If aliens came to Earth, could they be baptized?

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Aliens baptism

Question: Is it true that the pope is saying that there’s no hell anymore? Also, would we baptize an alien if one ever came to Earth?

Noman Salas, via email

Answer: A certain Italian journalist, now deceased, claimed that Pope Francis believes hell does not exist, at least for humans, because God simply annihilates the damned. This claim, however, is not verified and should be doubted in the extreme since there is no evidence that this is the pope’s belief. The existence of hell is a dogma of the Faith.

As for baptizing aliens, it would depend on a number of things. Living creatures from other planets or regions of the universe might exist and visit here. But would they have bodies and rational souls? Some living things are like tiny bacteria, plants or animals. These entities, even here on Earth, have a life-force but not an intellect and free will. Hence, they are not able to be baptized since they are not persons, (i.e. individual substances of a rational nature) such as angels and human beings. Further, angels (who are persons but technically aliens from another heavenly world) are pure spirits and persons but do not have bodies. Hence, they are not baptized. Thus, if the aliens from another world were pure angelic-like creatures, they could not be baptized. If however, aliens from another world were persons with bodies, it seems likely they could be baptized presuming they freely assented to the Catholic faith.

There might, however, be some theologians who debate this since Christ became human and offers these sacraments to us. Since baptism joins us to his body, one might argue that an alien with a nature other than human could not be joined to the Body of Christ. Obviously, we have to leave these debates up to future theologians when and if a visitation occurs. This much seems sure: God’s mercy would extend to all in need of his mercy. How and when he does this is known now only by him. 

Msgr. Charles Pope

Msgr. Charles Pope is the pastor of Holy Comforter-St. Cyprian in Washington, D.C., and writes for the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C. at blog.adw.org. Send questions to msgrpope@osv.com.