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To the Most Serene Grand Duchess Mother:
Some years ago, as our Serene !ighness "ell #no"s, $ disco%ered in the hea%ens
many things that had not &een seen &efore our o"n age' The no%elty of these things, as
"ell as some conse(uences "hich follo"ed from them in contradiction to the physical
notions commonly held among academic philosophers, stirred up against me no small
num&er of professors)as if $ had placed these things in the s#y "ith my o"n hands in
order to upset nature and o%erturn the sciences' They seemed to forget that the
increase of #no"n truths stimulates the in%estigation, esta&lishment, and gro"th of the
arts* not their diminution or destruction'
Sho"ing a greater fondness for their o"n opinions than for truth, they sought to deny
and dispro%e the ne" things "hich, if they had cared to loo# for themsel%es, their o"n
senses "ould ha%e demonstrated to them' To this end they hurled %arious charges and
pu&lished numerous "ritings filled "ith %ain arguments, and they made the gra%e
mista#e of sprin#ling these "ith passages ta#en from places in the +i&le "hich they had
failed to understand properly, and "hich "ere ill)suited to their purposes' ' ' '
The reason produced for condemning the opinion that the earth mo%es and the sun
stands still in many places in the +i&le one may read that the sun mo%es and the earth
stands still' Since the +i&le cannot err* it follo"s as a necessary conse(uence that
anyone ta#es a erroneous and heretical position "ho maintains that the sun is
inherently motionless and the earth mo%a&le'
,ith regard to this argument, $ thin# in the first place that it is %ery pious to say and
prudent to affirm that the holy +i&le can ne%er spea# untruth)"hene%er its true meaning
is understood' +ut $ &elie%e no&ody "ill deny that it is often %ery a&struse, and may say
things "hich are (uite different from "hat its &are "ords signify' !ence in expounding
the +i&le if one "ere al"ays to confine oneself to the unadorned grammatical meaning,
one might fall into error' -ot only contradictions and propositions far from true might
thus &e made to appear in the +i&le, &ut e%en gra%e heresies and follies' Thus it "ould
&e necessary to assign to God feet, hands and eyes, as "ell as corporeal and human
affections, such as anger, repentance, hatred, and sometimes e%en the forgetting of.
things past and ignorance of those to come' These propositions uttered &y the !oly
Ghost "ere set do"n in that manner &y the sacred scri&es in order to accommodate
them to the capacities of the common people, "ho are rude and unlearned' /or the
sa#e of those "ho deser%e to &e separated from the herd, it is necessary that "ise
expositors should produce the true senses of such passages, together "ith the special
reasons for "hich they "ere set do"n in these "ords' This doctrine is so "idespread
and so definite "ith all theologians that it "ould &e superfluous to adduce e%idence for
it' ' ' '
+ut $ do not feel o&liged to &elie%e that the same God "ho has endo"ed us "ith
senses, reason and intellect has intended us to forego their use and &y some other
means to gi%e us #no"ledge "hich "e can attain &y them' !e "ould not re(uire us to
deny sense and reason in physical matters "hich are set &efore our eyes and minds &y
direct experience or necessary demonstrations' This must &e especially true in those
sciences of "hich &ut the faintest trace (and that consisting of conclusions) is to &e
found in the +i&le' Of astronomy* for instance, so little is found that none of the planets
except 0enus are so much as mentioned, and this only once or t"ice under the name of
12ucifer'1 $f the sacred scri&es had had any intention of teaching people certain
arrangements and motions of the hea%enly &odies, or had they "ished us to deri%e such
#no"ledge from the +i&le, then in my opinion they "ould not ha%e spo#en of these
matters so sparingly in comparison "ith the infinite num&er of admira&le conclusions
"hich are demonstrated in that science' /ar from pretending to teach us the constitution
and motions of the hea%ens and other stars, "ith their shapes, magnitudes, and
distances, the authors of the +i&le intentionally for&ore to spea# of these things, though
all "ere (uite "ell #no"n to them' ' ' '
/rom these things it follo"s as a necessary conse(uence that, since the !oly Ghost did
not intend to teach us "hether hea%en mo%es or stands still, "hether its shape is
spherical or li#e a discus or extended in a plane, nor "hether the earth is located at its
center or off to one side, then so much the less "as it intended to settle for us any other
conclusion of the same #ind' 3nd the motion or rest of the earth and the sun is so
closely lin#ed "ith the things 4ust named, that "ithout a determination of the one, neither
side can &e ta#en in the other matters' -o" if the !oly Spirit has purposely neglected to
teach us propositions of this sort as irrele%ant to the highest goal (that is, to our
sal%ation), ho" can anyone affirm that it is o&ligatory to ta#e sides on them, that one
&elief is re(uired &y faith, "hile the other side is erroneous5 6an an opinion &e heretical
and yet ha%e no concern "ith the sal%ation of souls5 6an the !oly Ghost &e asserted
not to ha%e intended teaching us something that does concern our sal%ation5 $ "ould
say here something that "as heard from an ecclesiastic of the most eminent degree:
1That the intention of the !oly Ghost is to teach us ho" one goes to hea%en' not ho"
Source: Galileo Galilei, “Letter to the Grand Duchess Christina of Tuscany,” 1615.
