Monday, December 15, 2008

Galileo - Heretic or not?

A recent article (link) suggests that further attempts are being made at trying to rehabilitate Galileo. Almost all papists today would agree that Galileo was right and the Vatican was wrong. Most, however, would argue that the Vatican doesn't claim any infallibility in areas of science. Here's the problem, Galileo was tried not for science errors, but for heresy. So, was Galileo's teaching heretical or not? Was the Vatican right then or now (assuming that they are now willing to acknowledge that Galileo's views are/were not heretical)?

-TurretinFan

Update: News article entitled, "Pope Praises Galileo" (link).

13 comments:

natamllc said...

To Galileo, I can say, wrong or right other than we have all sinned as the Word goes?

But to the papists, only wrong.

Oh, that should cause some blood to quickly boil over or at least cause a hightened rate of the beating heart?

Such is life? No, Life is such!

Ken said...

Maybe a better question is "has the Roman Catholic Church changed its mind on the penalty for heresy?"

http://www.aloha.net/~mikesch/burn-heretics.htm

Why aren't modern day Galileos/Wycliffes/Luthers subject to the same condemnation for having a difference of opinion? The article above seems to suggest that the only reason is because of modern sensibilities, the Catholic Church doesn't have the temporal power it used to and can't risk another Inquisition.

Turretinfan said...

Others claim that capital punishment is a violation of the moral law ... same problem presented differently.

-TurretinFan

Alexander Greco said...

The issue of capital punishment is a curious one, depending upon the basic philosophy used. You can find those who claim to follow the natural law making arguments from both sides; however, this is a somewhat simplistic representation. What it actually falls back to is determining whether God has delegated his authority over life to the State (assuming that the State is not totally corrupt). Since God is the author of life, and no one has the right to intentionally take the life of another but God, does God delegate that authority to the government? Aquinas says yes. The Roman Catholic Church has traditionally said yes. I would argue that the bible says yes. But there are others who claim no.

Anonymous said...

If you take the heliocentric and geocentric models and give them both elliptical orbits, they are mathematically equivalent. IF you take the geocentric model and give it spherical orbits while giving the heliocentric model elliptical orbits, then the heliocentric model is more accurate. The difference is the shape of the orbit, not the center reference. It has still not been mathematically proven that the earth revolves around the sun rather than the other way around.

Ben Douglass said...

Dear Francis,

The only cosmological position which the Vatican ever called formally heretical is strict heliocentrism, i.e., the belief that the sun is fixed and immobile at the center of the universe.

http://www.law.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/galileo/condemnation.html

This position is indeed contrary to Scripture, which explicitly describes the sun as moving. Fortunately, no one in modern days believes it. Most people today believe that both the sun and the earth are moving: the earth around the sun and the sun around the center of mass of our galaxy, and our galaxy in turn with respect to other galaxies.

According to the condemnation of Galileo, linked above, the view of most moderns would fall under the lesser censure of being "equally absurd and false philosophically and theologically considered at least erroneous in faith." Furthermore, this judgment need not be considered infallible, even though I agree with it.

Turretinfan said...

Paul Hoffer wrote (in part): Hmmm...Does this mean that you ... agree with Galileo and believe that the sun is the center of the universe and does not move?

[snipped portion]

Galileo attacked a truth of faith that both you and I agree with, namely, that the Word of God as set forth in the Holy Scriptures is inspired and inerrant in all its parts. Galileo disagreed with this. He claimed that in the Bible "are found propositions which, when taken literally, are false; that Holy Writ out of regard for the incapacity of the people, expresses itself inexactly, even when treating of solemn dogmas; that in questions concerning natural things, philosophical should avail more than sacred." A rather modernist POV, wouldn't you agree?

It was not his theories that brought him trouble. Protestant leaders and scholars, including ... Turretin, had condemned the heliocentrism of Copernicus and Kepler for the exact same reason that the [Roman] Church condemned Galileo's view. Would you claim that they were wrong for condemning a viewpoint that could be easily seen as a frontal attack on sola scriptura? If your April 2008 posting is any indication, I think you would might be interested to know that your view mirrors the Vatican's.

In truth, several ... ECF's believed that the earth revolved around the sun and not vice-a-versa long before Aristotelian or Ptolemaic notions became dominant in philosophical thought. Copernicus, himself, had never been condemned by the [Roman] Church as heretical. Why not? Because he did not teach that the theory he was advancing contradicted Scripture.

