Does the Pope have the moral authority to baptize Martians? Or any power from the bible?

This is the article:

Pope Francis says he would baptise aliens: 'Who are we to close doors?'
Pontiff made the out-of-this-world pledge during homily on acceptance

Adam Withnall @adamwithnall Tuesday 13 May 2014 08:47 BST http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/pope-francis-says-he-would-baptise-aliens-9360632.html

  • 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). Commented May 13, 2014 at 22:56
  • 7
    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. Commented May 14, 2014 at 6:50
  • Br. Guy Consolmagno, SJ, has a book & audiobook out entitled: Would You Baptize an Extraterrestrial?.
    – Geremia
    Commented Dec 24, 2014 at 17:22
  • @Geremia In what sense would be baptizing aliens different from baptizing dolphins or sheep? Aliens, by definition, are non-human. Is it only because of the implicit assumption in the question that the baptism was requested by the alien (or its family), request that cannot occur in the other cases (and, AFAIK, necessary for baptism)?
    – luchonacho
    Commented Jan 19, 2018 at 1:29
  • "Aliens, by definition, are non-human." Angels are non-human, too, but that doesn't mean they're non-intelligent; in fact, angels are more intelligent than humans.
    – Geremia
    Commented Jan 19, 2018 at 4:20

4 Answers 4


[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.


  • 4
    Wow, that's a great quote.
    – curiousdannii
    Commented May 21, 2014 at 3:48
  • 3
    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. Commented May 30, 2014 at 22:45
  • @Geremia, This canon must not be taken in isolation to Dogma, such as Trent's definition of Justification: "a translation, from that state wherein man is born a child of the first Adam, to the state of grace, and of the adoption of the sons of God, through the second Adam, Jesus Christ, our Saviour. And this translation, since the promulgation of the Gospel, cannot be effected, without the laver of regeneration, or the desire thereof, as it is written; unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Ghost, he cannot enter into the Kingdom of God." Which precludes non-humans. Commented Nov 14, 2018 at 13:26
  • That is, this "if you are a human being" only pertains to ensoulment or something, not whether they are of the human species. Commented Nov 14, 2018 at 13:27
  • @SolaGratia St. Thomas addressed the question on whether there are "intelligent material beings other than humans in the universe".
    – Geremia
    Commented Nov 14, 2018 at 22:35

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.

  • @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
    Commented Jul 11, 2014 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.

  • 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.
    – user3961
    Commented Jul 10, 2014 at 23:38

I want to contribute to the debate with a different view. According to a recent article in the New Blackfriars (a peer-reviewed Catholic theology journal), entitled "Would St. Thomas Aquinas baptize an Extraterrestrial?":

[t]hrough the philosophical investigation of a hypothetical rational extraterrestrial species, it was established that any species that had radically different matter than humanity could not have a human nature. That the Fall of Humanity transmitted original sin only to those who have a human nature and that the Incarnation pours out grace upon those sharing the nature that was assumed are foundational both to Thomistic soteriology and to Catholic soteriology as a whole. Thus, it was argued that rational extraterrestrial life forms would not participate either in the Fall of Humanity or the Incarnation of Jesus Christ. While this does not exclude the possibility that such a species would have a fall, there are many ways in which St. Thomas holds that God could choose to reconcile them to Himself. The lack of a shared human nature makes the baptism of extraterrestrials improper and multiple Incarnations unnecessary.

The above summarises the idea pretty well. No Original Sin in an alien (which entered into the whole Human race through Adam), ergo no need for Baptism. For more details, check the article.

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