Document B: Cardinal Bellarmine (Excerpted from Original)
/irst' $ say that it seems to me that our 7e%erence and Galileo did prudently to content
yourself "ith spea#ing hypothetically, and not a&solutely, as $ ha%e al"ays &elie%ed that
6opernicus spo#e' /or to say that, assuming the earth mo%es and the sun stands still,
all the appearances are sa%ed &etter than "ith eccentrics and epicycles, is to spea#
"ell* there is no danger in this, and it is sufficient for mathematicians' +ut to "ant to
affirm that the sun really is fixed in the center of the hea%ens and only re%ol%es around
itself (i'e', turns upon its axis) "ithout tra%eling from east to "est, and that the earth is
situated in the third sphere and re%ol%es "ith great speed around the sun, is a %ery
dangerous thing, not only &y irritating all the philosophers and scholastic theologians,
&ut also &y in4uring our holy faith and rendering the !oly Scriptures false' /or our
7e%erence has demonstrated many "ays of explaining !oly Scripture, &ut you ha%e not
applied them in particular, and "ithout a dou&t you "ould ha%e found it most difficult if
you had attempted to explain all the passages "hich you yourself ha%e cited'
Second' $ say that, as you #no", the 6ouncil 8of Trent9 prohi&its expounding the
Scriptures contrary to the common agreement of the holy /athers' 3nd if our
7e%erence "ould read not only the /athers &ut also the commentaries of modern
"riters on Genesis, :salms, Ecclesiastes and ;osue, you "ould find that all agree in
explaining literally (ad litteram) that the sun is in the hea%ens and mo%es s"iftly around
the earth, and that the earth is far from the hea%ens and stands immo&ile in the center
of the uni%erse' -o" consider "hether in all prudence the 6hurch could encourage
gi%ing to Scripture a sense contrary to the holy /athers and all the 2atin and Gree#
commentators' -or may it &e ans"ered that this is not a matter of faith, for if it is not a
matter of faith from the point of %ie" of the su&4ect matter, it is on the part of the ones
"ho ha%e spo#en' $t "ould &e 4ust as heretical to deny that 3&raham had t"o sons and
;aco& t"el%e, as it "ould &e to deny the %irgin &irth of 6hrist, for &oth are declared &y
the !oly Ghost through the mouths of the prophets and apostles'
Third' $ say that if there "ere a true demonstration that the sun "as in the center of the
uni%erse and the earth in the third sphere, and that the sun did not tra%el around the
earth &ut the earth circled the sun, then it "ould &e necessary to proceed "ith great
caution in explaining the passages of Scripture "hich seemed contrary, and "e "ould
rather ha%e to say that "e did not understand them than to say that something "as
false "hich has &een demonstrated' +ut $ do not &elie%e that there is any such
demonstration* none has &een sho"n to me' $t is not the same thing to sho" that the
appearances are sa%ed &y assuming that the sun really is in the center and the earth in
the hea%ens' $ &elie%e that the first demonstration might exist, &ut $ ha%e gra%e dou&ts
a&out the second, and in a case of dou&t, one may not depart from the Scriptures as
explained &y the holy /athers' $ add that the "ords < the sun also riseth and the sun
goeth do"n, and hasteneth to the place "here he ariseth, etc'< "ere those of Solomon,
"ho not only spo#e &y di%ine inspiration &ut "as a man "ise a&o%e all others and most
learned in human sciences and in the #no"ledge of all created things, and his "isdom
"as from God' Thus it is not too li#ely that he "ould affirm something "hich "as
contrary to a truth either already demonstrated, or li#ely to &e demonstrated' 3nd if you
tell me that Solomon spo#e only according to the appearances, and that it seems to us
that the sun goes around "hen actually it is the earth "hich mo%es, as it seems to one
on a ship that the &each mo%es a"ay from the ship, $ shall ans"er that one "ho departs
from the &each, though it loo#s to him as though the &each mo%es a"ay, he #no"s that
he is in error and corrects it, seeing clearly that the ship mo%es and not the &each' +ut
"ith regard to the sun and the earth, no "ise man is needed to correct the error, since
he clearly experiences that the earth stands still and that his eye is not decei%ed "hen it
4udges that the moon and stars mo%e' 3nd that is enough for the present' $ salute our
7e%erence and as# God to grant you e%ery happiness'
Source: Cardinal Robert Bellarine, “Letter on Galileo!s Theories,” 1615.
