Questions of Faith
If a spaceship landed on earth and we were greeted by extra-terrestrial life with our own intellectual and spiritual capabilities, how would the Church react? Assuming that these aliens came in peace, it’s fair to say that it would not contradict our Faith to baptise them.
The Church has no official position on the existence of aliens, and believers are free to speculate about such a possibility. It’s sometimes claimed that the discovery of unknown interplanetary life would somehow undermine Christianity, perhaps because the Bible is silent on the issue. This, of course, is a bizarre and unsound objection, simply because there’s no reason to think that God has revealed himself to only us.
The Bible is God’s specific revelation to humans, and to presume that he couldn’t provide revelation to other lifeforms, assuming they exist, is preposterous. There’s nothing theologically illogical in the notion that aliens could exist.
But would the Pope baptise these lifeforms? Well, he has already answered the question. “If an expedition of Martians arrives and some of them come to us and if one of them says: ‘Me, I want to be baptised!’, what would happen?” the Pope said during morning Mass in May of 2014.
He replied that he would, noting that the Church does not close its doors to others.
There is, however, one problem with this view. Through the Sacrament of Baptism, we are cleansed of our original sin, so to baptise aliens would assume that they are also born with this and that redemption is made possible in Christ. Does this mean that Jesus also died and rose again on their planets?
In 1588 Giordano Bruno, an Italian Dominican Friar, wrote the following in his Fifth Dialogue of On the Cause, Principle, and Unity: “I can imagine an infinite number of worlds like the earth, with a Garden of Eden on each one. In all these Gardens of Eden, half the Adams and Eves will not eat the fruit of knowledge, but half will. But half of infinity is infinity, so an infinite number of worlds will fall from grace and there will be an infinite number of crucifixions.”
To baptise aliens would assume that they are also born with original sin and that redemption is made possible in Christ”
It’s an interesting, but unprovable hypothesis. Some theologians have suggested that Christ died only once, and offered salvation to not just humans but the whole cosmos. Others have suggested a portion of various lifeforms have no need of redemption as they never fell from grace in the first place.
The former director of the Vatican Observatory José Gabriel Funes, for example, hypothesised that “we human beings might be the lost sheep, the sinners in need of a shepherd. God became man in Jesus to save us.
In that case, even if there were other sentient life forms, they might not be in need of redemption. They could have stayed in full harmony with their Creator.”
Whatever the true answer is, we can humbly say that aliens are not alien to the Faith.