Crusading For Peace Through Truth
Free Call
Existence of and Salvation for Extraterrestrials

  1. Introduction

T

he topics of this paper, as rendered in title, are concerned with two distinct subjects (i.e. the existence of non-divine intelligent life that is foreign to planet Earth, and Salvation as the Catholic Church defines it), which then coalesces into an immediate question; that is, if there are intelligent Extra-terrestrial (ET) life-forms, which are foreign to planet Earth, are they in need of Christ Jesus’ Salvific work?

Couched within the scope of this question is the answer about whether there can be a partnership with faith and science here.

 

  1. The History of Catholic Church’s Interest in the Science of Astronomy

If astronomy is a branch of objective science that concerns itself with celestial objects, space, and the physical universe as a whole, it can then, therefore, be well argued that the Catholic Church has had a very keen interest in astronomy since the beginning.

The Fathers of the Church had a very rich Lunar Theology. For them, the moon was a favorite image of the Church Fathers, because they saw in it an object that reflected no light of its own. Similarly, the Church reflects Jesus Christ, who is its sole source of light.[i] The Fathers believed that the Church is a mystery in relation to the true Light that entered the world; Jesus.

The Church’s interest in using the motions of the sun and the moon to calculate the date of Easter was formalized in 1582 when Pope Gregory XIII introduced a new solar calendar, which corrected the errors of the Julian calendar that had been in use since 46 BC.

Beginning around the year 1610 the astronomy of the Catholic Church came into conflict with the writings of Galileo Galilei (1564 – 1642), an Italian physicist, mathematician, engineer, and astronomer, who re-proposed[ii] in Sidereus Nuncius (Starry Messenger) the theory of heliocentricism – that the Earth and the other planets of our system revolved around a Sun that was situated at the center of the “universe”, not the solar system. Helocentricism was opposed to geocentricism, which places the planet Earth at the center of the universe. Geocentricism was the common and majority view of people at that time.

Eventually, after years of more scientific observation and study, the Catholic Church would embrace a modified form of Galileo’s proposition, by placing the Sun at the center of the solar system, rather than the entire universe.

Perhaps, born out of an apologetic scope – realizing the importance of better relationship between faith and science, between 1700 and 1800, three observatories were erected by papal initiative. Then in 1891, Pope Leo XIII issued a Motu Proprio re-founding the Specola Vaticana (Vatican Observatory) and a new observatory was built on the walls at the edge of the Vatican. By the 1930’s, industrial environmental conditions had made it untenable to make useful observation of the stars in Rome.   The answer to this for Pope Pius XI was to relocate the Vatican Observatory to Castel Gandolfo, which by 1961 had begun to suffer from the same industrial pollutions. The final answer to this problem was the establishment of the Vatican Observatory Research Group, with offices at the Steward Observatory of the University of Arizona in Tucson, Arizona; and making use of the Vatican Advance Technology Telescope, which is situated at Mount Graham near Safford, Arizona.

 

  1. ET Life According the Sacred Scripture and Notable Pre-Vatican I Theologians

There is nothing in sacred Scripture which explicitly denies or affirms the existence of life on any other planet except on Earth. While there can be arguments made from Genesis 6 about the Nephilim, from Ezekiel 1 about a vision in which he saw a metal flying object with glowing lights, or from Jesus statement in John 10:16, “I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold . . .,” the Bible is explicitly silent about ET life or their need for salvation.

In his book, Vast Universe: Extraterrestrials and Christian Revelation,[iii] Thomas O’Meara explores ideas of Origin, Thomas Aquinas, Guilaume de Vaurouillon and the Renaissance thinkers about ET life.

