The Warfare of Science With Theology
by Andrew Dickson White
- The early Church’s conviction of the uselessness of astronomy
- The growth of a sacred theory–Origen, the Gnostics, Philastrius, Cosmas, Isidore
- The geocentric, or Ptolemaic, theory its origin, and its acceptance by the Christian world
- Development of the new sacred system of astronomy–the pseudo-Dionysius, Peter Lombard. Thomas Aquinas
- Its popularization by Dante
- Its details
- Its persistence to modern times
- Its rise among the Greeks–Pythagoras, Philolaus, Aristarchus
- Its suppression by the charge of blasphemy
- Its loss from sight for six hundred Years, then for a thousand
- Its revival by Nicholas de Cusa and Nicholas Copernicus
- Its toleration as a hypothesis
- Its prohibition as soon as Galileo teaches it as a truth
- Consequent timidity of scholars–Acosta, Apian
- Protestantism not less zealous in opposition than Catholicism–Luther
- Melanchthon, Calvin, Turretin
- This opposition especially persistent in England–Hutchinson, Pike, Horne, Horsley, Forbes, Owen, Wesley
- Resulting interferences with freedom of teaching
- Giordano Bruno’s boldness and his fate
- The truth demonstrated by the telescope of Galileo
- Concentration of the war on this new champion
- The first attack
- Fresh attacks–Elci, Busaeus, Caccini, Lorini, Bellarmin
- Use of epithets
- Attempts to entrap Galileo
- His summons before the Inquisition at Rome
- The injunction to silence, and the condemnation of the theory of the earth’s motion,
- The work of Copernicus placed on the Index
- Galileo’s seclusion
- Renewed attacks upon Galileo–Inchofer, Fromundus
- Publication of his Dialogo
- Hostility of Pope Urban VIII
- Galileo’s second trial by the Inquisition
- His abjuration
- Later persecution of him
- Measures to complete the destruction of the Copernican theory
- Persecution of Galileo’s memory
- Protestant hostility to the new astronomy and its champions
- Rejoicings of churchmen over the victory
- The silencing of Descartes
- Persecution of Campanella and of Kepler
- Persistence and victory of science
- Dilemma of the theologians
- Vain attempts to postpone the surrender
- The easy path for the Protestant theologians
- The difficulties of the older Church.–The papal infallibility fully committed against the Copernican theory
- Attempts at evasion–first plea: that Galileo was condemned not for affirming the earth’s motion but for supporting it from Scripture
- Its easy refutation
- Second plea: that he was condemned not for heresy but for contumacy
- Folly of this assertion
- Third plea: that it was all a quarrel between Aristotelian professors and those favouring the experimental method
- Fourth plea: that the condemnation of Galileo was “provisory”
- Fifth plea: that he was no more a victim of Catholics than of Protestants
- Efforts to blacken Galileo’s character
- Efforts to suppress the documents of his trial
- Their fruitlessness
- Sixth plea: that the popes as popes had never condemned his theory
- Its confutation from their own mouths
- Abandonment of the contention by honest Catholics
- Two efforts at compromise–Newman De Bonald
- Effect of all this on thinking men
- The fault not in Catholicism more than in Protestantism–not in religion but in theology
In the early Church, in view of the doctrine so prominent in the New Testament, that the earth was soon to be destroyed, and that there were to be “new heavens and a new earth,” astronomy, like other branches of science, was generally looked upon as futile. Why study the old heavens and the old earth, when they were so soon to be replaced with something infinitely better? This feeling appears in St. Augustine’s famous utterance, “What concern is it to me whether the heavens as a sphere inclose the earth in the middle of the world or overhang it on either side?”
As to the heavenly bodies, theologians looked on them as at best only objects of pious speculation. Regarding their nature the fathers of the Church were divided. Origen, and others with him, thought them living beings possessed of souls, and this belief was mainly based upon the scriptural vision of the morning stars. singing together, and upon the beautiful appeal to the “stars and light” in the song of the three children–the _Benedicite_–which the Anglican communion has so wisely retained in its Liturgy.
Other fathers thought the stars abiding-places of the angels, and that stars were moved by angels. The Gnostics thought the stars spiritual beings governed by angels, and appointed not to cause earthly events but to indicate them.
As to the heavens in general, the prevailing view in the Church was based upon the scriptural declarations that a solid vault–a “firmament”–was extended above the earth, and that the heavenly bodies were simply lights hung within it. This was for a time held very tenaciously. St. Philastrius, in his famous treatise on heresies, pronounced it a heresy to deny that the stars are brought out by God from his treasure-house and hung in the sky every evening; any other view he declared “false to the Catholic faith.” This view also survived in the sacred theory established so firmly by Cosmas in the sixth century. Having established his plan of the universe upon various texts in the Old and New Testaments, and having made it a vast oblong box, covered by the solid “firmament,” he brought in additional texts from Scripture to account for the planetary movements, and developed at length the theory that the sun and planets are moved and the “windows of heaven” opened and shut by angels appointed for that purpose.
How intensely real this way of looking at the universe was, we find in the writings of St. Isidore, the greatest leader of orthodox thought in the seventh century. He affirms that since the fall of man, and on account of it, the sun and moon shine with a feebler light; but he proves from a text in Isaiah that when the world shall be fully redeemed these “great lights” will shine again in all their early splendour. But, despite these authorities and their theological finalities, the evolution of scientific thought continued, its main germ being the geocentric doctrine–the doctrine that the earth is the centre, and that the sun and planets revolve about it.
This doctrine was of the highest respectability: it had been developed at a very early period, and had been elaborated until it accounted well for the apparent movements of the heavenly bodies; its final name, “Ptolemaic theory,” carried weight; and, having thus come from antiquity into the Christian world, St. Clement of Alexandria demonstrated that the altar in the Jewish tabernacle was “a symbol of the earth placed in the middle of the universe”: nothing more was needed; the geocentric theory was fully adopted by the Church and universally held to agree with the letter and spirit of Scripture.
Wrought into this foundation, and based upon it, there was developed in the Middle Ages, mainly out of fragments of Chaldean and other early theories preserved in the Hebrew Scriptures, a new sacred system of astronomy, which became one of the great treasures of the universal Church–the last word of revelation.
Three great men mainly reared this structure. First was the unknown who gave to the world the treatises ascribed to Dionysius the Areopagite. It was unhesitatingly believed that these were the work of St. Paul’s Athenian convert, and therefore virtually of St. Paul himself. Though now known to be spurious, they were then considered a treasure of inspiration, and an emperor of the East sent them to an emperor of the West as the most worthy of gifts. In the ninth century they were widely circulated in western Europe, and became a fruitful source of thought, especially on the whole celestial hierarchy. Thus the old ideas of astronomy were vastly developed, and the heavenly hosts were classed and named in accordance with indications scattered through the sacred Scriptures.
The next of these three great theologians was Peter Lombard, professor at the University of Paris. About the middle of the twelfth century he gave forth his collection of _Sentences_, or Statements by the Fathers, and this remained until the end of the Middle Ages the universal manual of theology. In it was especially developed the theological view of man’s relation to the universe. The author tells the world: “Just as man is made for the sake of God–that is, that he may serve Him,–so the universe is made for the sake of man–that is, that it may serve _him_; therefore is man placed at the middle point of the universe, that he may both serve and be served.”
The vast significance of this view, and its power in resisting any real astronomical science, we shall see, especially in the time of Galileo.
The great triad of thinkers culminated in St. Thomas Aquinas–the sainted theologian, the glory of the mediaeval Church, the “Angelic Doctor,” the most marvellous intellect between Aristotle and Newton; he to whom it was believed that an image of the Crucified had spoken words praising his writings. Large of mind, strong, acute, yet just–even more than just–to his opponents, he gave forth, in the latter half of the thirteenth century, his Cyclopaedia of Theology, the _Summa Theologica_. In this he carried the sacred theory of the universe to its full development. With great power and clearness he brought the whole vast system, material and spiritual, into its relations to God and man.
Thus was the vast system developed by these three leaders of mediaeval thought; and now came the man who wrought it yet more deeply into European belief, the poet divinely inspired who made the system part of the world’s _life_. Pictured by Dante, the empyrean and the concentric heavens, paradise, purgatory, and hell, were seen of all men; the God Triune, seated on his throne upon the circle of the heavens, as real as the Pope seated in the chair of St. Peter; the seraphim, cherubim, and thrones, surrounding the Almighty, as real as the cardinals surrounding the Pope; the three great orders of angels in heaven, as real as the three great orders, bishops, priests, and deacons, on earth; and the whole system of spheres, each revolving within the one above it, and all moving about the earth, subject to the _primum mobile_, as real as the feudal system of western Europe, subject to the Emperor.
Let us look into this vast creation–the highest achievement of theology–somewhat more closely.
Its first feature shows a development out of earlier theological ideas. The earth is no longer a flat plain inclosed by four walls and solidly vaulted above, as theologians of previous centuries had believed it, under the inspiration of Cosmas; it is no longer a mere flat disk, with sun, moon, and stars hung up to give it light, as the earlier cathedral sculptors had figured it; it has become a globe at the centre of the universe. Encompassing it are successive transparent spheres, rotated by angels about the earth, and each carrying one or more of the heavenly bodies with it: that nearest the earth carrying the moon; the next, Mercury; the next, Venus; the next, the Sun; the next three, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn; the eighth carrying the fixed stars. The ninth was the _primum mobile_, and inclosing all was the tenth heaven–the Empyrean. This was immovable–the boundarv between creation and the great outer void; and here, in a light which no one can enter, the Triune God sat enthroned, the “music of the spheres” rising to Him as they moved. Thus was the old heathen doctrine of the spheres made Christian.
In attendance upon the Divine Majesty, thus enthroned, are vast hosts of angels, who are divided into three hierarchies, one serving in the empyrean, one in the heavens, between the empyrean and the earth, and one on the earth.
Each of these hierarchies is divided into three choirs, or orders; the first, into the orders of Seraphim, Cherubim, and Thrones; and the main occupation of these is to chant incessantly–to “continually cry” the divine praises.
The order of Thrones conveys God’s will to the second hierarchy, which serves in the movable heavens. This second hierarchy is also made up of three orders. The first of these, the order of Dominions, receives the divine commands; the second, the order of Powers, moves the heavens, sun, moon, planets, and stars, opens and shuts the “windows of heaven,” and brings to pass all other celestial phenomena; the third, the order of Empire, guards the others.
