and theology, and solid community of people who care and will not just listen, but get involved and help?Maybe the Catholic Church can become the antidote to "Internet Isolationism" in the 21st century?I hope the Pope's upcoming synod on the New Evangelization will focus on the ironic connectedness of the Internet which seems to bring loneliness and isolation.I should blog about this…

  2. Sarah Oldham

    Chad – you should blog about that.Patrick, do you have any books I could read about Mormonism that is from a Catholic perspective? Thanks in advance for any suggestions.

  3. Ismael

    "Some of our Baptist friends went on a mission to Italy to convert Catholics and, according to them, they were quite successful."Yes still non Catholic Christians in Italy are a very small minority.Probably your Baptist friend made a couple of converts, but I would not be surprized if he was majorly ignored.Jehova witnesses have been practicing proselytism for ages in Italy… and many italians have signs like 'Jehova Witness? No thanks' on their door, since they do not like to be bothered.I expect similar singns will pop up for mormons if they start their proselitysm attack.Most non-catholic italians are just non-religious and many 'non practicing' Catholics just do not give a damn about religion, so I doubt they will convert.Besides… mormonism did not really work that well in America either…

  4. Seth R.

    LDS officials only announced the temple after years of sensitive discussion with the Vatican and local officials. So this was hardly done with the Vatican's go-ahead.

  5. juscot

    I wish the Vatican and the Italian government would have and could have fought against this thing to the death. I don't like the idea of any pseudo-Christian sect getting a firmer foothold in a Catholic country. Those "no thanks" signs that Ismael mentions should be put on the doors of that new Mormon temple, and praying the rosary at the building site before and after it's built wouldn't be a bad idea either. Hey, maybe prayers at that site could even keep the accursed thing for being built or completed in the first place!

  6. Seth R.

    Sorry, that earlier comment should have read – "this was hardly done WITHOUT the Vatican's go-ahead."Mormonism struggles in Italy for the same reason it struggles anywhere in Western Europe, and for the same reason ALL Christianity – Catholic and otherwise – struggles in Europe:The rise of secular apathy, indifference, and even hostility toward ANY religion at all.The existence of state churches has arguably been part of the cause for this decline in Christianity in Western Europe. People just don't care about religion in general over there, and any Mormon missionary who served in France, or Spain or Italy can tell you of countless people he encountered who claimed "I'm Catholic" even though it turned out they hadn't even set foot inside a church in five years – and that was only for their brother's wedding.In short, you folks have much bigger problems in Europe than Mormons. Our missionary forces have been cut back there in favor of sending missionaries to other more religious parts of the globe. Western Europe has kind of been put on the backburner as an anti-religious quagmire. The LDS Church is not inclined to waste time and resources there. The temple is simply to serve the needs of the besieged practicing Mormons in Italy – who are pretty much treated like crap by both their secular and Catholic countrymen.Mormonism is hardly making a dent in Italy. But Catholic indifference, and creeping secularism are DEVASTATING your religion.I suggest you quit wasting your time complaining about us and worry about your REAL problems.

  7. Patrick Madrid

    Hey, Seth. If you want to post here, all I ask is that you be polite and don't try to start fights with me or anyone else. Mkay? Any more snide posts from you like that last one, and I will decline to accept anything more from you. Please/thank you.

  8. Seth R.

    Patrick, I didn't think I was being that snide. Sorry.Don't think that remark was coming from a sense of me feeling superior to you. Mormons have their own problems with people falling away (I think we have about an 80% inactivity rate in our general membership). We aren't any better off than the Catholics in this sense, and perhaps worse. Who knows…. I don't feel like my religion is a "superior performer" here.But secularism and religious apathy is sweeping Europe, and it's a huge problem for both of us.Is it really worthwhile for us to be fighting with each other in light of the bigger common problems we are facing? Take it as a sincere query. I really think militant secularism is a much bigger threat to us than our own denominations are to each other – at least in Europe.

  9. Patrick Madrid

    Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, Seth, and so is snideness. Your earlier comment seemed to me to cross the line.I'm completely fine with mutual cooperation on social issues that we should both focus on, but not in any way that would suggest religious indifferentism.

