Monday, November 26, 2007
Should Klingons be baptized?
The other day, driving home from Cincinnati, I entertained myself with the following train of thought...
If and when man explores beyond our solar system, will the Church send missionaries?
If so, to whom? To other species?
If there are other sorts of intelligent beings elsewhere in the universe, and humanity meets them, do we preach the Gospel to them? Will they need it? Will they be stained by original sin? Even if they are, might God have provided another mode of salvation for them?
After all, we profess: "for us men and for our salvation, he came down from heaven; he was born of the Virgin Mary, and became man..."
The occasion for this is an idea I have for a novel: a group of Catholics sent off to another planet, in a nearby star system, where they aim to create a new civilization. And in order to do this, they must take with them bishops and priests; and because they expect to lose contact with the holy father for an unknown length of time, the pope must prepare instructions for them to guide them.
Imagine the situations that might arise:
> What is the liturgical calendar on a planet, where there may or may not be a moon -- so how does one calculate Easter? And in any case, "day," "week," "month" and "year" have different quantities.
> If only a group of fifty-to-sixty can go; the pope has to decide if the discipline of celibacy is reasonable in such a situation; so does he relax it for this group, with instructions "someday" to restore celibacy?
> And of course, the one I dwelt on, already mentioned: what if you meet other intelligent life?
My first thought was, perhaps you can't know if they need baptism, but you can offer it.
Very well then, I thought: that means they are eligible for the other sacraments...including marriage? Do these other species marry humans? Remember, you're in the Vatican, on Earth, trying to give guidance in anticipation of unknowns. Not to be indelicate, but...it may be that such marriage is not meaningfully possible; or that it cannot be fruitful; what then?
But then I thought, that's not the hard question; rather, what if it is fruitful--what of the interspecial (is that the word?) offspring--human?
Because then the question is, would these non-human Christians be found suitable for ordination? Can a Klingon, Vulcan or blue-skinned Andorran (to use the better known fictional species from "Star Trek") act in persona Christi capitis? Only the males of the species?
And if they can't, then can they really be baptized? After all, to be baptized is more than removal of Original Sin and to become a follower of Christ--it is to be incorporated into Christ, to put on Christ, to share in his priesthood, and, with confirmation and the Eucharist, to be truly in union with him. Would it make sense, theologically, to say an entire race of beings cannot image Christ sufficiently to be qualified for ordination, yet could still be incorporated into Christ in baptism?
This may seem an idle question to some, but unless I'm missing something, it seems to me a real question we may face someday; and for all I know, some theologians have already thought about it. After all, the possibility of actually meeting another species may arise rather "soon" as the Church thinks of time, and if I were pope, I'd want plenty of time to think about it before I had to make a decision.
I fully recognize all the comic possibilities in this question, but I hope someone will either take the question seriously, are explain, seriously, to me, why it can't be.