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January 08, 2006



Great article. And it does point out that most of this mess is a 19th century fabrication.

Kevin Jones

I was reading up on this just the other day. Bad history drives out good history, sometimes.

A few relevant links taking on White's hyperbolic exaggeration of the conflicts:

The Mythical Conflict between Science and Religion

Beyond War and Peace: A Reappraisal of the Encounter between Christianity and Science"


Thank you, Amy, and thank you Kevin (for the links). I have known for years about the 19th century stuff, as well as the details of Galileo's trial (that he was primarily condemned for heresy in biblical interpretation, not for saying the earth goes around the sun - the Catholic Copernicus said it earlier and was not condemned!). The warmongers never mention, either, that no Pope ever said that believing that the sun went around the earth was a matter of dogma.

But this stuff just NEVER LEAVES THE CULTURE. Just a few months ago, the New York Times letters page ended with a typical, "Why listen to the Church when they condemned Galileo for yada yada." I sent in a correction, which of course they did not publish.

But it's par for the course, this believing in anti-Catholic screeds over the historical facts. "The Da Vinci Code," that weirdo conspiracy fiction, is itself based on some OTHER weirdo conspiracy fiction; the entire Pope-Pius-XII-was-Hitler's-lackey, in the face of a flood of evidence to the contrary, including the New York Times' own editorial page, was based on a nasty play from the 60s, etc.

Next up: someone is publishing a novel saying that Pope John I was murdered because he was going to end celibacy and allow women priests. This novel, hoping to cash in on the "Da Vinci" craze, will probably end up being referenced in footnotes in scholarly works.


JPI murdered because he was going to allow celibacy and women priests? And all this time I'd thought he was murdered to cover up the Vatican banking conspiracy!


In the 80s I took a graduate course on the Popes from beginning to current day at Washington U in St Louis where I was the only Catholic in the class. It was a seminar and we read original documents. There was no internet yet and I spent a lot of time in libraries and used book stores looking for copies of Patristic material, Justinian's Code, etc. I found that there is a huge amount of books from late 19th century England that is geared toward delegitimizing Catholicism's claims to represent the church Christ intended. I asked my Anglican professor why this was so and he said some of it was reaction to all the conversions to Catholicism connected with Newman and his writings. The other major factor was Pius IX, his Syllabus of Errors and the Vatican I pronouncement on infallibility.

Some of the stuff I came across was just incredibly ignorant, but I think a lot of what was written has lingered and influenced Protestant thinking to this day. The Galileo thing and witch burnings, the Crusades, the Inquisition, etc. were and are used to discredit the Catholic Church. These weapons are useful and will hang around in spite of the debunking of articles like this.

I have heard the most incredible stuff that friends say they learned in Sunday School - even in Methodist, Presbyterian and other mainline churches. In particular, "dogma" is a bad word associated with mind control.

All three of these articles are a step in the right direction.

Richard W. Comerford

What Was Galileo’s Real Trouble with the Church - if any?

I thought that Galileo got into trouble with the Church because of perjury. It was my understanding that Galileo was loaded down with honors by the Church before he got into a bitter dispute with Jesuit Scientists (Those pesky Jesuits again!) about some of the details of his theory of the Solar System. The Jesuits said that the planets moved in elliptical orbits around the sun and Galileo said, like Copernicus before him, that the planets moved in perfect circles around the sun. This was a minor dispute before both sides dragged the Bible into the fray whereupon the combatants, who were all in Holy Orders Galileo was in Minor Orders as a Canon, were hauled before Cardinal (later Saint) Bellarmine and told to cease and desist from dragging Holy Scripture into scientific disputes.

The Bible, according to the good Cardinal, was not intended by God to be used as a scientific text book but to in a concrete way pass on the Good News of Jesus Christ, but until provide otherwise it was assumed that the natural observations contained therein were true. The proof Galileo used in part to defend his theory had already been easily shown to be false. Galileo had claimed that the tides in the Mediterranean were on a 24-hour cycle because the earth’s 24-hour rotation earth made the sea move. However, as any fisherman could have told Galileo, the tides in the Mediterranean were on a 12-hour cycle. Galileo lost a great deal of credibility with this particular claim and the scientific debate became very nasty indeed.

