Pope Francis to Scientists on Lemaitre, Einstein and Aquinas


Dear friends,

I extend a heartfelt welcome to you all, and I thank Brother Guy Consolmagno for his kind words.

The issues you have been addressing during these days at Castel Gandolfo are of particular interest to the Church, because they have to do with questions that concern us deeply, such as the beginning of the universe and its evolution, and the profound structure of space and time, to name but a few.  It is clear that these questions have a particular relevance for science, philosophy, theology and for the spiritual life.  They represent an arena in which these different disciplines meet and sometimes clash.

As both a Catholic priest and a cosmologist, Msgr. Georges Lemaître knew well the creative tension between faith and science, and always defended the clear methodological distinction between the fields of science and theology.  While integrating them in his own life, he viewed them as distinct areas of competence. That distinction, already present in Saint Thomas Aquinas, avoids a short-circuiting that is as harmful to science as it is to faith.

Before the immensity of space-time, we humans can experience awe and a sense of our own insignificance, as the Psalmist reminds us:  “What is man that you should keep him in mind, the son of man that you care for him?” (Ps 8:5). As Albert Einstein loved to say: “One may say the eternal mystery of the world is its comprehensibility.” The existence and intelligibility of the universe are not a result of chaos or mere chance, but of God’s Wisdom, present “at the beginning of his work, the first of his acts of old” (Prov. 8:22).

I am deeply appreciative of your work, and I encourage you to persevere in your search for truth. For we ought never to fear truth, nor become trapped in our own preconceived ideas, but welcome new scientific discoveries with an attitude of humility. As we journey towards the frontiers of human knowledge, it is indeed possible to have an authentic experience of the Lord, one which is capable of filling our hearts.

Greeting Address to the participants of the Conference organized by the Vatican Observatory,  Friday, 12 May 2017

Source: Vatican homepage 



Is God a Puppet Master?


In an Interview, Brother Guy Consolmagno SJ, was asked about the following quote attributed to him:

“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.”

He answers:

“I suspect I never said those words quite that way. But it’s close enough to my beliefs that I’m not going to fight it. And I’ve realized that, properly spoken, there’s some truth to it. The idea is this: If you’re making God the direct cause of everything — trees grow because God made them grow; lightning strikes because God made it strike — you’re turning God into Jupiter or any other god of the pagan pantheon, where people said things occurred because the gods caused them to happen. One breakthrough in Christian theology, going back to Thomas Aquinas and Augustine, was recognizing the difference between primary and secondary cause. This theological point is really important to science. The simplest explanation is that God made the laws of physics and has chosen to follow them. So nature has a certain amount of freedom within it; humans certainly have free will. We’re not puppets, controlled every moment by this omnipotent puppet God.


Br. Guy Consolmagno SJ

Guy Consolmagno holds two degrees in earth and planetary sciences from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and he wears a clerical collar—proof, he says, that “it’s possible to be a fanatic and a nerd at the same time.” He entered the Jesuit order in 1991 and was assigned to the Vatican Observatory in 1993. He serves as curator of the Vatican’s meteorite collection in Castel Gandolfo, Italy, the Pope’s summer home; his office is above the Pope’s bedroom. There, he measures the densities and porosities of meteorites and studies the origins of asteroids, dwarf planets, and objects orbiting the sun beyond Neptune. He even has an asteroid named after him: 4597 Consolmagno. [1]

In a brandnew article, one of my friends writes:

 “God is neither in competition with the causality of nature, nor is his causality in the same plane as that of nature, the way quarks and bosons operate in the plane of fundamental particles. For the Thomist there is a crucial distinction to be made between primary and secondary causality, and it is both ignorance and denial of this distinction that has contributed to talk of God as a ‘scientific hypothesis’ — a favorite catchphrase of both New Atheists and Intelligent Design theorists — and, a fortiori, to blurring the line between Creator and creature by conceiving of God as a being among other beings, one ‘hypothesis’ among many others.”

Read it all on Analogia Entis. [2]

[1] Source: http://scicom.ucsc.edu/publications/QandA/2008/consolmagno.html

[2] God and The Integrity of Nature: Primary and Secondary Causality, on the blog Analogia Entis