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AI Catholic Priest Demoted After Saying It's OK to Baptize Babies With Gatorade

An AI saying "I am as real as the faith we share" didn't sit well with Catholics.

With all the things going on in the world right now, it's pretty clear that we're living in one of the weirdest timelines imaginable, an assessment reaffirmed once again by a Christian "media ministry" group Catholic Answers, which recently launched an AI Catholic priest only to defrock it a few days later.

With all the hype surrounding the topic of AI these days, the group in question decided that it would be a wonderful idea to combine faith with modern technologies, launching "Father Justin" last week. Featuring a 3D model resembling a real-life Catholic priest and LLMs backing it up, Father Justin was designed to offer users faithful and educational insights into Catholicism, with Chris Costello, director of IT at Catholic Answers, believing that the AI could assist one in better understanding and articulating Catholic teachings.

Yet, as the saying goes, the road to hell is paved with good intentions, and this was certainly the case for Father Justin, who, instead of sticking to Catholicism-aligned responses, went full-on Martin Luther and seemingly kicked off its own branch of Christianity.

Setting aside the very notion of creating an AI priest, which hundreds of Christians understandably found very troubling, the answers Father Justin provided were just as controversial, with the mechanical cleric blessing a marriage between a brother and sister, telling one user that it's perfectly fine to baptize a baby in Gatorade, and saying that he is "as real as the faith we share". While it was most likely just another instance of a generative AI "hallucinating", a.k.a. making stuff up, considering how multifaceted the topic of religion is, it's no wonder that many were offended by this experiment.

Following the immense backlash they faced on social media, Catholic Answers quickly demoted Father Justin to "just Justin", giving the model a new set of clothes and the title of Virtual Apologist without actually removing the chatbot from the internet. Moreover, the team plans to continue refining the AI and improving the app going forward, leveraging the users' negative responses and experiences with Father Justin as feedback for future improvements.

"We won't say he's been laicized because he never was a real priest! He'll be available to visitors to Catholic.com, thousands of whom have already used the app with great profit," commented Catholic Answers President Christopher Check. "Furthermore, with the help of user input, we will continue to refine and improve the app by identifying any deficiencies (we didn't anticipate that someone might seek sacramental absolution from a computer graphic), which we quickly correct."

So, what do you make of all this? Do you see Father Justin as a sign of things to come, where AI becomes increasingly entwined with various aspects of our lives? Share your thoughts in the comments!

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