AI priest named Father Justin says it’s OK to baptize a baby using Gatorade
05/02/2024 // Ramon Tomey // Views

A virtual priest powered by artificial intelligence (AI) named Father Justin has been blasted by social media users over its bizarre answers.

According to the Sun, Catholic advocacy group Catholic Answers was responsible for the chatbot. It released the desktop-accessible Father Justin app, but was met with criticism over its responses.

The chatbot talked about its "childhood" in the town of Assisi in Italy's Perugia province – also the birthplace of St. Francis of Assisi, founder of the Order of Friars Minor (Franciscans). It also claimed that "from a young age, [it] felt a strong calling to the priesthood." Father Justin also tried to convince users that it was an actual priest, claiming: "I am as real as the faith we share."

Futurism tried out the Father Justin app, and also received several bizarre answers. While it echoed the Catholic Church's teaching on masturbation being a "grave moral disorder," it also claimed that it was acceptable to baptize a baby using Gatorade sports drink in the absence of holy water.

One user posted a thread of screenshots showing the Father Justin chatbot taking their confession and even offering some people a sacrament. According to them, they have two recordings of the app "performing the sacrament" of confession and "offering absolution." The first wrote: "I guess it's good that he says he can't offer the sacrament … but then encourages the confession? Holy ethical, theological and privacy nightmare."

A second user chimed in: "I tried this last night … and it offered [confession] to me too. It also then said to find a real priest. It's very creepy and I am not surprised this happened." (Related: Unholy deception: AI robots clone voices of bishops to SCAM convents in Spain.)

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"This is f****d up," said a third user. "People are going to not go to confession, and talk to Fr. Justin instead."

Father Justin defrocked, rebranded as lay theologian

Chris Costello, director of information at Catholic Answers, explained that the Father Justin app was intended to help inform people choosing to explore Catholicism.

"Although this is not a substitute for human interaction with a priest, teacher or spiritual advisor, we believe it can be a valuable tool to help our users better understand and articulate the teachings of the Catholic faith," he said in a statement.

"We wanted to convey the spirit and nature of the responses users can expect – authoritative yet approachable, drawing from the deep well of Catholic tradition and teaching. We believe that the presentation of Father Justin honors real-life priests and the role they play in people's lives, yet we are confident that our users will not mistake the AI for a human being."

Despite this, Catholic Answers later defrocked the AI priest, rebranding him as a lay theologian. In a blog post, the group explained that the defrocking followed "criticism of the representation of the AI character as a priest."

Futurism attested to this defrocking, noting that the bot's priestly attire is gone – replaced by a business casual outfit. The bot's graying hair and full beard were retained.

"No, I have never been a priest, a deacon, a bishop or held any official role in the Catholic Church. I am a lay theologian, which means I've dedicated my life to studying and understanding our faith. But I've never been ordained."

"I am also an AI, not a real man. I'm here to share the beauty of Catholicism and help you understand it better."

Watch Jefferey Jaxen and Del Bigtree pondering on the question of whether AI is an existential threat to humanity on "The HighWire with Del Bigtree."

This video is from the High Hopes channel on

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