ASK FATHER: Baptizing aliens who burst into flames from water. No. Really.

From a reader (who has sent queries before about a writing project):

I’m sorry if I’m been annoying at all in the past. But I have another question this one is for a writing project that might never get off the ground, but in case it does. Could water that is extratrestrial in origin e.g from a comet or another planet be valid matter for baptism?

I parried back:

Water is water. H2O. Right?

And I went about my day, self-assured in my concise response.

The inquirer reposted:

Yep, essentially. But there exist other types of water like D2O [which everyone knows is deuterium oxide or heavy water] H2O+ [can’t say I know that one] (3)H2O [or that one] there are also a couple of newly discovered forms which are both liquid and solid simultaneously. Which shouldn’t be possible but it exists. [That sounds sort of like triple point, but not quite. I have my doubts that the states are simultaneous.  Three states can coexist at triple point, but they are different. Right?] Ain’t God wonderful. [No argument there.] Anyway now that I think about it, I have another idea that works better. I can simply make the person reviving baptism have a non-water biochemistry, picture the a human preist baptizing an alein [truly alien, since we don’t reverse e and i that often] only to have said alien burst into flames, or an alien baptizing a human only the alien understands “water” to be hydrogen cyanide, …

?!?!?

I hope this isn’t the old dihydrogen monoxide scam again.

Okay… I’ve got nothing.

Nope, I just got something.

From Daniel 3:

O all ye waters that are above the heavens, bless the Lord; praise and exalt him above all for ever. […] O every shower and dew, bless ye the Lord: praise and exalt him above all for ever. [65] O all ye spirits of God, bless the Lord: praise and exalt him above all for ever. […] O ye dews and hoar frosts, bless the Lord: praise and exalt him above all for ever. […] O ye ice and snow, bless the Lord: praise and exalt him above all for ever.

The next one is of the creepy M. Night Shyamalan movie Signs. It starts out all light-hearted and then, suddenly, gets really creepy. But I don’t post spoilers and neither should you. I really hate spoilers (advance descriptions) and I really resent spoilers (the people who spoil). Take that hint.  I ban those people.

Water that is liquid and solid at the same time? I take it that this is way beyond the whole liminal state situation wherein the introduction of additional energy can suddenly push the liquid into another state (which I once accomplished in my Rome apartment with beer bottles in a freezer, while now-Archbp. Sample, a metalurgist by training, explained what was happening…. What a rich life I’ve led).

Okay, in the future, if we find that there is life-out-there and that life-out-there wants to be Christian, but that life-out-there takes a real dim view of water (as in bursting into flames at the touch of water – alas, Jar Jar is not one of them), how do we baptize aliens?

Could this be an out? The Church says that we baptize humans with water. Perhaps Holy Mother Church could allow baptism of aliens with, say, liquid helium – which would be exciting, or nitrogen tetroxide – which could be interesting, in tense way, or may even with really pure hydrogen peroxide – which could do a bang up job of it, or perhaps also digoxin – which might require immediate Extreme Unction.

As for the alien baptizing the human with hydrogen cyanide… ad astra per ardua, after all.  Who said being Christian was easy?  Whatever else it might be, it ain’t a piece of yellow-cake.

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76 Responses to ASK FATHER: Baptizing aliens who burst into flames from water. No. Really.

  1. TWF says:

    I realize that this isn’t completely serious, by any means, but I just don’t understand how the Church could even consider the idea of “baptizing aliens”. I have NO issue with the possibility that various intelligent species exist “out there” in the vast, wide cosmos…I just don’t see how our economy of salvation could apply to them. Christ assumed our HUMAN nature in order to redeem it. It is by virtue of being a son of Adam that He ransomed the sons of Adam. St. Gregory of Nazianzus said: “That which was not assumed is not healed; but that which is united to God is saved”. Our salvation is rooted in the incarnation: God became MAN.
    There could be billions of distinct alien species out there for all I know…but I think it would undermine the entire incarnation if we try to figure out a way to baptize them…

  2. TWF says:

    Aliens either have their own economy of salvation…or perhaps they never fell. Of course this could also vary by species. Perhaps the way of the Jedi is the economy of salvation for the various races of the Galaxy Far, Far, Away.

  3. jflare says:

    “Water that is liquid and solid at the same time? ”

    Perhaps the original author referred to water/ice as a solution being held steady at 32 deg F?
    (Or at another temperature as pressure either goes higher or lower.) Neither being completely converted to ice, but not liquefying either?

    As I consider the idea, I begin to think that a non-water chemistry or biology might not be possible. Or, if possible for a created being to live based on a different substance, I’m thinking such a creature would have difficulty even communicating with humans. I’m fairly sure that heavy and heavier hydrogen (H2 and H3 respectively, I don’t remember their scientific names) might exist naturally, but they’re both in extremely small quantities and they don’t exist for very long. They usually break down to H1 pretty quickly, if I recall correctly. Neither would be likely to be a blood base for an alien that we could interact with.

    Same goes for other compounds. It’s true enough that all elements have their liquid, solid, and gas states, including carbon or silicon, or compounds based on them, but there’s a reason why we don’t use them much in forms different from Earth “room temperature”. Most compounds require being either very hot or very cold to human touch.
    I would expect any alien race that we could talk to will have fairly similar characteristics as we, precisely because of the temperature and pressure requirements involved.

    (Yes, I’m getting deep into this, but I think it’s a valid point.)

  4. Imrahil says:

    As Bl. Duns Scotus held, even without any sin to redeem from reincarnation would still be worth while. So, even without any sin you need to be saved from, it still is worth while to become part of the Mystical Body of Christ.

    As the angels are; though being non-corporal beings noone obviously has baptized them. Maybe that tells us something?

    On the other hand, if the aliens did sin, they’re still part of creation, so, Christ’s sorrowful Passion as happened concretely on this planet would well suffice. “That which was not assumed is not healed” is a mystical insight based on the experience here on Earth; w. r. t. life-out-there, it would be incorrect, though. Except they get their own salvations (which then in turn would be sufficient for us, anyway, except for all the prophecies in the Bible which had to be fulfilled here on Earth). They might. As St. Thomas teaches somewhere, the Second Person of the Trinity could incarnate more than once, theoretically (and then all these natures would be the nature of the same person, though.)

    In fact, as for the essense of mankind theoretically considered, in the way the ancients defined ourselves and which perhaps could be given as “a sentient, rational, not immaterial living thing”, these aliens would probably simply qualify as men.

    After this introduction, now to the questions?

    Can anything but water ever be valid matter of Baptism? – If we don’t get another divine revelation about what to do with such aliens, no.
    Can pure deuterium oxide? I guess.
    Can pure tritium oxide? I hesitatingly guess so to. Though baptizees are supposed to shine with grace, not with radioactivity ;-)

    If scholars should rule out deuterium oxide or tritium oxide for men, maybe that could be reconsidered for aliens, but anything else, absolutely no.

    On the other hand, morals is the same in us as in aliens. So, it is not morally obliging to them to get themselves baptized if they burst into flames upon the touch of water. It may be an open question whether some of them, desperately craving for the Sacrament and quite prepared to die for it, may do so or if that is generally prohibited (by the Church, etc.) as suicide. But they need not.

    What, then, are they to do? They are to set an act of faith and an act of contrition and pray to God that he grant them grace the same way he does to good Catechumens (and perhaps to others, though that is another topic).

  5. Imrahil says:

    Btw., I guess (3)H2O is supposed to mean tritium oxide. But I’ve never heard of H2O+. Maybe H3O+, the thing which makes acids acid? Not valid matter.

  6. Unwilling says:

    Perhaps Prof Hilary Putnam’s
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Twin_Earth_thought_experiment
    could be helpful to the “water” needs of Phosphorous-based Units.
    [In 1994, age 68, Hilary Putnam celebrated his belated bar mitzvah.]

    But the quasi-computational Large Number Argument, LNA (that it is probabilistically certain that at least one species of extra-terrestrial persons exist), when based on a supposedly indefinitely large count of planets, actually proves the opposite, by proving too much. If the count is indefinitely large, then, by the LNA, this “proves” not only that at least one species of ET persons exists, but more, that an indefinitely large number of ET person species exists. And not only are they indefinitely numerous, they include some species at every conceivable level of technological advancement. And at least some of these include those who have reached Earth and openly revealed themselves to all of us. Minor: But no such species has revealed itself to all of us. Therefore, the LNA does not prove that any species of ET persons exists.