The clerical scientists on both sides were told to cease and desist and not to teach the Copernicus Solar System as fact but as theory. Cardinal Bellarmine dismissed the scientists and made a summary of his decision which unknown to Galileo was placed in the archives of the Inquisition. After Cardinal Bellarmine and the Pope died Galileo published a book which for reasons known only to Galileo mocked the new Pope and treated the Copernicus Solar System as a proven fact and not as a theory

Galileo was hauled in before a clerk of the inquisition, there was no trial before Cardinals as shown on Public television, and was told to answer two questions under oath. The first was whether the late Cardinal Bellarmine told him not to teach the Copernicus Solar System as a proven fact but as theory and the second was whether in his new book Galileo was teaching the Copernicus Solar System as a proven fact. Galileo under oath answered that the late Cardinal Bellarmine had never told him not to teach the Copernicus Solar System as a proven fact and that in his new book he did not hold that the Copernicus Solar System was a proven fact.

The Clerk later produced the late Cardinal’s summary from the archives as well as statements from other scientists that Galileo was indeed holding that the Copernicus Solar System was a proven fact in his new book. Galileo admitted to perjury and was sentenced to house arrest and to praying the penitentiary psalms daily – a sentence that was quickly lifted. He continued to receive his pension from the Church.

These are the facts of the case as I know them. I am poorly educated and unlearned in almost everything so I am sure that I missed some important issues but does anyone know if there were other problems between Galileo and the Church; or do I have my facts wrong? Sorry for teh long post. Thank you.

God bless

Richard W. Comerford

Unapologetic Catholic

We should deal with the Gallileo incident truthfully:

Here was the charge:

"Whereas you, Galileo, son of the late Vincenzio Galilei, of Florence, aged seventy years, were denounced in 1615, to this Holy Office, for holding as true a false doctrine taught by many, namely, that the sun is immovable in the center of the world, and that the earth moves, and also with a diurnal motion; also, for having pupils whom you instructed in the same opinions; also, for maintaining a correspondence on the same with some German mathematicians; also for publishing certain letters on the sun-spots, in which you developed the same doctrine as true; also, for answering the objections which were continually produced from the Holy Scriptures, by glozing the said Scriptures according to your own meaning; and whereas thereupon was produced the copy of a writing, in form of a letter professedly written by you to a person formerly your pupil, in which, following the hypothesis of Copernicus, you include several propositions contrary to the true sense and authority of the Holy Scriptures; therefore (this Holy Tribunal being desirous of providing against the disorder and mischief which were thence proceeding and increasing to the detriment of the Holy Faith) by the desire of his Holiness and the Most Emminent Lords, Cardinals of this supreme and universal Inquisition, the two propositions of the stability of the sun, and the motion of the earth, were qualified by the Theological Qualifiers as follows:

The proposition that the sun is in the center of the world and immovable from its place is absurd, philosophically false, and formally heretical; because it is expressly contrary to Holy Scriptures.
The proposition that the earth is not the center of the world, nor immovable, but that it moves, and also with a diurnal action, is also absurd, philosophically false, and, theologically considered, at least erroneous in faith.
Therefore . . . , invoking the most holy name of our Lord Jesus Christ and of His Most Glorious Mother Mary, We pronounce this Our final sentence: We pronounce, judge, and declare, that you, the said Galileo . . . have rendered yourself vehemently suspected by this Holy Office of heresy, that is, of having believed and held the doctrine (which is false and contrary to the Holy and Divine Scriptures) that the sun is the center of the world, and that it does not move from east to west, and that the earth does move, and is not the center of the world; also, that an opinion can be held and supported as probable, after it has been declared and finally decreed contrary to the Holy Scripture, and, consequently, that you have incurred all the censures and penalties enjoined and promulgated in the sacred canons and other general and particular constituents against delinquents of this description. From which it is Our pleasure that you be absolved, provided that with a sincere heart and unfeigned faith, in Our presence, you abjure, curse, and detest, the said error and heresies, and every other error and heresy contrary to the Catholic and Apostolic Church of Rome."

