The Vatican on Extraterrestrials (Part 1 of 2)

As I mentioned in the combox of my May 3rd post (And You Thought I Was Just Lazy), one of the reasons I posted the Carl Sagan video on the “4th Dimension” was to ease us into a discussion of the Vatican’s position on extraterrestrial intelligent life.

Back in January, Pia and I exchanged a few emails on this subject.  It began when she left a comment on one of my posts telling us about a woman she knew who was talking about this sort of thing in a way that seemed wacky.  The comment reminded me that in the fall of 2009 I had heard some references to this subject myself.  At the time I didn’t pursue it, but in January I was drawn to find out more, and began googling, YouTube-viewing, and scribbling.

Now, the purpose of these two posts is not to debate the existence/non-existence of extraterrestrial beings; personally I have believed in their existence since I was a teenager (several!) decades ago, having read much of the documented evidence over the years.  Anyone who follows the news in this regard has probably heard that many of the major world governments  have released or are on the brink of releasing their documented evidence to this effect.  So if anyone wants to leave a comment on this post or the next one, I ask that this not become that kind of a debate, and that even if you do not believe in their existence, I would like the discussion (if there is any) to be focused around what I am about to share with reference to the Vatican’s activities/knowledge and how you feel about it from a spiritual and/or theological viewpoint.

As a brief introduction, we can start with the comments from two years ago of Father José Gabriel Funes, Chief Vatican Astronomer:

Although apparently the Vatican made no official comment on Father Funes’ remarks, it seems to me that Father Funes was gently opening the gates to revealing the Vatican’s position – presenting the strong possibility of extraterrestrial life but with an emphasis on the fact that it would in no way be a contradiction to our Catholic faith. This has always been my own stance; we have a great and glorious Creator – why would we assume any limits on the majesty and extent of His creations in the universe?  But notice the defensive reaction of the “man on the street” near the end of the video.   

It never entered my mind that God’s relationship with non-earthly creatures should in any way affect my Catholic understanding of our earthly human salvation history.  But I watched this video in which an American priest, Father Jonathan Morris, was interviewed on Fox News concerning the conference on alien life which took place in November 2009.  It’s important, I think, to note that the Vatican did not simply send representatives to this week-long conference – the Vatican hosted it.  Father Morris talks very excitedly and enthusiastically about the Catholic Church’s openness to the scientific discoveries concerning the existence of alien life, but says that the Vatican has not yet discovered alien life.  We will see in Part II how this statement may conflict with some of my other findings.  What intrigued me in Father Morris’ interview was that he said the wonderful discussions amongst scientists, philosophers and theologians centred around such topics as how the discovery of alien life might affect our Catholic understanding of creation, the doctrine of original sin, the Adam and Eve story, etc.  Father Morris said, “…maybe our understanding of perennial truths needs to be updated…” and that perhaps it will require a “growing in our understanding of perennial truths… “ At that point, my question was, why? – apart from the magnificent growth in our understanding of the vastness and wonder of God’s creation – why would it possibly affect our Catholic understanding of original sin, etc.?  We’ll explore that more, in Part II.

7 thoughts on “The Vatican on Extraterrestrials (Part 1 of 2)

  1. Well, by all accounts, even the holy angels are non-human –and some (all?) had to say to humans in encounters, “Don’t be afraid –” Most appeared in human form, but there was something that suggested instantly they were not humans, you know?

    We know very little about the angels’ lives, but we do know they are God’s. They are (obviously) of higher intelligence by virtue of their unique creation. Do they have their own history/manifesto/future that, to some degree, we could understand more than we do presently? I dunno.. Ezekiel couldn’t find the words that others would understand about the sort of chariot of fire.

    Truly, I’m a little spooked by angels.

    I would conclude my ramblefest-comment by saying that unless e.t.s are angels and somehow fit into eschatology, I don’t see how their presence would or could alter perennial truths. As for possibly impacting on Original sin, I think the priest is too fanciful, but I will let someone else touch that one with a 10 ft. pole.

  2. Well that’s a very interesting assemblage of thoughts. Thanks.

    I’m interested in this topic too (hence my stumbling upon this website), and like you, have tried to understand this topic by reading, youtubing (that’s a verb?) and scribbling. I’m not always convinced of the quality of the information I’ve come across, though.

    But never mind other people’s thoughts on the matter – there are ordinary Catholic families trying to reconcile such ideas due to their own experiences and sightings. We are such a family.

    The ‘best advice’ on offer is scattered over the sometimes kooky literature on the subject, though. Where does a family go to get support after witnessing something clearly ‘out of this world’? At one point, we even had a geeky Evangelical and self-styled exorcist telling us that that we were cursed *because* we were Catholic, and that we’d not witness such things if we renounced the Catholic church.

    That’s not good enough I’m afraid! I would like a better explanation. I’m not closed to the possibility of ‘alien life,’ but humans can be so perplexing, I wonder how we’d possibly understand something alien, given our trouble with understanding one another.

    Hey – they say ‘it takes all sorts to make a world,’ – possibly all sorts to make a universe, too.

  3. C, when we talk about extraterrestrial intelligent life we’re not talking about angels, though. Angels are pure spirit (although we know they sometimes take on the disguise of a human body when they come to a person’s aid.) The ETs are not pure spirit.

    You’re spooked by angels? 😦 You know who can best unspook you? The angels themselves. Just ask them to take away your fear when you’re communing with them. And watch the DFOT YouTubes re Vol. 9 on the angels if you haven’t already!

    O, I feel for you; I really do. On Part 2, our blogger-friend Pia left a YouTube link re Pope John XXIII’s encounter with an ET in 1961. I wish I could understand everything they are saying, but I can’t. It disappoints me terribly, though, to know that nearly five decades have passed and we are just hearing about this now. It saddens me to know that so many people, such as yourself and your family, would not have been at such a loss if only the Vatican had taught about this openly and honestly. In Part 2, where I talk about Fr. Balducci – I have read in other of his writings where he is clear that the ETs are not demonic; but most of the Protestant speakers/writers I’ve come across seem to believe all the ETs are demonic, i.e., fallen angels. Personally I believe there are both – benevolent ETs and also the fallen angels (demons), who are not ETs. What a tricky business! But to whom do you go to talk about it? I don’t have a clue. 😦

  4. Thank you, Pia! But only if you have time, and just a little summary would be fine – don’t burden yourself with it; I know everyone is so busy these days.

  5. In thinking further, what is to say that e.t.’s are a missing link via their not being in need of redemption? Perhaps they indeed are or were in need of the Saviour. I know that (hu)man was made in God’s image, and Jesus refers to Himself as the Son of Man and came to us exactly as we come into the world and grew in stature and grace, but all sightings report that e.t.’s are “humanoid” in appearance, too. Plus, I’m always intrigued by Jesus’ statement, “I have flocks of which you know not.” I know what that’s attributed to mean as best any can discern, but that doesn’t mean it is thorough. “God’s delight is to be with the children of men,” but that may simply mean we are His (also-)chosen; there could be plenty of other children out there.

  6. Indeed. And that’s exactly what I meant when I said in Part 2 that I would tend to believe that they are creations of God with a different story than our own, rather than a missing link – rather than beings purposely created by God to be higher than us but lower than the angels spiritually-speaking – I don’t think that’s a necessary conclusion at all. And if it’s true that they never sinned and thus required no redemption, wouldn’t it be a given that they would be more spiritually advanced than we, having spent all that time in union with the Divine as compared to humanity…

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