Flat Earth, was it an infallible teaching?


#1

The Church used to teach that the Earth was flat. Was that an infallible teaching? If so, it obviously presents a major problem.


#2

The chuch has no authority to speak on issues of scientific fact, unless there is an aspect of faith or morals involved and then she may only teach on the particular moral issue.

so no, it is 100% impossible for the church to declare a scentific fact or fiction infallable.


#3

[quote=Brain]The chuch has no authority to speak on issues of scientific fact, unless there is an aspect of faith or morals involved and then she may only teach on the particular moral issue.

so no, it is 100% impossible for the church to declare a scentific fact or fiction infallable.
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Does it say in the Cathechism or somewhere else that the Church only has authority to speak on faith and morals?


#4

Infallibility only applies to cases of faith and morals, yes.


#5

Is not monogenesis a scientific fact which the Church has taught infallibly?


#6

[quote=Catholic2003]Is not monogenesis a scientific fact which the Church has taught infallibly?
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If it is then that means evolution is true.


#7

[quote=Holly3278]The Church used to teach that the Earth was flat. Was that an infallible teaching? If so, it obviously presents a major problem.
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Can you give chapter and verse on that, please? I would be curious.

I would also note that to a first approximation, the earth IS flat, at least locally–mountains and valleys excepted, of course. I live in Florida, where the terrain is quite flat.

  • Liberian

#8

[quote=Liberian]Can you give chapter and verse on that, please? I would be curious.

I would also note that to a first approximation, the earth IS flat, at least locally–mountains and valleys excepted, of course. I live in Florida, where the terrain is quite flat.

  • Liberian
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I can’t give chapter and verse. I was saying that the CHURCH used to teach a flat earth.


#9

[quote=Holly3278]If it is then that means evolution is true.
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I meant monogenesis in the sense of the scientific theory that all human beings trace their ancestral line to one man and one woman. Not monogenesis in the sense of the scientific theory that all life derives from a single cell.


#10

[quote=Catholic2003]I meant monogenesis in the sense of the scientific theory that all human beings trace their ancestral line to one man and one woman. Not monogenesis in the sense of the scientific theory that all life derives from a single cell.
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Ah okay. Sorry for the misinterpretation.


#11

This article may help: aquinas-multimedia.com/stjoseph/galileo.html

Who Said the Earth Is Flat?
Galileo Galilei (b. 1564-d. 1642) was an Italian Catholic who taught physics, mathematics and astronomy. During his lifetime—the Protestant Reformation began about 50 years before his birth—most of the scientists and schools were Catholic. Even many priests were professors of science. Through the efforts and organization of Catholics, college education was perfected, made widely available, and prospered during the medieval centuries (12th -15th). Because of the scandal created by Galileo, many often regard the Catholic Church during his time to be an “enemy of science.” There is, however, no truth to this assertion. It is precisely because of the Church that science during the medieval years made so many important advances. One of the greatest teachers of science was a Dominican priest: St. Albert the Great.

The Galileo Controversy
The scientific theory that the sun is the center of the universe was first formally proposed by the Polish Catholic, Nicholas Copernicus**,** who died 21 years before Galileo was born. Copernicus published a book about his theory and dedicated it to Pope Paul III. There was no objection from the Catholic Church to his book nor his theory of a sun-centered universe. The scientist went on to become a well respected clergyman.

Many years later, Galileo promoted the same theory of a sun-centered universe, but he did so in a much different way than Copernicus. Galileo insisted that his theory was the only way to look at the heavens and that it represented a contradiction of Scripture. Church authorities took issue with the impertinent scientist because he claimed that the theory of Copernicus was at odds with what the Church held to be true. The Church, however, did not deny the possible truth of the theory; she merely denied that the theory, as stated by Galileo, was a contradiction of Scripture. Some people today think that the Church at that time believed the world was flat and that she objected to Galileo’s claim that the earth is actually round. This is false. Both Galileo and the Church knew that the world was round.

Defending theintegrity of the Catholic Church, Cardinal Robert Bellarmine corrected Galileo’s erroneous claim so that he would cease causing people to doubt what the Church taught through Scripture. He continued, however, to make scandal by reasserting his false claims. Because of this Galileo was placed under arrest and confined to the rooms of a Roman palace. Many stories are told that Galileo was tortured or imprisoned. The truth is that he was confined to the residence of a cardinal where he continued to write on scientific matters.

Galileo suffered from the sin of pride through his actions against the authority of the Church. In the end, after his confinement, he proved to be a faithful son of the Church. Known as a “martyr for science”, **Galileo was merely a brilliant scientist who sought controversy by advancing a false notion that his theory of sun-centered universe somehow conflicted with what the Catholic Church taught as truth. **

The real issue was not whether the earth was flat or round; the real issue was whether or not science is the ultimate arbiter of all knowledge about the natural world. The Church is no enemy of science, but she will not commit herself to any current fads in science and alter the Catholic world view just because popular opinion is on the side of science as was the case with the Galileo controversy.


#12

My understanding of this article is that the popular belief in Europe at the time was that the earth was flat but this was not an infallible teaching. When Copernicus proposed that the earth was round, the Church accepted that his theory could be true. The scandal with Galileo was not that the Church refused to accept that the earth was round but that Galileo asserted that both the earth was round (which was fine) AND that a round earth contradicted Scripture (which not fine).


#13

[quote=Holly3278]The Church used to teach that the Earth was flat. Was that an infallible teaching? If so, it obviously presents a major problem.
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Unlike Geocentrism, only one or two early Fathers interpreted the Scriptures in favor of flat earth.