The third and lowest hierarchy is also made up of three orders. First of these are the Principalities, the guardian spirits of nations and kingdoms. Next come Archangels; these protect religion, and bear the prayers of the saints to the foot of God’s throne. Finally come Angels; these care for earthly affairs in general, one being appointed to each mortal, and others taking charge of the qualities of plants, metals, stones, and the like. Throughout the whole system, from the great Triune God to the lowest group of angels, we see at work the mystic power attached to the triangle and sacred number three–the same which gave the triune idea to ancient Hindu theology, which developed the triune deities in Egypt, and which transmitted this theological gift to the Christian world, especially through the Egyptian Athanasius.
Below the earth is hell. This is tenanted by the angels who rebelled under the lead of Lucifer, prince of the seraphim–the former favourite of the Trinity; but, of these rebellious angels, some still rove among the planetary spheres, and give trouble to the good angels; others pervade the atmosphere about the earth, carrying lightning, storm, drought, and hail; others infest earthly society, tempting men to sin; but Peter Lombard and St. Thomas Aquinas take pains to show that the work of these devils is, after all, but to discipline man or to mete out deserved punishment.
All this vast scheme had been so riveted into the Ptolemaic view by the use of biblical texts and theological reasonings that the resultant system of the universe was considered impregnable and final. To attack it was blasphemy.
It stood for centuries. Great theological men of science, like Vincent of Beauvais and Cardinal d’Ailly, devoted themselves to showing not only that it was supported by Scripture, but that it supported Scripture. Thus was the geocentric theory embedded in the beliefs and aspirations, in the hopes and fears, of Christendom down to the middle of the sixteenth century.
But, on the other hand, there had been planted, long before, the germs of a heliocentric theory. In the sixth century before our era, Pythagoras, and after him Philolaus, had suggested the movement of the earth and planets about a central fire; and, three centuries later, Aristarchus had restated the main truth with striking precision. Here comes in a proof that the antagonisin between theological and scientific methods is not confined to Christianity; for this statement brought upon Aristarchus the charge of blasphemy, and drew after it a cloud of prejudice which hid the truth for six hundred years. Not until the fifth century of our era did it timidly appear in the thoughts of Martianus Capella: then it was again lost to sight for a thousand years, until in the fifteenth century, distorted and imperfect, it appeared in the writings of Cardinal Nicholas de Cusa.
But in the shade cast by the vast system which had grown from the minds of the great theologians and from the heart of the great poet there had come to this truth neither bloom nor fruitage.
Quietly, however, the soil was receiving enrichment and the air warmth. The processes of mathematics were constantly improved, the heavenly bodies were steadily observed, and at length appeared, far from the centres of thought, on the borders of Poland, a plain, simple-minded scholar, who first fairly uttered to the modern world the truth–now so commonplace, then so astounding–that the sun and planets do not revolve about the earth, but that the earth and planets revolve about the sun: this man was Nicholas Copernicus.
Copernicus had been a professor at Rome, and even as early as 1500 had announced his doctrine there, but more in the way of a scientific curiosity or paradox, as it had been previously held by Cardinal de Cusa, than as the statement of a system representing a great fact in Nature. About thirty years later one of his disciples, Widmanstadt, had explained it to Clement VII; but it still remained a mere hypothesis, and soon, like so many others, disappeared from the public view. But to Copernicus, steadily studying the subject, it became more and more a reality, and as this truth grew within him he seemed to feel that at Rome he was no longer safe. To announce his discovery there as a theory or a paradox might amuse the papal court, but to announce it as a truth–as _the_ truth–was a far different matter. He therefore returned to his little town in Poland.
To publish his thought as it had now developed was evidently dangerous even there, and for more than thirty years it lay slumbering in the mind of Copernicus and of the friends to whom he had privately intrusted it.
At last he prepared his great work on the _Revolutions of the Heavenly Bodies_, and dedicated it to the Pope himself. He next sought a place of publication. He dared not send it to Rome, for there were the rulers of the older Church ready to seize it; he dared not send it to Wittenberg, for there were the leaders of Protestantism no less hostile; he therefore intrusted it to Osiander, at Nuremberg.
But Osiander’s courage failed him: he dared not launch the new thought boldly. He wrote a grovelling preface, endeavouring to excuse Copernicus for his novel idea, and in this he inserted the apologetic lie that Copernicus had propounded the doctrine of the earth’s movement not as a fact, but as a hypothesis. He declared that it was lawful for an astronomer to indulge his imagination, and that this was what Copernicus had done.
Thus was the greatest and most ennobling, perhaps, of scientific truths–a truth not less ennobling to religion than to science–forced, in coming before the world, to sneak and crawl.
On the 24th of May, 1543, the newly printed book arrived at the house of Copernicus. It was put into his hands; but he was on his deathbed. A few hours later he was beyond the reach of the conscientious men who would have blotted his reputation and perhaps have destroyed his life.
Yet not wholly beyond their reach. Even death could not be trusted to shield him. There seems to have been fear of vengeance upon his corpse, for on his tombstone was placed no record of his lifelong labours, no mention of his great discovery; but there was graven upon it simply a prayer: “I ask not the grace accorded to Paul; not that given to Peter; give me only the favour which Thou didst show to the thief on the cross.” Not till thirty years after did a friend dare write on his tombstone a memorial of his discovery.
The preface of Osiander, pretending that the book of Copernicus suggested a hypothesis instead of announcing a truth, served its purpose well. During nearly seventy years the Church authorities evidently thought it best not to stir the matter, and in some cases professors like Calganini were allowed to present the new view purely as a hypothesis. There were, indeed, mutterings from time to time on the theological side, but there was no great demonstration against the system until 1616. Then, when the Copernican doctrine was upheld by Galileo as a _truth_, and proved to be a truth by his telescope, the book was taken in hand by the Roman curia. The statements of Copernicus were condemnned, “until they should be corrected”; and the corrections required were simply such as would substitute for his conclusions the old Ptolemaic theory.
That this was their purpose was seen in that year when Galileo was forbidden to teach or discuss the Copernican theory, and when were forbidden “all books which affirm the motion of the earth.” Henceforth to read the work of Copernicus was to risk damnation, and the world accepted the decree.[124b] The strongest minds were thus held fast. If they could not believe the old system, they must _pretend_ that they believed it;–and this, even after the great circumnavigation of the globe had done so much to open the eyes of the world! Very striking is the case of the eminent Jesuit missionary Joseph Acosta, whose great work on the _Natural and Moral History of the Indies_, published in the last quarter of the sixteenth century, exploded so many astronomical and geographical errors. Though at times curiously credulous, he told the truth as far as he dared; but as to the movement of the heavenly bodies he remained orthodox–declaring, “I have seen the two poles, whereon the heavens turn as upon their axletrees.”
There was, indeed, in Europe one man who might have done much to check this current of unreason which was to sweep away so many thoughtful men on the one hand from scientific knowledge, and so many on the other from Christianity. This was Peter Apian. He was one of the great mathematical and astronomical scholars of the time. His brilliant abilities had made him the astronomical teacher of the Emperor Charles V. his work on geography had brought him a world-wide reputation; his work on astronomy brought him a patent of nobility; his improvements in mathematical processes and astronomical instruments brought him the praise of Kepler and a place in the history of science: never had a true man better opportunity to do a great deed. When Copernicus’s work appeared, Apian was at the height of his reputation and power: a quiet, earnest plea from him, even if it had been only for ordinary fairness and a suspension of judgment, must have carried much weight. His devoted pupil, Charles V, who sat on the thrones of Germany and Spain, must at least have given a hearing to such a plea. But, unfortunately, Apian was a professor in an institution of learning under the strictest Church control–the University of Ingolstadt. His foremost duty was to teach _safe_ science–to keep science within the line of scriptural truth as interpreted by theological professors. His great opportunity was lost. Apian continued to maunder over the Ptolemaic theory and astrology in his lecture-room. The attack on the Copernican theory he neither supported nor opposed; he was silent; and the cause of his silence should never be forgotten so long as any Church asserts its title to control university instruction.
Doubtless many will exclaim against the Roman Catholic Church for this; but the simple truth is that Protestantism was no less zealous against the new scientific doctrine. All branches of the Protestant Church–Lutheran, Calvinist, Anglican–vied with each other in denouncing the Copernican doctrine as contrary to Scripture; and, at a later period, the Puritans showed the same tendency.
Said Martin Luther: “People gave ear to an upstart astrologer who strove to show that the earth revolves, not the heavens or the firmament, the sun and the moon. Whoever wishes to appear clever must devise some new system, which of all systems is of course the very best. This fool wishes to reverse the entire science of astronomy; but sacred Scripture tells us that Joshua commanded the sun to stand still, and not the earth.” Melanchthon, mild as he was, was not behind Luther in condemning Copernicus. In his treatise on the _Elements of Physics_, published six years after Copernicus’s death, he says: “The eyes are witnesses that the heavens revolve in the space of twenty-four hours. But certain men, either from the love of novelty, or to make a display of ingenuity, have concluded that the earth moves; and they maintain that neither the eighth sphere nor the sun revolves…. Now, it is a want of honesty and decency to assert such notions publicly, and the example is pernicious. It is the part of a good mind to accept the truth as revealed by God and to acquiesce in it.” Melanchthon then cites the passages in the Psalms and Ecclesiastes, which he declares assert positively and clearly that the earth stands fast and that the sun moves around it, and adds eight other proofs of his proposition that “the earth can be nowhere if not in the centre of the universe.” So earnest does this mildest of the Reformers become, that he suggests severe measures to restrain such impious teachings as those of Copernicus.
While Lutheranism was thus condemning the theory of the earth’s movement, other branches of the Protestant Church did not remain behind. Calvin took the lead, in his _Commentary on Genesis_, by condemning all who asserted that the earth is not at the centre of the universe. He clinched the matter by the usual reference to the first verse of the ninety-third Psalm, and asked, “Who will venture to place the authority of Copernicus above that of the Holy Spirit?” Turretin, Calvin’s famous successor, even after Kepler and Newton had virtually completed the theory of Copernicus and Galileo, put forth his compendium of theology, in which he proved, from a multitude of scriptural texts, that the heavens, sun, and moon move about the earth, which stands still in the centre. In England we see similar theological efforts, even after they had become evidently futile. Hutchinson’s _Moses’s Principia_, Dr. Samuel Pike’s _Sacred Philosophy_, the writings of Horne, Bishop Horsley, and President Forbes contain most earnest attacks upon the ideas of Newton, such attacks being based upon Scripture. Dr. John Owen, so famous in the annals of Puritanism, declared the Copernican system a “delusive and arbitrary hypothesis, contrary to Scripture”; and even John Wesley declared the new ideas to “tend toward infidelity.”
