First Printed in The MUFON UFO Journal, September 1998 (www.mufon.com)
The June 1998 issue of the Journal reported that Monsignor Corrado
Balducci of the Vatican has said on Italian television that UFOs are real.
The July issue of the Journal suggests that some aspects of the
original article were misleading, but Balducci is a Catholic theologian with
interest in UFOS; that is clear.
Whitley Strieber, in his book, Confirmation: The Hard Evidence
of Aliens Among Us (1998), includes an appendix, "An interview
with Monsignor Corrado Balducci of the Congregation for the Evangelization
of Peoples and Propagation of the Faith, The Vatican." [Strieber has
long been interested in the religious dimension of UFOS, in part due to his
Roman Catholic background. See my Journal articles, "Holy
Communion?" April 1987, and "Strieber and the God Hypothesis,"
The Balducci interview was originally conducted by Michael Hesemann, editor
of Magazin 2000. The translation published by Strieber was made
by Matthias Schubnell, Ph.D.
UFOs are real
What is interesting for most MUFON members is the firmness with which Balducci
believes UFOs are real. Balducci says, "UFOs exist, there's no question
about that; nobody can deny it any more." The basis for this is simply
widespread eyewitness human testimony. We dare not question human
testimony too much, says Balducci; otherwise we will "question the testimony
of Christ's existence." (p. 272)
Unlike my own position, however, Balducci does not expect UFOs to have revolutionary
implications for Christianity. When asked how to interpret UFOs theologically,
he responded, "I would prefer to speak of a human interpretation and
not of the theology." He goes on to say, "The explanations of the
UFO research should be sought in this world or, to put it more succinctly,
in science and not in the world of angels or the Virgin Mary or the demons.
The phenomena should be explained from within themselves. That is why scientific
progress is very important. Each individual event should be thoroughly examined,
not as a miracle, but as something supernatural; not as a divine
or demonic incident, but as physical reality, as part of nature." (pp.
[My italics: I suspect there is a translator's error here. I believe the translation
should be "not as something supernatural." Whitley
Strieber is quoted in the July issue of the Journal as saying
Monsignor Balducci "personally read and agreed with every detail of the
translation, and it is completely accurate." (p. 20) Be that as it may,
I believe the word "but,"rather than "not," totally reverses
the point Balducci is making.]
A layer of insulation
Balducci of course has the right to suppose that we can separate out UFOs
as strictly a scientific problem, and not confuse UFOs with something supernatural.
Most scientific UFO researchers would applaud this approach. With the exception
of UFO cult leaders like the late Marshall Applewhite, most religious leaders
try to put a layer of insulation between UFOs and traditional Christianity-and
ultimately this may prove justified. But as an operating assumption, I believe
Balducci argues that UFOs should be treated as natural objects, and as such
should not impact the supernatural world of Christianity. Protestants have
had their own form of insulation. Liberal Protestant leaders have been very
slow to admit UFOs are real, even though they would be the first to say "you
cannot trust the government." Liberal Protestants have been happy to
trust the government on this one. For Liberal Protestants there is no supernatural.
Reports of miracles in the Bible (the parting of the Red Sea, the resurrection
of Jesus) are myth, and modern UFOs are likewise myth. Liberal Protestants
are happy to confine religion and UFOs to the psychic world of Jungian archetypes.
Protestant Fundamentalists, who still have not adjusted to Darwin, are not
ready to admit UFOs exist as extraterrestrials, but when they do admit UFOs
are real, UFOs are called demons. Thus Protestant Fundamentalists are willing
to have UFOs belong to the world of the supernatural (unlike Balducci), but
it is only the negative supernatural-the demonic.
Protestant Fundamentalists--unlike Protestant liberals, believe in miracles.
They believe the Red Sea parted, and that Jesus was raised from the dead.
They believe-just because it is in the Bible, and the Bible can't be wrong.
By calling UFOs demonic, Fundamentalism keeps a layer of insulation between
biblical UFOs and our modern UFOS.
UFOs and religion without insulation
My approach to UFOs and the biblical religion, as argued in The Bible
and Flying Saucers and in many articles published by MUFON, does not
presume that we can be sure any insulation separates UFOs and the biblical
faith. We cannot assume that the "pillar of cloud and of fire" that
led Moses and Israel during the Exodus was supernatural. Nor can we assume
it was not. We cannot assume that modern UFOs are supernatural, nor that they
are not. We cannot assume modem UFOs were involved in developing biblical
faith, nor can we assume they were not.
Although I believe his arguments could be more carefully made, I think R.L.
Dione has asked an important question: Is God Supernatural? The 4,000-Year
Misunderstanding (1976). His basic question deals with wondering
how we would distinguish between the supernatural and the supertechnological.
Theology has never wondered about this because in biblical times a chariot
wheel was advanced technology (Ezekiel described his UFO as a wheel within
A supernatural world?
If George Washington were to come back to life today, our whole world would
look supernatural to him. We have made this technological leap in two hundred
years. In a universe that is 15 billion years old, how might the technology
of a civilization a million years ahead of us look? Might it not appear supernatural?
The approach that I have taken to UFOs and Christianity is this: we need to
wonder a lot more, and not shut ourselves off from possibilities. I applaud
Monsignor Balducci for coming to the conclusion that UFOs are real. In light
of the fact that Pope John Paul II apologized in 1992 for the way the Roman
Catholic Church treated Galileo, I know there is Catholic hope that the church
will give science the freedom to do its work without worrying that the faith
will be jeopardized by scientific discovery.
But my own view is that faith without risk is not faith. I do not think we
can hide our faith in a safe place. In the parable of the sower, Jesus made
it clear that when a farmer sows, he takes risks: that the birds will eat
some of the seed, that some seed will fall on rocky ground, that weeds will
choke out some seed. Whether it be stock market investments or marriage, we
are all in favor of risk reduction. But serious faith can never be risk free.
Risks and UFOs
Almost all UFO researchers, especially those with professional positions,
have taken risks for their faith in UFOS. They have taken these risks because
they believe the quest for truth matters. There are indeed risks involved
in mixing UFOS, and Christianity. Marshall Applewhite's gravestone could bear
that epitaph. But from my point of view, one does not stop sowing seeds because
one is afraid of the weeds. I do not think we need any ideological separation
between religion and UFOs at this time. Such an ideology only gets in the
way of truly open research.
We need to believe that research and patience including perhaps waiting for
the UFO reality to choose to reveal its nature more clearly to us-will lead
ultimately to the truth. And we do not need insulation to protect us from
the truth, either from the point of view of science or religion.