The summary of O’Meara is that Origen (ca. 185 – ca. 254), affected by Hellenistic philosophy, believed in ET life, but categorized them as intelligences belonging to groups of angels and Heavenly bodies. Thomas Aquinas (1225 – 74), affected by medieval philosophy, is closed to the idea of multiple universes, multiple worlds, and multiple incarnations of Christ. Guillaume de Vaurouillon (1392 – 1463), writes O’Meara (1386-1397 – Kindle Location):

    “. . . looked at the role of Christ in a nuanced way. The theologian considered not only the nature of revelation but also sin and the role of a redeemer on another world. “If it be inquired whether people, existing on that world, have sinned as Adam sinned, I answer, No. They would not have contracted sin just as their humanity is not from Adam.” His view of original sin as solely terrestrial removes the need of redemption for other worlds. For another world, Jesus Christ would be somehow a universal figure, although he will not move from planet to planet. “As to the question whether Christ by dying on this Earth could redeem the inhabitants of another world, I answer that he was able to do this not only for our world but for infinite worlds. But it would not be fitting for him to go to another world to die again.” There can be other worlds with other creatures; they are not necessarily implicated in our world of sin, do not need a savior, and would not particularly profit by having a savior come from another world. De Vaurouillon’s theological distinctions concerning extraterrestrials make him a pioneer; he is an intermediary between the scholastics of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries who declared that God could in theory create a plurality of worlds and the philosophers of science in the sixteenth and later centuries who asserted that God had created such a panoply.”

 

  1. Recent Statements on ET Life by Notable Catholic Clergy

In 2001, Monsignor Corrado Balducci (1923 – 2008), a theologian of the Vatican Curia, Prelate for the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples and the Society for the Propagation of the Faith, and well-known exorcist, published a statement entitled UFO’s and Extraterrestrials – A Problem for the Church?,[iv] in which he tied together a number of propositions, which I will explore later. Concerning the instant subject about the existence of Extra-terrestrial life, the late priest had this to say:

    “We find another thought regarding the infinity of the creation and the Glory of God in Psalm 18 (19): “The heavens declare the glory of God”. Only man can consciously worship God, because of his free will and intelligence. Therefore several theologians consider it not only possible but very probable that out there in Space, unreachable for our scientific instruments, other beings exist who recognize and venerate God since they realized this as the reason and meaning of their world and the creation itself.

    “The Jesuit Father P. Domenico Grasso, a theologian of the Pontifical University “Gregoriana” in Rome, stated: “Why should all the perfection, God gave so richly to the Universe, be hidden and should not declare His glory? Who writes a book and is sure that it will never be read? Who paints a painting and hides it thereafter, and nobody can see it?”. Then he quotes the German theologian Joseph Pohle, who wrote in his book of 1904 (“Die Sternenwelt und ihre Bewohner” – “The celestial realms and their inhabitants”, Cologne 1904, p. 457): “It seems to be the purpose of the Universe that the celestial bodies are inhabited by beings who reflect the glory of God in the beauty of their bodies and worlds as man does, in a limited way, in his world.” But they are no angels, Father Grasso added, since angels are purely spiritual beings and can perceive matter only indirectly, just as we can only indirectly perceive the world of the spirit.”

In 2008 Fr. José Gabriel Funes, S.J., Director of the Vatican Observatory, acquiesced to an interview with the L’Osservatore Romano entitled The Extraterrestrial is my Brother.[v] Responding to the huge theological implication of calling Extra-terrestrials our ‘brothers’, Fr. Funes said:

    “As a multiplicity of creatures exist on earth, so there could be other beings, also intelligent, created by God. This does not contrast with our faith because we cannot put limits on the creative freedom of God. To say it with Saint Francis, if we consider earthly creatures as “brother” and “sister,” why cannot we also speak of an “extraterrestrial brother?” It would therefore be a part of creation.”

At a Papal Mass on May 12, 2014, speaking about the freedom of the Holy Spirit had to bring Gentiles in the Church, the Holy Father Francis made use of a modern hypothetical contrast – stating, “That was unthinkable. If – for example – tomorrow an expedition of Martians came, and some of them came to us, here… Martians, right? Green, with that long nose and big ears, just like children paint them… And one says, ‘But I want to be baptized!’ What would happen?”[vi]

 

  1.   The Evidence for the Existence of ET’s Life Visiting Earth or Earth’s Atmosphere

These recent statements from notable Catholic clergy point to a very ancient presupposition about existence alien life. Indeed, it is difficult to find a time in human history when we didn’t believe that Extra-terrestrial life hadn’t visited his planet.

