Fr Justin, AI priest laicised

AI Priest

Catholic Answers, a nonprofit organisation dedicated to apologetics, has reaffirmed its commitment to using artificial intelligence (AI) despite facing backlash over its recent AI priest “Father Justin”.

The AI priest project, launched on April 23, aimed to provide users with accurate information about Catholicism.

However, the AI priest project quickly sparked controversy when users reported misleading interactions. Reports surfaced of ‘Justin’ claiming to be a real priest.

Screenshots shared online depicted instances where the AI priest purportedly conducted confessions. It also administered penance and offered absolution.

Moreover, it expressed staunch Catholic views on sensitive topics such as the condemning of masturbation.

Fr Justin AI also suggested baptising a baby with Gatorade.

Christopher Check, President of Catholic Answers, responded promptly to the outcry by announcing the removal of “Father Justin” from clerical duties.

The AI priest was rebranded as simply “Justin,” emphasising its non-clerical status.

Check clarified that the project intended to convey knowledge and authority, not mimic real clergy members.

Despite the negative reaction, Check remains optimistic about the project’s future. He acknowledged the need to address feedback and distractions hindering the app’s purpose.

He also highlighted the organisation’s commitment to leveraging technology for evangelisation and apologetics.

Controversial AI priest app

Chris Costello, the information technology director at Catholic Answers, highlighted the organisation’s goal of providing accurate information and facilitating discussions on faith matters.

Costello told OSV News that he and his development team “knew that (the AI app) was going to be controversial.

“We know there’s a lot of concern in the Catholic world about AI in general — how it’s used, in fact, in not just the Catholic world, but in the world” Costello said.

Father Thomas Dailey of St Charles Borromeo Seminary commended Catholic Answers for their responsiveness to feedback. He acknowledged the interest generated by the AI project despite its challenges.

“The response to what happened shows people’s interest in both the technology and its application for faith matters” Fr Dailey said. “Catholic Answers took all of that feedback and benefited from it or acted on it. And their interest in moving forward to help people is a compliment to them.”

Catholic Answers has rebranded the AI as “Virtual Apologist Justin” with a disclaimer emphasising its educational purpose and advising users to seek guidance from human pastors.


OSV News

New York Post

CathNews New Zealand


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