    Math is implacable.

  7. LarryW2LJ says:

    Fr. Z,

    Perhaps an e-book someday entitled “Fr. Z’s Out Takes” or something like that, with some of the most “different” inquiries you have received?

  8. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    With the hope not to be a spoiler-strewing spoiler… In Perelandra, C.S. Lewis seems to be imagining an economy of creation in which (ch. 5) the Lady asks, “Since our Beloved became a man, how should Reason in any world take on another form?” Ransom summarizes, “And after this, it will all be men.” Earlier, she has said, “in your world Maleldil first took Himself this form, the form of your race and mine.”

    Now, all of this conversation is, of course, imagined to be a translation for our convenience from Old Solar. But it would seem that planetary ‘worlds’ are both distinct, and part of larger whole – certainly ‘solar-systemic’, but quite possibly ‘cosmic’ in the fullest sense. The Incarnation is imagined as in some sense ‘decisive’ for ‘all possible subsequent rational animals’.

    But, where such new creatures are unfallen, how are they further related to the benefits of the Incarnation on Earth – including, as the Ordinary of the Mass expresses it, “ejus divinitatis esse consortes”?

    And, should such creatures fall, how would – or might – their salvation be related to the means of ours? Would something new have to be done, by Christus Deus Noster sedens ad Dextera Pater particularly, to effect their salvation? (Ransom thinks about this later in the novel.)

    How much difference would it make if (unlike the Perelandra ‘supposal’) they had a different anatomy or chemistry? There do seem to be cosmic chemical and material-energy continuities: in that sense, any rational creature in the cosmos, unless in the strictest sense, ‘bodiless’, will be made of some of the ‘same stuff’ as any other. In becoming Man, God related such creaturely continuity in a new way to the Trinity. So, whatever the answers are for ‘this time-space continuum’, any ‘species economy of salvation’ would/will be related to the economy of creation-and-Incarnation. The questions concern ‘how’?

    (Does the Lady’s “the form of your race and mine”, raise questions of ‘form’ and ‘matter’ distinct from cosmic chemistry and matter-energy continuum? That is, that the identity of ‘form’ need not mean a identity of ‘race’.)

  9. RJD says:

    @TWF said:

    I realize that this isn’t completely serious, by any means, but I just don’t understand how the Church could even consider the idea of “baptizing aliens”. I have NO issue with the possibility that various intelligent species exist “out there” in the vast, wide cosmos…I just don’t see how our economy of salvation could apply to them. Christ assumed our HUMAN nature in order to redeem it.

    If said aliens were to have a genuine yearning to become closer to God in the way that we, as humans, understand Him, then how could the church *not* consider the idea of baptizing aliens? I accept your premise that the fall may have been a uniquely-human event (or may vary species-by-species…hmm…there could be a story there…about a member of the Congregation for the Salvation of Extra-Terrestrials (CSET) who is charged with evaluating a race to determine (A) whether they’ve fallen, and (B) if yes, has God revealed their unique path to salvation, or should we send missionaries…). However, if they have such a genuine desire, wouldn’t that be an indication that yes, they’ve fallen, and that we should do whatever we can to help them attain salvation?

  10. Thorfinn says:

    All priests need to be studying these types of questions, which will be coming more often since the news broke that Pope Francis baptized a Dalek, apparently by immersion.

    After the priest learns to say the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass in the Extraordinary Form, of course.

  11. msc says:

    Our understanding of the faith develops over time. Things completely unknown to the writers of the Old and New Testaments, or to the Church fathers, obviously cannot have been contemplated by them. When the Bible or our liturgy says Christ became man the word “man” is based on a Greek (anthropos) or Latin word, languages that themselves had no word for intelligent beings other than man. Christ became human. Christ also became a Jewish Aramaic-speaking male in Judea, yet he saved both men and women, people who speak every language and live over the whole world. Some Christians denied at first that the peoples of the new world were included in salvation, or even had souls. So it seems easy to me to extend that concept to sapient entities that might live beyond our planet. If we find intelligent life elsewhere, the Church will need to consider how this fits into Salvation and I am sure she will do wisely.

  12. JPD says:

    I think a number of questions would arise if ET were found:

    Do they have a rational and immortal soul?
    What impact, if any, would the fall of man have on their species?
    If they have not yet fallen into a state of sin, suggesting of course they are capable of sin, would there be a danger in them interacting with fallen human beings?
    Did Jesus come just to save just man or all?
    If their species fell from grace, would God send His Son to redeem them as He redeemed humanity? Would they have their own economy of Salvation? Would baptism suffice for the alien species? Would they be able to be confirmed and receive all Sacraments?
    What if the alien is asexual, would marriage be a valid option for them?
    If the alien became Catholic, would they be able to become a Priest? Imagine visiting a little green man in confession who has the ability to read minds? Could we have our first intergalactic Bishop or Pope?

    Of course, it would be very funny if they visited Earth, and hold the exact same beliefs as Roman Catholics in terms of the Fundamentals of the faith.

  13. JPD says:

    Of course, you have to love the Catholic faith. These are issues pondered by philosophers and theologians, so if ET does eventually show himself to humanity, then I will not have a crisis of faith, but many others who hold to the Bible alone would certainly be questioning what it all means.

  14. Heather F says:

    Questions like these may be trivial thought exercises, but they are fun trivial thought exercises. A friend and I are working on a science fiction story of human contact with aliens, and it occurred to us to wonder how would you decide who was able to become a priest in a species whose reproductive biology does not fall into the same binary as ours, presuming as we do in our story that the species is indeed Fallen to some extent and at some point some of its members may become interested in converting to Christianity.

    In brief, only about a third to half of the species develops the ability to reproduce, with their non-reproducing siblings traditionally helping to raise the young, gather resources, and (in prehistoric days) defend the family from predators. But in each mated pair, both members can both lay and fertilize eggs. So the binary is not male/female, but rather yes/no. We still haven’t come to any conclusion regarding what would be the decision, which is all right since the story ends before the issue actually arises, but it’s a fun thought exercise.

  15. Water at once signifies Life, Cleansing, and The Deeps; so, whatever they need for life and most use to clean themselves and have oceans of, that’s probably The Thing To Use. And probably we should let them start with themselves (since a heathen can validly baptise) and we’re mostly water ourselves.

    The Solid+Liquid thing might well be a supersolid, a phase that ordinarily moves rigidly by itself but which flows plastically without friction. Maybe it’s a superposition of solid/liquid phases; quantum things seem to like doing that.

  16. Jerry says:

    Any creature that bursts into flames on contact with water is not likely to survive long in our atmosphere, which in most places has a significant water content.

    I agree with the argument that in the absence of information to the contrary, Baptism applies to humans only. Setting that aside, if the alien has a knowledge of the Lord and desires Baptism for their salvation, and upon contact with the water they burst into flames, then they become a martyr for the faith, no?

  17. Matt Robare says:

    Wouldn’t aliens who cannot come into contact with water for biological reasons be covered under Baptism of desire?

  18. Imrahil says:

    Dear JPD,

    very interesting points.

    Do they have a rational and immortal soul?

    By the nature of the very question, they’ll have a rational soul. Otherwise they are just not the kind of alien we’re talking about. However, nothing is important for certain. Grimmelshausen invented a species of water-sprites with a rational, and even unfallen and sinless soul, which, though, is mortal and which is not given grace. The conversation Simplicius has with them is rather enlightening.

    If they have not yet fallen into a state of sin, suggesting of course they are capable of sin, would there be a danger in them interacting with fallen human beings?

    They would be capable of sin, though perhaps without our concupiscience problem. The rest – interesting. Anyway the danger would tend to be less in those without sin than in those with.

    Did Jesus come just to save just man or all?

    His Passion certainly has the power to do so; whether it is the case, how grace is distributed, I don’t know. Though I tend to think that God will not punish repentant souls eternally.

    If their species fell from grace, would God send His Son to redeem them as He redeemed humanity? Would they have their own economy of Salvation?