And Protestant peoples were not a whit behind Catholic in following out such teachings. The people of Elbing made themselves merry over a farce in which Copernicus was the main object of ridicule. The people of Nuremberg, a Protestant stronghold, caused a medal to be struck with inscriptions ridiculing the philosopher and his theory.
Why the people at large took this view is easily understood when we note the attitude of the guardians of learning, both Catholic and Protestant, in that age. It throws great light upon sundry claims by modern theologians to take charge of public instruction and of the evolution of science. So important was it thought to have “sound learning” guarded and “safe science” taught, that in many of the universities, as late as the end of the seventeenth century, professors were forced to take an oath not to hold the “Pythagorean”–that is, the Copernican–idea as to the movement of the heavenly bodies. As the contest went on, professors were forbidden to make known to students the facts revealed by the telescope. Special orders to this effect were issued by the ecclesiastical authorities to the universities and colleges of Pisa, Innspruck, Louvain, Douay, Salamanca, and others. During generations we find the authorities of these Universities boasting that these godless doctrines were kept away from their students. It is touching to hear such boasts made then, just as it is touching now to hear sundry excellent university authorities boast that they discourage the reading of Mill, Spencer, and Darwin. Nor were such attempts to keep the truth from students confined to the Roman Catholic institutions of learning. Strange as it may seem, nowhere were the facts confirming the Copernican theory more carefully kept out of sight than at Wittenberg–the university of Luther and Melanchthon. About the middle of the sixteenth century there were at that centre of Protestant instruction two astronomers of a very high order, Rheticus and Reinhold; both of these, after thorough study, had convinced themselves that the Copernican system was true, but neither of them was allowed to tell this truth to his students. Neither in his lecture announcements nor in his published works did Rheticus venture to make the new system known, and he at last gave up his professorship and left Wittenberg, that he might have freedom to seek and tell the truth. Reinhold was even more wretchedly humiliated. Convinced of the truth of the new theory, he was obliged to advocate the old; if he mentioned the Copernican ideas, he was compelled to overlay them with the Ptolemaic. Even this was not thought safe enough, and in 1571 the subject was intrusted to Peucer. He was eminently “sound,” and denounced the Copernican theory in his lectures as “absurd, and unfit to be introduced into the schools.”
To clinch anti-scientific ideas more firmly into German Protestant teaching, Rector Hensel wrote a text-book for schools entitled _The Restored Mosaic System of the World_, which showed the Copernican astronomy to be unscriptural.
Doubtless this has a far-off sound; yet its echo comes very near modern Protestantism in the expulsion of Dr. Woodrow by the Presbyterian authorities in South Carolina; the expulsion of Prof. Winchell by the Methodist Episcopal authorities in Tennessee; the expulsion of Prof. Toy by Baptist authorities in Kentucky; the expulsion of the professors at Beyrout under authority of American Protestant divines–all for holding the doctrines of modern science, and in the last years of the nineteenth century.
But the new truth could not be concealed; it could neither be laughed down nor frowned down. Many minds had received it, but within the hearing of the papacy only one tongue appears to have dared to utter it clearly. This new warrior was that strange mortal, Giordano Bruno. He was hunted from land to land, until at last he turned on his pursuers with fearful invectives. For this he was entrapped at Venice, imprisoned during six years in the dungeons of the Inquisition at Rome, then burned alive, and his ashes scattered to the winds. Still, the new truth lived on. Ten years after the martyrdom of Bruno the truth of Copernicus’s doctrine was established by the telescope of Galileo.
Herein was fulfilled one of the most touching of prophecies. Years before, the opponents of Copernicus had said to him, “If your doctrines were true, Venus would show phases like the moon.” Copernicus answered: “You are right; I know not what to say; butGod is good, and will in time find an answer to this objection.” The God-given answer came when, in 1611, the rude telescope of Galileo showed the phases of Venus.[130b]
On this new champion, Galileo, the whole war was at last concentrated. His discoveries had clearly taken the Copernican theory out of the list of hypotheses, and had placed it before the world as a truth. Against him, then, the war was long and bitter. The supporters of what was called “sound learning” declared his discoveries deceptions and his announcements blasphemy. Semi-scientific professors, endeavouring to curry favour with the Church, attacked him with sham science; earnest preachers attacked him with perverted Scripture; theologians, inquisitors, congregations of cardinals, and at last two popes dealt with him, and, as was supposed, silenced his impious doctrine forever.
I shall present this warfare at some length because, so far as I can find, no careful summary of it has been given in our language, since the whole history was placed in a new light by the revelations of the trial documents in the Vatican Library, honestly published for the first time by L’Epinois in 1867, and since that by Gebler, Berti, Favaro, and others.
The first important attack on Galileo began in 1610, when he announced that his telescope had revealed the moons of the planet Jupiter. The enemy saw that this took the Copernican theory out of the realm of hypothesis, and they gave battle immediately. They denounced both his method and its results as absurd and impious. As to his method, professors bred in the “safe science” favoured by the Church argued that the divinely appointed way of arriving at the truth in astronomy was by theological reasoning on texts of Scripture; and, as to his results, they insisted, first, that Aristotle knew nothing of these new revelations; and, next, that the Bible showed by all applicable types that there could be only seven planets; that this was proved by the seven golden candlesticks of the Apocalypse, by the seven-branched candlestick of the tabernacle, and by the seven churches of Asia; that from Galileo’s doctrine consequences must logically result destructive to Christian truth. Bishops and priests therefore warned their flocks, and multitudes of the faithful besought the Inquisition to deal speedily and sharply with the heretic.[131b]
In vain did Galileo try to prove the existence of satellites by showing them to the doubters through his telescope: they either declared it impious to look, or, if they did look, denounced the satellites as illusions from the devil. Good Father Clavius declared that “to see satellites of Jupiter, men had to make an instrument which would create them.” In vain did Galileo try to save the great truths he had discovered by his letters to the Benedictine Castelli and the Grand-Duchess Christine, in which he argued that literal biblical interpretation should not be applied to science; it was answered that such an argument only made his heresy more detestable; that he was “worse than Luther or Calvin.”
The war on the Copernican theory, which up to that time had been carried on quietly, now flamed forth. It was declared that the doctrine was proved false by the standing still of the sun for Joshua, by the declarations that “the foundations of the earth are fixed so firm that they can not be moved,” and that the sun “runneth about from one end of the heavens to the other.”
But the little telescope of Galileo still swept the heavens, and another revelation was announced–the mountains and valleys in the moon. This brought on another attack. It was declared that this, and the statement that the moon shines by light reflected from the sun, directly contradict the statement in Genesis that the moon is “a great light.” To make the matter worse, a painter, placing the moon in a religious picture in its usual position beneath the feet of the Blessed Virgin, outlined on its surface mountains and valleys; this was denounced as a sacrilege logically resulting from the astronomer’s heresy.
Still another struggle was aroused when the hated telescope revealed spots upon the sun, and their motion indicating the sun’s rotation. Monsignor Elci, head of the University of Pisa, forbade the astronomer Castelli to mention these spots to his students. Father Busaeus, at the University of Innspruck, forbade the astronomer Scheiner, who had also discovered the spots and proposed a _safe_ explanation of them, to allow the new discovery to be known there. At the College of Douay and the University of Louvain this discovery was expressly placed under the ban, and this became the general rule among the Catholic universities and colleges of Europe. The Spanish universities were especially intolerant of this and similar ideas, and up to a recent period their presentation was strictly forbidden in the most important university of all–that of Salamanca.
Such are the consequences of placing the instruction of men’s minds in the hands of those mainly absorbed in saving men’s souls. Nothing could be more in accordance with the idea recently put forth by sundry ecclesiastics, Catholic and Protestant, that the Church alone is empowered to promulgate scientific truth or direct university instruction. But science gained a victory here also. Observations of the solar spots were reported not only from Galileo in Italy, but from Fabricius in Holland. Father Scheiner then endeavoured to make the usual compromise between theology and science. He promulgated a pseudo-scientific theory, which only provoked derision.
The war became more and more bitter. The Dominican Father Caccini preached a sermon from the text, “Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven?” and this wretched pun upon the great astronomer’s name ushered in sharper weapons; for, before Caccini ended, he insisted that “geometry is of the devil,” and that “mathematicians should be banished as the authors of all heresies.” The Church authorities gave Caccini promotion.
Father Lorini proved that Galileo’s doctrine was not only heretical but “atheistic,” and besought the Inquisition to intervene. The Bishop of Fiesole screamed in rage against the Copernican system, publicly insulted Galileo, and denounced him to the Grand-Duke. The Archbishop of Pisa secretly sought to entrap Galileo and deliver him to the Inquisition at Rome. The Archbishop of Florence solenmnly condemned the new doctrines as unscriptural; and Paul V, while petting Galileo, and inviting him as the greatest astronomer of the world to visit Rome, was secretly moving the Archbishop of Pisa to pick up evidence against the astronomer.
But by far the most terrible champion who now appeared was Cardinal Bellarmin, one of the greatest theologians the world has known. He was earnest, sincere, and learned, but insisted on making science conform to Scripture. The weapons which men of Bellarmin’s stamp used were purely theological. They held up before the world the dreadful consequences which must result to Christian theology were the heavenly bodies proved to revolve about the sun and not about the earth. Their most tremendous dogmatic engine was the statement that “his pretended discovery vitiates the whole Christian plan of salvation.” Father Lecazre declared “it casts suspicion on the doctrine of the incarnation.” Others declared, “It upsets the whole basis of theology. If the earth is a planet, and only one among several planets, it can not be that any such great things have been done specially for it as the Christian doctrine teaches. If there are other planets, since God makes nothing in vain, they must be inhabited; but how can their inhabitants be descended from Adam? How can they trace back their origin to Noah’s ark? How can they have been redeemed by the Saviour?” Nor was this argument confined to the theologians of the Roman Church; Melanchthon, Protestant as he was, had already used it in his attacks on Copernicus and his school.
In addition to this prodigious theological engine of war there was kept up a fire of smaller artillery in the shape of texts and scriptural extracts.
