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Artificial intelligence (AI) is transforming every area of life, there are religious apps, and so-called “religious priests” are on the rise…is this beneficial progress, necessary, or the feared beginning of the beast system?

AI transforming religion

Nearly every type of faith has an app now. Most help with prayers and study, and can even help track one’s progress. Practically every popular televangelist has his or her own app. Even the Southern Baptists have given artificial intelligence a thumbs-up.

Religious robots on the rise

Hardly a surprise, Japan was one of the first to employ an artificially intelligent robot at the Kodaiji Temple in the ancient city of Kyoto to recite the teachings of Buddhism.

In the UK, the Church of England developed an Alexa “skill” that can read prayers and answer basic questions like “Who is God?”

Meet SanTO: The first Catholic robot

Being hailed as the first Catholic robot, SanTO, short for Sanctified Theomorphic Operator, stands 17-inch-tall robot that resembles Catholic saint statuettes, and is programmed with 2000 years of knowledge about the Catholic faith, the BBC reported.

SanTO represents the latest advancements in artificial intelligence, being equipped with software that cannot only listen to people but scan their faces for signs of specific emotions and respond with the appropriate religious texts relevant to their particular troubles, Futurism reports.

For example, in a test, the subject told the robot it was worried about the future. SanTO responded with a Bible verse focused on taking life one day at a time.

AI robots: As good, worse or better than a priest?

The big question when it comes to artificially intelligent robots is whether or not they can ever match the nuances of human understanding to provide the right responses and advice when counseling others.

Can a robot be better than a priest?

A strong argument could be made that artificial intelligence could exceed human priests in some areas, particularly, a knowledge of the Scriptures.

Knowing every verse without fail is easily accomplished by AI. Not only in knowledge of canonical Scriptures but apocryphal and deuterocanonical as well. Being a repository of knowledge is, pardon the pun, a no-brainer for AI.

Franciscan Sister Ilia Delio, who holds the Josephine C. Connelly Endowed Chair of Theology at Villanova University, told Vox in an interview, that Catholicism should consider robots instead of, or alongside, men, the Catholic News Agency (CNA) reported. She said robots would have certain advantages, such as being incapable of committing sexual abuse.

Knowledge alone isn’t power

However, the greater argument is not the totality of knowledge a robot might possess, but how information is applied correctly. The statement “knowledge is power” is actually not true. It is only powerful when it is applied in an optimal way.

Robots can never substitute for a priest, some argue

“A robot is the encounter of an algorithm with the natural world,” says Fr. John Kartje, rector of Mundelein Seminary in Illinois. “A human is the encounter of the divine with the natural world.”

“A robot could never replace a person, because it cannot encounter God or act on its own free will,” Kartje added.

A priest serves as the person of Christ

“We believe that the priest is in the person of Christ, so only a human being can participate in the person of Christ with intellect and will,” says Sister Mary Christa Nutt, RSM.

Catholics must look to Jesus Christ, says Dr. Kevin Miller, an associate professor of theology at the Franciscan University of Steubenville, who points out that Jesus is not a robot.

“The sacraments are instituted by Christ and configure us to Christ in various ways,” Miller says.

“In Christ, God the Son took on a human nature ‘for us men (human beings) and for our salvation,'” Miller pointed out, quoting the Nicene Creed.

“The sacraments are part of the same saving plan,” Miller added. “The sacraments are for human beings, in the sense that they can be neither received nor administered by robots or AI devices or the like [other non-human created beings].”