    He might. He might also send an angel to announce the happy news, as in the Mormon fable w.r.t. America. Or he might redeem them without their knowing, as he redeemed the otherwise redeemable people in actual 1st millenium America.

    What if the alien is asexual, would marriage be a valid option for them?

    No, but in that case if it takes two aliens to produce offspring, doing so outside marriage would at least not in any case be sinful.

    If the alien became Catholic, would they be able to become a Priest?

    No. A woman cannot become a priest because she is not fitting to act in persona of our Lord as He walked on earth. Much less, therefore, can an alien.

    Imagine visiting a little green man in confession who has the ability to read minds?

    An alien race might be quite apt to read bodily signs and deduce what people are thinking; but the actual mind, the secrets of the heart, only God can read; not even the most powerful angels can. (Or demons, which is where the question arose.)

    Could we have our first intergalactic Bishop or Pope?

    We have. It’s the actual Pope who resides in Rome (and should continue to do so). He has jurisdiction anywhere; and in any place not assigned to a particular Church, there is none other who has. So, he is at present the only intergalactic Bishop. And in any case there can only be one Pope in all the Church, no matter on how many galaxies she has members…

    However, the actual height of a diocese might therefore become interesting. We’d probably go for the rule generally applied for states: so dioceses should be 100 kilometers high, and above that only space, with the Pope at present not only the highest but also the sole hierarch.

  19. majuscule says:

    I say go back to the old covenant and circumcise ’em.

    Of course, that brings up a whole new set of questions…

  20. Carolina Geo says:

    Apparently the Wicked Witch of the West was doomed to never become a Christian.

  21. Legisperitus says:

    What if the aliens don’t have heads?

  22. Nicholas says:

    Legisperitus,

    Full immersion is still a valid way to baptize.

  23. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    Legisperitus,

    “When we were boys,
    Who would believe that […] there were such men
    Whose heads stood in their breasts? which now we find
    Each putter-out of five for one will bring us
    Good warrant of”.

    Gonzalo in The Tempest (III.iii)

  24. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    msc,

    We might compare St. Augustine’s discussion of possible ‘races’ in City of God (XVI, 8). And St. Christopher Cynocephalus provides an encounter of a not dissimilar matter in Church history and hagiology.

  25. Tamquam says:

    It is possible that other sentient species have their own Fall and their own Savior. In such a case it might come to pass that a Religious Order might be founded to search out, catalog and pray with them, perhaps the Order of Divine Salvation or something. This, however, strikes me as unlikely.

    Rom 3 22b-25a This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. 25 God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith.

    It therefore follows that each sentient species was tempted by the devil and fell. Their stories of the fall will be unique, I’m sure. As will their prophetic tradition by which the Holy Spirit has led them to prepare for their Redeemer. But there is only one Redeemer, Whose unique and universal sacrifice took place on our own humble mud ball. This honor is conferred on us not because we are so great and wonderful, but on the contrary, because we are the least, most obdurate sinners.

    Mark 16:15 He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. ”

    A great deal needs to be done in preparation for receiving these spiritually famished species in to the Church, the communication problems by themselves are immense. An entire branch of practical theology, Sacred Chemistry and Physics, will have to be developed in order to make the matter for the various Sacraments viable to a variety of beings whose chemistry might not be compatible with ours. Simply keeping the minister alive long enough to confer a Sacrament will at times be a challenge.

    So we have work to do, and it is long past time that the Vatican bought NASA and got on with it.

  26. The Masked Chicken says:

    I feel like lecturing…

    There is a compound, t-butyl lithium which is pyrophoric (fire-loving) that will spontaneously combust in the presence of water. Once the fire starts, it is nearly impossible to put the fire out by using the safety shower. A dry chemical or CO2 must be used. A deadly incident with this compound occurred at UCLA in 2009.

    Deutereum oxide has about the same reactive properties as water and, since a small amount of D2O exists in any reasonable amount of water, essentially, most water is contaminated. Deuterium contains an extra neutron, but this does not affect most normal non-nuclear reactive properties, although it does affect some chemical properties. There is H3O+, which is the hydronium cation, which is formed in acid reactions, but not H2O+, except as, possibly, a transition-state intermediate and the popular name for some beauty lotion.

    Of course, all water exists as a liquid and solid at the freezing point (that is the definition of the freezing point – the point at atmospheric pressure on the liquid/solid co-existence line on a phase diagram). This is nothing special. At 0 oC, 32 oF, and 273.15 K, 1 atmosphere pressure, water exhibits this property. The triple point of water, where solid, liquid, and gas co-exists is 273.16 K. Increasing the temperature by .01 K causes the gas to go away leaving the pure solid/liquid co-existence point, where ice just begins to turn into liquid water.

    All life on Earth seems to be based on carbon, but it was thought for a long time that silicon, directly below it on the periodic table, could have its own organic and biochemistry. Recent theoretical calculations indicate that silicon might be too large to form tetrahedral structures with bond angles small enough to do chemistry with. Thus, no silicon rock creatures, like in Star Trek TOS.

    The best sci-fi book to explore these question is James Blish’s, A Case of Conscience, about this exact question (the reader might want to read it – it won a Hugo Award in 1959 and Blish was corrected about extra-terrestrials when one person sent him the supposed Vatican guidelines in 1998).

    There is a lot of wackiness out there:

    http://exopolitics.org/pope-francis-to-announce-extraterrestrial-savior-according-to-new-book/

    In theory, one would have to discern, first, if the aliens are valid matter. Did Adam’s Sin touch the aliens? In theory, all of the universe was touched by the Sin, but were the aliens alive at that time? Are they rational (one cannot baptize bacteria ). What if they existed before Adam? Then, why water? Water is used for washing. If the alien skins had a nonpolar exoskeleton, trichloro-ethane might be a better substance than ester. Water is both a symbol and a substance in baptism. One cannot use it as substance, only, probably.

    The Chicken

  27. JPD says:

    Imrahil,

    Interesting responses. Of course, for us the economy of salvation provides us with a male only Priesthood, but what would prevent male aliens from becoming Priests? While Jesus walked on earth, he also existed within the universe, so would that not open the door?

    Good point on the mind reading element, and I would say the danger for unfallen aliens would be from man who might seek to subvert or corrupt their minds

    I was of course referring to the possibility of an alien Pope, but if we rule out alien priests then obviously it would be ruled out. However, in case a Bishop is unable to visit the alien plant due to some chemical/natural issues, then it would be fitting to allow someone to stand in his place, albeit under their jurisdiction.

    I would argue that, and depending on the amount of aliens, Bishops would be assigned to planets with axillaries to deal with the amount of aliens. Of course, if they could, in some theological way, and depending on their biology, enter the Priesthood, then the planets would have their own race as Bishop.

  28. JPD says:

    Masked Chicken,

    In the economy of Salvation for the said alien life, who has a rational immortal soul in need of saving, it might be feasible, depending on their own culture, to remove the stain of original sin in alternative ways. They may have their own theology not to dissimilar to Catholic where they have seven sacraments with, in certain cases, different form and matter.

    The big question would be are they likely to attend Novus Ordo or the Extraordinary Form?

  29. Imrahil says:

    A correction:

    “However, nothing is important for certain.” Must have been absent-minded. I intended to say: “It does not naturally follow from having a rational soul that it is also immortal, or that it is part of the economy of Grace.”

    Whatever words I mixed up ;-)

  30. BLB Oregon says:

    My PhD is in chemistry, and I don’t think I’ve had either a chemistry student or a catechism student ask a question quite this odd.

    Turn to the chapter in your general chemistry text that covers “phase diagrams.” Of course there is such a thing as water that is solid and liquid at the same time. It is called “ice water.” If you can see fog over a flowing river with chunks of ice floating down it, you are seeing water that is solid, liquid and gas, all at the same time!

    Whoever pointed out that a being who would burst into flames at the touch of water would have a tough time just being in the atmosphere of a humid planet was also spot on. Our oxygen atmosphere would probably be far too oxidizing for such an entity. There has been a great deal of debate whether or not life as we know it could exist without water, the molecule is that peerless in its versatility. I have never even heard speculation that materials so reduced that they’d burst into flames if they touched water have anything like the structural variability necessary to create an organism. Not to put a limit on the creativity of God, but it is highly unlikely that the Creator intends to create such a being.