But the war grew still more bitter, and some weapons used in it are worth examining. They are very easily examined, for they are to be found on all the battlefields of science; but on that field they were used with more effect than on almost any other. These weapons are the epithets “infidel” and “atheist.” They have been used against almost every man who has ever done anything new for his fellow-men. The list of those who have been denounced as “infidel” and “atheist” includes almost all great men of science, general scholars, inventors, and philanthropists. The purest Christian life, the noblest Christian character, have not availed to shield combatants. Christians like Isaac Newton, Pascal, Locke, Milton, and even Fenelon and Howard, have had this weapon hurled against them. Of all proofs of the existence of a God, those of Descartes have been wrought most thoroughly into the minds of modern men; yet the Protestant theologians of Holland sought to bring him to torture and to death by the charge of atheism, and the Roman Catholic theologians of France thwarted him during his life and prevented any due honours to him after his death.
These epithets can hardly be classed with civilized weapons. They are burning arrows; they set fire to masses of popular prejudice, always obscuring the real question, sometimes destroying the attacking party. They are poisoned weapons. They pierce the hearts of loving women; they alienate dear children; they injure a man after life is ended, for they leave poisoned wounds in the hearts of those who loved him best–fears for his eternal salvation, dread of the Divine wrath upon him. Of course, in these days these weapons, though often effective in vexing good men and in scaring good women, are somewhat blunted; indeed, they not infrequently injure the assailants more than the assailed. So it was not in the days of Galileo; they were then in all their sharpness and venom.[135b]
Yet a baser warfare was waged by the Archbishop of Pisa. This man, whose cathedral derives its most enduring fame from Galileo’s deduction of a great natural law from the swinging lamp before its altar, was not an archbishop after the noble mould of Borromeo and Fenelon and Cheverus. Sadly enough for the Church and humanity, he was simply a zealot and intriguer: he perfected the plan for entrapping the great astronomer.
Galileo, after his discoveries had been denounced, had written to his friend Castelli and to the Grand-Duchess Christine two letters to show that his discoveries might be reconciled with Scripture. On a hint from the Inquisition at Rome, the archbishop sought to get hold of these letters and exhibit them as proofs that Galileo had uttered heretical views of theology and of Scripture, and thus to bring him into the clutch of the Inquisition. The archbishop begs Castelli, therefore, to let him see the original letter in the handwriting of Galileo. Castelli declines. The archbishop then, while, as is now revealed, writing constantly and bitterly to the Inquisition against Galileo, professes to Castelli the greatest admiration of Galileo’s genius and a sincere desire to know more of his discoveries. This not succeeding, the archbishop at last throws off the mask and resorts to open attack.
The whole struggle to crush Galileo and to save him would be amusing were it not so fraught with evil. There were intrigues and counter-intrigues, plots and counter-plots, lying and spying; and in the thickest of this seething, squabbling, screaming mass of priests, bishops, archbishops, and cardinals, appear two popes, Paul V and Urban VIII. It is most suggestive to see in this crisis of the Church, at the tomb of the prince of the apostles, on the eve of the greatest errors in Church policy the world has known, in all the intrigues and deliberations of these consecrated leaders of the Church, no more evidence of the guidance or presence of the Holy Spirit than in a caucus of New York politicians at Tammany Hall.
But the opposing powers were too strong. In 1615 Galileo was summoned before the Inquisition at Rome, and the mine which had been so long preparing was sprung. Sundry theologians of the Inquisition having been ordered to examine two propositions which had been extracted from Galileo’s letters on the solar spots, solemnly considered these points during ahout a month and rendered their unanimous decision as follows: “_The first proposition, that the sun is the centre and does not revolve about the earth, is foolish, absurd, false in theology, and heretical, because expressly contrary to Holy Scripture”; and “the second proposition, that the earth is not the centre but revolves about the sun, is absurd, false in philosophy, and, from a theological point of view at least, opposed to the true faith_.”
The Pope himself, Paul V, now intervened again: he ordered that Galileo be brought before the Inquisition. Then the greatest man of science in that age was brought face to face with the greatest theologian–Galileo was confronted by Bellarmin. Bellarmin shows Galileo the error of his opinion and orders him to renounce it. De Lauda, fortified by a letter from the Pope, gives orders that the astronomer be placed in the dungeons of the Inquisition should he refuse to yield. Bellarmin now commands Galileo, “in the name of His Holiness the Pope and the whole Congregation of the Holy Office, to relinquish altogether the opinion that the sun is the centre of the world and immovable, and that the earth moves, nor henceforth to hold, teach, or defend it in any way whatsoever, verbally or in writing.” This injunction Galileo acquiesces in and promises to obey.
This was on the 26th of February, 1616. About a fortnight later the Congregation of the Index, moved thereto, as the letters and documents now brought to light show, by Pope Paul, V solemnly rendered a decree that “_the doctrine of the double motion of the earth about its axis and about the sun is false, and entirely contrary to Holy Scripture_”; and that this opinion must neither be taught nor advocated. The same decree condemned all writings of Copernicus and “_all writings which affirm the motion of the earth_.” The great work of Copernicus was interdicted until corrected in accordance with the views of the Inquisition; and the works of Galileo and Kepler, though not mentioned by name at that time, were included among those implicitly condemned as “affirming the motion of the earth.”
The condemnations were inscribed upon the _Index_; and, finally, the papacy committed itself as an infallible judge and teacher to the world by prefixing to the _Index_ the usual papal bull giving its monitions the most solemn papal sanction. To teach or even read the works denounced or passages condemned was to risk persecution in this world and damnation in the next. Science had apparently lost the decisive battle.
For a time after this judgment Galileo remained in Rome, apparently hoping to find some way out of this difficulty; but he soon discovered the hollowness of the protestations made to him by ecclesiastics, and, being recalled to Florence, remained in his hermitage near the city in silence, working steadily, indeed, but not publishing anything save by private letters to friends in various parts of Europe.
But at last a better vista seemed to open for him. Cardinal Barberini, who had seemed liberal and friendly, became pope under the name of Urban VIII. Galileo at this conceived new hopes, and allowed his continued allegiance to the Copernican system to be known. New troubles ensued. Galileo was induced to visit Rome again, and Pope Urban tried to cajole him into silence, personally taking the trouble to show him his errors by argument. Other opponents were less considerate, for works appeared attacking his ideas–works all the more unmanly, since their authors knew that Galileo was restrained by force from defending himself. Then, too, as if to accumulate proofs of the unfitness of the Church to take charge of advanced instruction, his salary as a professor at the University of Pisa was taken from him, and sapping and mining began. Just as the Archbishop of Pisa some years before had tried to betray him with honeyed words to the Inquisition, so now Father Grassi tried it, and, after various attempts to draw him out by flattery, suddenly denounced his scientific ideas as “leading to a denial of the Real Presence in the Eucharist.”
For the final assault upon him a park of heavy artillery was at last wheeled into place. It may be seen on all the scientific battlefields. It consists of general denunciation; and in 1631 Father Melchior Inchofer, of the Jesuits, brought his artillery to bear upon Galileo with this declaration: “The opinion of the earth’s motion is of all heresies the most abominable, the most pernicious, the most scandalous; the immovability of the earth is thrice sacred; argument against the immortality of the soul, the existence of God, and the incarnation, should be tolerated sooner than an argument to prove that the earth moves.” From the other end of Europe came a powerful echo.
From the shadow of the Cathedral of Antwerp, the noted theologian Fromundus gave forth his famous treatise, the _Ant-Aristarclius_. Its very title-page was a contemptuous insult to the memory of Copernicus, since it paraded the assumption that the new truth was only an exploded theory of a pagan astronomer. Fromundus declares that “sacred Scripture fights against the Copernicans.” To prove that the sun revolves about the earth, he cites the passage in the Psalms which speaks of the sun “which cometh forth as a bridegroom out of his chamber.” To prove that the earth stands still, he quotes a passage from Ecclesiastes, “The earth standeth fast forever.” To show the utter futility of the Copernican theory, he declares that, if it were true, “the wind would constantly blow from the east”; and that “buildings and the earth itself would fly off with such a rapid motion that men would have to be provided with claws like cats to enable them to hold fast to the earth’s surface.” Greatest weapon of all, he works up, by the use of Aristotle and St. Thomas Aquinas, a demonstration from theology and science combined, that the earth _must_ stand in the centre, and that the sun _must_ revolve about it. Nor was it merely fanatics who opposed the truth revealed by Copernicus; such strong men as Jean Bodin, in France, and Sir Thomas Browne, in England, declared against it as evidently contrary to Holy Scripture.
While news of triumphant attacks upon him and upon the truth he had established were coming in from all parts of Europe, Galileo prepared a careful treatise in the form of a dialogue, exhibiting the arguments for and against the Copernican and Ptolemaic systems, and offered to submit to any conditions that the Church tribunals might impose, if they would allow it to be printed. At last, after discussions which extended through eight years, they consented, imposing a humiliating condition–a preface written in accordance with the ideas of Father Ricciardi, Master of the Sacred Palace, and signed by Galileo, in which the Copernican theory was virtually exhibited as a play of the imagination, and not at all as opposed to the Ptolemaic doctrine reasserted in 1616 by the Inquisition under the direction of Pope Paul V.
This new work of Galileo–the _Dialogo_–appeared in 1632, and met with prodigious success. It put new weapons into the hands of the supporters of the Copernican theory. The pious preface was laughed at from one end of Europe to the other. This roused the enemy; the Jesuits, Dominicans, and the great majority of the clergy returned to the attack more violent than ever, and in the midst of them stood Pope Urban VIII, most bitter of all. His whole power was now thrown against Galileo. He was touched in two points: first, in his personal vanity, for Galileo had put the Pope’s arguments into the mouth of one of the persons in the dialogue and their refutation into the mouth of another; but, above all, he was touched in his religious feelings. Again and again His Holiness insisted to all comers on the absolute and specific declarations of Holy Scripture, which prove that the sun and heavenly bodies revolve about the earth, and declared that to gainsay them is simply to dispute revelation. Certainly, if one ecclesiastic more than another ever seemed _not_ under the care of the Spirit of Truth, it was Urban VIII in all this matter.
Herein was one of the greatest pieces of ill fortune that has ever befallen the older Church. Had Pope Urban been broad-minded and tolerant like Benedict XIV, or had he been taught moderation by adversity like Pius VII, or had he possessed the large scholarly qualities of Leo XIII, now reigning, the vast scandal of the Galileo case would never have burdened the Church: instead of devising endless quibbles and special pleadings to escape responsibility for this colossal blunder, its defenders could have claimed forever for the Church the glory of fearlessly initiating a great epoch in human thought.
