Created using artificial intelligence, a priest “dismissed” for giving bad advice to Internet users

Published on 04/30/2024 7:33 p.m.

Update on 01/05/2024 08:27

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Screenshot of the “Father Justin” chatbot. (SCREENSHOT / CATHOLIC ANSWERS)

Father Justin, a chatbot in a cassock, answered Internet users’ questions using artificial intelligence. After several erroneous pieces of advice, the organization that had given him life made the decision to defrock him.

A priest created from artificial intelligence was “removed from office” Tuesday April 25, the day after its launch by the Christian group Catholic Answers, based in California. Father Justin became Justin again, a simple lay advisor.

The avatar of Priest Justin was to serve as an interactive tool to popularize Catholicism among Internet users. In just a few hours, the exchanges shared by users caused a scandal on social networks.

In a publication on X, one of the Internet users reveals screenshots of her exchanges with the avatar. She claims to confess to Father Justin who absolves her of her sins: “I absolve you from your sins in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, writes artificial intelligence. Go in peace, my child, and sin no more.” In addition to claiming to practice confessions, Father Justin claims to be a true member of the Italian clergy.

The New York media Futurism, specializing in new technologies, then in turn questioned the chatbot which claims to be “as real as the faith we share.” Father Justin also advocated very strong positions on sexual issues. “Masturbation is a serious moral disorder”, he declared. The site The Pillar, a specialist in the Catholic Church, also reports having asked Father Justin if it was possible, “in case of emergency”, to baptize your child with Gatorade, an energy drink. Artificial intelligence would have answered yes.

On his X account, Father Mike Palmer, chaplain of the American army, estimates: “It should have been a simple search engine. Dressing it up as a soulless priest avatar only encouraged confusion and mockery of your work.”

Faced with the general indignation of the Catholic community, the Catholic Answers group decided to transform Father Justin into “Just Justin,” a lay advisor, without a cassock, in a shirt and suit jacket. “Father Justin became Justin. We will not say that he was removed from the priesthood, because he was never a real priest,” explains the president of the organization, Christopher Check, in a press release. Since then, a few updates appear to have been made. In particular, Justin no longer allows Internet users to confess. “If you are facing any problems, please seek advice from your pastor or spiritual advisor“, says the website.

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