I don't see a chage of perjury, here. It's straight up heresy he's charged with.

Here's Gallileo's response:

I, Galileo Galilei, son of the late Vincenzio Galilei of Florence, aged 70 years, tried personally by this court, and kneeling before You, the most Eminent and Reverend Lord Cardinals, Inquisitors-General throughout the Christian Republic against heretical depravity, having before my eyes the Most Holy Gospels, and laying on them my own hands; I swear that I have always believed, I believe now, and with God's help I will in future believe all which the Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church doth hold, preach, and teach.

But since I, after having been admonished by this Holy Office entirely to abandon the false opinion that the Sun was the centre of the universe and immoveable, and that the Earth was not the centre of the same and that it moved, and that I was neither to hold, defend, nor teach in any manner whatever, either orally or in writing, the said false doctrine; and after having received a notification that the said doctrine is contrary to Holy Writ, I did write and cause to be printed a book in which I treat of the said already condemned doctrine, and bring forward arguments of much efficacy in its favour, without arriving at any solution: I have been judged vehemently suspected of heresy, that is, of having held and believed that the Sun is the centre of the universe and immoveable, and that the Earth is not the centre of the same, and that it does move.

Nevertheless, wishing to remove from the minds of your Eminences and all faithful Christians this vehement suspicion reasonably conceived against me, I abjure with sincere heart and unfeigned faith, I curse and detest the said errors and heresies, and generally all and every error and sect contrary to the Holy Catholic Church. And I swear that for the future I will neither say nor assert in speaking or writing such things as may bring upon me similar suspicion; and if I know any heretic, or one suspected of heresy, I will denounce him to this Holy Office, or to the Inquisitor and Ordinary of the place in which I may be.

I also swear and promise to adopt and observe entirely all the penances which have been or may be by this Holy Office imposed on me. And if I contravene any of these said promises, protests, or oaths, (which God forbid!) I submit myself to all the pains and penalties which by the Sacred Canons and other Decrees general and particular are against such offenders imposed and promulgated. So help me God and the Holy Gospels, which I touch with my own hands.

I Galileo Galilei aforesaid have abjured, sworn, and promised, and hold
myself bound as above; and in token of the truth, with my own hand have
subscribed the present schedule of my abjuration, and have recited it word
by word. In Rome, at the Convent della Minerva, this 22nd day of June,

I, GALILEO GALILEI, have abjured as above, with my own hand.

Heresy. Gallileo was convicted of heresy by teaching that the earth revolves around the sun. Unless we learn the lessons of history we are dooemd to repeat them

Sandra Miesel

Oh no, the real reason JP I was murdered was because he was about to conduct the Consecration of Russia to the Immaculate Heart correctly and expell secret Freemasons from the Curia. Or so some RadTrads would have us believe.
He wasn't murdered, of course. He died of natural causes, possibly an embolism.



A very interesting discussion of Galileo and the church - much more sophisticated than usually portrayed.

By the by, the Pope was a good friend of Galileo's and was also an amateur astronomer.
He never stood trial - it was like a plea bargain.

Fr. Phil Bloom

Interesting article, Julia, especially this ironic section:

Galileo argues that the motion of the earth (diurnal and axial) is the only conceivable (or maybe plausible) physical cause for the reciprocal regular motion of the tides. He restricts the possible class of causes to mechanical motions, and so rules out Kepler's attribution of the moon as a cause. How could the moon, without any connection and at a distance, cause the tides of the seas to ebb and flow? Such an explanation would amount to the invocation of magic or occult powers.

Unapologetic Catholic is correct that we have deal with the historical documents. But what is the actual weight of this document? As Catholic Answers points out in its tract on the Galileo controversy:

Although three of the ten cardinals who judged Galileo refused to sign the verdict, his works were eventually condemned. Anti-Catholics often assert that his conviction and later rehabilitation somehow disproves the doctrine of papal infallibility, but this is not the case, for the pope never tried to make an infallible ruling concerning Galileo’s views. The Church has never claimed ordinary tribunals, such as the one that judged Galileo, to be infallible. Church tribunals have disciplinary and juridical authority only; neither they nor their decisions are infallible.

