Galileo’s Troubles Revisited

Galileo’s Troubles Revisited

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Metaviews 015. 2001.03.07. Approximately 970 words.

Below is a follow-up posting to Metaviews 012: Galileo’s Troubles.Mariano Artigas clarifies the circumstances regarding Galileo’scondemnation by the Church in 1633.

— Billy Grassie

From: Mariano Artigas <>Subject: Re: Metaviews 012

Regarding Metaviews 012 (Galileo’s troubles), we have received somecomments, that show that the whole thing has been misunderstood bysome people. The comment in Metaviews 012 was perhaps too brief. Iwould like to complete it in order to interpret the new documentproperly.

The process against Galileo took place in 1633 and is very welldocumented. We have the complete text of the interrogations, thesentence, a lot of letters documenting many circumstances. All thiswas published already about 1900, and now is available also inEnglish. This will not change however many new documents could bediscovered. The reason of the condemnation is that Galileo publishedin 1632 the DIALOGO ON THE TWO GREAT SYSTEMS OF THE WORLD, THECOPERNICAN AND THE TOLEMAIC, where he argued in favor ofheliocentrism (that the Earth rotates around the Sun). In 1616 theCongregation of the Index of forbidden books had suspended the workof Copernicus (published in 1543) until it was corrected, thecorrection meaning that some passages where Copernicus representsheliocentrism as a truth should be changed in order to present it asa hypothesis. In the Decree, the Congregation judged heliocentrismcontrary to the litteral meaning of Scripture. Galileo knew this verywell, as the Holy Office, through cardinal Bellarmine, notified thisto him personally in 1616, so that he would refrain from arguing infavor of heliocentrism in the future. Galileo tried to present his1632 book as respectful towards that Decree, as a discussion onheliocentrism which would remain without defining the question.Nevertheless, he was accused of having argued in favor ofheliocentrism (which was quite right), and this was the real reasonof the process and the condemnation to prison, which was immediatelycommuted for house arrest.

The document G 3 discovered by Pietro Redondi in the 1980s was anon-dated anonymous accusation against Galileo based on his book ILSAGGIATORE, published in 1623. There Galileo defends a kind ofatomism and says that sensible qualities like color, flavor and so onare subjective, the effect of the action of particles on our senseorgans, and are nothing outside the subject that feels them. Theaccusation said that this was incompatible with the Roman Catholicdoctrine of the Eucharist as defined by the Council of Trent (and anumber of times before), that Christ is present in the Eucharist butthe appearances of bread and wine remain. Theologians used toidentifie these APPEARANCES with the ACCIDENTS or SENSIBLE QUALITIESof Aristotle and the scholastic philosophers, but the documents ofthe Church (in Trent and before) speake of SPECIES of bread and wine,that is, appearances, not of accidents. We know, from the acts of theCouncil, that the Fathers of Trent did not want to enter intophilosophical or theological questions like that. No wonder, then,that the accusation against Galileo based on the Eucharist did notprogress. The authorities of the Church did nothing at all againstGalileo in this line: this is a plain fact. According to Redondi,this was due to the fact the Pope Urban VIII was a friend of Galileoand deviated the whole thing towards the motion of Earth, avoiding atrial based on the Eucharist, which would have been much worse. Butthis is a too extreme interpretation and Redondi has remained alonewith his thesis.

The new Paper, EE 291, is a report, probably by a member of theCongregation of the Index, on the same line. The unknown author ofthe report (also non-dated and anonymous) claims that Galileo’s bookIL SAGGIATORE in fact opposes the Eucharistic doctrine of Trent andcan be further examined in the Holy Office. But the result, asalready said, was that the Holy Office did not take an action againstGalileo on this ground. Therefore, we find here an accusation againstGalileo that did not go ahead, because the authorities of the Churchpaid no attention to it. They were right. Galileo’s doctrine iscompatible with the real presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist.

Some letters exchanged between Galileo and his friend Mario Guiducci,who was in Rome at the time (around 1624), provide further clues ofwhat happened. A likely version is that the charge against Galileoreached the Holy Office, where cardinal Francesco Barberini, apersonal friend of Galileo and the right hand of the Pope, took it asa personal task and entrusted a theologian, who accompanied him to adiplomatic mission to Paris, to examine the accusation. According tothe report of the theologian, there was no ground for an accusationagainst Galileo (which was right), and this was the end of it.

As someone has pointed out, all this is related to the theologicaldiscussions around the philosophy of Descartes on the same topic,shortly afterwards. But, as a matter of fact, the accusation againstGalileo based on the alleged incompatibility of his philosophy withthe Eucharistic doctrine did not progress.

We remain ready to any further question or comment. By the way, prof.Shea indicates that under no 7 of the Englisg version of thedocument, after FOR WHAT ELSE COULD IT BE?, you should add: THISCLINCHES THE ARGUMENT. And it is obvious that there was an error inthe names of Mariano Artigas and Rafael Martinez somewhere. ProfessorShea is not too happy with the alleged demythologization of theGalileo affair. There were a number of messages going and returningfrom and to Pamplona, Philadelphia, Strasburg and Rome in a shorttime.

Mariano ArtigasUniversity of Navarra, Pamplona, Spain