Experts dismiss report AI could replace priests

AI could replace priests

Fr Alban McCoy OFMConv. is contesting the notion that AI could replace priests.

McCoy, an editorial consultant at The Tablet, says the depth of the priestly role is beyond mere preaching.

“To say that AI will replace priests suggests a very truncated, post-reformation and secularist view of what priests are and what they’re for, implying that their fundamental role is preaching.

“The suggestion that AI could replace priests overlooks their sacramental role, not just in administering sacraments but being themselves a sacrament” McCoy stated.

UK Government report

It was a recent UK Government report that suggested this about AI. It sparked debates within the clergy community.

The UK’s Department for Education’s report “The Impact of AI on UK Jobs and Training” analysed the potential impact of AI systems on various job sectors.

On a list of 365 professions most susceptible to being replaced by AI algorithms, it positioned clergy at number 13.

The report assessed telephone salespeople as the most at risk, followed by solicitors and psychologists.

Clergy already using ChatGPT

However, there are already some real-world examples of AI clergy in action.

In June, 300 people attended an AI-powered church ceremony in Germany, with the sermon written by AI and delivered by computer-generated avatars on a screen.

Jonas Simmerlein, a theologian and philosopher at the University of Vienna, said about 98 percent of the sermon came from the chatbot’s own writing.

Vicars and rabbis have readily admitted to using ChatGPT to help them write sermons.

Conversely, John McManus, head of media communications at Jesuits in Britain (a website), emphasised the irreplaceable human aspect of the priesthood.

“What strikes me is that there is no comparison between the spiritual services provided by a priest and what AI can replicate.

“Priests offer a face-to-face interaction that AI can’t do. It’s programmed.

“Human beings are not programmable creatures. They have souls.

“An AI programme can never hope to replace the spiritual services and empathy given by priests. Priesthood has a sacramental side.”


The Tablet

The Telegraph

CathNews New Zealand

Additional reading

News category: World.

Tags: , , , ,