    What if we figured out how to communicate with anti-matter aliens, made just like us, but out of anti-matter, so they could only touch anti-matter, because contact with matter would mutually destroy them and the matter? Well, provided we could find some way to communicate with our fallen alien brethren, if we could not baptize them, they could baptize each other since “in a case of necessity any person with the right intention, confers baptism licitly.”

    This sort of discussion is only useful as a means to more fully understand the principles necessary to understand the sacraments as they apply to us, right now. For instance, our world is full of sentient beings, but only one species is fallen and in need of redemption or baptism. The rest are innocent, even the dangerous ones. So the greater problem we will face with regards to aliens is this: How would we know if they are fallen and in need of redemption by baptism into the one and only saving Incarnation, Death, and Resurrection of the Second Person of the Trinity? I do not see any answer that comes from theory. The answer will have to wait for revelation.

    “Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself. Sufficient for a day is its own evil.” (Matt 6:34) Cross the bridge of converting aliens when we come to it. What God intends us to do, God provides us a way to do. We just have to be willing to listen and trust when the time comes.

  31. Joe in Canada says:

    The whole universe fell with the fall of the angels.
    I’ve never tried this – could we baptize with ice cubes?

  32. Imrahil says:

    Dear Tamquam,

    It therefore follows that each sentient species was tempted by the devil and fell.

    I don’t think it “therefore follows”, leastways not from the verses you quoted here. What does follow is that mankind was tempted by the Devil and fell, but that is clear anyway.

    Anyway, what does “sentient” mean? if it means “rational”, then we know of a group of rational beings who did not fall – the good angels. If it means “possessing the senses”, we know of a group of beings who were not tempted nor fell – the animals.

    Dear JPD,

    well the question is whether they have their own economy of salvation or share in ours. If the former, then there might be similarities, including a possible incarnation of our Lord (or for that matter another Person of the Trinity – St. Thomas says that though the second was most fitting, theoretically the Father or the Holy Spirit could also have an incarnation), a Church with their own priests, their own Popes, etc. Though if their Pope had infallibility, there could never be a clash on infallibility level with ours.

    If, on the other hand, they share in our economy of salvation, then there’s only one Pope, ours. And then only male men can become priests. The reason why only males can become priests is that a priest is to impersonate our Lord who was male, and women are not fitting (this implies that His maleness is not just a coincidence, and thus may need further explanation, but at any rate this is the reason), and consequently have been excluded (as shown by our Lord in the choice of Apostles).

    But He was, of course, Man. Hence a woman would certainly be more fitting than a whatever-race alien male, even though male. And thus, as women cannot be priests, a fortiori aliens cannot.

    A mixture may be possible, though: they might share in our economy of salvation, but have their own priesthoods, instituted on Divine authority following (or leading to) the great event of Salvation on our Earth, and directed to that Sacrifice nontheless.

    Or, coming to think of it, these may form one priesthood, i. e. the Lord would have initiated priesthoods, and they all form one. The Church alone, though, has not the authority to ordain an alien. Also, I don’t think she has real grounds to recognize such Divine ordinances, because where do we get safe information on Revelation from? Scripture and Tradition! And the Magisterium, but that’s Magisterium deciding on Scripture and Tradition. Now, information about a Divine institution to an alien race to take part in our priesthood (for want of male men, having to take male aliens) is lacking in Scripture and Tradition. There’s a problem.

    And as we can’t have a Pope without certainly valid orders, we won’t have an alien as a Pope. No offence, aliens ;-)

  33. Flavius Hesychius says:

    According to Eye of the Tiber, the HF would not convert krakens or minotaurs. here.

    That article had me laughing after feeling very down.

  34. KM Edwards says:

    1. Baptism is by water, I doubt the Church specifies whether it needs to be non-heavy versus heavy.
    2. If extraterrestrial sentient beings exist, that is, they have a soul, we cannot presume that they are in a state of grace – God does not owe any creature to be created in a state of grace. God was gracious in creating Adam and Eve in a state of grace, but He was not obliged to. As such, it is not necessary that an extraterrestrial sentient race have suffered a “fall from grace”. Catholics would be obligated to proselytze them and baptize them with water in the name of the Father, Son and the Holy Ghost.
    3. In the most hypothetical scenario that water consumes them (what are these aliens made of anyways? Hyrodgen Fluoride?) that would be a conundrum – one would have to wonder if that were a sign from God that they were not sentient beings capable of salvation, but I would leave that to the Church’s theologians to decide.

  35. KM Edwards says:

    1. Baptism is by water, I doubt the Church specifies whether it needs to be non-heavy versus heavy.
    2. If extraterrestrial sentient beings exist, that is, they have a soul, we cannot presume that they are in a state of grace – God does not owe any creature to be created in a state of grace. God was gracious in creating Adam and Eve in a state of grace, but He was not obliged to. As such, it is not necessary that an extraterrestrial sentient race have suffered a “fall from grace”. Catholics would be obligated to proselytze them and baptize them with water in the name of the Father, Son and the Holy Ghost.
    3. In the most hypothetical scenario that water consumes them (what are these aliens made of anyways? Hyrodgen Fluoride?) that would be a conundrum – one would have to wonder if that were a sign from God that they were not sentient beings capable of salvation, but I would leave that to the Church’s theologians to decide.

  36. About whether other species are affected by Original Sin…

    There is no question that they are. The entire universe was affected by the fall of man, which is clear both as a matter of science and revelation:

    For creation awaits with eager expectation the revelation of the children of God; for creation was made subject to futility, not of its own accord but because of the one who subjected it, in hope
    that creation itself would be set free from slavery to corruption and share in the glorious freedom of the children of God. We know that all creation is groaning in labor pains even until now; and not only that, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, we also groan within ourselves as we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies
    (Romans 8:18-23).

    You may say, well, Saint Paul was merely intending to describe earth; however, the same laws governing time and decay and death prevail throughout the universe.

  37. I have thought about this question, and the answer seems to me to be affirmative.

    But then I have a more difficult question. Would a male alien (assuming a species with male and female) be admitted to holy orders?

  38. dans0622 says:

    Fr. Martin Fox: you answer well that question about original sin. I’d ask a different question: do other species inherit original sin and so then need to be redeemed from it?

  39. JPD says:

    Fr Martin, that is a question I posed above. I suspect the Theologians of the Church would need to determine whether the Priesthood is for male humanoids or could include male alien life forms. I suspect the latter would be possible if they shared our economy of salvation, although, if they had their own salvific act, then probably not. Jesus Christ came not just to redeem man but all of creation, He came not just to earth but He entered time and space.

    Original sin, I suspect, could not be inherited as all sin comes from Adam, and is generational, so one must be human to have the affect of original sin as we know it? However, it might be plausible that the alien society also has a version of their own original sin for which they will require a salvific act.

  40. Uxixu says:

    Fermi’s Paradox has never had any satisfactory answers, requiring either the vastly implausible (there aren’t any) or to invest in tinfoil hats (they’re already here). The latter naturally lends itself towards a representation of both the angelic and demonic… Then there are the Nephilim (most likely not the rock-creatures of the secular not-Noah movie…).

    That said, dear Rev Fr Fox brings up an interesting point. Giving that lack of hands/arms is an impediment, that should restrict Sacred Orders to those with hand equivalents. Wonder about those aliens with tentacles would presumably be in but not anything of a crystaline or silicon based lifeform that didn’t have articulated appendages (and would presumably exclude uplifted Dolphins, etc) as well.

  41. excalibur says:

    The Day of the Triffids is a mini sci-fi classic film from the 1960’s. So M. Night Shyamalan did not originate the idea, it goes back at least to the Triffids film. Though Signs is very good, with some, I thought, solid acting.

    The novel on which Triffids is based, and which I have never read, does not have a simplistic ending as does the film. Arthur C. Clarke called the novel “an immortal story”, FWIW.

