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Religion: Space Theology

4 minute read

The first interplanetary padre, confronted by an antennaed Martian or fly-eyed Venusian, will hardly know what to say about the Gospel. First he will have to find out how the space creature stands with God: Is he in an unfallen state like Adam and Eve before the apple? Is he fallen but redeemed and, if so, how? Is he under the Lordship of Christ, and should he be baptized?

Theological speculations along these lines, hotted up by space talk and Europe’s recent rash of flying sauciness, are bemusing continental Christian thinkers. Professor Eduard Stakemeier, Roman Catholic theologian at the Philosophical-Theological Academy at Paderborn, Germany, feels that planetary missionizing would be unwise.

“Christian teaching is indeed compatible with the assumption that there are extra-earthly rational creatures similar to human beings,” he writes in the Düsseldorf daily, Rheinische Post. “The supreme world aim is the glorification of God through rational beings . . . Should we assume there to be nothing but deserts in all these [other] worlds?

“The inhabitants of other worlds could be like us, but they could also be much superior to us in sense and will. And perhaps they also surpass us in gratitude to the Creator and in goodness and love to all that demands love and kindness. [But] in principle we must say that the Christian order of redemption was realized by God for this world . . . Only we, who are descended from Adam, are born in original sin, and God became man to redeem us … His church and His sacraments are [not] valid for . . . other planets.”

A Missionary Task? Dr. Michael Schmaus, professor of Catholic dogma at the University of Munich, agrees that there is nothing in Christian teaching to deny the existence of unearthly rational beings. Christ, he writes, is certainly their head, for according to St. Paul, He is the head of the universe. But “the question remains open whether He also has the significance of Redeemer for them. That in turn depends on whether these rational creatures have sinned and whether, like mankind, they need redeeming . . .

“If they, too. are to be redeemed through Christ, this does not mean that the heavenly Logos must appear amongst them as it did in the history of mankind. It could be that the redemption through Christ could be preached to them by some messenger of the faith without [Christ] making any visible appearance to them. But it is also possible that God did not give these creatures any supernatural goal and that He determined for them natural perfection . . .”

Slightly Premature. Italian theologians have not yet entered into space theology with the same gusto as the Germans. Jesuit Father Antonio Messineo contributing editor of the fortnightly Civilta Cattolica, favors a wait-and-see attitude. “The question of an eventual missionary activity among the inhabitants of other planets,” he said, “hinges on two fundamental questions: 1) is there spiritual and physical human life on planets, and 2) are the inhabitants still in the state of original grace, or have they fallen into sin?”

But Father Agostino Gemelli, rector of Milan’s Catholic University of the Sacred Heart flatly denies the possibility of extraterrestrial life: the Scripture makes no mention of it. Says he: “If God had created other men on other planets, these men would not be derived from Adam, and one would not be able to understand the logic of the divine plan of man’s salvation … To admit that the divine plan of salvation is illogical is the same as not recognizing the infinite wisdom of God. It is fantastic to suppose that God would place such men on other planets. Remember that the world was created by God for God’s glory. What glory would God derive from men deprived of supernatural gifts?”

In the face of the planetary emergency the Vatican maintained its calm. The whole question, said a spokesman, seemed as of this week “slightly premature.”

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