The Church has a Science Problem

August 25, 2022 Rachel M. Coleman 71

It has become fairly common in these post-Covid times to distinguish very carefully between science and scientism, or between science and The ScienceTM. The distinction generally goes something like this: Science is a method for […]

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Vatican Observatory astronomer awarded for Galileo article

June 4, 2022 Catholic News Agency 2
Joseph-Nicolas Robert-Fleury’s Galileo before the Holy Office (1847) / null

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jun 4, 2022 / 11:00 am (CNA).

Chris Ganey, an astronomer and historian of science at the Vatican Observatory, was recently given the 2021 Nelson H. Minnich Prize for his work investigating the nuances of the Galileo affair.

The Minnich Prize is given for the best article published in the Catholic Historical Review, a quarterly journal of the Catholic University of America Press.

Ganey, public relations officer at the Vatican Observatory Foundation, was given the award for his article “Galileo between Jesuits: The Fault is in the Stars.”

EWTN News Nightly recently spoke with Graney about the recognition.

“My research,” he explained, “is regarding Galileo Galilei … and some of his Jesuit astronomer critics.”

“My area of interest is Galileo and his opponents—the people who he was arguing with, what did they have to say? It turns out that what they have to say is a lot more interesting than than what we might think.  It’s a very complex and and dynamic argument.”

“It tells us something about how science works,” Ganey told EWTN News Nightly. “We see just how complicated it can be to answer even relatively simple scientific questions.”

The committee which awarded Ganey the Minnich prize wrote that “​​Graney brilliantly demonstrates that the Copernican view of the nature and size of the stars, which was abandoned not long after Galileo’s death, led many scholars to reject heliocentrism. Thus, the church opposed Galileo not just on theological but on scientific grounds. Graney is to be commended for showing that there is more nuance to one of the most famous confrontations in the history of the church than scholars have hitherto supposed.”

Ganey also discussed other work going on at the Vatican Observatory during his appearance on EWTN News Nightly.

He mentioned a new model proposed by Fathers Gabriele Gionti S.J and Matteo Galaverni, an astronomer and associate astronomer, respectively, of the Vatican Observatory, which seeks to describe, using mathematics, how gravity would have functioned in the midst of what is known as “cosmological inflation,” i.e. the rapid expansion of the universe during and after the Big Bang.

“They discovered some problems with existing ideas about gravity at the very beginning of time when the universe was very compact,” Graney said, adding that they “have worked through the problems and proposed a new alternative.”

With roots dating to 1582, the Vatican Observatory is one of the oldest active astronomical observatories in the world. Its headquarters are in Castel Gandolfo, a town just outside Rome and the location of the summer residence of the popes. The Vatican Observatory also operates the Vatican Advanced Technology Telescope, located in rural Arizona about 200 miles southeast of Phoenix.


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Pope Francis: ‘There cannot and must not be any opposition between faith and science’

July 2, 2021 Catholic News Agency 2
Pope Francis waves to pilgrims during his March 28, 2018 general audience in St. Peter’s Square. / Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.

Vatican City, Jul 2, 2021 / 03:05 am (CNA).

Pope Francis said Friday that there “cannot and must not” be any opposition between faith and science.

The pope made the comment in a video message to participants in the “Science for Peace” event, an international meeting held on July 2-3 in the Abruzzo region of southern Italy.

“Dear and distinguished scientists, your meeting is a great gift of hope for humanity,” the pope said.

“Never before as in this time have we been aware of the need to relaunch scientific research to face the challenges of contemporary society.”

“And I am pleased that it is the diocesan community of Teramo which is promoting this meeting, thus testifying that there cannot and must not be any opposition between faith and science.”

The gathering, promoted by the Diocese of Teramo-Atri, is hosted by the University of Teramo and the Sanctuary of St. Gabriel of Our Lady of Sorrows.

The sanctuary — at the foot of the Gran Sasso d’Italia, a massif in the Apennine Mountains — is the burial place of St. Gabriel, an Italian Passionist, and a popular pilgrimage destination.

The Church is currently celebrating the centenary of St. Gabriel’s canonization. The Jubilee of St. Gabriel of Our Lady of Sorrows began on Feb. 27 and will end on the same date in 2022.

The Laboratori Nazionali del Gran Sasso, the world’s largest underground research center, is located beneath the massif.

Referring to his latest encyclical, Fratelli tutti, the pope said it was vital that scientists worked together for the good of all.

“Moreover, as I noted in the encyclical, it is important not to overlook the ‘risk that a single scientific advance will be seen as the only possible lens for viewing a particular aspect of life, society, and the world,’” he said.

The pope noted that the coronavirus pandemic had prompted the scientific community to rethink “prevention, treatment, and health organization,” paying greater attention to relations between people.

He said: “Faced with the new challenges, you are entrusted, dear friends in science — yes, you! – with the task of testifying to the possibility of building a new social bond, endeavoring to bring scientific research closer to all the community, from the local to the international, and that together it is possible to overcome every conflict.”

“Science is a great resource for building peace!”