Catholic Answers shelves AI priest 'Father Justin' following backlash

Catholic Answers
Catholic Answers

The website Catholic Answers has responded to the backlash received after launching an artificial intelligence priest apologetics application, saying the character will no longer be referred to with a priestly title.

Christopher Check, president of Catholic Answers, released a statement last Wednesday shortly after his organization unveiled an artificial intelligence application named "Fr. Justin," saying the organization received "helpful feedback" about the new initiative.

"Prevalent among users' comments is criticism of the representation of the AI character as a priest," he said. "We chose the character to convey a quality of knowledge and authority, and also as a sign of the respect that all of us at Catholic Answers hold for our clergy. Many people, however, have voiced concerns about this choice."

Get Our Latest News for FREE

Subscribe to get daily/weekly email with the top stories (plus special offers!) from The Christian Post. Be the first to know.

In response to the criticism, Catholic Answers says it will "create, with all wary speed, a new lay character for the app." Predicting that the "AI apologist" will be "up within a week or so," Check stated that "until then, we have rendered 'Fr. Justin’ just 'Justin.'"

"We won't say he's been laicized, because he was never a real priest!" Check added. "He'll be available to visitors to, thousands of whom have already used the app with great profit. Furthermore, with the help of user input, we will continue to refine and improve the app by identifying any deficiencies (we didn't anticipate that someone might seek sacramental absolution from a computer graphic!), which we quickly correct."

The original purpose of Fr. Justin, Check said, was to "provide sound answers to questions about the Catholic faith in an innovative way that makes good use of the benefits of 'artificial intelligence.'"

Catholic Answers first unveiled the artificial intelligence priest on Tuesday as an "innovative digital application" that "employs the latest artificial intelligence technology to provide users with faithful and educational answers to questions about Catholicism." 

"Seekers may also engage in a back-and-forth interaction to pursue further information with the 3D AI character," Catholic Answers noted.

Chris Costello, director of information technology at Catholic Answers, said that goal with "Fr. Justin" was to "leverage the power of large language models" to "create an engaging and informative experience for those exploring the Catholic faith."

"Although this is not a substitute for human interaction with a priest, teacher, or spiritual advisor, we believe it can be a valuable tool to help our users better understand and articulate the teachings of the Catholic faith," Costello stressed. 

He said the reason to make the AI character a priest is that "we wanted to convey the spirit and nature of the responses users can expect — authoritative yet approachable, drawing from the deep well of Catholic tradition and teaching." 

"We believe that the presentation of Father Justin honors real-life priests and the role they play in people's lives, yet we are confident that our users will not mistake the AI for a human being," he added.

Catholic Answers is committed to "leveraging the latest technologies to advance its mission of explaining and defending the Catholic faith" by "providing a new and appealing way for searchers to begin or continue their journey of faith." 

Catholic Answers describes itself as a "media ministry that serves Christ by explaining and defending the faith." In addition to a series of questions and answers about the faith, the website contains several podcasts and videos, an encyclopedia full of information about the Catholic Church and a "Bible Navigator" that contains references to Scripture passages elaborating on a wide variety of topics relevant to the Catholic Church.

Ryan Foley is a reporter for The Christian Post. He can be reached at:

Was this article helpful?

Help keep The Christian Post free for everyone.

By making a recurring donation or a one-time donation of any amount, you're helping to keep CP's articles free and accessible for everyone.

We’re sorry to hear that.

Hope you’ll give us another try and check out some other articles. Return to homepage.

Most Popular

More Articles