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Galileo Controversy

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Definition:   Galileo (1564-1642) was an Italian physicist, mathematician, and astronomer. As a scientist, he is famous for his work on the laws of gravity. But as a Catholic, he is famous for being tried and imprisoned by his Church. Constructing a telescope, Galileo discovered four moons that were revolving around Jupiter. This and other discoveries led him to support the Copernican view that the earth revolves around the sun. This contradicted the Catholic Church, which taught that the earth was the center of the universe. Galileo was summoned to Rome in 1615 to appear before the Inquisition. Cardinal Bellarmine had a letter from Pope Paul V that required Galileo to renounce his scientific findings under threat of imprisonment. Galileo agreed to desist, and was released in 1616. His writings were placed on the Index of Forbidden Books.  In 1624, Galileo composed another treatise which he agreed to submit to any conditions that the Church might have. After nine years of negotiations, he was required to write a preface to the book denouncing the Copernican view. Unfortunately for Galileo, the book became popular while The preface was ignored. The Pope was personally offended by the book’s popularity. This caused the second shoe to drop. Galileo was forced to publicly recant: “I curse and detest said errors and heresies…and I swear that for the future I will neither say nor assert in speaking or writing such things as may bring upon me similar suspicion; and if I know of any heretic, or one suspected of heresy, I will denounce him to this Holy Office.” Galileo’s books were removed from all universities in Catholic Europe, and his recantation was published and distributed. He was required to spend the rest of his life under house arrest, carefully watched by the Holy Office of the Inquisition. After his death, his family was not allowed to bury him in his family tomb.

Discussion: Galileo was one of many thousands of “heretics” that were falsely imprisoned, tortured and/or killed by the Holy Office of the Inquisition. Their crime: failure to submit to the false beliefs of Catholicism. The Inquisition sought to regain the Church’s authority through intimidation and persecution of Protestants and to retain Her authority by suppressing the truth from Catholics through the Index of Forbidden Books and by punishing Catholics who dissent.

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