BTW, Galileo died a good [papist] and received a ... burial in a [Roman] Catholic (consecrated) cemetary in the Basilica of San Croce.

So to answer your question, Galileo-heretic or not? The answer is not.

[Here] is Galileo's actual sentence taken from Jerome Langford's book, "Galileo, Science and the Church". New York: Desclee (1966), pp 153-154:

"We say, pronounce, sentence, and declare that you, the said Galileo, by reasons of the matters brought forth in trial, and by you confessed as above, have rendered yourself in the judgment of this Holy office vehemently suspected of heresy, namely, of having believed and held the doctrine which is false and contrary to the Sacred and Divine Scriptures, that the sun is the center of the world and does not move from east to west and that the earth moves and is not the center of the world; and that an opinion may be held and defended as probable after it has been declared and defined as contrary to Holy Scripture, and that consequently you have incurred all the censures and penalties imposed and promulgated in the sacred canon and other constitutions, general and particular, against such delinquents. From which we are content that you be absolved, provided that, first, with a sincere and unfeigned faith, you abjure, curse, and detest before us the aforesaid errors and heresies and every other error and heresy contrary to the Catholic and Apostolic Roman Church in the form to be prescribed by us for you.

And, in order that your grave and pernicious error and transgression may not remain altogether unpunished and that you may be more cautious in the future and an example to others that they may abstain from similar delinquencies, we ordain that the book Dialogue of Galileo Galilei be prohibited by public edict.

We condemn you to the formal prison of the Holy Office subject to our judgment, and by way of salutary penance we prescribe that for three years to come, you repeat once a week the seven penitential psalms. Reserving to ourselves the right to moderate, commute, or take off, in whole or in part, the aforesaid penalties and penance.

And so we say, pronounce, sentence, declare, ordain, and reserve in this and in any other better way and form which we can and may rightfully employ."

God bless!
(Edits using elipses and brackets are mine not Mr. Hoffer's.)

I answer:

Your question, "Hmmm...Does this mean that you ... agree with Galileo and believe that the sun is the center of the universe and does not move?" is a bit silly. You don't think that was the point of the post, and it is a bit dishonest of you to suggest that you thought it was.

You claimed: "Galileo attacked a truth of faith that both you and I agree with, namely, that the Word of God as set forth in the Holy Scriptures is inspired and inerrant in all its parts." However, your own quotation of the sentence against Galileo shows that he was condemned for holding to particular doctrines that were against Scripture, not for denying the inspiration or inerrancy of Scripture. You may like to recast the issue, but the sentence was what it was.

You stated: "He claimed that in the Bible "are found propositions which, when taken literally, are false; that Holy Writ out of regard for the incapacity of the people, expresses itself inexactly, even when treating of solemn dogmas; that in questions concerning natural things, philosophical should avail more than sacred." A rather modernist POV, wouldn't you agree?"

The modernist portion of that statement is the part that says, "concerning natural things, philosophical should avail more than sacred." Ironically, we hear very similar explanations for why thousands of papist schools across America and the world are teaching the heresy of evolution. But that is a tangent.

PH wrote: "It was not his theories that brought him trouble. Protestant leaders and scholars, including ... Turretin, had condemned the heliocentrism of Copernicus and Kepler for the exact same reason that the [Roman] Church condemned Galileo's view."

"Exact same" may be a bit of hyperbole, but the stated rationale for rejecting Copernicus and for rejecting Galileo was similar. And yes, Turretin did reject Copernicus' theories. There is an important difference though. Even Turretin, who I admire as a doctor of the church, is fallible in doctrinal matter. Your church claims not to be fallible in doctrinal matters. So, a mistake by Turretin is of much less consequence to the Christian religion than a mistake by the Vatican is to the system of popery.

In fact, this can be seen from the fact that though the body starts from saying that Galileo contradicts Scripture, they end from saying that he cannot continue to hold his opinion after it has been declared and defined as contrary to Holy Scripture. In other words, if we say it is contrary to Holy Scripture, it is heresy to disagree with us, or to put it more bluntly, "Scriptures mean whatever we say they mean." This is not "exactly the same reason" or even anything remotely approximating the reason the Reformers gave for rejecting Copernicus. The Reformers did rely on Scripture, and did try to interpret Scriptures, and if they erred, so be it.

