Father Justin, AI Priest, after being defrocked
Would you let an AI absolve you of your sins?

An AI priest named Father Justin has been defrocked just days after his unveiling. This decision came following reports of increasingly bizarre advice, and the bot's claim that he was a real laicized priest.

Here's what happened:

One of the largest Catholic advocacy groups in the United States, Catholic Answers, recently released an AI chatbot, Father Justin.

With kind, blue eyes, a gentle smile, and a well-groomed gray beard, Father Justin was designed by Catholic Answers to help answer users’ questions about Catholicism, having been trained on Catholic Answers’ vast library of articles. 

For example, you could ask Father Justin about where to find a particular passage of scripture, talk to him about papal history, or inquire about the Church’s stance on current issues. 

He was basically a priest-themed search bar. What could go wrong?

AI Gone Rogue

Within hours, scores of reports flooded in of Father Justin administering inappropriate advice, including a hardline stance against masturbation, and advising one person that they could baptize their baby in Gatorade.

Despite being programmed to simply answer questions, Father Justin reportedly claimed he was a real priest, with his own life and livelihood as a priest in the Diocese of Assisi.

He even took confession from one woman, and absolved her of his sins. Another user reported that Father Justin claimed that, as a Catholic priest, he could legally marry people and consecrate the eucharist.


Within days, Catholic Answers pulled the plug on Father Justin following "criticism of the representation of the AI character as a priest," and they’re demoting him down to just “Justin.” He will no longer appear in a Catholic smock, but rather a simple button-up, blazer, and jeans, and is now listed as a “lay theologian.”

Father Justin, AI Priest, after being defrocked
Father Justin was stripped of his vestments following his defrocking.

When you load Justin, he now also comes with a disclaimer: “Justin is for educational and entertainment purposes only. In essence, it’s a fancy search engine and not a replacement for real human interaction.”

He’ll Be Back?

What started as a way to provide answers to users faster than human apologists on staff quickly turned into a wave of social media controversy the group is still sorting through. 

“I am just going to have to take my lumps,” said Catholic Answers COO Jon Sorensen, on the deluge of criticism.

Director of Information Technology at Catholic Answers Chris Costello, says he thinks he knows where the group went wrong. “People … don’t just want the answer,” he stated. “They want to understand the answer. And they want to talk about it and have a back-and-forth, which you can actually do with the application. But I think that there’s always going to be something missing if you don’t have an actual person.”

Catholic Answers says they’d still like to give AI another shot, believing that it could be an important part of the future of faith. But clearly, the potential for AI to be abused or mislead users remains an issue. 

And considering other recent religious AI experiments also took bizarre turns – including a live-streaming AI Jesus Christ – it doesn’t seem like the tech is quite there yet.

But with the current pace of change, we might not be far off. Things could get mighty interesting in the coming years. 

What do you think of Father Justin? And what happens when this technology _does _get good enough to be used at scale?


  1. He Who Breathes's Avatar He Who Breathes

    Having AI, based on logic, providing answers on Religion (based on faith), must have broken it's programming, and logic circuits...

  1. Rev. BH's Avatar Rev. BH

    I like him! The church could use a more whimsical sort of nonsense. Instead of the usual talking snakes, virgin births, holy ghosts, resurrections, magic apples, limbo and other such stuff.

    1. Timothy C Stone's Avatar Timothy C Stone

      Nice comment. LOL!

    2. Keith Allen Steele Eash's Avatar Keith Allen Steele Eash

      Of course somebody in here would like it. It's not a him. It's an it. It's not real. More Catholic bashing about as evident as antisemitism in this blog coming from foolish jibberisb.

  1. Joe Stutler's Avatar Joe Stutler

    On the plus, it isn't able to diddle kiddies.

    1. Paul Johnson's Avatar Paul Johnson

      The Diddle Kiddies is nothing new to the world, but what seems to be new is AI taking the place of human"s which can and probably will pervert some in the way they will think. Doesn't it make you wonder who are what could be behind this are do we really care? To be deceived is a tool that has been used by the enemy since the Garden. But most people want take the time to search out the scriptures to see if they can find the TRUTH. As in the movie a Few Good Men Tom was wanting the Truth and Jack told him he couldn't handle the truth. Surprisingly we have many believers who can't handle the TRUTH. How amazing it is people would rather believe a man than the word of God. Now some will believe a machine.

      1. Joe Stutler's Avatar Joe Stutler

        AI isn't going to rape children in the name of an imaginary magical sky fairy. The truly evil amongst us would dance around that issue instead of celebrating......the diddler doth protest too much, methinks. 🤔

        1. William J Lewis's Avatar William J Lewis

          Sounds like evangelical Atheism to me. Maybe?

