Friday, August 25, 2006


New Vatican Observatory Director Dismisses Speculation

The Catholic News Service reports that the Rev. Jose Funes, the newly appointed director of the Vatican Observatory, has dismissed speculation that former director Rev. George Coyne "had been forced out of the job because of his strong comments in support of evolution and criticism of the 'intelligent design' movement."
"It's simply not true that this was the reason he left," Father Funes said.

Funes said the appointment was a natural development after Father Coyne's long tenure and one of many personnel changes being made at the Vatican under the new pope.

As for his own views on evolution, Father Funes emphasized that he was an astronomer specializing in galaxies, not a biologist, and so did not plan to make statements about Darwinism and intelligent design.
Rev. Funes told CNS that, "it's important to distinguish between the scientific study of natural causes and the religious beliefs of faith."

RSR was beginning to believe assertions that Father Coyne was suffering from health problems and that he was leaving the job voluntarily, but Father Funes' statement, to our mind, raises more questions than it answers.

For example, Father Funes says the decision "one of many personnel changes being made at the Vatican under the new pope" suggesting that stepping down was not Father Coyne's idea.

There has been, to our knowledge, no public statement by Father Coyne.

There has been no statement from the Pope recognizing Father Coyne's achievements and thanking him for his long years of service as the director of the Observatory.

A retirement for a man of Father Coyne's stature is normally accompanied by a celebration of his accomplishments. To our knowledge, this has not happened.

Assertions that Father Coyne is too sick to continue as director have been contradicted by statements suggesting he is still active and vigorous and that he will continue to work at the observatory in other capacities.

RSR is stuck asking questions. We don't pretend to have any answers. But, until we learn more, we're reserving judgement on whether Father Coyne left voluntarily or he was dismissed for his vocal opposition to intelligent design.


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