Thankfully times have changed since Galileo in 1632 claimed the Earth revolved around the Sun and was subsequently tried by the Pope for heresy and sentenced to spend the rest of his life under house arrest.
In fact, the Holy See’s interest in true astronomy has been mounting since opening the Vatican Observatory (Specola Vaticana) in 1787, now located at the Pope’s summer residence in Castel Gandolfo, Italy,
One Jesuit brother who has made his home at the Vatican Observatory since taking his vows in 1991 is the American Guy Consolmagno. Currently in service as a Vatican astronomer, as well as curator of the Vatican meteorite collection, “Little Guy” as he is known, believes in science and religion as compatible ideologies and explains:
“Religion needs science to keep it away from superstition and keep it close to reality, to protect it from creationism, which at the end of the day is a kind of paganism – it’s turning God into a nature god.”
Over many years of research and study for the Church, Brother Guy Consolmagno has produced many influential papers in his field, as well as publishing several books including Brother Astronomer, Adventures of a Vatican Scientist (2000), Intelligent Life in the Universe? (2005), and God’s Mechanics (2007). In 2000, Consolmagno even had an asteroid named after him to honor his dedicated work. Elaborating further on his love of Church and science, Guy Consolmagno said:
“That’s one of the joys I get from doing science as a Jesuit; by playing with the Universe I play with God, and thus I get to know God, I get to see his quirks and his personality, His way of doing things; his special brand of subtlety, that is His sense of humour. That’s my aesthetic; that is what has trained my sense of the elegant.
“If we close our eyes to the people and the culture and the knowledge of the universe around us, we are closing our eyes to God.”
It is refreshing to hear men of the cloth speaking out with such forward looking vision and I believe that his statement is one that even many an atheist astronomer would be happy to say amen to.