But it was not so to be. Urban was not merely Pope; he was also a prince of the house of Barberini, and therefore doubly angry that his arguments had been publicly controverted.
The opening strategy of Galileo’s enemies was to forbid the sale of his work; but this was soon seen to be unavailing, for the first edition had already been spread throughout Europe. Urban now became more angry than ever, and both Galileo and his works were placed in the hands of the Inquisition. In vain did the good Benedictine Castelli urge that Galileo was entirely respectful to the Church; in vain did he insist that “nothing that can be done can now hinder the earth from revolving.” He was dismissed in disgrace, and Galileo was forced to appear in the presence of the dread tribunal without defender or adviser. There, as was so long concealed, but as is now fully revealed, he was menaced with torture again and again by express order of Pope Urban, and, as is also thoroughly established from the trial documents themselves, forced to abjure under threats, and subjected to imprisonment by command of the Pope; the Inquisition deferring in this whole matter to the papal authority. All the long series of attempts made in the supposed interest of the Church to mystify these transactions have at last failed. The world knows now that Galileo was subjected certainly to indignity, to imprisonment, and to threats equivalent to torture, and was at last forced to pronounce publicly and on his knees his recantation, as follows:
“I, Galileo, being in my seventieth year, being a prisoner and on my knees, and before your Eminences, having before my eyes the Holy Gospel, which I touch with my hands, abjure, curse, and detest the error and the heresy of the movement of the earth.”
He was vanquished indeed, for he had been forced, in the face of all coming ages, to perjure himself. To complete his dishonour, he was obliged to swear that he would denounce to the Inquisition any other man of science whom he should discover to be supporting the “heresy of the motion of the earth.”
Many have wondered at this abjuration, and on account of it have denied to Galileo the title of martyr. But let such gainsayers consider the circumstances. Here was an old man–one who had reached the allotted threescore years and ten–broken with disappointments, worn out with labours and cares, dragged from Florence to Rome, with the threat from the Pope himself that if he delayed he should be “brought in chains”; sick in body and mind, given over to his oppressors by the Grand-Duke who ought to have protected him, and on his arrival in Rome threatened with torture. What the Inquisition was he knew well. He could remember as but of yesterday the burning of Giordano Bruno in that same city for scientific and philosophic heresy; he could remember, too, that only eight years before this very time De Dominis, Archbishop of Spalatro, having been seized by the Inquisition for scientific and other heresies, had died in a dungeon, and that his body and his writings had been publicly burned.
To the end of his life–nay, after his life was ended–the persecution of Galileo was continued. He was kept in exile from his family, from his friends, from his noble employments, and was held rigidly to his promise not to speak of his theory. When, in the midst of intense bodily sufferings from disease, and mental sufferings from calamities in his family, he besought some little liberty, he was met with threats of committal to a dungeon. When, at last, a special commission had reported to the ecclesiastical authorities that he had become blind and wasted with disease and sorrow, he was allowed a little more liberty, but that little was hampered by close surveillance. He was forced to bear contemptible attacks on himself and on his works in silence; to see the men who had befriended him severely punished; Father Castelli banished; Ricciardi, the Master of the Sacred Palace, and Ciampoli, the papal secretary, thrown out of their positions by Pope Urban, and the Inquisitor at Florence reprimanded for having given permission to print Galileo’s work. He lived to see the truths he had established carefully weeded out from all the Church colleges and universities in Europe; and, when in a scientific work he happened to be spoken of as “renowned,” the Inquisition ordered the substitution of the word “notorious.”
And now measures were taken to complete the destruction of the Copernican theory, with Galileo’s proofs of it. On the 16th of June, 1633, the Holy Congregation, with the permission of the reigning Pope, ordered the sentence upon Galileo, and his recantation, to be sent to all the papal nuncios throughout Europe, as well as to all archbishops, bishops, and inquisitors in Italy and this document gave orders that the sentence and abjuration be made known “to your vicars, that you and all professors of philosophy and mathematics may have knowledge of it, that they may know why we proceeded against the said Galileo, and recognise the gravity of his error, in order that they may avoid it, and thus not incur the penalties which they would have to suffer in case they fell into the same.”
As a consequence, the processors of mathematics and astronomy in various universities of Europe were assembled and these documents were read to them. To the theological authorities this gave great satisfaction. The Rector of the University of Douay, referring to the opinion of Galileo, wrote to the papal nuncio at Brussels: “The professors of our university are so opposed to this fanatical opinion that they have always held that it must be banished from the schools. In our English college at Douay this paradox has never been approved and never will be.”
Still another step was taken: the Inquisitors were ordered, especially in Italy, not to permit the publication of a new edition of any of Galileo’s works, or of any similar writings. On the other hand, theologians were urged, now that Copernicus and Galileo and Kepler were silenced, to reply to them with tongue and pen. Europe was flooded with these theological refutations of the Copernican system.
To make all complete, there was prefixed to the _Index_ of the Church, forbidding “all writings which affirm the motion of the earth,” a bull signed by the reigning Pope, which, by virtue of his infallibility as a divinely guided teacher in matters of faith and morals, clinched this condemnation into the consciences of the whole Christian world.
From the mass of books which appeared under the auspices of the Church immediately after the condemnation of Galileo, for the purpose of rooting out every vestige of the hated Copernican theory from the mind of the world, two may be taken as typical. The first of these was a work by Scipio Chiaramonti, dedicated to Cardinal Barberini. Among his arguments against the double motion of the earth may be cited the following:
“Animals, which move, have limbs and muscles; the earth has no limbs or muscles, therefore it does not move. It is angels who make Saturn, Jupiter, the sun, etc., turn round. If the earth revolves, it must also have an angel in the centre to set it in motion; but only devils live there; it would therefore be a devil who would impart motion to the earth….
“The planets, the sun, the fixed stars, all belong to one species–namely, that of stars. It seems, therefore, to be a grievous wrong to place the earth, which is a sink of impurity, among these heavenly bodies, which are pure and divine things.”
The next, which I select from the mass of similar works, is the _Anticopernicus Catholicus_ of Polacco. It was intended to deal a finishing stroke at Galileo’s heresy. In this it is declared:
“The Scripture always represents the earth as at rest, and the sun and moon as in motion; or, if these latter bodies are ever represented as at rest, Scripture represents this as the result of a great miracle….
“These writings must be prohibited, because they teach certain principles about the position and motion of the terrestrial globe repugnant to Holy Scripture and to the Catholic interpretation of it, not as hypotheses but as established facts….”
Speaking of Galileo’s book, Polacco says that it “smacked of Copernicanism,” and that, “when this was shown to the Inquisition, Galileo was thrown into prison and was compelled to utterly abjure the baseness of this erroneous dogma.”
As to the authority of the cardinals in their decree, Polacco asserts that, since they are the “Pope’s Council” and his “brothers,” their work is one, except that the Pope is favoured with special divine enlightenment.
Having shown that the authority of the Scriptures, of popes, and of cardinals is against the new astronomy, he gives a refutation based on physics. He asks: “If we concede the motion of the earth, why is it that an arrow shot into the air falls back to the same spot, while the earth and all things on it have in the meantime moved very rapidly toward the east? Who does not see that great confusion would result from this motion?”
Next he argues from metaphysics, as follows: “The Copernican theory of the earth’s motion is against the nature of the earth itself, because the earth is not only cold but contains in itself the principle of cold; but cold is opposed to motion, and even destroys it–as is evident in animals, which become motionless when they become cold.”
Finally, he clinches all with a piece of theological reasoning, as follows: “Since it can certainly be gathered from Scripture that the heavens move above the earth, and since a circular motion requires something immovable around which to move,… the earth is at the centre of the universe.”
But any sketch of the warfare between theology and science in this field would be incomplete without some reference to the treatment of Galileo after his death. He had begged to be buried in his family tomb in Santa Croce; this request was denied. His friends wished to erect a monument over him; this, too, was refused. Pope Urban said to the ambassador Niccolini that “it would be an evil example for the world if such honours were rendered to a man who had been brought before the Roman Inquisition for an opinion so false and erroneous; who had communicated it to many others, and who had given so great a scandal to Christendom.” In accordance, therefore, with the wish of the Pope and the orders of the Inquisition, Galileo was buried ignobly, apart from his family, without fitting ceremony, without monument, without epitaph. Not until forty years after did Pierrozzi dare write an inscription to be placed above his bones; not until a hundred years after did Nelli dare transfer his remains to a suitable position in Santa Croce, and erect a monument above them. Even then the old conscientious hostility burst forth: the Inquisition was besought to prevent such honours to “a man condemned for notorious errors”; and that tribunal refused to allow any epitaph to be placed above him which had not been submitted to its censorship. Nor has that old conscientious consistency in hatred yet fully relented: hardly a generation since has not seen some ecclesiastic, like Marini or De Bonald or Rallaye or De Gabriac, suppressing evidence, or torturing expressions, or inventing theories to blacken the memory of Galileo and save the reputation of the Church. Nay, more: there are school histories, widely used, which, in the supposed interest of the Church, misrepresent in the grossest manner all these transactions in which Galileo was concerned. _Sancta simplicitas_! The Church has no worse enemies than those who devise and teach these perversions. They are simply rooting out, in the long run, from the minds of the more thoughtful scholars, respect for the great organization which such writings are supposed to serve.
The Protestant Church was hardly less energetic against this new astronomy than the mother Church. The sacred science of the first Lutheran Reformers was transmitted as a precious legacy, and in the next century was made much of by Calovius. His great learning and determined orthodoxy gave him the Lutheran leadership. Utterly refusing to look at ascertained facts, he cited the turning back of the shadow upon King Hezekiah’s dial and the standing still of the sun for Joshua, denied the movement of the earth, and denounced the whole new view as clearly opposed to Scripture. To this day his arguments are repeated by sundry orthodox leaders of American Lutheranism.