  42. albizzi says:

    I cannot imagine for only one millionth of a second that the mankind is set to encounter intelligent alien beings in the future.
    Do the Bible, the Gospel, the Revelation Book contain any hint, even veiled, about such an incredible fact of unheard historical proportions that would shake the world and even much more the Church herself ? I was a bit puzzled hearing a Jesuit astronomer talking on that issue as if it was but a matter of time.
    Until now nobody could get any undoubtful clue about an extraterrestrial life. In my opinion looking after that is a waste of time.

  43. The Masked Chicken says:

    “This sort of discussion is only useful as a means to more fully understand the principles necessary to understand the sacraments as they apply to us, right now. For instance, our world is full of sentient beings, but only one species is fallen and in need of redemption or baptism.”

    Sentience is a bad road to go down, since there is no really consistent definition that would not imply that embryos are not sentient and, therefore, not human. In other words, the idea of sentience being comparable to or even different than humanity is cloudy, at best. Are other animals sentient? Possibly, but exactly what does a rational soul confer that sentience does not? Dangerous area. Warning.

    This whole discussion is a subcategory of a larger intersection of science-fictiony type of questions and the Faith. For instance, if interactive time travel were possible, why has no one from the future attempted to go back in time and killed Pilate or Mary, etc. If there are multiple worlds in alternate realities, is there a world where Adam never fell? Wouldn’t that be the best of all possible worlds? What about transhumanism? How much non-human DNA can one add to a human before they stop being human (The Fly, anyone?)? Can one add enough DNA to an animal to make it human? If time travel were possible, could one not go back in time preventing the damning mortal sin of a friend and save him from Hell? Think of what that would do to confession :) Perhaps, there is a time machine that snatches people, at the moment of death, into a confessional and then transports them back to die. Hey, maybe all men are in Heaven :)

    One can multiply examples, ad infinitum. What about quantum teleportation? Can the soul survive? What about gene therapy that removes violence or guilt, etc. Just at the time we need to be our morally smartest, we are at our morally stupidest. Is that planned (by…aliens…). We face difficult times, ahead, if we do not get our science and Faith aligned. This will take well-trained scientists and theologians operating out of the same playbook. It must happen, soon or else, soon, there might not, literally, be any time left.

    The Chicken

  44. The Cobbler says:

    This sort of thing should not be examined without looking for any medieval theology on whether to baptize faeries. Thought experiment: set aside the possible/probable explanations (both those that purport them to be real and those that purport to explain them away) and just go down the list of things typically attributed to aliens/ufos. Now do the same but for faeries. Notice anything interesting?

  45. The Cobbler says:

    (In that thought experiment I should have said, for clarity’s sake, “sightings of aliens/ufos”. Science fiction about alien life is the sort of thing I mean to set aside when I say “possible explanations”.)

  46. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    Apologies for the defective accusative! (I was singing it to myself while I typed, so I don’t know exactly how I messed that up…)

    Imrahil,

    Unfortunately, the only translation of Grimmelshausen’Simplissimus (a transcription of the 1912 first English version) I could readily find online omits V, xviii-xvi!

    What you say about him and it sounds not unlike Tolkien’s Eldar (who are rational, but do not know if they will be more than co-temporal with Middle-earth – including the ‘Undying Lands’). Do you know if Grimmelshausen was reproducing existing lore, or speculation (cf. Paracelsus – whom I have not read, either)?

    Before I start combing through the Summa, do you happen to have any of your very interesting Incarnation-related references to hand?

    excalibur,

    I’ve enjoyed The Day of the Triffids – and all the other John Wyndam stories I’ve read so far (which is not a blanket endorsement of content).

    The Masked Chicken,

    Your mentioning, “If there are multiple worlds in alternate realities…”, makes me think much of H.Beam Piper, which (with the same non-endorsement proviso) I have also enjoyed – and, for that matter, of Narnia (where the Perelandra Incarnational ‘supposal’ does not simply apply).

    “Just at the time we need to be our morally smartest, we are at our morally stupidest.” Indeed! Do you happen to know anything about the experimental production of human-animal embryonic chimeras? I have heard some horrific things, but not yet tried to learn more via searching online or off…

    Heather F,

    How rational and voluntary, or not, is the laying and fertilizing of your aliens’ eggs? Could you have a fertilizer-only married to an egg-layer-only, who then became a widower, or who both became continent by mutual consent?

  47. Cafea Fruor says:

    Well, in this whole lot of questions and speculation, one thing’s for sure: If we ever do find alien life, we can rest assured that Our Lady is their Queen, too. After all, she is Queen of the Universe. :-)

  48. jflare says:

    ” Would a male alien (assuming a species with male and female) be admitted to holy orders?”

    Hmm….. I had been about to comment that an alien species would most likely need to have male and female in order to exist and reproduce. ..then I realized that a non-alien species on earth, namely the earth worm, has hermaphroditic characteristics. I believe each worm has both sets of organs(?) needed for reproducing, though I believe two worms still must rub against each other for either to reproduce. At least, I think that’s what I remember from high school biology.

    Does being a hermaphrodite disqualify one from the priesthood now?

  49. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    Cafea Fruor,
    As one translation has it, in relation also to the creation beyond time-space,

    “It is truly meet and right to bless you, O Theotokos,
    Ever blessed and most pure, and the Mother of our God.
    More honorable than the Cherubim, and more glorious beyond compare than the Seraphim,
    Without defilement you gave birth to God the Word.
    True Theotokos, we magnify you!”

  50. The Masked Chicken says:

    Dear Venerator Sti Lot,

    You wrote:

    “Do you happen to know anything about the experimental production of human-animal embryonic chimeras? I have heard some horrific things, but not yet tried to learn more via searching online or off…”

    It would be unethical to make such chimera, to put it mildly. About 3 years ago, I did a special call-in to Catholic Answers, Live, as The Masked Chicken (Jimmy Akin and I e-mailed about it, beforehand) and asked about the morality of these sorts of experiments. Jimmy had researched the topic and was able to provide references to documents from the Vatican about these sorts of experiments.

    Here, is a good back-grounder about current research:

    http://www.lifenews.com/2013/05/15/unethical-scientists-are-making-human-animal-hybrids-again/

    How soon before Mr. Ed is more than a tv show?

    Of course, chickens are excluded from the ethics problem, being the superior creatures that we are :)

    The Chicken

  51. robtbrown says:

    Unwilling,

    Bingo. Another way to look at it is the Drake Equation, which posits the possibility/probability of other life existing in the universe. The problem, however, is that it neglects to apply that same possibility/probability to that alien life having already visited earth (and Man knowing about it). Or to put it the way Enrico Fermi did: If there’s life somewhere else in the universe, why isn’t it here now? By extension, if it is, why don’t I know about it?

    IMHO, St Thomas’ third way of necessity/contingency posits the cosmological principle which is the foundation: Because by definition, it is possible that every contingency not exist. One of these possibilities is that all do not exist at the same time. A further possibility is that this same time could be now. But that is obviously not the case.

  52. robtbrown says:

    Imrahil,

    Anyway, what does “sentient” mean? if it means “rational”, then we know of a group of rational beings who did not fall – the good angels. If it means “possessing the senses”, we know of a group of beings who were not tempted nor fell – the good angels.

    Strictly speaking, the angels are considered intellectual rather than rational: They know using an intellect, but they don’t arrive at their knowledge rationally, which refers to moving from the particular to the universal (or in certain cases, from the universal to the particular).

  53. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    Dear Masked Chicken,

    Thank you!

    A quotation in the article you link notes “the regulations try to draw the line at full hybrids–where animal eggs are fertilized with human sperm or vice-versa”: I had heard, in England, in the 1980s, if I remember correctly, that that, using hamster ova, was standard procedure in investigating ‘male fertility’, presumably without ‘informed consent’ of the aspiring fathers (who were not aspiring to that)!

    Do you happen to know the old Quatermass science fiction tv series, where the good doctor says, “Let me explain, I’m a scientist” – which turns out not to be the prologue to, but the full extent of, the ‘explanantion’?

  54. robtbrown says:

    BTW, sentient is usually predicated of animals; rational of man–a rational animal.

  55. Imrahil says:

    Dear robtbrown,

    thanks!

    Anyway, then we should not speak of whether or not baptizing sentient aliens, in general. We do not baptize sentient terrestrians, either, in general. We baptize rational terrestrians.

