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The Sinfulness of Extraterrestrials

Catholic theologians disagree on sinfulness of extraterrestrials

According to a recent news release by Ecumenical News International, a Roman Catholic priest and theologian has called on his church to consider the possibility of the evangelization of extraterrestrial beings. This was prompted by the recent discovery (Oct. 1995) of a Jupiter-sized planet circling a star in the constellation Pegasus only 40 light-years away from earth (the planet has been named "51 Pegasus").

Piero Coda, a theology professor in Rome, told the Vatican, "If life were to be found on the planet, then it would also have been contaminated by original sin and would require salvation." However, a professor at the Pontifical Gregorian University said that extraterrestrial beings might not need redemption."We know that earthmen sinned, but we know nothing of beings in other worlds," the unnamed professor said.

The Catholic evolutionist, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin addressed similar questions decades ago:

"A mankind which proclaims that it is alone, or in a special position, in the universe reminds us of the philosopher who claims to reduce the whole of the real to his own consciousness, so exclusively as to deny true existence to other men...But just as the human soul is not alone, but essentially legion, on the surface of the earth, so it is infinitely probable that the conscious layer of the cosmos is not confined to a single point (our mankind) but continues beyond the earth into other stars and other times...

"How, then, is it that, against all probability, this particular mankind was chosen as the center of the Redemption? And how, from that starting-point, can Redemption be extended from star to star?

"As far as I can see, this question is still unanswered. The idea of an earth chosen arbitrarily from countless others as the focus of Redemption is one that I cannot accept; and on the other hand the hypothesis of a special revelation, in some millions of centuries to come, teaching the inhabitants of the system of Andromeda that the Word was incarnate on earth, is just ridiculous...

"All the worlds do not coincide in time! There were worlds before our own, and there will be other worlds after it...Unless we introduced a relativity into time we should have to admit, surely, that Christ has still to be incarnate in some as yet unformed star?...And what, then, becomes of "Christ being raised from the dead will never die again" (Rom. 6:9)?

[Also, what becomes of Christ's "return" to the earth and the "creation of a new heavens and a new earth?" If life exists on other worlds, will Christ be returning only to our world? Why should all of "heaven" be "recreated" when Christ merely returns to earth? -- ED.]

"There are times when one almost despairs of being able to disentangle Catholic dogmas from the geocentrism in the framework of which they were born...

"When a theologian is confronted with the growing scientific probability of multiple 'centers of thought' distributed throughout the cosmos, he can immediately see two easy (though deceptive) ways of avoiding the problem, and they are all the more attractive in that he has already followed them in the past.

"He can decide either that, alone among all the inhabited planets, earth has known original sin and hen needed to be redeemed; or, accepting the hypothesis of a universal original sin, he can assume that the Incarnation was effected only on earth, the other mankinds being, in addition, duly 'informed' of it in some way (!?).

"Or, finally, he can rely on the odds (very high odds, too) against any contact ever being made, by way of direct experiment (because of excessive distance in space, or non-coincidence in time), between earth and other thinking stars, and so maintain, against all probability, that earth alone in the universe is inhabited. And this simply means digging in his heels and saying that 'the problem does not exist.'

"It calls for no great learning to see and feel that in the present state of our knowledge about the dimensions of the universe and nature of life:

"a. The first of these three solutions is scientifically 'absurd'-in as much as it implies that death (the theological index of the presence of original sin) might not exist at certain points in the universe-in spite of our certain knowledge that those points are subject to the same physicochemical laws as earth. (It is embarrassing, unless it was meant as a joke, to read in Time, Sept. 15, 1952, the advice given by a teacher of theology-Fr. Francis J. Connell, Dean of Theology-to be wary of pilots of 'flying saucers': if they landed from a planet not affected by original sin, they would be unkillable.)

"b. The second is 'ridiculous,' particularly when one considers the enormous number of stars to be 'informed' (miraculously?) and their distance from one another in space and time. [Indeed, we have trouble enough convincing earthlings of the "truth" of the Biblical narrative, how much more so people on other worlds? -ED.]

"c. And finally the third is 'humiliating'-in as much as it would be one more instance of the Church apparently taking refuge in the unverifiable to protect the dogma.

"The sudden enlargement, as an experiential fact, of the 'spiritual' dimensions of the universe means that now we have a difficulty to face in our faith; and if we are to have a dignified and rewarding way of neutralizing the difficulty, we absolutely must find something better than such loopholes. Where shall we find it?...

"In earlier times, until Galileo, there was perfect compatibility between historical representation of the Fall and dogma of universal redemption. So long as people believed, as St. Paul himself did, in one week of creation and a past of 4,000 years-so long as people thought the stars were satellites of the earth, and that animals were there to serve man-there was no difficulty in believing a single man could have ruined everything, and that another man had saved everything."

- From Christianity and Evolution by Pierre Tielhard de Chardin, copyright © 1969 by Editions du Seuil; English translation copyright © 1971 by William Collins Sons & Co Ltd., and Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Inc. Reprinted by permission of Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.


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