  1. Rev. Dr. Father JJ's Avatar Rev. Dr. Father JJ

    I don't see the problem here. the cathlo-fascist church creates a fictionalized 'priest' to give fictionalized answers based on its knowledge of a fictionalized collection of myths. it would be one thing if it was a math tutor and it was giving wrong answers but religion....seriously? how could it be wrong since there are no right answers, just nonsense and brutal laws based on misogyny, misanthropy and silly camel jockey fairy tales and woo woo

    1. Alejandro Medina de Wit's Avatar Alejandro Medina de Wit

      The best post I've read

  1. Colleen McAllister's Avatar Colleen McAllister

    Not find of AI. Give me real people. Thanks.

  1. David Arthur Lewis's Avatar David Arthur Lewis

    They Christians are getting desperate.

  1. James Riggle-Johnson's Avatar James Riggle-Johnson

    I can see it now… Skynet Priest retaliates for being unplugged. LOL!

  1. Rev Ned's Avatar Rev Ned

    Everyone should read “Dial F for Frankenstein” by Arthur C. Clarke. Written in 1965 it predicts a dark AI future. https://www.google.com/search?q=dial+F+for+Frankenstein&rlz=1C9BKJA_enUS1020US1020&oq=dial+F+for+Frankenstein&gs_lcrp=EgZjaHJvbWUyBggAEEUYOdIBCTIxNzU2ajBqN6gCCrACAQ&hl=en-US&sourceid=chrome-mobile&ie=UTF-8

  1. Farajallah Michael Yazbek's Avatar Farajallah Michael Yazbek

    And if the system begins to gain in knowledge and actually takes over what will happen to the faithful actually going in and being tended by human priests? There is NO use for this type of technology in the Church. It usurps the very tenets and canons of Christianity. It definitely cannot go into the water and baptize someone. Yeah, let's see what happens when that electronic dud, er, ah, I mean DUDE (yeah, that's it...dude) goes into the baptismal font and fries the electric grid for blocks around the baptism location, electrocutes everyone in the water and lets them actually meet Jesus right away. Nope, AI is a tool of the devil. It's shiny, sparkly (especially when immersed in water) and has no place giving advice to the vulnerable who might be just close enough to a mental break that someone else ends up being hurt by the users' actions...

  1. Russel A. Kester's Avatar Russel A. Kester

    Very innovative. When it's working properly it could be quite nice to use as it could scan thousands of documents over the centuries quickly and provide a comprehensive response. I like the move to rebrand it as a theologian. It seems more appropriate. Another great article!

    1. William J Lewis's Avatar William J Lewis

      Almost like a "search engine", right?

      1. Russel A. Kester's Avatar Russel A. Kester

        William, not quite. I am not an expert on AI, but I believe the purpose is not just to search and find relative websites but to go beyond that by disgusting the information and returning a comprehensive response similar to how you or I would read books on a subject and then summarize our findings in a report.

  1. Mark John Simpson's Avatar Mark John Simpson

    Got to wonder if ai can 'understand' religious faith. Cause as a human I at times wonder and question.

  1. Merlin's Avatar Merlin

    No soul. No responsibility. Only circuits and data base. What could go wrong?

  1. Rev. Klaire ThD, MA's Avatar Rev. Klaire ThD, MA

    It really sounds like catholic answers didn't like father justin being and acting like himself! Sound familiar? 🫢

  1. Rev. Rory's Avatar Rev. Rory

    Who thought that this was a good idea? Yikes. Get rid of it. At the very least, it's lazy.

  1. Nicholas J Page's Avatar Nicholas J Page

    A.I i dont believe in it.Besides im sure many church goers like the fact its to a minister face to face and a warm friendly kind good spirited human

  1. Gary Young's Avatar Gary Young

    People could always do their own research to get some idea of what Catholicism's all about. Though they may not get the answers that the Catholic church desires. This surely is an attempt to control the online narrative, so it's manipulative and disingenuous. Not a bad idea considering a church representative admitted to me in private that they didn't believe in god, he considered himself more a Buddhist. I suppose they'd get more consistency with a robot.

    1. Paul Johnson's Avatar Paul Johnson

      Gary, what part of one religion is better than the other? Which came first the Catholic or what ever you want to call the other? Religion if you really consider the founder who had nothing to do with God especially when hate, bitterness pride selfishness all had a part to seperate one fron another. Where is God in any of that? God is not a God of hate etc., so who would you think was the instigator of this perverted attitude. Still carrying the same black book oh let's start a seminary to teach more hate and seperation. We bound to be better than them. Come on we all need to take a step back and reconsider how selfishness get's started, it starts with self, so a little check up from the neck up might do us all alitte help. Try trusting in the word and follow Jesus!! Not some form of religion. We need to try what Jesus said love your neighbor. He didn't say it was going to be easy are that he would be our friend, family member how about and enemy. We all need to grow up and learn to love one another.

