Forbidden Sanctuary: The pope gives a sermon about aliens, among other things

Readers of this annoying blog may have noticed that I have lots of problems with religion.  Readers of my fiction (especially Pontiff) may have noticed that I treat religion (and, in particular, people with strong religious faith) pretty sympathetically. What’s up with that?

Beats me.  It really is a mystery why some characters and plots and issues seem worth writing about, and others don’t (why, for example, I have no interest in writing the organically plotted novel I talked about here).

Anyway, here is a little snippet from Forbidden Sanctuary that addresses issues I still find interesting: the relationship between science and religion, the nature of morality, blah blah blah.  Pope Clement is giving a brief sermon to a small congregation in a drafty rural church before he goes off to meet with the alien leader–a meeting on which the future of the world depends (naturally).  He has been doing a lot of thinking….


“We have heard it stated,” Clement said softly to the congregation, “that mankind’s knowledge has outstripped its religions. The Church fights losing battles against Galileo and Darwin, and people’s faith is shaken. Is the Church nothing more than a relic of ancient ignorance, vainly reinterpreting its doctrines in an attempt to reconcile them with modern facts?

“We would suggest that the opposite is true, that science is struggling fitfully toward truths our spiritual nature has always apprehended. And chief among these is the interdependence of all life, all matter. As you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me. Ask the ecologist, the physicist if that is not a scientific truth as well.

“Always our perspectives are widening, but the moral basis for our response to these perspectives has always been there. Love thy neighbor as thyself. Science makes the starving African our neighbor, and the homeless Indian, and the oppressed Cambodian, and we realize our actions affect them, they cannot be ignored. Now we have a new neighbor, and science struggles to understand why, and how. But the moral, the spiritual response to this knowledge already exists, and it is right. If we falter in our application of these spiritual truths, then truly religion’s claim to superiority is lost. This is a crucial time for mankind, not the least because these truths are being put to the test.

“That is why we ask for God’s blessing on our work, and your prayers. The truths will always be there, but men and women must always seek the strength to put them into practice. That strength can only exist with God’s help. Let us stand and profess our faith. I believe in one God…