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Does the Pope have the moral authority to baptize martians?

Pope Francis says he would baptize aliens.

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The redemption of the human race required a perfect sacrifice by a human; that's why the eternal Son of God became man. Redemption of martians (if they exist and if they are in need of redemption) would presumably require a perfect sacrifice by a martian. So it wouldn't make sense to baptize martians unless one knows that such a sacrifice has been made (which seems very improbable, but who am I to judge). – Andreas Blass May 13 '14 at 22:56
Please read what the Pope actually said -- just the words -- without trying to read into those words something he did not say. If the Pope did say that he would baptize aliens, then quote the exact words in context (with a link, as links are always useful). Crucial in the linked report is the word irony and the question the Pope actually leaves unanswered. – Andrew Leach May 14 '14 at 6:50
Br. Guy Consolmagno, SJ, has a book & audiobook out entitled: Would You Baptize an Extraterrestrial?. – Geremia Dec 24 '14 at 17:22

[In case of necessity], [a]nyone [, even a non-baptized person, with the required intention], can baptize [CIC, can. 861.2.], provided he use water and the correct [Trinitarian baptismal] form[ula]: "I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen." [cf. CCC V. WHO CAN BAPTIZE?, 1256]

In the case of extraterrestrials, there is doubt whether they are human, so a conditional baptism would be required: "If you are human, I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen."

From the Roman Ritual:

A monster or abnormal fetus should in every case be baptized at least with the following expressed condition: If you are a human being, I baptize you, etc. When in doubt as to whether there is one or several persons in the deformed mass, one part is to be baptized absolutely, and the others each with the condition: If you are not baptized, I baptize you, etc.


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Wow, that's a great quote. – curiousdannii May 21 '14 at 3:48
In addition to using water and the correct form, the person who baptizes must also have the intention of baptizing, at least in the vague way of intending to do what the Church does. Pouring water and saying the correct words, if intended as a joke, would not constitute a valid baptism. – Andreas Blass May 30 '14 at 22:45

In the link you cite, the Pope does not say he would baptize aliens. He is using the idea of Martians wanting to be baptized as an analogy to the strangeness Peter experienced when Gentiles wanted to be baptized in Acts 10. It's just a metaphor.

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@DJCalyworth This is inaccurate. Peter's puzzlement [vs. strangeness] was in the vision he had seen. As soon as the Holy Spirit came down on the listeners, this astonished Peter and led him to say 'Could anyone refuse the water of baptism to these ...' [cf. Ac 10] – user13992 Jul 11 '14 at 18:47

Introduction: If the pope had the authority, would he have posed the question?

Answering from Church Tradition.

What guides the Church in every age is to refer back, through the Church Fathers, to the Apostolic Age [Divine public revelation was closed]. cf. St. Vincent of Lerins: The "Vincentian Canon", AD 434:

(3) Now in the Catholic Church itself we take the greatest care to hold that which has been believed everywhere, always and by all. That is truly and properly 'Catholic', as is shown by the very force and meaning of the word, which comprehends everything almost universally. We shall hold to this rule if we follow universality [i.e. oecumenicity], antiquity, and consent. We shall follow universality if we acknowledge that one Faith to be true which the whole Church throughout the world confesses; antiquity if we in no wise depart from those interpretations which it is clear that our ancestors and fathers proclaimed; consent, if in antiquity itself we keep following the definitions and opinions of all, or certainly nearly all, bishops and doctors alike.

What comes close to the question asked is the Controversy at Jerusalem [Ac 15:5-7] that led to the Council of Jerusalem [cf. entire Ac 15]. This council is unique among the ancient pre-ecumenical councils in that it is considered by Catholics and Orthodox to be a prototype and forerunner of the later Ecumenical Councils and a key part of Christian ethics.

Thus it appears that the Pope would not have the authority on his own, should such a matter arise. It appears that the matter would have to be settled via a valid Ecumenical Council [vs. say a Synod of Bishops].

Answering from Common Sense.

Moral Authority: A person, group, or organization that has moral authority is trusted to do what is right. cf. Moral - Definition for English-Language Learners from Merriam-Webster's Learner's Dictionary

[A] Nation: a large area of land that is controlled by its own government cf. Nation - Definition for English-Language Learners from Merriam-Webster's Learner's Dictionary

This is Jesus' mandate to baptize:

“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age.” [Mt. 28:18-20].

To answer whether the Pope has moral authority to baptize martians, one would need to examine whether the Pope is right to determine that Martians can be baptized, i.e. the Martians were in need of Baptism in the first place, and that they were covered in Jesus' mandate.

Nations have always been understood as those belonging to this world (Jesus' on earth). If the Pope were to determine that it was right to baptize Martians, assuming that he had established that Martians were in need of baptism [not sure how he would go about establishing that], it would appear that his determination would be in excess of Jesus' mandate as Martians do not belong to the nations.

Finally, if the pope had the authority, he wouldn't have posed the question.

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I'm not sure if that is officially discouraged or not. I personally think they should be combined and don't see why you cannot. One well-rounded answer is better than two competing answers. – fredsbend Jul 10 '14 at 23:38

protected by Community Dec 10 '14 at 8:00

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