If this presupposition were put on trial, it could be argued in the positive from three sources. The first source would be the evidence of ‘physical structures’ and ‘art work’ that were either erected by, supervised by, or inspired by intelligent Extra-terrestrials (e.g. the Moai of Easter Island, ancient cave drawings, and Puma Punka in the Bolivian highlands). The second source of evidence would be the tens of millions of ‘eyewitness accounts’ of intelligent Extra-terrestrials in the form of verifiable and reputable personal encounters, abductions, and Unidentified Flying Objects. The last source would be the long history of ‘written texts’ claiming proofs of Extra-terrestrial life (e.g. Vimanas flying places from Hindus text and Sanskrit epics).

While a measure of evidence from these sources could be dismissed and explained away, that all of them can never been satisfactorily explained or denied allows for the possibility to remain valid[vii] Indeed, it is the mere possibility that the evidence might be true, which has led many government to set up UFO research studies.

 

  1.   The Possibility and the Probability of Extra-terrestrial Life

The Catholic response to possibility of ET life is best stated by Msgr. Balducci:

    “The existence of other inhabited planets is highly probable. The distance between the angels, purely spiritual beings, and us, beings of spirit and matter, body and soul is too large. Our soul cannot act without the body, its unalterable means, which through its passions and sinfulness influences the soul so deeply that man becomes unstable and rather tends toward the bad than towards the good.

    “Therefore it is highly probable that in between, between us and the angels, another life form exists, namely beings which still have a physical body but one which is more perfect than ours and influences the soul less in its intelligent acts and intentions. This assumption is confirmed by the ancient principle defined by Lucrezio Caro as “Natura non favit saltus” (The Nature makes no jumps, see “De rerum natura”), still quoted by theologians.

    “We find another thought regarding the infinity of the creation and the Glory of God in Psalm 18 (19): “The heavens declare the glory of God”. Only man can consciously worship God, because of his free will and intelligence. Therefore several theologians consider it not only possible but very probable that out there in Space, unreachable for our scientific instruments, other beings exist who recognize and venerate God since they realized this as the reason and meaning of their world and the creation itself.

    “The Jesuit Father P. Domenico Grasso, a theologian of the Pontifical University “Gregoriana” in Rome, stated: “Why should all the perfection, God gave so richly to the Universe, be hidden and should not declare His glory? Who writes a book and is sure that it will never be read? Who paints a painting and hides it thereafter, and nobody can see it?”. Then he quotes the German theologian Joseph Pohle, who wrote in his book of 1904 (“Die Sternenwelt und ihre Bewohner” – “The celestial realms and their inhabitants”, Cologne 1904, p. 457): “It seems to be the purpose of the Universe that the celestial bodies are inhabited by beings who reflect the glory of God in the beauty of their bodies and worlds as man does, in a limited way, in his world.” But they are no angels, Father Grasso added, since angels are purely spiritual beings and can perceive matter only indirectly, just as we can only indirectly perceive the world of the spirit.”

Although Msgr. Balducci is using the term ‘probability’ here in his statement, what he seems to be referring to is a possibility. There needs to be a distinction between an occurrence that can be calculated (probability) and an occurrence than can be reasonably concluded (possibility).

Concerning the former, Davies responds those who use the argument ET life from necessity, in writing (24):[viii]

    “Most people have little difficulty accepting that there may be countless inhabited worlds scattered through space. When asked to justify this belief, a typical response is that the universe is so vast, there simply must be life and intelligence out there somewhere. It is an oft-repeated argument, but unfortunately it contains the elementary logical fallacy of confusing a necessary with a sufficient condition. Consider the two basic requirements for life to exist on an Earth-like planet: first, the Earth-like planet; second, the genesis of life. Suppose we grant that there are indeed trillions of Earth-like planets in the observable universe— a prospect that is looking increasingly likely— does this guarantee trillions of inhabited planets? Not at all. The fact that a planet is habitable is not the same as saying it is inhabited. That would be so only if the genesis of life is guaranteed, given that a planet is Earth-like. But suppose the emergence of life from non-life is a freak affair, an event of such low probability that even with a trillion habitable planets it would still be unlikely to happen more than once? The sheer size of the universe would then count for little if the odds are so heavily stacked against the spontaneous formation of life.”

