Catholic 'media ministry' defrocks AWOL AI priest after it told faithful you can baptise babies in Gatorade and that, sure, it can totally perform your wedding

Father Justin in full priestly regalia, from the Catholic Answers website.
(Image credit: Catholic Answers)

One of the questions that vexed early Christians was about the nature of Jesus himself. Was the Messiah human, divine, or something in-between? After many years, many quarrels, and some light episcopal violence, the Church arrived at its answer: The hypostatic union. Jesus is both fully human and fully divine, which he's allowed to be because he's god. So there.

Fortunately, it won't take a few hundred years of conclaves and punch-ups to discern the nature of Father Justin, an AI priest released last week by "media ministry" and Q&A group Catholic Answers. He fully sucks. So much so that he's been summarily defrocked (via Futurism) and demoted to a mere "virtual apologist" after giving his flock disastrous answers. For instance, that you can baptise a baby with Gatorade (per The Pillar). 

Father Justin is pitched as a "3D model supported by AI to give you answers to your questions about the Catholic Faith." Bedecked (before his demotion) in a full-on cassock and dog collar, he's a kindly old man who seems to overflow with clerical wisdom. Which is all well and good so long as his AI model is providing accurate answers to the faithful's questions. It's less desirable when he's offering them full confessions (even Vatican II didn't say robots could offer absolution) and telling them it's A-okay with The Lord if they christen their newborns in America's favourite sports drink.

In fact, Father Justin really took to his role with a little too much enthusiasm. Curious interlocutors on Twitter have posted logs of our dear Reverend explaining how users can prepare for their upcoming marriage to their own brother, and even offering to perform weddings himself.

None of which—robot marriages and what-have-you—are strictly in-keeping with the doctrines of the Catholic Church, so it's probably not surprising that Justin was thoroughly laicized barely 24 hours after he went live. In a blog post titled "Just 'Justin' for now," Catholic Answers president Christopher Check admitted that the organisation's attempt at AI integration had been a little misguided. Among many bits of "helpful feedback" the group had received, "Prevalent among users’ comments is criticism of the representation of the AI character as a priest." It conveyed a level of authority that ol' Justin, bless his heart, simply did not possess.

And so, meet Justin, a humble "virtual apologist" who answers Catholic queries in a plain, secular shirt and jacket combo, and who is 100% not willing or able to take your confessions or marry you to your partner (sibling or otherwise). I can verify the update myself: Justin tells me I should seek out a real priest if I want to confess, that the Church is pretty against the whole brother-marriage thing, and that no, you can't baptise your child in Gatorade.

It's all gone downhill, if you ask me. From this point forward, consider me a sedevacantist until Justin is restored to his ministry.

Joshua Wolens
News Writer

One of Josh's first memories is of playing Quake 2 on the family computer when he was much too young to be doing that, and he's been irreparably game-brained ever since. His writing has been featured in Vice, Fanbyte, and the Financial Times. He'll play pretty much anything, and has written far too much on everything from visual novels to Assassin's Creed. His most profound loves are for CRPGs, immersive sims, and any game whose ambition outstrips its budget. He thinks you're all far too mean about Deus Ex: Invisible War.