If you have a question about a teaching of the Catholic Church in 2024, where do you go for a solid answer? You can crack open the catechism yourself, ask a trusted personal source like a priest or theologian, or you can delve into that famously infallible repository of knowledge — Google.

A friendly arms race of sorts has arisen among Catholics around the world to provide Catholics with another option, however — one based around artificial intelligence (AI). In the past year or so, several online AI tools have been released that generate authoritative-sounding answers about Catholic teaching based on users’ questions.

You may also have heard about one recent and unfortunate misfire: an AI “priest” created and unveiled last week by the California-based apologetics apostolate Catholic Answers, which was criticized by some users for its video game-like priestly avatar.

Moreover, at least one user managed to goad the character into providing “absolution,” prompting a statement from the apostolate in which it promised to replace the priest character with a lay character named “Justin.” Catholic Answers’ leaders have expressed optimism about the project, despite the initial public setback.

Meanwhile, Catholics looking for AI-powered answers have other, avatar-less options, like CatéGPT, an artificial intelligence chatbot designed to provide accurate and thorough answers to questions about Catholic teaching by drawing on authoritative documents.

Nicolas Torcheboeuf, a 31-year-old Swiss engineer and a Catholic, developed CatéGPT in his spare time and launched it in the late spring of 2023. (“Caté” is French for catechism, and the name is also a play on the name of the groundbreaking secular chatbot “ChatGPT.”)

The simple online tool accepts a user’s question related to the Church’s teaching — “Why is baptism necessary?” for example — and provides a succinct summary of the answer, citing sources and categorizing the sources by type, making distinctions between encyclicals, Scripture, canon law, various writings of popes and Church Fathers, and other authoritative Catholic sources.

This concept might sound familiar — Torcheboeuf concocted the idea for CatéGPT around the same time that the similar U.S.-based Magisterium AI made its debut. Also in the online ether is Catholic.chat, an interactive platform that allows users to engage with the catechism in a natural, conversational format. The similarities between the various projects, Torcheboeuf said, “goes to show that our intuition was right and meets a real need.”

Despite the free tool’s impressive ability to summarize answers to complex questions about the Church’s teaching, Torcheboeuf said his invention primarily aims to encourage Catholics to read the relevant Church documents for themselves….

From Catholic World Report