By Mary DeTurris Poust
I know several Catholics who've told me that the discovery of extraterrestrials somewhere in the universe would have the potential to shake their faith. I wonder if the Vatican was sensing the potential for something like that on a much larger scale, when it brought together astronomers, physicists, biologists and other scientists to discuss the possibility of alien life forms and what such a discovery might mean for the Catholic Church.
The recent five-day conference looked not only at the origins of life in the universe but also the potential for such life to exist beyond what we now know. According to the Associated Press, Jesuit Father Jose Gabriel Funes, an astronomer and director of the Vatican Observatory, said, "The questions of life's origins and of whether life exists elsewhere in the universe are very suitable and deserve serious consideration."
From the AP story:
"Funes said the possibility of alien life raises 'many philosophical and theological implications' but added that the gathering was mainly focused on the scientific perspective and how different disciplines can be used to explore the issue...
"Thirty scientists, including non-Catholics, from the U.S., France, Britain, Switzerland, Italy and Chile attended the conference, called to explore among other issues 'whether sentient life forms exist on other worlds.'"
Father Funes made headlines last year when he said that the existence of aliens did not contradict belief in God. "As an astronomer I continue to believe that God is the creator of the universe," he told L'Osservatore Romano, calling possible alien life his "extraterrestrial brother" and addressing concerns that alien life might contradict the theology surrounding original sin and redemption. "If other intelligent beings exist, it's not certain that they need redemption."
To read the AP article, click HERE. To read the CNS story about the 2008 L'Osservatore Romano interview with Father Funes, click HERE.