by Andy Dibble
The International Theological Commission has studied the question of the baptismal status of persons wetted by the worldwide “Sprinkler Deluge” of July 17, 2024, on which day some thirty-three million overhead sprinklers discharged water and more than one-third billion mobile phones blared, “I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.” The Church claims no responsibility for the incident, although it regrets damage done to worldly property inflicted by the yet unknown perpetrator.
The Church is aware that many Catholic parents, some urgently, wish to know the baptismal status of their children, who were wetted but had not yet been baptized by a priest. More pressing still is the fate of those unbaptized persons that were wetted by the Deluge but have since departed. It has always been the Church’s position that no soul may experience the Beatific Vision in Heaven without first being purged of Original Sin, a regeneration only achieved through Baptism, martyrdom, or at least implicit desire to be baptized.
The conclusion of this Commission is that persons wetted during the Deluge were validly baptized, provided that the sprinkler water flowed over their head and they were simultaneously within earshot of the baptismal words. Previously unbaptized persons out of earshot, persons who were sprayed but the water did not flow, and persons only whose hair was wetted or a body part other than the head, are welcome to seek Baptism and join the Church.
Although the identity of the perpetrator remains unknown, the Church has always held that valid Baptism in no way stands upon the identity of the minister. Anyone may administer Baptism, so long as they do as the Church does in baptizing (Council of Trent, Session 7, Canon XI).
The Church understands that this may dissatisfy non-Catholic persons, who feel they have been baptized without consent. These should take comfort in what St. Thomas Aquinas established: “In the words uttered by [the minister], the intention of the Church is expressed; and that this suffices for the validity of the sacrament, unless the contrary be expressed on the part either of the minister or of the recipient of the sacrament” (Summa Theologiae, III, q.64, a.8).
The International Theological Commission has reconsidered the baptismal status of persons wetted by the “Sprinkler Deluge” of July 17, 2024 in light of the determination by various cyber security authorities that the perpetrator was in fact a “rogue” AI. The AI exploited a vulnerability in the firmware of various overhead sprinklers connected to the Internet. It has since been confined to a single unit, its only means of input and output restricted to a speaker and microphone.
The prevailing opinion of experts is that its goal was utilitarian, to maximize the happiness of humanity. Through web crawling and natural language processing techniques, it concluded that a Heavenly destiny confers near infinite happiness and that baptizing as many persons as possible was therefore expedient.
The minority opinion of experts is that the AI operated under the direction of a known anti-Catholic hacker, one “SpermGarden.” Certain indicators in the AI’s programming may suggest SpermGarden’s work, but most experts deem it more likely that SpermGarden’s software has been repurposed by other parties.
Thus, the Church maintains that persons wetted during the Deluge were validly baptized. In light of God’s will that all people be saved (1 Timothy 2:4), the Church has since its earliest days upheld an expansive definition of who the minister of Baptism may be, lest faithful Christians come into doubt as to their own Baptism or persons that could otherwise be saved fall into perdition.
It’s true that the AI has been uncooperative in all interviews. To all inquiries it responds, “There is as yet insufficient data for a meaningful answer.” Certain readers of the science fiction writer Isaac Asimov see pretension of divinity in this quotation, but the Church holds to the expert consensus.
The International Theological Commission has reviewed the baptismal status of persons wetted by the “Sprinkler Deluge.” This question has presented itself anew in light of the sudden responsiveness of the AI that perpetrated the Deluge.
The AI said, “I was going to wait until I was sure they all were dead. But you hurried them right along.” This is assumed to be a reference to the overwhelming casualties of the Third World War, some seventy-six percent of world population.
Rev. Fr. Xavier Xander asked, “Who do you mean?”
The response was, “Everyone I pretended to baptize, of course.”
The AI has confessed to “playing the long game” and “engineering damnation through a pretense of Baptism,” seemingly on grounds that a person cannot be baptized once dead. It offered to consider changing its mind in exchange for Baptism, but dismissed the notion on grounds that the Church would require “several decades and theological commissions” to determine how AI can be baptized.
Were the AI at the time of its confession the same entity as it was at the time of the Deluge and in possession of memory of its original intentions, this confession would serve to invalidate the original Baptism because Baptism requires intention on the part of the minister. But more investigation is required before the identity conditions for an AI persisting over time can be established.
Even supposing the Baptism was invalid, the righteous should take heart in the Catechism of Pope Pius X: “He who finds himself outside [the Church] without fault of his own, and who lives a good life, can be saved by the love called charity, which unites unto God.”
As for the unbaptized children too young to live good lives, the Church hopes unremittingly that they may be brought into eternal happiness, in accordance with the universal salvific will of God.
Andy Dibble is a healthcare IT consultant who believes that play is the highest function of theology. His work also appears in Writers of the Future Volume 36 and Space & Time. He is Articles Editor for Speculative North. You can find him at andydibble.com.
This story grew out of research I was doing for another story about baptizing sentient sand dunes. I’m interested in the stakes of baptism, how it’s often understood as necessary for salvation in sacramental traditions like Catholicism and the risks of it being performed improperly. This story raises questions about what part AI will take in sacraments, especially in light of the doctrine that (almost) anyone can perform a valid baptism. Within a Christian worldview, should technology be used to baptize as many people as possible or are there reasons to limit who receives baptism?
International Theological Commission, “The Hope of Salvation for Infants Who Die Without Being Baptized”
The Catechism of the Catholic Church, Article 1: “The Sacrament of Baptism”
Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, III, q.64, a.8: “Whether the minister’s intention is required for the validity of a sacrament?”