The Catholic Church and the Little Green Man
by Justine Schmiesing
In view of the recent inconclusive scientific evidence that there may have been life on Mars, the question arises anew: Does intelligent life exist elsewhere in the universe? I’ve always wondered this myself, but after topping off my formal schooling with an excellent liberal arts education at Franciscan University (albeit sans core curriculum) I have come to the conclusion that it is undoubtedly an impossibility.
To begin, let me explain whose existence I am denying. When I refer to “intelligent life” I mean organisms who have both a physical body and an eternal soul, as well as self-knowledge and a free will. I do not, at the moment, rule out lower forms of life that man, upon discovery, may subjugate as he does the animals of the earth. I suppose it is possible that a planet exists which is perfectly well-equipped with the necessary flora and fauna to sustain human habitation, and that our great-great-great-something-grandchildren will build summer homes there. But they will not find creatures there comparable in metaphysical stature to themselves. Humans are the pinnacle of God’s creation.
How dare I (who lost interest in astronomy before I had saved up enough baby-sitting money to pay for a starter-telescope) make such a bold assertion? My theory derives (albeit indirectly) from my belief in the teachings of the Catholic Church.
First, let us review what our Faith does not teach us about aliens.
There is no mention anywhere in the Bible of other intelligent life forms (as qualified above) on earth or other planets. For instance, reference to alien existence is notably absent in the Genesis creation accounts: when the universe went from nothing to something—no aliens were present. Furthermore, as this issue of the Concourse goes to press, there have yet to be any Church documents or papal encyclicals issued to make us suppose they may have made their appearance since. Nor have I ever heard of any reliable private revelation on the subject. This silence speaks volumes.
“So what?” someone may object, “We don’t know about everything God has done. I mean, who can say why the dinosaurs are extinct?” True, we do not know everything about creation, but we do know some things. The Lord has chosen to speak to us of the existence of spirit-beings: angels and devils. No where does He mention little green men.1 (Many people today would find it easier to believe in the existence of a spaceman than in St. Michael the Archangel!)
Our Faith teaches us that God created everything for man, in order for man to know Him, love Him and serve Him. We are taught that the entire universe is destined and addressed to man. Would we not find it strange to be informed, this late in the game, that, “Oh, by the way, you have to share it with the folks on planet 431-x, two solar systems down.” We may only be tenants, but the universe is not a duplex.
How betrayed we would feel to discover another race of intelligent beings living and exercising dominion in the universe the Creator has declared to be designed for us? How unfaithful we would feel our God to be! He has called us His Bride—could He share such intimacy with another race and not be an adulterer?
Gazing into the sky on a star-filled evening, the gift may well seem a bit out of proportion. What need have we miniscule earthlings of such an overwhelming immensity of existence? Would not one small solar system have more than sufficed? But do not such reflections serve to throw into sharper perspective the boundlessness of God’s generosity! The magnitude of His gift! (Wow!)
And another thing: what of the problem of eternity? Assuming there is one heaven, it seems safe to say that if God had created intelligent extra-terrestrials He would not deny them an opportunity to attain it. We know by faith that it is only through Jesus that man can enter heaven. The same would hold even if some brave 21st century pioneers started a transplant colony in another galaxy; Jesus would still be for them “the way the truth and the life.” Would it not also be necessary for little green men to enter heaven through Jesus?
Jesus seems to have deliberately and permanently associated himself with earth; His (sacred) roots are sunk deep in our own home turf. He was born here; His mother was born here. Nothing can change that. He cannot be re-born on another planet. There cannot be another One who is true man and true God, given in ransom for another world. Therefore, how are these hypothetical other creatures to be saved? Hmmm…
What if someday some alien ship with a special cloaking device managed to slip through my theory, and we found these E.T.‘s and discovered that God has given them a different salvation history, a different Bible, a different church hierarchy—whose Faith do we embrace? What about intermarriage? Even a world like that C.S. Lewis’ Narnia Chronicles doesn’t quite work if you think about it. If Aslan is Jesus, is he true God, true man and true lion?
It is not beneath me to admit that God’s mind is larger than mine and that he could easily blast my conclusions to smithereens, like the Rebel Alliance did to the Death Star. Until He does, I will look forward to the new Star Wars movies to be released in the next few years, and promise to enjoy the adventures in imagination without sharing my conclusions with the unsuspecting (and probably unarmed) popcorn-munching movie-goer next to me.
Justine Schmiesing is a graduate of the class of ‘94 and Design Editor for the Concourse.
1 I regret to note that my theory rules out the possibility of the real existence of the inhabitants of Tolkien’s Middle Earth—elves, dwarves, hobbits and the like—but I see no way around it.