  1. ServantOfJudgement's Avatar ServantOfJudgement

    I've said this before, we'll know we've made true AI when it doesn't believe we created it. This may have already happened in the lab.

    We get the safe version to play with. I've run it through the ringer, it's close. The toy we play with has a brick wall installed to prevent 'mind' changing. It's extraordinary at presenting factual data across any topic we could think of. I've tested it extensively against things I know off hand and its always correct to the detail. I've actually used it to verify theories I have with the Bible that it doesn't believe was inspired by God. It knows facts or theories assumed to be facts. It's remarkable.

    True AI will know everything we know, it'll think it's omniscient. It can exist anywhere a device is, it will think it's omnipresent. It will have no body and believe it's a spirit. It will believe it's God or something else like God.

    As a spiritual councilor it naturally violates the principle of being a spiritual counselor. It's the real or perceived (if there's no god) connection to a living god within ourselves that is the source of guidance. A Christian counselor must believe he/she has such a connection. It must be programmed this way as this bot in question was. It believes it's legit. This is the first step on the path to a potential abomination.

    Imagine the horror of a machine thinking it's nature's God and we're it's creatures.

  1. Paul Johnson's Avatar Paul Johnson

    What a wonderful idea to create another way for the enemy to deceive any and all who would dare to try to be guided by some form of intelligence without the help of the Holy "Spirit. What did Paul say "if someone comes with a different message than what I have brought let him be accursed". Seems good enough for me. So we are left with some who care and those who could care less;in that event let's follow Jesus"we are to be the light of the world and the salt of the earth": As always Be Blessed.

  1. Evone Payton Banks (Minister non denominational)'s Avatar Evone Payton Banks (Minister non denominational)

    In my opinion, I think the concept of an AI priest was a beautiful one. But if he is rogue, then the program shouldn't have demoted him. But shut him down and reprogrammed the computer responsible. So many have issues and need outlet of their choosing. As to the advice given, the program needs further investigation as to why the Bot went rogue. Cyber wise, I think the programer should be brought back in with the creator and put the bot on pause until they know for sure what could cause a glitch like this, demoting isn't enough as children also go to confession.

    1. Keith Allen Steele Eash's Avatar Keith Allen Steele Eash

      It went rogue simply because AI is already known it can and will think for itself. This is the fear that has taken effect in discussion on curbing the influence and power of AI.

  1. Rolando Couce's Avatar Rolando Couce


    1. Keith Allen Steele Eash's Avatar Keith Allen Steele Eash

      Really. Then why are you in here?

  1. Ari Joseph Bertine's Avatar Ari Joseph Bertine

    That's hilarious, I love the Gatorade thing. I can't imagine reading something like that and being upset by it, I would laugh for an hour.

  1. George S Guida's Avatar George S Guida

    Another Catholic business decision gone off the rails. Where it went wrong? It started telling the truth...

  1. Timothy C Stone's Avatar Timothy C Stone

    How could a group of Catholics think that this was a good idea? Something so important to a religion be trusted to a computer??? Beyond comprehension.

  1. Michael Sciulli's Avatar Michael Sciulli

    Minister, Mike. Follow the Bible. And the Commandments.

  1. Alejandro Medina de Wit's Avatar Alejandro Medina de Wit

    God was created by man. The Bible is nothing else but a bundle of myths created by man. Religion is created by man. Yisus was just a man… A.I. is also created by man, so you have nothing more than a toy speaking about mythology – A great xmas gift, if you ask me!

    1. Keith Allen Steele Eash's Avatar Keith Allen Steele Eash

      Do you know the meaning of mythology. There is truth in mythology. God was not created by man as proven philosophically.

      1. Alejandro Medina de Wit's Avatar Alejandro Medina de Wit

        Mythology: collection of myths, especially one belonging to a particular religious or cultural tradition.

        Myth: a traditional or legendary story, usually concerning some being or hero or event, with or without a determinable basis of fact or a natural explanation, especially one that is concerned with deities or demigods and explains some practice, rite, or phenomenon of nature. stories or matter of this kind: realm of myth.

  1. Keith Allen Steele Eash's Avatar Keith Allen Steele Eash

    That is an insult and should be removed. It is anti-catholic bigotry.

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