  10. Mike Tea

    I think Seth needs to catch up with his facts and statistics. The Mormon missionary force has not been "cut back in Europe in favour of sending missionaries to other more religious parts of the globe." It has been cut back – period. They are not sending more missionaries elsewhere, they are sending fewer missionaries anywhere. It gives an interesting insight on what counts in missionary effort to the Mormon Church when a little sales resistance makes them think a lost soul a waste of time.One of the main reasons for the missionary cut backs is that Mormons are no longer having such big families and so don't have as many children to sacrifice to two years of travelling the globe as an unpaid sales force and PR campaign. Another reason is because Mormon recruitment has almost flatlined and, although people are being recruited, it is not in such great numbers and the fall out rate is high.As to activity levels, 80% is something of an exaggeration. Across the globe the average activity level is 35%, the highest in the US is no more than 50%, and of that number only half are temple Mormons. Take any official Mormon statistic, take 1/3 then halve it and you get the number of temple Mormons in a country. I don't think Catholics in Rome have much to worry about.Which brings me to temple attendance. Yes, they are building temples like its a tax break but at the same time they are closing temples on some weekdays because they haven't enough attendees to make it worthwhile staying open. Here in the UK the opening of the second temple in Preston, Lancashire has led to the London temple being closed for up to two days a week.Sarah asked about a good book on Mormonism from a Catholic perspective. You will understand that, as a Protestant, I have only read one but I found Isaiah Bennett's Inside Mormonism, pub. Catholic Answers, very good indeed. He was a priest who converted to Mormonism, broke his vows, married, then discovered the truth about the Mormon Church. His insights seem to me to be very valuable. I hope that helps.

  11. Seth R.

    Thanks for the clarification Mike.I was thinking more of activity rates excluding the US and Canada (and maybe places like Australia and New Zeland (where Mormonism tends to be more successful – having a more established cultural pattern). The conventional wisdom is that in places like Europe, Latin America, and the Pacific Rim, activity levels are closer to 20%.You are correct that missionary forces have been cut back. This happened back in the mid to late 1990s. Driving concerns behind it were that the quality of missionaries being sent out was not always what the LDS Church wanted, and that too many new converts were being lost within a year or two of conversion. The focus was therefore shifted to retention of existing converts more than aggressively pulling in new baptism stats each month (which was the earlier model).That said, my statement about pullbacks in Europe was still true. This is a recent announcement in the last year, and you might not have caught it. There's more of a focus on Asia, Africa, and South America at present than there is on Europe. Sever missions were closed or merged in Europe recently in favor of new projects in Latin America I believe.

  12. Sheila Deeth

    I love your attitude to this!

  13. Ismael

    "I wish the Vatican and the Italian government would have and could have fought against this thing to the death"The Italian government is hardly pro-Church.The right wing is pro-Church only when it needs votes and the left-wing is bitterly anti-catholic…besides… what's to fight? Secular laws say they have every right to build their 'temple' I am no Mormon sympathizer and I strongly disagree with their beliefs, yet we cannot discriminate them either.

  14. *Linda Pinda*

    The Mormons did a great job of converting me… BACK INTO MY OWN FAITH!!!When my husband and I were newly married, he was serving the US Navy, stationed in Hawaii. We were both cradle Catholics, but hadn't been practicing (on many levels) since our marriage.While enjoying some time off, we visited the beautiful Mormon Temple there. I guess we made a fairly worthy target, because we were "courted" all day long by the historian/guide/missionary. As we still are 26 years later, Michael and I were very open and respectful of all the information shared with us.Not sure if the man could see that we were pretty solidly in love, or if it was his last ditch effort with all newly weds, but he finally said "You know… as Catholics, when you die, you won't be married in heaven. But if you become Mormon, you'll remain married for eternity".I smiled at my young husband, and replied "If that's the way God wants it, it's ok with me".The man was shocked by my response. And you know… so was I! That was the first time I ever affirmed that God's will came before my own.Michael and I talked a lot about our faith, and realized that God's kingship ruled over our life, our marriage… everything.I think that was our first step in realizing how much we loved our Catholicism, and how much we embraced the church's teachings. I thank God for the chance to see firsthand, that I would never trade in the treasures of the church instituted by Christ, Himself, for any man-made theology. It was the beginning of a beautiful journey into truly living out this faith.I guess my point is that for "those who have ears to hear", it won't matter what building is erected… or where.

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