WelCom February 2024
A new poll published in a British Government report claims the priesthood is in danger of being replaced by artificial intelligence algorithms.
The UK Department of Education study, analysing the impact of ChatGPT systems on the job market, ranks priests and vicars at number 12 in a list of 365 jobs mostly likely to be at risk from AI.
Telephone salespeople top the list, followed by solicitors and psychologists. Street traders are ranked the fifth category most at risk. However, the danger of AI replacing clergy is less than chatbots doing the work of government administrators, ranked at number 11 in the survey.
The statistics were based on the key skills used in each profession, including written comprehension and inductive reasoning, and how easily they could be replicated by AI.
The Tablet editorial consultant Fr Alban McCoy OFM Conv dismissed the notion of replacing priests with algorithms.
‘To say that AI will replace priests suggests a very truncated, post-reformation and secularist view of what priests are and what they’re for, implying that their fundamental role is preaching,’ Fr McCoy said.
‘It leaves out of account completely their sacramental role, by which I mean not just administering the sacraments but being themselves a sacrament, as we all are in different ways, some more explicit than others but no less real.’
John McManus, head of media communications at the Jesuits in Britain, said: ‘What strikes me is that there is no comparison between the spiritual services provided by a priest and what AI can replicate.
‘Priests offer a face-to-face interaction that AI can’t do. It’s programmed. Human beings are not programmable creatures. They have souls. An AI program can never hope to replace the spiritual services and empathy given by priests. Priesthood has a sacramental side.’
Source: The Tablet