This is another in a series of encyclopedia-like articles written by the Ancestry Insider. Some serve as extensions to my failing memory while others give me someplace to link to for information that may not be known by all readers.
"Helen Radkey is an international renowned religion and genealogical researcher, writer and lecturer," according to her speaker bio from the 2003 convention of American Atheists. In 2002, Alana Newhouse, interviewed Radkey for an article in the Jewish newspaper Forward. Newhouse identified Radkey as a minister in the independent Universal Life Church, a tarot card reader, a former Catholic, an excommunicated Mormon and a past-life therapist who makes ends meet as a bookstore employee.
But Radkey seems to have found her calling in life researching the International Genealogical Index (IGI). Find an article critical of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (sometimes called the Mormon Church) and its practice of performing baptisms for deceased individuals and you will find Radkey's name.
In addition to Jewish Holocaust victims, her past revelations about the IGI have disclosed that vicarious temple rituals have been performed for famous saints, sinners and fictional characters. (Reuters) Radkey's revelations about the IGI are consistent with the way she described her writing to the American Atheists: "provocative and controversial."
Yet Radkey is a woman of contradictions.
Radkey has pitted Jews against the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. "She has been a prime mover behind the outcry over posthumous Jewish baptisms... She's a darn good part of the reason why anything has gotten done on this issue." (Forward)
On one hand, "according to Radkey, ... the church has not properly monitored the names offered for baptisms." On the other hand, she says, "Learning about Jewish names is a specialized skill, which took me years to develop, and it is not always possible to know by a name if the person was Jewish. Most Mormons who handle the processing, including deletions, of Jewish names from the Mormons' database would not know a Jewish name from the back end of a hoe." (Forward)
Radkey has pitted Jews against Catholics. "I can't be a part of any church that did what the [Catholic] Church did to the Jews," she said. (Forward)
Radkey has pitted gays against Catholics. "The Catholic Church ... is out of touch with social reality on the gay issue and has itself caused immeasurable damage to society because of its large number of pedophile priests." (Deseret News)
Radkey has pitted Catholics against the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. "I personally had a meeting with Vatican officials in November 1998 over the proxy baptism of Catholic saints and popes, so I'm happy to see some kind of resolution [against the Church of Jesus Christ...]," she said. (KSL)
Radkey has pitted Jews against Jews, saying, "Why have these Jewish leaders collectively abdicated their moral and ethical responsibility to ensure that the provisions of the agreement [between Jewish groups and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints] are finally and firmly enforced?" (JewishGen.org) "In an e-mail sent to Aaron Breitbart, senior researcher at the Simon Wiesenthal Center, Radkey lashed out at [Ernest] Michel, [chairman of the World Gathering of Jewish Holocaust Survivors]. (Forward) Forward observed that "to seasoned observers, hearing this Catholic-cum-Mormon-cum-wannabe-Jew telling an esteemed Holocaust survivor and organizational leader how to represent a Jewish cause might seem like some sort of interfaith 'Twilight Zone.' "
On one hand, Radkey expresses a desire to be part of Judaism. On the other hand, she says "the rabbis here don't want me." (Forward)
Radkey has pitted the Church against Jewish groups. In September of 2002 Radkey asked the Church to pay $30,000 plus continued payments if she would give them a list of Jewish names she had uncovered in the IGI. The Church declined. (Forward) Later that year, Ernest Michel met with the Church armed with a report prepared for him by Radkey. (CNN)
Throughout the contradictions, Radkey's self description remains true: "provocative and controversial."