As to the other branches of the Reformed Church, we have already seen how Calvinists, Anglicans, and, indeed, Protestant sectarians generally, opposed the new truth. In England, among the strict churchmen, the great Dr. South denounced the Royal Society as “irreligious,” and among the Puritans the eminent John Owen declared that Newton’s discoveries were “built on fallible phenomena and advanced by many arbitrary presumptions against evident testimonies of Scripture.” Even Milton seems to have hesitated between the two systems. At the beginning of the eighth book of _Paradise Lost_ he makes Adam state the difficulties of the Ptolemaic system, and then brings forward an angel to make the usual orthodox answers. Later, Milton seems to lean toward the Copernican theory, for, referring to the earth, he says:
“Or she from west her silent course advance With inoffensive pace, that spinning sleeps On her soft axle, while she faces even And bears thee soft with the smooth air along.” English orthodoxy continued to assert itself. In 1724 John Hutchinson, professor at Cambridge, published his _Moses’ Principia_, a system of philosophy in which he sought to build up a complete physical system of the universe from the Bible. In this he assaulted the Newtonian theory as “atheistic,” and led the way for similar attacks by such Church teachers as Horne, Duncan Forbes, and Jones of Nayland. But one far greater than these involved himself in this view. That same limitation of his reason by the simple statements of Scripture which led John Wesley to declare that, “unless witchcraft is true, nothing in the Bible is true,” led him, while giving up the Ptolemaic theory and accepting in a general way the Copernican, to suspect the demonstrations of Newton. Happily, his inborn nobility of character lifted him above any bitterness or persecuting spirit, or any imposition of doctrinal tests which could prevent those who came after him from finding their way to the truth.
But in the midst of this vast expanse of theologic error signs of right reason began to appear, both in England and America. Noteworthy is it that Cotton Mather, bitter as was his orthodoxy regarding witchcraft, accepted, in 1721, the modern astronomy fully, with all its consequences.
In the following year came an even more striking evidence that the new scientific ideas were making their way in England. In 1722 Thomas Burnet published the sixth edition of his _Sacred Theory of the Earth_. In this he argues, as usual, to establish the scriptural doctrine of the earth’s stability; but in his preface he sounds a remarkable warning. He mentions the great mistake into which St. Augustine led the Church regarding the doctrine of the antipodes, and says, “If within a few years or in the next generation it should prove as certain and demonstrable that the earth is moved, as it is now that there are antipodes, those that have been zealous against it, and engaged the Scripture in the controversy, would have the same reason to repent of their forwardness that St. Augustine would now, if he were still alive.”
Fortunately, too, Protestantism had no such power to oppose the development of the Copernican ideas as the older Church had enjoyed. Yet there were some things in its warfare against science even more indefensible. In 1772 the famous English expedition for scientific discovery sailed from England under Captain Cook. Greatest by far of all the scientific authorities chosen to accompany it was Dr. Priestley. Sir Joseph Banks had especially invited him. But the clergy of Oxford and Cambridge interfered. Priestley was considered unsound in his views of the Trinity; it was evidently suspected that this might vitiate his astronomical observations; he was rejected, and the expedition crippled.
The orthodox view of astronomy lingered on in other branches of the Protestant Church. In Germany even Leibnitz attacked the Newtonian theory of gravitation on theological grounds, though he found some little consolation in thinking that it might be used to support the Lutheran doctrine of consubstantiation.
In Holland the Calvinistic Church was at first strenuous against the whole new system, but we possess a comical proof that Calvinism even in its strongholds was powerless against it; for in 1642 Blaer published at Amsterdam his book on the use of globes, and, in order to be on the safe side, devoted one part of his work to the Ptolemaic and the other to the Copernican scheme, leaving the benevolent reader to take his choice.
Nor have efforts to renew the battle in the Protestant Church been wanting in these latter days. The attempt in the Church of England, in 1864, to fetter science, which was brought to ridicule by Herschel, Bowring, and De Morgan; the assemblage of Lutheran clergy at Berlin, in 1868, to protest against “science falsely so called,” are examples of these. Fortunately, to the latter came Pastor Knak, and his denunciations of the Copernican theory as absolutely incompatible with a belief in the Bible, dissolved the whole assemblage in ridicule.
In its recent dealings with modern astronomy the wisdom of the Catholic Church in the more civilized countries has prevented its yielding to some astounding errors into which one part of the Protestant Church has fallen heedlessly.
Though various leaders in the older Church have committed the absurd error of allowing a text-book and sundry review articles to appear which grossly misstate the Galileo episode, with the certainty of ultimately undermining confidence in her teachings among her more thoughtful young men, she has kept clear of the folly of continuing to tie her instruction, and the acceptance of our sacred books, to an adoption of the Ptolemaic theory.
Not so with American Lutheranism. In 1873 was published in St. Louis, at the publishing house of the Lutheran Synod of Missouri, a work entitled _Astromomische Unterredung_, the author being well known as a late president of a Lutheran Teachers’ Seminary.
No attack on the whole modern system of astronomy could be more bitter. On the first page of the introduction the author, after stating the two theories, asks, “Which is right?” and says: “It would be very simple to me which is right, if it were only a question of human import. But the wise and truthful God has expressed himself on this matter in the Bible. The entire Holy Scripture settles the question that the earth is the principal body (_Hauptkorper_) of the universe, that it stands fixed, and that sun and moon only serve to light it.”
The author then goes on to show from Scripture the folly, not only of Copernicus and Newton, but of a long line of great astronomers in more recent times. He declares: “Let no one understand me as inquiring first where truth is to be found–in the Bible or with the astronomers. No; I know that beforehand–that my God never lies, never makes a mistake; out of his mouth comes only truth, when he speaks of the structure of the universe, of the earth, sun, moon, and stars….
“Because the truth of the Holy Scripture is involved in this, therefore the above question is of the highest importance to me…. Scientists and others lean upon the miserable reed (_Rohrstab_) that God teaches only the order of salvation, but not the order of the universe.”
Very noteworthy is the fact that this late survival of an ancient belief based upon text-worship is found, not in the teachings of any zealous priest of the mother Church, but in those of an eminent professor in that branch of Protestantism which claims special enlightenment.
Nor has the warfare against the dead champions of science been carried on by the older Church alone.
On the 10th of May, 1859, Alexander von Humboldt was buried. His labours had been among the glories of the century, and his funeral was one of the most imposing that Berlin had ever seen. Among those who honoured themselves by their presence was the prince regent, afterward the Emperor William I; but of the clergy it was observed that none were present save the officiating clergyman and a few regarded as unorthodox.
Having gained their victory over Galileo, living and dead, having used it to scare into submission the professors of astronomy throughout Europe, conscientious churchmen exulted. Loud was their rejoicing that the “heresy,” the “infidelity” the “atheism” involved in believing that the earth revolves about its axis and moves around the sun had been crushed by the great tribunal of the Church, acting in strict obedience to the expressed will of one Pope and the written order of another. As we have seen, all books teaching this hated belief were put upon the _Index_ of books forbidden to Christians, and that _Index_ was prefaced by a bull enforcing this condemnation upon the consciences of the faithful throughout the world, and signed by the reigning Pope.
The losses to the world during this complete triumph of theology were even more serious than at first appears: one must especially be mentioned. There was then in Europe one of the greatest thinkers ever given to mankind–Rene Descartes. Mistaken though many of his reasonings were, they bore a rich fruitage of truth. He had already done a vast work. His theory of vortices–assuming a uniform material regulated by physical laws–as the beginning of the visible universe, though it was but a provisional hypothesis, had ended the whole old theory of the heavens with the vaulted firmament and the direction of the planetary movements by angels, which even Kepler had allowed. The scientific warriors had stirred new life in him, and he was working over and summing up in his mighty mind all the researches of his time. The result would have made an epoch in history. His aim was to combine all knowledge and thought into a _Treatise on the World_, and in view of this he gave eleven years to the study of anatomy alone. But the fate of Galileo robbed him of all hope, of all courage; the battle seemed lost; he gave up his great plan forever.
But ere long it was seen that this triumph of the Church was in reality a prodigious defeat. From all sides came proofs that Copernicus and Galileo were right; and although Pope Urban and the inquisition held Galileo in strict seclusion, forbidding him even to _speak_ regarding the double motion of the earth; and although this condemnation of “all books which affirm the motion of the earth” was kept on the _Index_; and although the papal bull still bound the _Index_ and the condemnations in it on the consciences of the faithful; and although colleges and universities under Church control were compelled to teach the old doctrine–it was seen by clear-sighted men everywhere that this victory of the Church was a disaster to the victors.
New champions pressed on. Campanella, full of vagaries as he was, wrote his _Apology for Galileo_, though for that and other heresies, religious, and political, he seven times underwent torture.
And Kepler comes: he leads science on to greater victories. Copernicus, great as he was, could not disentangle scientific reasoning entirely from the theological bias: the doctrines of Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas as to the necessary superiority of the circle had vitiated the minor features of his system, and left breaches in it through which the enemy was not slow to enter; but Kepler sees these errors, and by wonderful genius and vigour he gives to the world the three laws which bear his name, and this fortress of science is complete. He thinks and speaks as one inspired. His battle is severe. He is solemnly warned by the Protestant Consistory of Stuttgart “not to throw Christ’s kingdom into confusion with his silly fancies,” and as solemnly ordered to “bring his theory of the world into harmony with Scripture”: he is sometimes abused, sometimes ridiculed, sometimes imprisoned. Protestants in Styria and Wurtemberg, Catholics in Austria and Bohemia, press upon him but Newton, Halley, Bradley, and other great astronomers follow, and to science remains the victory.
Yet this did not end the war. During the seventeenth century, in France, after all the splendid proofs added by Kepler, no one dared openly teach the Copernican theory, and Cassini, the great astronomer, never declared for it. In 1672 the Jesuit Father Riccioli declared that there were precisely forty-nine arguments for the Copernican theory and seventy-seven against it. Even after the beginning of the eighteenth century–long after the demonstrations of Sir Isaac Newton–Bossuet, the great Bishop of Meaux, the foremost theologian that France has ever produced, declared it contrary to Scripture.
Nor did matters seem to improve rapidly during that century. In England, John Hutchinson, as we have seen, published in 1724 his _Moses’ Principia_ maintaining that the Hebrew Scriptures are a perfect system of natural philosophy, and are opposed to the Newtonian system of gravitation; and, as we have also seen, he was followed by a long list of noted men in the Church. In France, two eminent mathematicians published in 1748 an edition of Newton’s _Principia_; but, in order to avert ecclesiastical censure, they felt obliged to prefix to it a statement absolutely false. Three years later, Boscovich, the great mathematician of the Jesuits, used these words: “As for me, full of respect for the Holy Scriptures and the decree of the Holy Inquisition, I regard the earth as immovable; nevertheless, for simplicity in explanation I will argue as if the earth moves; for it is proved that of the two hypotheses the appearances favour this idea.”
