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BY Matthew Warner
Do you know who developed the theory of the Big Bang? It wasn’t Albert Einstein or Stephen Hawking. In fact, it was a Catholic priest.
Fr. Georges Lemaitre, born in 1894, was both a Catholic priest and a Belgian mathematical physicist. And although many may think this some kind of contradiction (being both a priest and a scientist), it is not at all. There is no contradiction at all between science and the Catholic faith. They are both pursuits of the same truth.
The common consensus among scientists of Lemaitre’s day, including that of Albert Einstein, was that the universe had gone on forever. Space and Time were constants and infinitely old.
With the popularity of such a Steady State theory, many thought that an eternally old universe (i.e. it had no beginning) conveniently shed the need for a Creator. There was no “In the beginning.” It just always was. The universe was itself the un-moved mover, the un-caused cause. And the widespread embrace of such a theory was, of course, not at all influenced by the prejudice of atheistic scientists.
Lemaitre had a different take on it and published his theory in 1927. It was 1933, after presenting his theory in detail, that Einstein stood up from among the audience and said, “this is the most beautiful and satisfactory explanation of creation to which I have ever listened.” It wasn’t long before Lemaitre’s theory found favor with many other scientists. And since then, consensus has built as more and more scientific evidence continues to mount in support of Lemaitre’s theories.
The universe had a beginning. It was created. This is a concept Jews and Christians have known with certainty for thousands of years. It took the scientific community a little longer to come around, they just needed a bit more convincing. And that’s okay. That’s the beautiful thing about the Catholic Faith. It is constantly confirmed and reinforced with any honest pursuit of truth - scientific or otherwise.
[My follow-up to this post]