But the Vatican plays at being an infallible and irreformable guide.

You wrote: "In truth, several ... ECF's believed that the earth revolved around the sun and not vice-a-versa long before Aristotelian or Ptolemaic notions became dominant in philosophical thought. Copernicus, himself, had never been condemned by the [Roman] Church as heretical. Why not? Because he did not teach that the theory he was advancing contradicted Scripture."

Or they just didn't get around to it. You cannot argue much from their silence. Probably a better explanation is that Copernicus wasn't widely accepted before Galileo, but Galileo made waves in the scientific world. Nobody cares what some crank scientist says, but if he becomes a rock star, he suddenly comes under scrutiny.

Hoffer wrote: "BTW, Galileo died a good [papist] and received a ... burial in a [Roman] Catholic (consecrated) cemetary in the Basilica of San Croce."

Yes, under persecution for his beliefs, he recanted. See the threatened imprisonment already identified above, and recall that stubborn heretics were often subjected to capital punishment.

Hoffer continued, "So to answer your question, Galileo-heretic or not? The answer is not."

So, the Vatican was wrong in condemning him (how odd it would be for you to think that)? Or you're simply taking refuge in the fact that he eventually recanted? Or what?

Let's consider what the sentece stated:

Heresy, namely:

(1) having believed and held the doctrine which is false and contrary to the Sacred and Divine Scriptures,

(2) that the sun is the center of the world

(3) and does not move from east to west

(4) and that the earth moves

(5) and is not the center of the world;

(6) and that an opinion may be held and defended as probable after it has been declared and defined as contrary to Holy Scripture ...

As to (1), we will not dispute.
As to (2), most people would argue (perhaps incorrectly) that the sun is the center of the world, in the sense that the earth revolves around the sun. It appears that the Vatican (at that time) denied this.
As to (3), same as (2).
As to (4), same as (2), even with the further modification of the Earth's relation to the Milky Way galaxy.
As to (5), same as (4).
As to (6), this is interesting because it implicitly asserts that (2-5) have been declared and defined to be contrary to Scripture.

So the question for the Romanist might be: was the Vatican right now (assuming that they no longer reject (2)-(5) as being contrary to Scripture) or right then?

-TurretinFan

Turretinfan said...

Dear Ben,

I appreciate your attempt to limit the holding of the condemnation of Galileo, but see the analysis of his sentence (as provided by Mr. Hoffer), outlined above. It was not only saying that the sun was the center of the world that was identified as erroneous.

As you know, the current prevailing view in science is that the universe has no center at all. If you believe that the Vatican taught that in the middle ages ... but surely you do not.

-TurretinFan

Turretinfan said...

Anonymous,

I think I said something similar about the equivalency of the two models, as well as the solution provided by Einstein's theory, in another post.

-TurretinFan

Ben Douglass said...

It was not only saying that the sun was the center of the world that was identified as erroneous.

True. But it was only "saying that the sun was the center of the world" that was identified as heretical. The denial of geocentrism was merely identified as erroneous in faith, not as heretical.

As you know, the current prevailing view in science is that the universe has no center at all.

Yes. This position falls under the second part of the Vatican's condemnation of Galileo, but not the first. The Vatican has never called this position heresy.

Turretinfan said...

Dear Ben,

I think I'd disagree with your narrow reading of what the Vatican was implicitly declaring and defining to be Scripture's teaching, and what the Vatican was implicitly calling heresy.

I'll certainly mull it over, however. Thanks for your thoughts.

-TurretinFan

Ben Douglass said...

Dear Francis,

Doctrinal declarations from the Vatican are very carefully worded and precise. It is with complete deliberation that the Holy Office distinguished Galileo's position into two propositions, and assigned distinct theological censures to each one: the first, heretical, the second, erroneous.

Turretinfan said...

Dear Ben,

I am willing to consider that option - but it looks to me like the text (in the translation provided here) is not susceptible of such a reading. That said, I would want to pull out my copy of the "The Crime of Galileo" or some other similar book and peruse it and any source materials I could find before being too dogmatic about it.

From the English translation, it almost looks like heresy and error are being used interchangeably.

-TurretinFan