In Germany, especially in the Protestant part of it, the war was even more bitter, and it lasted through the first half of the eighteenth century. Eminent Lutheran doctors of divinity flooded the country with treatises to prove that the Copernican theory could not be reconciled with Scripture. In the theological seminaries and in many of the universities where clerical influence was strong they seemed to sweep all before them; and yet at the middle of the century we find some of the clearest-headed of them aware of the fact that their cause was lost.
In 1757 the most enlightened perhaps in the whole line of the popes, Benedict XIV, took up the matter, and the Congregation of the _Index_ secretly allowed the ideas of Copernicus to be tolerated. Yet in 1765 Lalande, the great French astronomer, tried in vain at Rome to induce the authorities to remove Galileo’s works from the _Index_. Even at a date far within our own nineteenth century the authorities of many universities in Catholic Europe, and especially those in Spain, excluded the Newtonian system. In 1771 the greatest of them all, the University of Salamanca, being urged to teach physical science, refused, making answer as follows: “Newton teaches nothing that would make a good logician or metaphysician; and Gassendi and Descartes do not agree so well with revealed truth as Aristotle does.”
Vengeance upon the dead also has continued far into our own century. On the 5th of May, 1829, a great multitude assembled at Warsaw to honour the memory of Copernicus and to unveil Thorwaldsen’s statue of him.
Copernicus had lived a pious, Christian life; he had been beloved for unostentatious Christian charity; with his religious belief no fault had ever been found; he was a canon of the Church at Frauenberg, and over his grave had been written the most touching of Christian epitaphs. Naturally, then, the people expected a religious service; all was understood to be arranged for it; the procession marched to the church and waited. The hour passed, and no priest appeared; none could be induced to appear. Copernicus, gentle, charitable, pious, one of the noblest gifts of God to religion as well as to science, was evidently still under the ban. Five years after that, his book was still standing on the _Index_ of books prohibited to Christians.
The edition of the _Index_ published in 1819 was as inexorable toward the works of Copernicus and Galileo as its predecessors had been; but in the year 182O came a crisis. Canon Settele, Professor of Astronomy at Rome, had written an elementary book in which the Copernican system was taken for granted. The Master of the Sacred Palace, Anfossi, as censor of the press, refused to allow the book to be printed unless Settele revised his work and treated the Copernican theory as merely a hypothesis. On this Settele appealed to Pope Pius VII, and the Pope referred the matter to the Congregation of the Holy Office. At last, on the 16th of August, 182O, it was decided that Settele might teach the Copernican system as established, and this decision was approved by the Pope. This aroused considerable discussion, but finally, on the 11th of September, 1822, the cardinals of the Holy Inquisition graciously agreed that “the printing and publication of works treating of the motion of the earth and the stability of the sun, in accordance with the general opinion of modern astronomers, is permitted at Rome.” This decree was ratified by Pius VII, but it was not until thirteen years later, in 1835, that there was issued an edition of the _Index_ from which the condemnation of works defending the double motion of the earth was left out.
This was not a moment too soon, for, as if the previous proofs had not been sufficient, each of the motions of the earth was now absolutely demonstrated anew, so as to be recognised by the ordinary observer. The parallax of fixed stars, shown by Bessel as well as other noted astronomers in 1838, clinched forever the doctrine of the revolution of the earth around the sun, and in 1851 the great experiment of Foucault with the pendulum showed to the human eye the earth in motion around its own axis. To make the matter complete, this experiment was publicly made in one of the churches at Rome by the eminent astronomer, Father Secchi, of the Jesuits, in 1852–just two hundred and twenty years after the Jesuits had done so much to secure Galileo’s condemnation.
The retreat of the Protestant theologians was not difficult. A little skilful warping of Scripture, a little skilful use of that time-honoured phrase, attributed to Cardinal Baronius, that the Bible is given to teach us, not how the heavens go, but how men go to heaven, and a free use of explosive rhetoric against the pursuing army of scientists, sufficed.
But in the older Church it was far less easy. The retreat of the sacro-scientific army of Church apologists lasted through two centuries.
In spite of all that has been said by these apologists, there no longer remains the shadow of a doubt that the papal infallibility was committed fully and irrevocably against the double revolution of the earth. As the documents of Galileo’s trial now published show, Paul V, in 1616, pushed on with all his might the condemnation of Galileo and of the works of Copernicus and of all others teaching the motion of the earth around its own axis and around the sun. So, too, in the condemnation of Galileo in 1633, and in all the proceedings which led up to it and which followed it, Urban VIII was the central figure. Without his sanction no action could have been taken.
True, the Pope did not formally sign the decree against the Copernican theory _then_; but this came later, In 1664 Alexander VII prefixed to the _Index_ containing the condemnations of the works of Copernicus and Galileo and “all books which affirm the motion of the earth” a papal bull signed by himself, binding the contents of the _Index_ upon the consciences of the faithful. This bull confirmed and approved in express terms, finally, decisively, and infallibly, the condemnation of “all books teaching the movement of the earth and the stability of the sun.”
The position of the mother Church had been thus made especially difficult; and the first important move in retreat by the apologists was the statement that Galileo was condemned, not because he affirmed the motion of the earth, but because he supported it from Scripture. There was a slight appearance of truth in this. Undoubtedly, Galileo’s letters to Castelli and the grand. duchess, in which he attempted to show that his astronomical doctrines were not opposed to Scripture, gave a new stir to religious bigotry. For a considerable time, then, this quibble served its purpose; even a hundred and fifty years after Galileo’s condemnation it was renewed by the Protestant Mallet du Pan, in his wish to gain favour from the older Church.
But nothing can be more absurd, in the light of the original documents recently brought out of the Vatican archives, than to make this contention now. The letters of Galileo to Castelli and the Grand-Duchess were not published until after the condemnation; and, although the Archbishop of Pisa had endeavoured to use them against him, they were but casually mentioned in 1616, and entirely left out of view in 1633. What was condemned in 1616 by the Sacred Congregation held in the presence of Pope Paul V, as “_absurd, false in theology, and heretical, because absolutely contrary to Holy Scripture_, “was the proposition that “_the sun is the centre about which the earth revolves_”; and what was condemned as “_absurd, false in philosophy, and from a theologic point of view, at least, opposed to the true faith_,” was the proposition that “_the earth is not the centre of the universe and immovable, but has a diurnal motion_.”
And again, what Galileo was made, by express order of Pope Urban, and by the action of the Inquisition under threat of torture, to abjure in 1633, was “_the error and heresy of the movement of the earth_.”
What the _Index_ condemned under sanction of the bull issued by Alexander VII in 1664 was, “_all books teaching the movement of the earth and the stability of the sun_.”
What the _Index_, prefaced by papal bulls, infallibly binding its contents upon the consciences of the faithful, for nearly two hundred years steadily condemned was, “_all books which affirm the motion of the earth_.”
Not one of these condemnations was directed against Galileo “for reconciling his ideas with Scripture.”
Having been dislodged from this point, the Church apologists sought cover under the statement that Galileo was condemned not for heresy, but for contumacy and want of respect toward the Pope.
There was a slight chance, also, for this quibble: no doubt Urban VIII, one of the haughtiest of pontiffs, was induced by Galileo’s enemies to think that he had been treated with some lack of proper etiquette: first, by Galileo’s adhesion to his own doctrines after his condemnation in 1616; and, next, by his supposed reference in the _Dialogue_ of 1632 to the arguments which the Pope had used against him.
But it would seem to be a very poor service rendered to the doctrine of papal infallibility to claim that a decision so immense in its consequences could be influenced by the personal resentment of the reigning pontiff.
Again, as to the first point, the very language of the various sentences shows the folly of this assertion; for these sentences speak always of “heresy” and never of “contumacy.” As to the last point, the display of the original documents settled that forever. They show Galileo from first to last as most submissive toward the Pope, and patient under the papal arguments and exactions. He had, indeed, expressed his anger at times against his traducers; but to hold this the cause of the judgment against him is to degrade the whole proceedings, and to convict Paul V, Urban VIII, Bellarmin, the other theologians, and the Inquisition, of direct falsehood, since they assigned entirely different reasons for their conduct. From this position, therefore, the assailants retreated.
The next rally was made about the statement that the persecution of Galileo was the result of a quarrel between Aristotelian professors on one side and professors favouring the experimental method on the other. But this position was attacked and carried by a very simple statement. If the divine guidance of the Church is such that it can be dragged into a professorial squabble, and made the tool of a faction in bringing about a most disastrous condemnation of a proved truth, how did the Church at that time differ from any human organization sunk into decrepitude, managed nominally by simpletons, but really by schemers? If that argument be true, the condition of the Church was even worse than its enemies have declared it; and amid the jeers of an unfeeling world the apologists sought new shelter.
The next point at which a stand was made was the assertion that the condemnation of Galileo was “provisory”; but this proved a more treacherous shelter than the others. The wording of the decree of condemnation itself is a sufficient answer to this claim. When doctrines have been solemnly declared, as those of Galileo were solemnly declared under sanction of the highest authority in the Church, “contrary to the sacred Scriptures,” “opposed to the true faith,” and “false and absurd in theology and philosophy”–to say that such declarations are “provisory” is to say that the truth held by the Church is not immutable; from this, then, the apologists retreated.[161b]
Still another contention was made, in some respects more curious than any other: it was, mainly, that Galileo “was no more a victim of Catholics than of Protestants; for they more than the Catholic theologians impelled the Pope to the action taken.”
But if Protestantism could force the papal hand in a matter of this magnitude, involving vast questions of belief and far-reaching questions of policy, what becomes of “inerrancy”–of special protection and guidance of the papal authority in matters of faith?
While this retreat from position to position was going on, there was a constant discharge of small-arms, in the shape of innuendoes, hints, and sophistries: every effort was made to blacken Galileo’s private character: the irregularities of his early life were dragged forth, and stress was even laid upon breaches of etiquette; but this succeeded so poorly that even as far back as 1850 it was thought necessary to cover the retreat by some more careful strategy.
This new strategy is instructive. The original documents of the Galileo trial had been brought during the Napoleonic conquests to Paris; but in 1846 they were returned to Rome by the French Government, on the express pledge by the papal authorities that they should be published. In 1850, after many delays on various pretexts, the long-expected publication appeared. The personage charged with presenting them to the world was Monsignor Marini. This ecclesiastic was of a kind which has too often afflicted both the Church and the world at large. Despite the solemn promise of the papal court, the wily Marini became the instrument of the Roman authorities in evading the promise. By suppressing a document here, and interpolating a statement there, he managed to give plausible standing-ground for nearly every important sophistry ever broached to save the infallibility of the Church and destroy the reputation of Galileo. He it was who supported the idea that Galileo was “condemned not for heresy, but for contumacy.”
