Jesuit priest wins Carl Sagan Award for astronomy

Jesuit monk Guy Consolmagno is proof that science and religion do not need to be at odds with one another.

The astronomer was just awarded the prestigious Carl Sagan Medal for “outstanding communication by an active planetary scientist” by the American Astronomical Society’s Division for Planetary Sciences, according to the Catholic Sun newspaper.

Consolmagno said he was honored because he “occupies a unique position within our profession as a credible spokesperson for scientific honesty within the context of religious belief,” reports the website for the order, which is also known for its emphasis on social justice, focus on education, and free-thinking attitude. Pope Francis became the first Jesuit pope in 2013, when he was elected.

The astronomer is renowned for his astronomy guidebook, “Turn Left At Orion,” and his BBC radio show “A Brief History of the End of Everything,”
as well as many public lectures which help convey the excitement of scientific inquiry to the general public. In 2014, he also delivered the commencement address at Georgetown University.

He told Catholic News Service that he believes that Catholic scientists should not hesitate to share their love of science with their communities in order to show the world that the Church is not opposed to science. “Show them that our religion does not tell us what ‘facts’ we can believe, but rather our religion gives us the reason why we go looking to try to understand those facts,” he stated in an interview.

Consolmagno credits his background with allowing him to help talk about his faith in such a public manner. “I can concentrate on communicating my passion for my science and let my collar do the rest of the talking for me. It has been one of the greatest blessings of my vocation,” he stated, according to the Catholic Sun. He became a Jesuit when he was in his late 30s after working for a time for the Harvard College Observatory, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the Peace Corps.

An AAS press release stated that, “As a Jesuit Brother, Guy has become the voice of the juxtaposition of planetary science and astronomy with Christian belief, a rational spokesperson who can convey exceptionally well how religion and science can co-exist for believers.”