The Papal Bull, Dum Diversas was issued by Pope Nicholas V on June 18, 1452. It stated:
"We grant you [Kings of Spain and Portugal] by these present documents, with our Apostolic Authority, full and free permission to invade, search out, capture, and subjugate the Saracens and pagans and any other unbelievers and enemies of Christ wherever they may be, as well as their kingdoms, duchies, counties, principalities, and other property [...] and to reduce their persons into perpetual slavery."You can see why this Bull has been credited with ushering in the African slave trade. The scope was extended to the Americas in 1493 by Pope Alexander VI with Inter Caetera. This is just one illustration of the Church's undisguised enthusiasm in the past for the claiming of persons' souls AND their property for its own benefit and that of its allies, and all in the name of God.
Is something changing though? Back in May of this year, I read the news that the Vatican chief astronomer, Father Jose Gabriel Funes, was acknowledging the possibility of the existence of intelligent alien beings. This was actually not the first time that the such declarations have come from the Church that once condemned Galileo. The booklet "Intelligent Life in the Universe" featured above, and which I have not yet read, was published in 2005 by another Vatican astronomer, Guy Consolmagno. His conclusions are that mankind is facing a future discovery of extraterrestrial intelligence. Similar disclosures were made in the past by Monsignor Corrado Balducci and Catholic theologian Father Malachi Martin.
Many Catholics, whether practising or recovering, had already accepted this probability so the information had already been received. What is frustrating for this observer is trying, with imperfect information, to figure out what is behind these public announcements and the book published by the Catholic Truth Society. We all know that everything that comes or does not come out of that institution, is carefully timed and choreographed and has to be vetted by this and that theocrat or group of theocrats. There is a right time and a wrong time, a right way and a wrong way in which, for example, to apologise to its many victims over time.
So why is this a good time to be talking about aliens?...and in such generous terms? Why is the Church wooing the beings almost as if it has been told that it will soon have to accommodate the ET's...not only as equals but possibly as our superiors!
Clearly, there is not another Papal Bull on the drawing board. If The Church had been planning to draw another line, this time across the heavens to divide up the universe and claim the new heathens and their territories in the name of God, it has now put that plan on the back burner. Instead, the newsflash is entertaining the idea that these aliens might be SUPERIOR and might NOT be in need of REDEMPTION, and could even be FREE OF ORIGINAL SIN.
Some of us would have no problem accepting that any other life form could be superior to human beings. Some of us might already be convinced that the "animals" with which we interact as domestic companions or in the wild are vastly superior to many humans that we know. But why would a Church that has consistently acted, with its own flesh and blood, as a physically and psychologically invasive force, be now preparing to roll out the red carpet for aliens? What exactly is happening here? Here are some questions:
Is the Church "taking in front" because it is anxious to be seen as thinking outside of the box and being broad-minded enough to keep up with the times, to absorb scientific discoveries, especially after that embarrassing business with Galileo?
Does the Church "know something"...or has the Church always known something that we don't know, or is that just the impression that it wants us to have. If the Church does know something, what is it, and how and when was it discovered? Is it true then that the Bible itself contains descriptions of alien life and technology? Is the Church finally waking up and smelling Ezekiel's wheel.
And what has the Church been doing sinking all these resources into these impressive observatories in Italy and Arizona to study the skies? Why is this research group directly supported by the Vatican?
For a Church that has over time seen all beings as being in need of conversion, why would it now be so generous in its appraisal of aliens, sight unseen (as far as we know). Female humans are not allowed to become priests. Will female aliens be allowed to become priests? And how can the Church be so comfortable bigging up the aliens when it doesn't even accept that animals on this planet have spiritual souls? Why has the Church been so careful not to class the aliens as heathens when it did so readily enough with non-believers and native peoples all over the world? I predict some wrigglings and contortions ahead:
--What if some of these alien races are hermaphrodites? Will only the male parts be ordained?
--And what if a male alien were to have a child with a female human? Would that child be born "partly" without original sin?...Would it be the top or the bottom half of the halfbreed child that would stand in need of baptism and conversion?
--What if the aliens were to look like lizards and walk like lizards and embrace with joy the lizards on earth as their long-lost brothers? Would that association change the status of the earth lizards' souls?
Is the Church so desperate to increase the membership that it wants first dibs at welcoming alien life into the fold?
OR, assuming that human beings arrived on this planet and have made scientific leaps only through alien intervention, is the Church now afraid of the grilling that it is going to get from its extraterrestrial overlords about how well over time, it has impacted the intelligent and humane evolution of mankind.
That Bull, Inter Caetera has not yet been repealed. The Church is not even close to concluding the long list of apologies that its earthling victims, both dead and alive, are awaiting. Its human members, meanwhile, are doing a grassroots downsizing by jumping off the mother ship in droves. There is a now a shortage of priests and churches are being closed. You'd think that this Church would be paying more attention to fixing its business here on earth than to over-extending itself to alien territory.
Update: The year after this was posted, the Vatican hosted a conference of over 30 astronomers, biologists, geologists and religious leaders to discuss the question of the existence of extraterrestrials. This event ran from November 6-11, 2009, and was put on by the Pontifical Academy of Sciences at the Casina Pio IV on the Vatican grounds.
"Patria est communis omnium parens" - Our native land is the common parent of us all. Keep it beautiful, make it even more so.
Blessed is all of creation
Blessed be my beautiful people
Blessed be the day of our awakening
Blessed is my country
Blessed are her patient hills.
Mweh ka allay!