The first effect of Monsignor Marini’s book seemed useful in covering the retreat of the Church apologists. Aided by him, such vigorous writers as Ward were able to throw up temporary intrenchments between the Roman authorities and the indignation of the world.
But some time later came an investigator very different from Monsignor Marini. This was a Frenchman, M. L’Epinois. Like Marini, L’Epinois was devoted to the Church; but, unlike Marini, he could not lie. Having obtained access in 1867 to the Galileo documents at the Vatican, he published several of the most important, without suppression or pious-fraudulent manipulation. This made all the intrenchments based upon Marini’s statements untenable. Another retreat had to be made.
And now came the most desperate effort of all. The apologetic army, reviving an idea which the popes and the Church had spurned for centuries, declared that the popes _as popes_ had never condemned the doctrines of Copernicus and Galileo; that they had condemned them as men simply; that therefore the Church had never been committed to them; that the condemnation was made by the cardinals of the inquisition and index; and that the Pope had evidently been restrained by interposition of Providence from signing their condemnation. Nothing could show the desperation of the retreating party better than jugglery like this. The fact is, that in the official account of the condemnation by Bellarmin, in 1616, he declares distinctly that he makes this condemnation “in the name of His Holiness the Pope.”
Again, from Pope Urban downward, among the Church authorities of the seventeenth century the decision was always acknowledged to be made by the Pope and the Church. Urban VIII spoke of that of 1616 as made by Pope Paul V and the Church, and of that of 1633 as made by himself and the Church. Pope Alexander VII in 1664, in his bull _Speculatores_, solemnly sanctioned the condemnation of all books affirming the earth’s movement.[163b]
When Gassendi attempted to raise the point that the decision against Copernicus and Galileo was not sanctioned by the Church as such, an eminent theological authority, Father Lecazre, rector of the College of Dijon, publicly contradicted him, and declared that it “was not certain cardinals, but the supreme authority of the Church,” that had condemned Galileo; and to this statement the Pope and other Church authorities gave consent either openly or by silence. When Descartes and others attempted to raise the same point, they were treated with contempt. Father Castelli, who had devoted himself to Galileo, and knew to his cost just what the condemnation meant and who made it, takes it for granted, in his letter to the papal authorities, that it was made by the Church. Cardinal Querenghi, in his letters; the ambassador Guicciardini, in his dispatches; Polacco, in his refutation; the historian Viviani, in his biography of Galileo–all writing under Church inspection and approval at the time, took the view that the Pope and the Church condemned Galileo, and this was never denied at Rome. The Inquisition itself, backed by the greatest theologian of the time (Bellarmin), took the same view. Not only does he declare that he makes the condemnation “in the name of His Holiness the Pope,” but we have the Roman _Index_, containing the condemnation for nearly two hundred years, prefaced by a solemn bull of the reigning Pope binding this condemnation on the consciences of the whole Church, and declaring year after year that “all books which affirm the motion of the earth” are damnable. To attempt to face all this, added to the fact that Galileo was required to abjure “the heresy of the movement of the earth” by written order of the Pope, was soon seen to be impossible. Against the assertion that the Pope was not responsible we have all this mass of testimony, and the bull of Alexander VII in 1664.
This contention, then, was at last utterly given up by honest Catholics themselves. In 1870 a Roman Catholic clergy man in England, the Rev. Mr. Roberts, evidently thinking that the time had come to tell the truth, published a book entitled _The Pontifical Decrees against the Earth’s Movement_, and in this exhibited the incontrovertible evidences that the papacy had committed itself and its infallibility fully against the movement of the earth. This Catholic clergyman showed from the original record that Pope Paul V, in 1616, had presided over the tribunal condemning the doctrine of the earth’s movement, and ordering Galileo to give up the opinion. He showed that Pope Urban VIII, in 1633, pressed on, directed, and promulgated the final condemnation, making himself in all these ways responsible for it. And, finally, he showed that Pope Alexander VII, in 1664, by his bull–_Speculatores domus Israel_–attached to the _Index_, condemning “all books which affirm the motion of the earth,” had absolutely pledged the papal infallibility against the earth’s movement. He also confessed that under the rules laid down by the highest authorities in the Church, and especially by Sixtus V and Pius IX, there was no escape from this conclusion.
Various theologians attempted to evade the force of the argument. Some, like Dr. Ward and Bouix, took refuge in verbal niceties; some, like Dr. Jeremiah Murphy, comforted themselves with declamation. The only result was, that in 1885 came another edition of the Rev. Mr. Roberts’s work, even more cogent than the first; and, besides this, an essay by that eminent Catholic, St. George Mivart, acknowledging the Rev. Mr. Roberts’s position to be impregnable, and declaring virtually that the Almighty allowed Pope and Church to fall into complete error regarding the Copernican theory, in order to teach them that science lies outside their province, and that the true priesthood of scientific truth rests with scientific investigators alone.
In spite, then, of all casuistry and special pleading, this sturdy honesty ended the controversy among Catholics themselves, so far as fair-minded men are concerned.
In recalling it at this day there stand out from its later phases two efforts at compromise especially instructive, as showing the embarrassment of militant theology in the nineteenth century.
The first of these was made by John Henry Newman in the days when he was hovering between the Anglican and Roman Churches. In one of his sermons before the University of Oxford he spoke as follows:
“Scripture says that the sun moves and the earth is stationary, and science that the earth moves and the sun is comparatively at rest. How can we determine which of these opposite statements is the very truth till we know what motion is? If our idea of motion is but an accidental result of our present senses, neither proposition is true and both are true: neither true philosophically; both true for certain practical purposes in the system in which they are respectively found.”
In all anti-theological literature there is no utterance more hopelessly skeptical. And for what were the youth of Oxford led into such bottomless depths of disbelief as to any real existence of truth or any real foundation for it? Simply to save an outworn system of interpretation into which the gifted preacher happened to be born.
The other utterance was suggested by De Bonald and developed in the _Dublin Review_, as is understood, by one of Newman’s associates. This argument was nothing less than an attempt to retreat under the charge of deception against the Almighty himself. It is as follows: “But it may well be doubted whether the Church did retard the progress of scientific truth. What retarded it was the circumstance that God has thought fit to express many texts of Scripture in words which have every appearance of denying the earth’s motion. But it is God who did this, not the Church; and, moreover, since he saw fit so to act as to retard the progress of scientific truth, it would be little to her discredit, even if it were true, that she had followed his example.”
This argument, like Mr. Gosse’s famous attempt to reconcile geology to Genesis–by supposing that for some inscrutable purpose God deliberately deceived the thinking world by giving to the earth all the appearances of development through long periods of time, while really creating it in six days, each of an evening and a morning–seems only to have awakened the amazed pity of thinking men. This, like the argument of Newman, was a last desperate effort of Anglican and Roman divines to save something from the wreckage of dogmatic theology.
All these well-meaning defenders of the faith but wrought into the hearts of great numbers of thinking men the idea that there is a necessary antagonism between science and religion. Like the landsman who lashes himself to the anchor of the sinking ship, they simply attached Christianity by the strongest cords of logic which they could spin to these mistaken ideas in science, and, could they have had their way, the advance of knowledge would have ingulfed both together.
On the other hand, what had science done for religion? Simply this: Copernicus, escaping persecution only by death; Giordano Bruno, burned alive as a monster of impiety; Galileo, imprisoned and humiliated as the worst of misbelievers; Kepler, accused of “throwing Christ’s kingdom into confusion with his silly fancies”; Newton, bitterly attacked for “dethroning Providence,” gave to religion stronger foundations and more ennobling conceptions.
Under the old system, that princely astronomer, Alphonso of Castile, seeing the inadequacy of the Ptolemaic theory, yet knowing no other, startled Europe with the blasphemy that, if he had been present at creation, he could have suggested a better order of the heavenly bodies. Under the new system, Kepler, filled with a religious spirit, exclaimed, “I do think the thoughts of God.” The difference in religious spirit between these two men marks the conquest made in this long struggle by Science for Religion.
Nothing is more unjust than to cast especial blame for all this resistance to science upon the Roman Church. The Protestant Church, though rarely able to be so severe, has been more blameworthy. The persecution of Galileo and his compeers by the older Church was mainly at the beginning of the seventeenth century; the persecution of Robertson Smith, and Winchell, and Woodrow, and Toy, and the young professors at Beyrout, by various Protestant authorities, was near the end of the nineteenth century. Those earlier persecutions by Catholicism were strictly in accordance with principles held at that time by all religionists, Catholic and Protestant, throughout the world; these later persecutions by Protestants were in defiance of principles which all Protestants to-day hold or pretend to hold, and none make louder claim to hold them than the very sects which persecuted these eminent Christian men of our day, men whose crime was that they were intelligent enough to accept the science of their time, and honest enough to acknowledge it.
Most unjustly, then, would Protestantism taunt Catholicism for excluding knowledge of astronomical truths from European Catholic universities in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, while real knowledge of geological and biological and anthropological truth is denied or pitifully diluted in so many American Protestant colleges and universities in the nineteenth century.
Nor has Protestantism the right to point with scorn to the Catholic _Index_, and to lay stress on the fact that nearly every really important book in the last three centuries has been forbidden by it, so long as young men in so many American Protestant universities and colleges are nursed with “ecclesiastical pap” rather than with real thought, and directed to the works of “solemnly constituted impostors,” or to sundry “approved courses of reading,” while they are studiously kept aloof from such leaders in modern thought as Darwin, Spencer, Huxley, Draper, and Lecky.
It may indeed be justly claimed by Protestantism that some of the former strongholds of her bigotry have become liberalized; but, on the other hand, Catholicism can point to the fact that Pope Leo XIII, now happily reigning, has made a noble change as regards open dealing with documents. The days of Monsignor Marini, it may be hoped, are gone. The Vatican Library, with its masses of historical material, has been thrown open to Protestant and Catholic scholars alike, and this privilege has been freely used by men representing all shades of religious thought.
As to the older errors, the whole civilized world was at fault, Protestant as well as Catholic. It was not the fault of religion; it was the fault of that short-sighted linking of theological dogmas to scriptural texts which, in utter defiance of the words and works of the Blessed Founder of Christianity, narrow-minded, loud-voiced men are ever prone to substitute for religion. Justly is it said by one of the most eminent among contemporary Anglican divines, that “it is because they have mistaken the dawn for a conflagration that theologians have so often been foes of light.”