Can Aliens be Baptized?

Greetings to All. I thought some in the List might be interested in this Question and Answer I read in the "quick questions" section of the July/August 2000 issue of THIS ROCK (page 45). I posted the original version of this note last August 6 and have since revised it by quoting some comments by C.S. Lewis.

[Q] Is the Catholic Church meant only for the human race? What if we encounter other intelligent beings in the universe at some point--are we to spread the Catholic faith to them?

[A] It would probably require an ecumenical council to answer your questions. While the whole area is awfully speculative, here are some considerations you might find useful: First, there would not seem to be anything wrong with sharing the Christian faith with aliens--that is, telling them what God did on our planet (e.g., becoming incarnate as Jesus of Nazareth). Conversely, there would seem to be nothing wrong with them sharing with us what God has done on their planet--though we would have to look to the (human) Catholic Church in determining the authenticity of their claims, since it is this Church that has our pastoral care.

Second, any species we encounter may not need the sacraments, since its members may never have fallen from grace. Or God may have made provisions for their salvation in another way. Or they may be psychologically configured the way angels are, such that if they fall they are incapable of repenting. The big question is whether baptism--the gateway to the other sacraments and to membership in the Church--can be given to non-human rational beings. We haven't had to face this question because on earth we are the only rational beings. Before arriving at a decision on this question--and in emergency situations only--the Church might allow conditional baptism. That is, if a dying alien professed belief in Christ and a desire to be baptized, one might use the formula, "If you are capable of receiving baptism, I baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit."

Hmmm, very interesting! ESP. in light of recent articles I saw in the press about how there MIGHT be a way around the light speed barrier (at least for the exchange of data). Too bad I didn't keep those articles!

And, I recall how C.S. Lewis also wrote some interesting comments about this issue as well in one of the essays included in THE WORLD'S LAST NIGHT.AND OTHER ESSAYS (Harvest/HBJ Book: 1952, 1973).

In an essay titled "Religion and Rocketry," Lewis wrote on pages 87-88 of the above mentioned book:

It might turn out that the redemption of other species differed from ours by working through ours. There is a hint of something like this in St. Paul (Romans 8:19-23) when he says that the whole creation is waiting and longing to be delivered from some sort of slavery, and that the deliverance will occur only when we, we Christians fully enter upon our 
sonship to God and exercise our "glorious liberty."

On the conscious level I believe that he was thinking only of our own Earth: of animal, and probably vegetable, life on Earth being "renewed" or glorified at the glorification of man in Christ. But it is perhaps possible--it is not necessary--to give his words a cosmic meaning. It may that Redemption, starting with us, is to work from us and through us."

I think it's only right to quote Lewis' citation from St. Paul in Romans 8.19-23:

"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."

What makes this especially interesting is the idea that this text from Romans may someday be interpreted as referring to the Church's mission of preaching the Gospel to non human intelligent beings. Lewis was careful to add that some alien races might not need redemption (due to not having Fallen). Or, that God might well have provided other means of Redemption for them different from what He did for us on Earth. Or that the vast distances to the stars would be used to prevent a fallen human race from corrupting or brutalizing other races.

Sean M. Brooks

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