  56. TWF says:

    Earlier I expressed by doubts that our economy of salvation could apply to aliens as our salvation, the redemption and deification of man, is rooted in the incarnation. As St. Gregory of Nazianzus said: “That which was not assumed is not healed; but that which is united to God is saved”.
    That being said, I acknowledge the possibility, as a matter of pure speculation, that Christ may have, in some mystical sense, united other alien natures to His divinity, in the sense, as another poster pointed out, that we are all composed of the same “stuff” (the elements of the material creation). That being said, I still can’t see how we could ever ordain aliens to the priesthood. If the Church doesn’t have the authority to confer ordination on human women, how could she have the authority to confer holy orders on alien beings who are far more removed from human men than women are? Christ Jesus is a man and thus His priests, His living icons on earth, are men as well…and by definition a “man” is a son of Adam.
    Even if we eventually conclude that rational alien races “out there” can indeed be saved, it remains a dogmatic truth of our faith that a MAN, the Lord Jesus Christ, sits enthroned in glory at God’s right hand, and that a WOMAN, the Blessed Virgin Mary, sits in glory at His right hand as Queen of all the cosmos. If there are rational aliens, and if they are part of our economy of salvation, they do must bow before redeemed humanity. They too must worship the Second Person of the Trinity who forever exists as a glorified MAN. They too must honor His Mother who forever exists as a glorified WOMAN of earth.
    Another poster raised the issue of telepathic aliens, to which someone replied that only God knows the secret of the heart. Is this actually a matter of doctrine? I ask because it seems to me, from a strictly material, scientific perspective, that we may be able to interpret electric signals within the brain within our lifetimes and thus, at least in a limited sense, read the thoughts of men…

  57. TWF says:

    Earlier I expressed by doubts that our economy of salvation could apply to aliens as our salvation, the redemption and deification of man, is rooted in the incarnation. As St. Gregory of Nazianzus said: “That which was not assumed is not healed; but that which is united to God is saved”.
    That being said, I acknowledge the possibility, as a matter of pure speculation, that Christ may have, in some mystical sense, united other alien natures to His divinity, in the sense, as another poster pointed out, that we are all composed of the same “stuff” (the elements of the material creation). That being said, I still can’t see how we could ever ordain aliens to the priesthood. If the Church doesn’t have the authority to confer ordination on human women, how could she have the authority to confer holy orders on alien beings who are far more removed from human men than women are? Christ Jesus is a man and thus His priests, His living icons on earth, are men as well…and by definition a “man” is a son of Adam.
    Even if we eventually conclude that rational alien races “out there” can indeed be saved, it remains a dogmatic truth of our faith that a MAN, the Lord Jesus Christ, sits enthroned in glory at God’s right hand, and that a WOMAN, the Blessed Virgin Mary, sits in glory at His right hand as Queen of all the cosmos. If there are rational aliens, and if they are part of our economy of salvation, they do must bow before redeemed humanity. They too must worship the Second Person of the Trinity who forever exists as a glorified MAN. They too must honor His Mother who forever exists as a glorified WOMAN of earth.
    Another poster raised the issue of telepathic aliens, to which someone replied that only God knows the secret of the heart. Is this actually a matter of doctrine? I ask because it seems to me, from a strictly material, scientific perspective, that we may be able to interpret electric signals within the brain within our lifetimes and thus, at least in a limited sense, read the thoughts of men…

  58. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    robtbrown and imrahil,

    Clyde Lee Miller in his article on Nicolaus Cusanus in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy writes, of his “second major treatise (1442–43)”, “entitled De coniecturis: On Conjectures”:

    “In this work Nicholas also introduces an explicit contrast between the human capacities of ratio and intellectus. Ratio or discursive reason is our capacity for thinking, using concepts and judgments. Intellectus, by contrast, is a direct intellectual vision. Nicholas parallels the way our plural capacities for reason, imagination and sensation are founded in ‘intellectus’ as their single source to the simultaneous outflow and return of the plurality of creatures to their single divine Source. (Ratio and intellectus may recall in some ways dianoia and noesis in Plato’s famous image of the divided line.)”

    St. Augustine’s City of God XI, 2 is worth considering in this context (though I have not yet tried to stept from the Dods translation at New Advent to the original Latin): I don’t know when the strict senses of terms were settled.

    Might that “sensitive plant” (or “Schamhafte Sinnpflanze”), Mimosa pudica, be accurately – or inaccurately – called ‘sentient’ as well?

  59. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    TWF writes, “Another poster raised the issue of telepathic aliens, to which someone replied that only God knows the secret of the heart. Is this actually a matter of doctrine?” I was wondering that, too: it certainly was a matter of discussion in the time of the Church Fathers, and I think it was and is generally concluded that neither unfallen or fallen angels can strictly enter into a human mind or heart, but whether that is doctrine I do not know (nor what bearing it has on demonic possession, for example).

  60. robtbrown says:

    Fr Martin Fox,

    If I might offer the opinions of a unreconstructed Thomist”

    1. In the state of Original Justice all things would have been subjected to Time. That means that there was corruption–both animals and plants would have died.

    2. First Man was given a gift of sanctifying grace, which produced an ontological harmony of body and soul. This gift allowed his soul to communicate its own incorruptibility to the body. That of course meant no substantial corruption. Obviously, with the First Sin this gift of grace was lost, and with it the body-soul harmony. Concupiscence, the moral effect OS, would have had two causes: The loss of grace in the Will, and the rupture of the harmony between the intellectual and sensible inclinations.

    3. How then would the universe have been effected?

    The text you cited from St Paul refers to the movement of the universe which is futile until it ceases at the end of Time. Still, after the Fall man’s acts would be in some way disordered, causing a certain disorder in the creation.

  61. Heather F says:

    @Imrahil,

    It is (no pun intended) conceivable that in a given couple, one parent happens to be the only one to produce eggs, but that would probably be due to some medical issue in the other parent. I have not considered too deeply how the actual act of mating would take place, but my impression is that it would be a mutal sharing of genetic material, either simultaneously or sequentially. It might be anatomically possible to arrange it so that one member of the pair is exclusively giving or receiving, but such an arrangement would probably be considered an unnatural interruption of the marital embrace. It also would be considered rude to ask which parent was the egg-layer of their child. So truly no male or female analogue.

    (There is no liberal gender politics agenda here — our aliens have extremely strong family ties and find the idea of sexual relationships that are not permanent and ordered towards procreation to be bafflingly foreign. But we wanted our aliens to be truly ALIEN and make first contact as awkward and confusing as possible for both sides, and it is fun to develop a society whose fundamental building blocks are not quite like our own and see what kind of cultures might arise.)

  62. RobtBrown:

    Well, I may hope to win a disagreement with you, but not with the Angelic Doctor!

    In any case, I am basing my response primarily on Genesis, less on Romans. My reading of Genesis is that once humanity ate from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Bad, and departed Paradise, it entered the world of time — i.e., the universe in which we now live.

    Also, my answer is based on both what we see in the portion of creation where we are: the entirety of the animal kingdom is affected by the fall, not only in the introduction of death into the animal kingdom, but also disease and infection, which are products of various little creatures’ effects on animals and us.

    Is it possible that if we visited another planet, where plant and animal life exist, that they would not be affected by these things? I suppose, but I don’t see how.

    As far as I know, the Church has said little about all this that is definitive: A fall from “original justice” happened, as a result of sin. This fall is “a primeval event, a deed that took place at the beginning of the history of man” (CCC 390). The “whole of human history is marked by the original fault freely committed by our first parents” (Ibid). “Harmony with creation is broken: visible creation has become alien and hostile to man” (CCC 400). “Because of man, creation is now subject ‘to its bondage to decay'[citing Romans 8:21, which I cited above]. Finally, the consequence explicitly foretold for this disobedience will come true: man will ‘return to the ground,’ for out of it he was taken. Death makes its entrance into human history” (Ibid).

    Now, all this has to be reconciled with observable facts. If you accept the premise that humanity came into existence well after the world we inhabit, and also the premise of evolution, then humanity “began” at some obscure transition-point from a pre-human species. Of course, lots of people don’t accept the evolutionary hypothesis, or even the “old earth” hypothesis, and I am not going to argue with anyone about those matters; what is indisputable is that they are proposed scientific theories, built from evidence. Even if one denies they’ve been proven, they are prove-able; and as such, any account of how Original Sin affected creation has to be squared with whatever theory eventually prevails.