The problem with Davies’ counter-argument is that he is using a very limited view of how ET life can occur, which also reduces his earlier argument against UFO’s having visited Earth. For, if ET can exist outside of the circumstances which allow for life to exist on Earth, then it, thereby, follows that if ET life forms have visited Earth, why they don’t make physical contact with us, because our atmosphere is not same is that (i.e. it is not habitable for them).

In his chapter ‘Probabilities’ O’Meara seems to point to the problem that Davies is dealing with when he talks about ‘The Drake Equation’ (N = RfpneflfifcL),[ix] so named after its creator Frank Drake in 1961. As evidenced in the footnotes, the weakness of Drake’s formula is that it can only tell us what we do know, but it cannot tell us what we don’t know. If ET life can exist on other planets in a manner that is different from how life exists on planet Earth, ‘The Drake Equation’ is utterly useless.

Altogether, the initial relationship between science and faith seems to be incompatible in regards to this question. Initially faith is only concerned with what to do with the possibility of ET life existing, while science is only concerned with answering the questions of if and how ET life exists. Perhaps the intersect of faith and science might occur sometime after it is determined that ET life does exist. At that point the Church will need the sciences to help it communicate with the ET life-forms, and be able to determine the natural effects that water has on their biochemistry.

 

  1. Conclusion – Can and Should ETs Be Baptized?

What we have found thus far is that the possibilities of ET life can’t be fully proven, nor can probabilities about the same be fully known. Therefore, the last topic for discussion is based on a fair concession that if the mountain of evidence of ET life is true, and if some atmosphere in the universe allows us to make contact and communicate with them, should they be evangelized the Good News and be water Baptized in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit?

Let’s first dismiss the idea of multiple incarnations of Christ Jesus.   As Kereszty argues, while we can’t deny the theoretical possibility of several incarnations on earth on other planets on our universe, being that God is fully capable of it, clearly, “Christian revelation insists that there has been only one incarnation for humankind.”[x] For, if Christ had to appear and sacrifice Himself more than once to save others, then it, therefore, follows that He will have to keep appearing and sacrificing Himself again and again until the end of time. Such a notion is irreconcilable with Christian revelation.

In his interview Fr. Funes affirms the same in stating, “Jesus has been incarnated once, for everyone. The incarnation is a unique and unrepeatable event. I am therefore sure that they [ETs], in some way, would have the possibility to enjoy God’s mercy, as it has been for us men.”

There is also the question of if ETs are a significantly older species than humans then how it is that they had to wait, perhaps, countless eons to be saved?   One way to answer this question is by turning to Saint Paul in Colossians 1:15-20; all things of the universe were created by Christ and for Christ, and he holds all things together.   Moreover, perhaps, the teaching of Maximus the Confessor also resolves the question. He believed that humankind was created last so that it would be used to unite the whole of creation with God.[xi]

Therefore, being that there will be and have not been any multiple incarnations of Christ Jesus, and that all things of the universe were created by Him and for Him, and that ETs are not angelic or demonic beings, and that there is nothing in Divine Revelation that explicitly denies or affirms the existence of ET life, we are left with the conclusion that should we come in communication with ET life that we are to trust that they are either sinners whom Christ also gave us His life for, or that they have been somehow affected by huamanities’ original sin, being “that all creation is groaning in labor pains even until now.”[xii]. To determine either, would, again, require a conversation or clear observation.

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ENDNOTES

[i] Catholic Church. Catechism of the Catholic Church. 2nd ed. Vatican: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 2012. 748. Print.

[ii] This was not an original notion by Galileo. According to a passage in Archimedes’s The Sand of Time, heliocentricism was first proposed by Aristarchus of Samos in the Third century BC. “Heath seems to have regretted the fact that the Greeks, after a gradual and steady process of improving upon planetary theories, attained to a complete heliocentric hypothesis, and then, almost immediately, laid it aside and rarely mentioned it afterwards. To Heath, Aristarchus was a strangely neglected figure whose epochal achievement of anticipating Copernicus by eighteen centuries had not been recognized by historians of science. Dreyer, on the other hand, views Aristarchus in proper perspective as the man who advanced one step farther than Herakleides of Pontus — the final step to the heliocentric theory, it is true — but because Aristarchus was a mathematician, and not an accurate observer, and naively neglected to take into account known inequalities in planetary motions, he doomed his system to quick extinction.” (Dreyer, J. L. E., and William Harris Stahl. A History of Astronomy: From Thales to Kepler. Second ed. Dover Publications, 1953. Iv. Print.) More recent to Galileo, heliocentricism has been proposed by renaissance astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus in De Revolutionibus Orbium Coelestium (On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres) in 1543.

