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Catholic theologian wants gender-neutral robot priests to tackle church’s ‘sexual abuse crisis’

Nick Duffy September 20, 2019
Gender-neutral robot priests could take over the Catholic church

Gender-neutral robot priests could take over the Catholic church (Matt Cardy/Getty)

A Catholic theologian says that gender-neutral robot priests could help tackle the sexual abuse crisis within the church.

The claim comes from Ilia Delio, chair in theology at Villanova University, Pennsylvania.

Speaking to Vox, she said: “Take the Catholic Church. It’s very male, very patriarchal, and we have this whole sexual abuse crisis. So would I want a robot priest? Maybe!

“A robot can be gender-neutral. It might be able to transcend some of those divides and be able to enhance community in a way that’s more liberating.”

Delio added that it’s possible that robots and priests could work side-by-side harmoniously.

Gender-neutral robot priests could work ‘symbiotically’ within church.

She said: “We tend to think in an either/or framework: It’s either us or the robots. But this is about partnership, not replacement. It can be a symbiotic relationship — if we approach it that way.”

The theologian added: “We have these fixed philosophical ideas and AI challenges those ideas – it challenges Catholicism to move toward a post-human priesthood.”

Delio joked that a robot would probably do better as a Protestant.

Robot priests: SanTO robots can help people recite prayers
SanTO robots can help people recite prayers

SanTO robots are already under development in Japan that could help read scripture to elderly people, or help children memorise prayers.

However, the suggestion that gender-neutral robots could take over from priests has rankled others.

Not everyone is a fan of robot priests.

Sister Mary Christa Nutt told Catholic News Agency that robots are incapable of being priests.

Nutt said: “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.

“It has to do with our Catholic understanding of the need for human mediation, cooperation with interior grace…  There has to be the interior cooperation of intellect and will.”

“How would a robot cooperate by intellect and will interiorly with grace to be conformed to Christ ontologically? It just makes absolutely no sense. It’s so outside the realm of possibility when you have a sacramental logic and you have absolutely no dualism in the religion.”

More: Catholic Church, patriarchy, robot, robot priests, sexual abuse

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