Is The Church against science? The Galileo Soap

As some may not be well-informed, I want to clarify that the contributions to Science from the Catholic Church have been quite substantive:

In here you can find more than 100 catholic scientist that the secular world could easly recognized as relevant contributors to their respected fields of research. Plus, in here you can find more than 200 catholic priest and religious scientist that have, as well, made impressive contributions to the scientific advancement.

When the blessed Pope John Paul II wrote his encyclical entitled : Fides et Ratio (Faith and Reason) he opened it with the following statement:

“Faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth; and God has placed in the human heart the desire to know the truth — in a word, to know himself — so that by knowing and loving God, men and women can come to the fullness of the truth about themselves” Fides et Ratio, Bl John Paul II

I honestly do not see any remark that points towards not pursuing the scientific discovery…I know, I can hear it now, people claiming: What about Galileo? What about the Inquisition? What about Darwin?

Ok, first regarding Darwin I have made some comments in a previous post. Second, regarding the Inquisition, I will address that in a future post. So, what about Galileo?

Let’s beging with the following quote:

“I should judge that the authority of the Bible was designed to persuade men of those articles and propositions which, surpassing all human reasoning could not be made credible by science, or by any other means than through the very mouth of the Holy Spirit.” Galileo Galilei

So, Galileo believe in the Bible as a sacred scripture. So, he was not opposed to religion per se.

Although, he has been credited with the idea that the earth circumnavigates the sun, in reality it was a churchman, Nicholas Copernicus, who first advanced this doctrine. His great work, “De Revolutionibus orbium coelestium”, was published at the earnest solicitation of two distinguished churchmen, Cardinal Schömberg and Tiedemann Giese, Bishop of Culm. It was dedicated by permission to Pope Paul III in order, as Copernicus explained, that it might be thus protected from the attacks which it was sure to encounter on the part of the “mathematicians” (i.e. philosophers) for its apparent contradiction of the evidence of our senses, and even of common sense. (From Catholic Encyclopedia)

Now, basically the story more or less goes like this:

Galielo was a successful and well-known scientist, and as such he had scientific adversaries that wanted him to be dethroned from his popularity. [Isn’t this quite common in current academia? I will say so]

Hence, Galileo’s enemies led by Lodovico delle Colombe, sought to engage Galileo in a conflict between science and scripture. [Therefore, it was his enemies who brought up the Church as contentious matter]

They endeavored to create a scandal surrounding the person of Galileo and thus compel the Roman authorities, who were reluctant to act on the grounds of theory, to act in the interest of restoring the good of public order. [So, it seems that the Church was by no means opposed to his theory]

The trap set for Galileo proved effective. He insisted that the Copernican system had been proved beyond doubt and that the Church must reinterpret scriptural passages that contradicted it. This set the stage for a confrontation with Rome, although the Church did everything it could to prevent it. [So, Galileo tried to expand his areas of expertise, from astronomy to religious hermeneutics. Usually, not a good idea and The Church recognizing this act accordingly]

The official view of the Church was represented by its highest theological authority at that time: the famous Jesuit theologian, Robert Cardinal Bellarmine. In a famous letter, Bellarmine stated as follows:

I say that if there were a true demonstration that the sun was in the center of the universe and the earth in the third sphere, and that the sun did not go around the earth but the earth went around the sun, then it would be necessary to use careful consideration in explaining the Scriptures that seemed contrary, and we should rather have to say that we do not understand them than to say that something is false which had been proven.

But Galileo was unwilling to wait until a proof could be discovered. He hurried off to Rome in the hope of winning support from Church authorities. But the Jesuits of the Roman College remained unimpressed; mainly because there was still the third system of Tycho de Brahe that had not yet been scientifically supplanted. [Galileo tried to move his theory from a possible hypothesis to a proven scientific law.]

Now, the story continues but the assumptions and players remain the same. Thus, what can be concluded is that he did not mean to alienate The Church, but was pressured to do so in order to defend his reputation…and ego. The Church responded with patience but firmly since his authority was being challenged. The End.

{Note: The history excerpts and some quotes have been taken from this article that goes into more detail}


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