Extraterrestrials Visit Rhode Island

Bishop Thomas J. Tobin - Without a Doubt

“Vatican: It’s OK to believe in aliens.”

Now there’s a headline that captures attention. And it’s the Associated Press headline that appeared a few weeks ago, introducing an intriguing interview Father Jose Gabriel Funes, the Jesuit Director of the Vatican Observatory, gave to L’Osservatore Romano, the Vatican newspaper.

In his interview, with the equally intriguing title, “The Alien is my Brother,” Fr. Funes said that, “Astronomy has a profound human value. It is a science that opens the heart and the mind. It helps us to put our lives, our hopes, our problems in the right perspective.”

So far, so good. No headlines there.

But Fr. Funes went on to speak about the possibility of extraterrestrial life, and that’s where the fun begins. He said, “It is possible, even if until now we have no proof.” He emphasized that belief in alien life is not contrary to the Catholic Faith. “Just as there is a multiplicity of creatures over the earth, so there could be other beings, even intelligent beings, created by God. We cannot establish limits to God’s creative freedom.”

It was at that point of the story that my imagination kicked into high gear. “What if there are extraterrestrials out there, and what if they came to earth and landed in Rhode Island?” I asked myself.

First, a disclaimer. I’m not personally convinced that there are intelligent creatures in outer space. I loved the movies “ET” and “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” but I’m not impressed by the occasional UFO sightings reported in supermarket tabloids. After all, if space aliens took all the trouble of traveling millions of light years to earth, why would they dart about secretively in dark skies, usually over remote places? Wouldn’t they land on the South Lawn of the White House and hold a news conference? Or make a dramatic entrance at some other public place, like Yankee Stadium for example? I know – lots of Red Sox fans believe that strange creatures landed at Yankee Stadium years ago and donned pin stripes – but that’s another story.

Back to my question: What if extraterrestrials landed in Rhode Island? It seems to me that if aliens are thinking about traveling to Rhode Island, they’d better think again. Given the current animosity toward immigrants in Rhode Island, I’m not sure they’d be at all welcome here, even though they’d be a great tourist attraction and generate boatloads of money for the economy. And given the fact that they’d probably have a different skin color and speak a foreign language, they’d have no chance at all. Before you could say “Mork and Mindy” they’d be blamed for all the social problems that beset us here in Little Rhody.

Talk about racial profiling. What about “species profiling”? Just because they might be short and green, with wrinkled skin and webbed toes, they’d really be special targets for arrest, incarceration and deportation, even if they weren’t doing anything wrong.

And gosh, what if something happened to their spacecraft while they were here? They couldn’t even buy a spare part without showing their Social Security card, which, of course, they wouldn’t have.

Without a doubt the arrival of extraterrestrials would present challenges for our State, but also for the Church. Right away some thorny theological questions would have to be answered.

For example, if they’re not descendants of Adam and Eve, they’re probably not tainted by Original Sin. And if they haven’t sinned against God, do they need a Redeemer? But what if, in their own time and place, and in their own way, they did offend the Creator? Does Jesus’ death on the cross apply to them, too, or only to human beings who share the human nature of Christ? Maybe God designed another means to save them from their sins. Do they need the Church here on earth? Are they eligible to receive the sacraments? Or to be godparents?

The aforementioned Fr. Funes had this to say about the theological status of extraterrestrials: “We could not say that they need redemption. They could have remained in full friendship with the Creator.” “But what if they were sinners?” asked the journalist. “I am sure that also they, in some way, would have the chance to enjoy God’s mercy, just as it has happened with us human beings.”

Good, diplomatic answer, Fr. Funes.

Well, I guess the faith experience of the aliens will have to remain a mystery. But, if they do land in Rhode Island, I’ll be happy to send them budget envelopes and add their names to the Charity Fund mailing list nonetheless. Hey, no harm in trying.

And finally the most important question of all. If the aliens land in Rhode Island, would they be Steelers fans or Patriot fans? Well, that answer is obvious. If they really possess superior intelligence, they’d be Steelers fans of course. On the other hand, if they’re Patriots fans, they could share their advanced recording equipment with the team, confident it’d be put to good use.

Oh well, it’s fun to speculate about all this I guess, but we’ll probably never know the answers to these fascinating questions. Perhaps we shouldn’t even worry about getting along with creatures from other planets until we learn to get along with the creatures who are already here.