Some Catholic AI bots are useful

AI bots

The idea of AI bots lurking about can be somewhat disturbing. But some can be useful – such as AI bots that are repositories of Catholic teaching.

Learning and research

These days, if you have a question about a Catholic Church teaching, there are several ways you could check out the answer.

You could open the catechism and find out. You could ask a priest or theologian. You might ask Google.

Another option is artificial intelligence (AI). It’s a growing field.

Very recently, several new online AI tools have been released that generate authoritative-sounding answers based on users’ questions about Catholic teaching.

Experimenting and correcting

Not all AI tools are appropriate even if the idea behind them seemed alright at the time.

Take “Father Justin”, the AI “priest” that was created and unveiled last week. He (it) was an invention of Catholic Answers, the California-based apologetics apostolate.

Some users were critical of Justin’s video game-like priestly avatar.

Then it emerged that Justin “absolved” at least one user. The apostolate protested.

Catholic Answers swiftly implemented a change. Justin disappeared in favour of a lay AI bot.

Despite the setback, Catholic Answers’ leaders say they are optimistic about the project.

Other AI-powered answers

Other AI options that don’t use avatars are well into design and test mode.

One of these is CatéGPT, an AI chatbot.

It provides accurate and thorough answers to questions about Catholic teaching by drawing on authoritative documents.

It then provides a succinct summary of the answer.

It cites sources, categorising these by type.

Encyclicals are distinguished from each other. Scripture, canon law, papal and Church Fathers writings are referenced and other authoritative Catholic sources are drawn on.

Another developer, Torcheboeuf, concocted the idea for CatéGPT about the same time that the similar US-based Magisterium AI made its debut.

There’s also, an interactive platform. Users can engage with the catechism in a conversational format.

Meeting a need

Torcheboeuf says the similarities between the various AI bot projects show “our intuition was right and meets a real need”.

Humans still have to use their own brains though.

Torcheboeuf’s tool might summarise answers to complex questions about Church teaching, but the multi-lingual invention aims primarily to encourage Catholics to read the relevant Church documents for themselves.


No AI is infallible though. But some are reasonably reliable.

Torcheboeuf for instance uses publicly available documents from the Vatican website; it says its curated sources are virtually guaranteed to be solid.

Pope Francis can see its value. He’ll be speaking at the G7 summit next month about the ethics of artificial intelligence. It’s a timely topic, given the current concerns about the threats AI could pose to humanity.

Torcheboeuf is encouraging, despite the pitfalls.

“I think that rather than being afraid of this technology, let’s try to … exploit its positive aspects. Right now, this technology is in full expansion and there are places [for it] to be taken – while remaining careful of course.”


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