Here’s the curious thing about the head of the Vatican’s astronomical observatory saying there’s a strong likelihood that extraterrestrial beings exist and that they are part of God’s plan: not the “what,” but the “when,” as in “why now?”
In the long interview he gave the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano yesterday, Father José Gabriel Funes, a Jesuit priest from Argentina, called the existence of extraterrestrials a real possibility. “Astronomers contend that the universe is made up of a hundred billion galaxies, each of which is composed of hundreds of billions of stars,” he correctly noted. (The interview was headlined The Extra-terrestrial Is My Brother.) “Many of these, or almost all of them, could have planets. [So] how can you exclude that life has developed somewhere else?”
For all the attention they got, however, Funes’ comments do not exactly break new ground, as my colleague Edward Pentin, who covers the Vatican for Newsweek, points out. In 2005 Vatican astronomer Guy Consolmagno wrote a 50-page booklet, Intelligent Life in the Universe, published by the Catholic Truth Society, in which he makes the standard astronomical points—lots of galaxies, lots of stars, some with planets, some of which may have conditions conducive to life. (Theological question: can God create life only in places with the right conditions? Or could He create life where there is, for instance, no water, or where the temperatures are too hot or too cold? If not, why not?).
Why now indeed? Could it be that Pluto is hurtling back towards Sagittarius for the final time for the next 248 years? That Pluto’s previous passage through Sag has created schisms in the religious world and brought many of its secrets out into the open? That once the concept of Jesus and Mary having been married gets into the mainstream, all bets are off?
Now that we can hybridize human and animal tissue, create fake meat and play god in a million other ways, our theologies must evolve and this is one function of Pluto’s travel through Sagittarius. Sag rules, among other things, our shared belief systems and the ideologies that we structure in order to give our lives meaning. Religion and philosophy are the two main ways that we do this, and Pluto has brought us a tremendous paradigm shift over the past 13 years.