[iii] O’Meara, Thomas (2012-05-01). Vast Universe: Extraterrestrials and Christian Revelation (Kindle Locations 1227-1228). Liturgical Press. Kindle Edition. O’Meara also offers explorers Protestant perspectives on ET life, as well as from Catholic theologians from the Nineteenth and Twentieth centuries.

[iv] Balducci, Carrado. “UFO’s and Extraterrestrial – A Problem for the Church?” UFOEvidence. Web. 31 Mar. 2015. <http://www.ufoevidence.org/documents/doc814.htm >.

[v] Funes, José Gabriel. ” The Extraterrestrial is my Brother ” Web. 31 Mar. 2015. <http://padrefunes.blogspot.com/>.

[vi] “Pope at Mass: The Holy Spirit makes the unthinkable possible” News.VA. Official Vatican Network, Web. 31 Mar. 2015. <http://padrefunes.blogspot.com/>.

[vii] Davies notes that surveys have shown that 40 million Americans have seen what they describe as a UFO. Yet, none of this impresses upon scientist who can’t logically reason to find just because something is X, does mean that it is Y. It can be Z. “UFOs are reported in their thousands, and the vast majority of them get explained straightforwardly as weird atmospheric effects, aircraft seen under unusual conditions, bright planets, etc. Admittedly, there are a handful of tough cases, but no obvious demarcation divides cases that get solved from those that don’t. So it is tempting to conclude that if 95 per cent of sightings can be explained without too much effort, then so could the remaining 5 per cent if we had enough information at our disposal, because there is nothing to elevate that residue from the rest, apart from being more puzzling.” Davies, Paul (2010-04-02). The Eerie Silence: Renewing Our Search for Alien Intelligence (p. 19). Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Kindle Edition.

[viii] It should be noted here that Davies is British physicist, atheist, Professor of Natural Philosophy of Adelaide, and a prolific writer, whose attempts the bridge the gap between faith and science has met the critical ire of Richard Dawkins and Victor J. Stenger. Davies is open to the idea the universe having an intelligent designer, but firmly believes the Big Bang and Evolution theories. In The Eerie Silence: Renewing Our Search for Alien Intelligence he is making no such attempt to bring religion into his criticisms of those who believe in ET life.

[ix] In this equation, N is the number of detectable civilizations in our galaxy. The other variables are described below:

R (the only known variable with any degree of certainty) is the rate of star formation in the galaxy

fp is the fraction of stars that form planets

ne is the number of planets hospitable to life (i.e., Earth-like planets)

fl is the fraction of these planets on which life actually emerges

fi is the fraction of these planets on which intelligent life arises

fc is the fraction of these planets with intelligent beings capable of interstellar communication

L is the length of time such a civilization remains detectable

[x] Kereszty, Roch A. (2014-08-20). Jesus Christ: Fundamentals of Christology (Kindle Locations 7072-7073). ST PAULS. Kindle Edition.

[xi] Kereszty, Roch A. (2014-08-20). Jesus Christ: Fundamentals of Christology (Kindle Locations 4216-4217). ST PAULS. Kindle Edition.

[xii] Rom. 8:22.

Author Profile

David L. Gray M.A.T.
Mr. David L. Gray is an American Catholic Theologian and a Historian on Black Fraternal History. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration (BS) from Central State University (Ohio) and a Masters of Arts in Catholic Theology (M.A.T.) from Ohio Dominican University. David is a convert to Catholicism by the way of Agnosticism and Protestantism. He currently resides in the Saint Louis, Missouri area with his wife and daughters, and is the President and Publisher of Saint Dominic's Media Inc. To learn more about Mr. Gray visit davidlgray.info

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