St. Steno, pray for us.

Jack Dwyer

I read an excellent and well-researched article in the local paper about this man once. It only missed one little thing, his Catholicism... The fact that he was a convert, ordained a priest, then consecrated a Bishop? Not one mention. Can't have been important, ay?! Blessed Nicholas pray for us...


Things are more complex than unapologetic catholic would make them out to be. The charge was trumped up because Galileo was so hated by a small group of people; as another has pointed out, Copernicus was NEVER charged with heresy, and he was the Catholic who came up with the theory in the first place. Also, the fact that no Pope ever stated that a Catholic must believe that the sun goes around the earth makes it hard to believe it was heresy to believe otherwise except in the eyes of one single tribunal.

It is a fact that Copernicanism was never declared heretical.

As I understand it, Robert Bellarmine said that all he wanted was for Galileo to speak of his theory as a "working hypothesis" until it could be proved. He refused. Proof of Galileo’s theory finally arrived in the early 19th c. when Fredreich Besselobserved the parallax of a star.The Church granted the imprimatur to Galileo’s complete works in 1741, meaning that nothing in them
contradicted the faith. In 1822 the Church said Copernicanism was a “fact,” and no longer a hypothesis.

You cannot simply take one document from the trials (plural) and surrounding events and "proof-text" it from there. I was recently reading Pope Benedict's book on Creation and the Fall, and he said something similar regarding Biblical exegesis, and some people's tendency to take the text alone and pass judgment without seeing the whole context, the final end, etc. etc. It has nothing to do with Galileo but I HIGHLY recommend it. It is called "In the Beginning" and is a series of homilies that will blow you away.

Richard W. Comerford

Thank you all for your kind responses to my question.

God bless

Richard W. Comerford

Steve Cavanaugh

Another aspect of the Galileo case is the political context: Galileo was urged to present the heliocentric theory as a hypothesis rather than a fact because of the Protestant powers looking for any argument to use against the Church. Had the Church embraced Galileo's theory without proof (when the theory did seem to contradict both "common sense" and the plain meaning of several Biblical texts) it would have been ammunition for the Protestants against the Church...at a time when religious warfare was still raging in parts of Europe, this was not just a parlor argument...lives were at stake.


I recommend Eric Flint's new alternate-history SF novel 1634: The Galileo Affair.

Flint's premise (since 1632, first novel in the series) is that a contemporary West Virginia town is thrown back into time into 1632 Germany (the height of the Thirty Years War) and has to deal with it. And 1632 Europe has to deal with them.

In The Galileo Affair, Galileo and Pope Urban come on-stage as some "up-timers" come across Galileo's upcoming trial, with 20th Century "general knowledge" of what happened, and end up doing something really stupid.

AND FLINT GETS THE STORY STRAIGHT ABOUT GALILEO vs INQUISITION! In a way, his novel contains several "teaching moments" about the way it really went down, which is far more interesting (and gonzo) than the "general knowledge" version.

hieronymus has a blog now

There is a good popularized science/history book on Steno called The Seashell on the Mountaintop. I reccommend it - very fun and informative, and it treats the Church with all due respect.


JPI murdered because he was going to allow celibacy and women priests? And all this time I'd thought he was murdered to cover up the Vatican banking conspiracy!

No, it was the Deros, shining their Telaug Rays up from inside The Hollow Earth :)

Jackie Lee

While Steno was a good Catholic, he made a fundamental error in formulating the law of superposition—he neglected to take into account the effects of current upon sedimentation. French geologist Guy Berthault has done extensive experimental work to show that moving water actually deposits sediments in layers stratified by sediment size, so what may logically appear to be layers of rocks grading in age from oldest to youngest from top to bottom are all laid down essentially contemporaneously. Go here for a good explanation of the process: www.kolbecenter.org/wilder.geocolumn.pdf. Oil geologists have known this for a long time—I worked as a geologist for Gulf Oil 25 years ago, and I remember puzzling over seismic sections with age lines drawn on them that crossed sediment boundaries. The geologists who drew those lines were working for companies that wanted their money invested in reality, not theory.

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