    And, unless there is some sort of cordon sanitaire that surrounds the human-touched part of Creation, then you have to admit that whatever observable “laws” in nature that bear the effect of the fall, must extend beyond our atmosphere. There is absolutely no evidence that a different set of laws take affect at some remove from the planet Earth.

    Am I missing something here?

  63. Robt:

    I might add, my own solution to the problems I tried to highlight is that the fall of humanity certainly happened at the beginning of human history — as the Catechism says — but the moment before, humanity was outside time — and history. Paradise, or Eden, therefore, is not a place on earth or even a material place at all. That means once humanity fell, they entered time and history. That’s one way to reconcile the “two accounts of Creation.” Nothing in Divine Revelation would seem to foreclose such an explanation, and it solves many problems.

  64. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    Heather F,

    For better or worse, my first thought on reading your story elements was something like rational snails (though not like the creatures of Patricia Highsmith’s “The Quest for Blank Claveringi” – a story that gave me such creeps when I first started reading it, that it was many years before I could bring myself to return to it and finish it! – perhaps, rather, something like a snail-like version of Aunt Beast in A Wrinkle in Time).

    Now, I suppose rational snails could decide to ‘use only one side of their necks’, as it were realizing to the fullest of their capacity the binary as an inkling of the contours of ‘Incarnational reality’ – not to dictate plot direction, but to note what your details suggested to my imagination!

  65. The Masked Chicken says:

    “Another poster raised the issue of telepathic aliens, to which someone replied that only God knows the secret of the heart. Is this actually a matter of doctrine?”

    These are, really, two different things. Telepathy belongs to the natural order, according to Fr. John Hardin, S. J. and is subject to the normal moral laws (no reading your professor’s mind to get the answers for the exam). The Church is, more or less, agnostic towards the existence of ESP, if it occurs, naturally. Obviously, occult sources of knowledge would be gravely sinful, if not even mortally sinful, depending on the knowledge of the person.

    Secrets of the heart refers to the direct communication that passes between the soul and God. These types of communication, normally, occur outside of the senses, so they are only known within the soul. An example would be what happens in the Dark Night of the Soul when spiritual communication and cleansing of the soul occurs outside of sensory knowledge. The Devil can see that a change is occurring, be he cannot interfere nor listen into the content of the communication.

    There have been reports in the Charismatic literature (see, for instance, the introduction to Hank Hanegraaff’s book, Counterfeit Revival) of people having, “words of knowledge,” that disclose mental knowledge of another person’s thoughts or secret knowledge known only to them. The exact origin of this phenomenon is not known, nor is it being examined by the Church. In my opinion, as best I understand the phenomenon at the present time, it seems to be not of supernatural, but of some sort of natural origin or, more correctly, preternatural. Whether this is a modification of the human brain or angelic information being transmitted to the human is not known. We know that, even with fMRI, today, we can infer some thought processes in general terms by observing the activity of the brain. Angels are, certainly, capable of much more detailed observation and understanding of those processes than we currently have, so it is possible that they can infer certain knowledge states by the configuration of neurons and neural activity in the brain. It might be that the Baptism in the Holy Spirit, as it is commonly called, modifies the brains of humans so that it can receive these signals in a manner not known or they could be more receptive to angelic communication (the nature of the angel, good or bad, being left undecided).

    My point is that the phenomenon of either normal telepathy (which a person might be born with) or moderated telepathy (by whatever the Baptism in the Holy Spirit or some other phenomenon does) is known. Neither one of these gives access to the secret communication that occurs between God and the soul, however. Not even the angels have access to this knowledge.

    The Chicken

  66. Unwilling says:

    “once humanity fell, they entered time and history”
    Dear Father Fox,
    This way of understanding The Fall strikes me as neo-Platonic, Plotinian, even Manichaean or Catharist. [I don’t mean that list as name calling, but as a gesture to the kind of argument I would urge against the implied view of matter.] It suggests that the world of matter (and therefore of time) is essentially evil and that salvation is a matter of separation from matter (time etc.). The creation narrative could hardly be more explicit about the earthiness of man. If we were not material we would be angels, like Michael or Satan — but we are a little less than angels. And if matter were essentially evil, what could we make of the Incarnation? Especially in our time in which so much of humanity is degraded by the flesh, it is tempting (to anyone longing for purity and light) to find attraction in a neo-Platonic explanation. But Christianity was born in a stable.

  67. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    Masked Chicken,

    Thank you for your detailed distinctions and thoughts on the matter of the ‘(in)accessibility of the inner person’ (if I may so express it)!

    I cannot speak for others, but I was thinking of things like Evagrius of Pontus’s discussion of temptation in his Treatise on Prayer, as I know it from Andrew Louth’s The Origin of the Christian Mystical Tradition (1981), e.g., “It is the way of the demons to stir up the imagination, the logismoi, not directly – for the demons cannot know the heart, only God can – but through the lower part of the soul, the passionate and desiring part.” And also form, for another example, St. John Climacus’s discussions of such things. Professor Louth reports that Evagrius had a theory that the demons can cause “visions by interfering ‘in a very shrewd way’ with the part of the brain that controls sight.” He also notes that Bishop Diodochus of Photice rejects “an idea mentioned by Timothy of Constantinople as Messalian, that the souls of the departed know the hearts of men on this earth”.

    How far can creatures – angelic, human (or possible other ‘rational animal’) – enter into the ‘inward parts’ of a human being in this life, what distinctions among such ‘parts’ and possibilities of ‘entering into’ them are made, and why?

  68. The Masked Chicken says:

    “How far can creatures – angelic, human (or possible other ‘rational animal’) – enter into the ‘inward parts’ of a human being in this life, what distinctions among such ‘parts’ and possibilities of ‘entering into’ them are made, and why?”

    This takes us into a long discussion of St. John of the Cross’s classification of locutionary activity in, I think, chapter 13 of the Ascent of Mt. Carmel. At one point, I had thought to update the classification to include psychic activity. St. Augustine makes the distinction between the upper and lower parts of the soul that you reference. The upper part of the soul is the part totally disconnected from the natural part of man. The lower part has a type of connection or else merit and sin from actions in the physical world would not affect the soul at all. We tend to think of the lower part of the soul as corresponding to the passions, but that is not quite correct, because the passions can be excited by purely natural means (direct electrical stimulation of the brain, for example). It is a sort of interface that reacts to the passions, but is not the seat of the passions.

    Some men are gifted with the ability to read souls. By that is meant the lower part of the soul or, more precisely, the echo of the effects on the soul of the activities of the passions. No created thing can touch the upper part of the soul, so nothing can read it. Telepathy is different than the reading of souls. Think of it this way: telepathy is like listening in on a phone conversation, whereas reading the heart is like being the operator who connects the two parties. That is a poor analogy, but there is a difference. Telepathic knowledge is ego-driven. By that, I mean the sending and receiving of information is directed by the person and can involve selfish or unselfish reasons. The origin of the knowledge is natural and the attempt to obtain that knowledge is motivated by the person. One might call it an actual grace, like any other natural gift.

    Reading souls is an action of grace given by God for others. It is a purely supernatural grace and is given as God wills. The two types of knowledge from telepathy and reading of souls are quite different. It would take us into subjects outside of this post to explain things in more detail. A very useful classical text is August Poulain’s work, The Graces of Interior Prayer:

    http://www.amazon.com/Graces-Interior-Prayer-R-Poulan/dp/1564597202

    It was published in 1904, so the French original is in the public domain. Someone should scan a copy to the Internet archives. One can find sections of it at Google books.

    Obviously, this is a very subtle topic and I have only scratched the surface. There is still a lot we do not know and, of course, there is a lot more I need to learn, as well.

    The Chicken

  69. robtbrown says:

    Fr Martin Fox,

    Much of what you wrote has much in common with Gregory of Nyssa, Origen, and of course Hans Urs Von Balthasar.