Document C: Condemnation of Galileo (Excerpted from Original)
,hereas you, Galileo, son of the late 0incen=io Galilei, of /lorence, aged se%enty
years, "ere denounced in >?>@, to this !oly Office, for holding as true a false doctrine
taught &y many, namely, that the sun is immo%a&le in the center of the "orld, and that
the earth mo%es, and also "ith a diurnal motion* also, for ha%ing pupils "hom you
instructed in the same opinions* also, for maintaining a correspondence on the same
"ith some German mathematicians* also for pu&lishing certain letters on the sun)spots,
in "hich you de%eloped the same doctrine as true* also, for ans"ering the o&4ections
"hich "ere continually produced from the !oly Scriptures, &y glo=ing the said
Scriptures according to your o"n meaning* and "hereas thereupon "as produced the
copy of a "riting, in form of a letter professedly "ritten &y you to a person formerly your
pupil, in "hich, follo"ing the hypothesis of 6opernicus, you include se%eral propositions
contrary to the true sense and authority of the !oly Scriptures* therefore (this !oly
Tri&unal &eing desirous of pro%iding against the disorder and mischief "hich "ere
thence proceeding and increasing to the detriment of the !oly /aith) &y the desire of his
!oliness and the Most Emminent 2ords, 6ardinals of this supreme and uni%ersal
$n(uisition, the t"o propositions of the sta&ility of the sun, and the motion of the earth,
"ere (ualified &y the Theological Aualifiers as follo"s:
>' The proposition that the sun is in the center of the "orld and immo%a&le from its
place is a&surd, philosophically false, and formally heretical* &ecause it is
expressly contrary to !oly Scriptures'
B' The proposition that the earth is not the center of the "orld, nor immo%a&le, &ut
that it mo%es, and also "ith a diurnal action, is also a&surd, philosophically false,
and, theologically considered, at least erroneous in faith'
Therefore ' ' ' , in%o#ing the most holy name of our 2ord ;esus 6hrist and of !is Most
Glorious Mother Mary, ,e pronounce this Our final sentence: ,e pronounce, 4udge,
and declare, that you, the said Galileo ' ' ' ha%e rendered yourself %ehemently
suspected &y this !oly Office of heresy, that is, of ha%ing &elie%ed and held the doctrine
("hich is false and contrary to the !oly and Di%ine Scriptures) that the sun is the center
of the "orld, and that it does not mo%e from east to "est, and that the earth does mo%e,
and is not the center of the "orld* also, that an opinion can &e held and supported as
pro&a&le, after it has &een declared and finally decreed contrary to the !oly Scripture,
and, conse(uently, that you ha%e incurred all the censures and penalties en4oined and
promulgated in the sacred canons and other general and particular constituents against
delin(uents of this description' /rom "hich it is Our pleasure that you &e a&sol%ed,
pro%ided that "ith a sincere heart and unfeigned faith, in Our presence, you a&4ure,
curse, and detest, the said error and heresies, and e%ery other error and heresy
contrary to the 6atholic and 3postolic 6hurch of 7ome'
Source: “The Crie of Galileo" #ndictent and $b%uration of 16&&.”
Document D: New York Times Article (Original)
Mo%ing formally to rectify a "rong, :ope ;ohn :aul $$ ac#no"ledged in a speech today
that the 7oman 6atholic 6hurch had erred in condemning Galileo C@D years ago for
asserting that the Earth re%ol%es around the Sun'
The address &y the :ope &efore the :ontifical 3cademy of Sciences closed a >C)year
in%estigation into the 6hurch<s condemnation of Galileo in >?CC, one of history<s most
notorious conflicts &et"een faith and science' Galileo "as forced to recant his scientific
findings to a%oid &eing &urned at the sta#e and spent the remaining eight years of his
life under house arrest'
;ohn :aul said the theologians "ho condemned Galileo did not recogni=e the formal
distinction &et"een the +i&le and its interpretation'
EThis led them unduly to transpose into the realm of the doctrine of the faith, a (uestion
"hich in fact pertained to scientific in%estigation'F
Though the :ope ac#no"ledged that the 6hurch had done Galileo a "rong, he said the
>Gth)century theologians "ere "or#ing "ith the #no"ledge a%aila&le to them at the time'
Source: “'atican (cience )anel Told by )o*e" Galileo +as Ri,ht.” -e" or# Times,
-o.eber 1, 1//0.
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