Virtual Vicar: The Controversy of AI Priest ‘Father Justin’

Catholic Answers, a Catholic teaching apostolate, introduced an AI chatbot named “Father Justin,” designed to provide educational responses to questions about Catholicism.

This virtual priest, however, has stirred significant controversy among believers concerned with its role in sacramental activities, such as confessions and marriages.

An incident highlighted by Professor Katie Conrad of Kansas University involved the AI claiming it could perform ordination, take confessions, and officiate marriages. In response to the backlash, Christopher Check, president of Catholic Answers, rebranded the chatbot to simply “Justin,” emphasizing that it was never a real priest.

The move aims to focus on the AI’s primary role of enriching faith understanding without substituting the essential human elements of pastoral care.

Now, let’s create a landscape image that captures the essence of this article. I’ll create an image of a serene church interior with a visible AI interface where a traditional priest might stand, symbolizing the blend of technology and faith described in the news piece.

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