    What I most admire about St Thomas’ thought (and why I continue to be a Thomist) is that he unceasingly gives each its due: God and Man, Nature and Grace, Act and Potency (Essence and Existence, Form and Matter, Substance and Accidents).

    1. Time measures motion: Although that especially refers to substantial corruption, it also refers to celestial motion. Thus, to say that Time didn’t exist before the fall is also to say there was not celestial motion. And there is nothing in Scripture to suggest that. It does, however, say something different about the end of Time (2 Peter 3).

    2. By definition, matter is limited in Time and Place. Thus, there is nothing in corporeal creatures in so far as they are corporeal to suggest that they would have been immortal.

    The human soul, however, is ontologically incorruptible, so it would make sense that there was a time when it would have communicated its incorruptibility to the body.

    3. The second account of the Creation in Genesis says that the earth and streams were created before man. Adornment came later.

    4. As I said, your approach seems to have much in common with Gregory of Nyssa. He held that procreation via coition was a consequence of Original Sin. Once, when I mentioned (but did not promote) this position to a young woman working on her Licentiate, she immediately said that it denigrates Marriage and Motherhood

  70. Unwilling:

    I think you are attempting to fit my ideas to a Procrustean Bed.

  71. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    Dear Masked Chicken,

    I am not sure how I might best attempt to pursue the ‘matter’ of this discussion further without it becoming very elaborate, so I will simply thank you for your latest contribution!

    I do not know Poulain, but will try to look out for him!

    Searching for his name at the old Catholic Encyclopedia, I find not only this book in bibliographic entries, but several articles by him – something to start with! And I find F.X. Mutz in his ” Ascetical Theology” article commending it and him, together with Saudreau (also unknown to me): “Saudreau and Poulain are reliable throughout and their works are among the best productions in this branch.” And turning to the Internet Archive, I find two volumes of the English translation of one of the recommended works of Saudreau as The Degrees of the Spiritual Life.

    I also feel encouraged to try St. John of the Cross again: I got bogged down trying to work back and forth between the text and a translation of his poems…

  72. robtbrown says:

    Venerator etc.,

    It’s not necessary to keep switching back to the poetry of St John of the Cross when you read him.

    More importantly, rather than going directly to his text, I would recommend first reading Jordan Aumann’s “Spiritual Theology”. It is online and can be downloaded to an ebook reader.

  73. Imrahil says:

    Dear TWF,

    Another poster raised the issue of telepathic aliens, to which someone replied that only God knows the secret of the heart. Is this actually a matter of doctrine? I ask because it seems to me, from a strictly material, scientific perspective, that we may be able to interpret electric signals within the brain within our lifetimes and thus, at least in a limited sense, read the thoughts of men…

    I (who was the replier) concede that the authorities on the matter were unaware of the fact of attitudes of the heart being reflected in certain physical, electric signals in the brain; now this reflection seems to be of the same nature as the reflection within the expression of the face, bodily motions etc. (about which they certainly said that this sort of knowledge can be had by others). A sense that can see electricity through the head seems to constitute no logical impossibility.

    As for Doctrine, there seems to be some scripture verse somewhere that only God the depths of the heart. Otherwise, I was quoting, and I think referencing, the opinion of St. Thomas. I know of no magisterial statement.

    As for its relation to demonic possession, dear Venerator Sti Lot, there is none. I think one case was that it was one of the (comparatively) safe test methods to ask a possible Antichrist to determine someone else’s completely hidden thought: because he could not do so by a show-off pseudo-miracle of demonic origin. A true prophet, or, as I like to imagine, e. g. our guardian-angel could know them though – not by an ability, but because God tells him.

    Rev’d dear Fr Fox,

    with all due respect, I think the introductory parts of Genesis are profoundly clear in saying that the Fall happened within space-and-time, and that the space-and-time universe as we know it is not a result of the Fall, though it may suffer from it.

    I might even say that, with our present-time knowledge, this belongs to the rather few things actually contained in there which cannot conceivably be said to be a figure-of-speech or an image.

    Thanks to dear robtbrown for his erudite explanations. I might add that Scripture actually positively suggests there was celestial motion before the Fall, to wit in Genesis 1 in the words of God when the celestial bodies are created.

  74. annafirtree says:

    Dear TWF,

    If the Church doesn’t have the authority to confer ordination on human women, how could she have the authority to confer holy orders on alien beings who are far more removed from human men than women are?

    I think one could argue that, say, a female cousin of Jesus—who shares genes, culture, etc. with Jesus—is far more similar to Jesus than, say, Jeffrey Dahmer. This (possibly imaginary) cousin would know what it was like to live under Roman domination; she would perform the same Jewish rituals as he did and strive for the same reverence towards God. She would be familiar with the same landscape that Jesus was, relate to many of the same people, wear the same type of cloth, eat the same types of food. She probably even had a family resemblance to him, and she certainly shared his tribe and ethnicity/race. Dahmer, on the other hand, lived thousands of miles away, halfway across the world, on a completely different continent. He was no close relation to Jesus; he had no immediate experience of Jesus’ time and culture. Unlike Jesus, he was mentally ill. Unlike Jesus and the female cousin, Dahmer did not strive to love God; instead he committed horrible atrocities. He wore different clothes; he used different technologies; he looked different and acted different.

    Yet Dahmer was eligible for the priesthood in a way that that cousin was not.

    If we see it this way, then we can acknowledge that it is not similarity to Jesus per se that enables one to become a priest. It is one specific type of similarity that is at issue: masculinity.
    IF an alien species had recognizably male and female sexes—and I think this is a question that can only be resolved empirically, that is, by meeting some—then the males of that species would have something in common with Jesus that human females lack, namely masculinity. If we compare how unlike male aliens are to Jesus with how unlike male humans are to Jesus, I think we can say that there is a difference in scale… but not type, at least not as it regards eligibility for the priesthood.

    So, yes, if an alien species has identifiable males, it may well be possible for the Church to ordain them.

    -Anna

  75. annafirtree says:

    The Vision of Pope Cornelius

    Now, on the planet of Aarde, there was an alien named Nielij, a general of the Aarden Corps, devout and God-fearing, who used to give alms to the Earthlings and pray constantly. One afternoon about 3:00 Galaxy Time, he saw plainly a vision of an angel who said to him, “Nielij, your prayers and almsgiving have ascended as a memorial offering before God. Now send some of your men to the Vatican on Earth and summon one Cornelius, who is called Pope.”

    On the same day, Pope Cornelius went up on the parapet of St. Peter’s Basilica to pray. He was hungry and wished to eat, and while they were making preparations, he fell into a trance. He saw heaven opened and something resembling a large sheet coming down, lowered to the ground by its four corners. In it were alien flora and fauna from Ziamlia, Toka, Dikiu, Aarde, and Bhumi, most of which were poisonous for humans to touch. A voice said to him, “Get up and embrace them, Cornelius.” But Cornelius said, “Certainly not, for I have never violated the human safety codes.” The voice spoke to him again, a second time, “What God has made good, you are not to call unsafe.” This happened three times, and then the object was taken up into the sky.

    While Pope Cornelius was in doubt about the meaning of the vision he had seen, the aliens sent by Nielij arrived in spacesuits at the entrance to the Vatican, asking for him. As Cornelius descended to the entrance, the Spirit said to him, “There are three aliens here looking for you. Accompany them without hesitation, because I have sent them.”

    The next day, Cornelius got up and accompanied the aliens to Aarde. He asked Nielij, “May I ask then, why you summoned me?” Nielij told of his vision and then said, “Now therefore we are all here in the presence of God to listen to all that you have been commanded by the Lord. Cornelius answered, “In truth, I see that God shows no partiality. Rather, on every planet whoever fears him and acts uprightly is acceptable to him.”

    While the Pope was still speaking of the good news of Jesus, the Holy Spirit descended upon the aliens who were listening to the word. The humans who had accompanied the pope were astounded that the gift of the Holy Spirit should have been poured out on aliens also, for they could hear them speaking in tongues (even some human tongues, without the use of translator boxes) and glorifying God. Then Pope Cornelius responded, “Can anyone withhold the water for baptizing these aliens, who have received the Holy Spirit even as we have?” And he ordered them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ.

    (Anna)

  76. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    robtbrown,

    Thank you for the recommendation!