In the case of Geocentrism, they unanomously interpreted the Scripture Geocentrically. Also three Popes made declarations (likely not infallible, but stillo binding) regarding Geocentrism, while I know of none doing so for flat earth.

Flat earth is really a 19th century protestant phenomenon, not a Catholic one.

Take a look at our Geocentric threads here:

forums.catholic.com/showthread.php?t=57095

forums.catholic.com/showthread.php?t=57767

forums.catholic.com/showthread.php?t=57945

This is a true Catholic controversy.


#14

[quote=Holly3278]I can’t give chapter and verse. I was saying that the CHURCH used to teach a flat earth.
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Sorry, I was being colloquial. Can you give me a specific quote in a papal encyclical, council decree, or other church document that teaches this? By “chapter and verse” I meant “a specific reference.” Sorry to be confusing.

  • Liberian

#15

Thanks for posting these threads, trth_skr. How did I miss these interesting threads???


#16

Another way to look at your question is to consider that the church is often (especially in these forums) portrayed as absolutely insisting that the bible is inerrant in all things, from science to geography to faith and morals. You can find many such discussions here with often heated arguments.

If you believe this, then you must also believe that the earth is a flat plain supported by pillars and that the sky is an inverted bowl on which the stars are fastened and heaven is the area above that bowl. This is the cosmology assumed implicitly and often discussed explicitly throughout the bible. It is commonly known as the “three-tiered universe”.

There are similar things you might have difficulty believing about medicine, geology, and many other things not related to faith and morals.

So one could use the “innerrant” philosophy to conclude that the flat earth is an infallible teaching (or at least something one is supposed to believe). Please remember I said “could” - I’m not recommending it…


#17

[quote=Holly3278]I can’t give chapter and verse. I was saying that the CHURCH used to teach a flat earth.
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Wait a minute. Ptolemy, around the year 140 AD, knew that the Earth was round and that its size relative to the distances to the stars was very small. And he was quoting earlier astronomers who knew the same thing; Pythagoras some 600 years earlier was already saying that the earth is round. Eratosthenes in the 3rd century BC even measured the size of the Earth. Ptolemy’s astronomical text was the standard science teaching until the Renaissance. Now I really need a specific reference to a teaching of the church about a flat earth.

  • Liberian

#18

Here’s an article about geocentrism and the Church: catholic.com/thisrock/1999/9911fea4.asp

Here are some excerpts:

It must be pointed out that at the time the Church did not have an official position on whether the sun goes around the earth or vice versa. Though geocentrism was the prevailing view, both views were widely held, and it was a matter of frequent debate among the science-minded.

Indeed, most of the resistance to heliocentrism came not from the Church but from the universities. Within the Church some believed heliocentrism to be contrary to the Bible, others believed it was not. In fact, Galileo had wide support within the Church, and Jesuit astronomers were among the first to confirm his discoveries.

So when Galileo was accused of statements contrary to Scripture, the matter was referred to Cardinal Robert Bellarmine, the Church’s Master of Controversial Questions (quite a title, isn’t it?). After careful study of the matter and of Galileo’s evidence, Cardinal Bellarmine-who was later canonized and made a doctor of the Church-concluded that Galileo had not contradicted Scripture. But he did admonish Galileo not to teach that the earth moves around the sun unless he could prove it. Not an unreasonable admonition, really, but it had the effect of muzzling Galileo on the matter, because by then he realized he really did not have proof, though he still thought he was right.

And so it was that Galileo chafed under the cardinal’s admonition for most of a decade, until in 1623 the luckiest event in his life occurred: Cardinal Maffeo Barberini, a member of Galileo’s scientific society and a great fan of Galileo, became Pope Urban VIII.

This was Galileo’s dream come true: a pope who was learned in the sciences, who had not only read all of Galileo’s works but was a friend and admirer as well. Galileo was soon summoned to Rome for an audience with the Pope to discuss the latest in astronomy, and Galileo took the opportunity to ask the Pope for his blessing to write a book about the motions of the solar system.

Pope Urban VIII readily agreed to Galileo’s request, with one condition: The book must present a balanced view of both heliocentrism and geocentrism. The Pope also asked Galileo to mention the Pope’s personal view of the matter, which was that bodies in the heavens perhaps move in ways that are not understood on earth (not an unreasonable view at the time). Galileo agreed, and set forth to write his book.

Had Galileo written his book as promised there would have been no problem. But as he had many times before, Galileo was bent not only on arguing his case but on humiliating those who disagreed with him, and he wrote a book far different from what he had promised. (please see article for more)

When did the Church take an official position on this, I wonder? The article says at the time of the Galileo controversy the Church did not have an official position.


#19

It was known that the earth was a sphere several centuries before there was a Catholic Church.

Aristotle (384-322 BC) believed the earth to be spherical.

Eratosthenes (276-194 BC) accurately measured the circumferance of the earth. He also accurately measured the angle of the earth’s axis.

Anyone who was educated knew the earth was a sphere.

Columbus said that he could reach India by sailing west. Most people argued that it was too far. Columbus said that the circumferance of the earth was smaller than most people thought. Queen Isabella believed Columbus and financed his voyage.

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#20

The Church never taught that the Earth is flat. Anyone who sailed, no matter how far back in history, could tell you that the Earth was at least round, if not spherical. Neither did the Church infallibly teach that geocentrism is true.


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