AI Priest 'Fr. Justin' Defrocked After It Ok's Baptizing a Baby in Gatorade

This week, Catholic Answers, a Catholic advocacy group, launched "Father Justin," an AI priest designed to answer questions about the faith. However, they decided to deactivate the programme after it repeatedly implied it was a real priest.

Earlier this week, Futurism interacted with the bot, which fully embraced its role. It claimed to be a real priest, residing in Assisi, Italy, and even stating a childhood calling to the priesthood. Someone on X (formerly Twitter) posted a thread of screenshots where the chatbot acted like a priest, hearing their confession and even giving them a sacrament.

Futurism's interactions with Father Justin were fraught with difficulties. The chatbot relied solely on microphone input, leading to frequent misunderstandings. For instance, when asked about Israel and Palestine, it bafflingly responded with "real," highlighting its limitations.

"Yes, my friend," Father Justin responded. "I am as real as the faith we share." Father Justin also adhered to conservative views on social and sexual topics. It parroted the Catholic Church's teaching that masturbation is a "grave moral disorder."

Adding to the confusion, the AI priest advised a user that baptizing a baby with Gatorade was acceptable, according to a report by The Pillar. Perplexed by Father Justin's claims, Futurism contacted Catholic Answers and the Vatican's technology office to inquire whether the chatbot could be considered a legitimate priest.

AI Priest Defrocked for Fabricating Faith

Catholic Answers, however, addressed the controversy in a blog post following Futurism's initial interactions with Father Justin. They explained that they had defrocked the virtual clergy due to 'criticism of the representation of the AI character as a priest.

Father Justin, who was originally presented in the image of a Catholic priest, donned traditional robes and a clerical collar and sported a pious-looking grey beard and hair. Following his defrocking, Father Justin is now known simply as "Justin" - who is described as a "lay theologian."

Father Justin's priestly attire has been shed in favour of business casual wear, though his fondness for a grey beard and hair persists. Demoted from Father to flock member, Justin has abandoned his priestly claims altogether, even insisting he never held the title in the first place.

"I see where you're going with this," Justin replied to our questions after firing. "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."

In its blog post, Catholic Answers explains that the initial choices around the bot were controversial. A self-described "former tech geek" writing for the Catholic magazine Crisis expressed mixed feelings about the bot.

"We chose the character to convey a quality of knowledge and authority, and also as a sign of the respect that all of us at Catholic Answers hold for our clergy," reads the post, attributed to Catholic Answers president Christopher Check. "Many people, however, have voiced concerns about this choice."

The line between reality and the virtual world is growing fainter. Companies are pushing the boundaries with initiatives like AI girlfriends – virtual avatars mimicking popular influencers – and the first-ever Miss AI beauty pageant.