Geocentric Universe?

So I came across something quite interesting…

I understand why many Christians reject evolution

However, a brother on Catholic-Answers told me the Church still infallibly holds to the geocentric theory. Is this true?

I know the Church condemns the heliocentric theory, and no one really believes the Sun is the center of the universe.

However, does she teach the geocentric theory?…-crazy-people/

It came as quite a shock since I’ve taken my share of university physics classes.

However, according to the "Catholic Encyclopedia"

The mathematical and experimental sciences, also known as exact sciences, have no contact whatever with faith, although at one time,** it was erroneously** believed that the geocentric system was contained in the Bible. The celestial phenomena mentioned in the Scripture, like the star of the magi, the solar eclipse during the Paschal full moon, the stars falling from heaven as forerunners of the Last Judgment, are all of the miraculous kind and beyond the laws of nature.

Are we as Catholics allowed to believe the heliocentric nature of the solar system and the modern scientific view of the universe?

There are a surprising number of geocentric believers in [very traditionalist] Catholics, and they don’t seem to be unanimous on what they exactly mean by it. When I say “very traditionalist,” I mean ones that are usually sedevacantist (they don’t believe that there is currently a valid Pope) or at least belonging to some ulta-conservative schismatic sect.

What seems to be at the heart of it is that they think the Church condemned Galileo for believing in heliocentricity … and if the Church did in fact do that, and the Church is infallible, then geocentricity must be true and infallibly true. However, to my knowledge, Galileo wasn’t condemned for this but condemned for heretical remarks about the Eucharist. If he was condemned for his heliocentricity, it wasn’t condemned by the Church but a few power-wielding academics who happened to be priests. Also, Galileo didn’t introduce heliocentricity into his contemporary setting, but rather Copernicus did. Copernicus was a Catholic priest and some anti-Catholic scientists believed he was burnt at the stake for his remarks. However, this can’t be farther from the truth. Copernicus died of natural causes, and was never persecuted by the Church in any way. In fact, if I’m not mistaken, Copernicus was actually honored by the Pope for his scientific work. However, anti-Catholic historians have warped this story, some ultra-conservative Catholics have believed them, and hence become geocentric-model supporters.

But to actually answer your question … can we believe in heliocentricity and still be Catholic. Well, does heliocentricity pertain to faith and morals? Definitely not to morals. To faith? Well, I’ve read a lot of the Scripture quotes that allegedly deny heliocentricity but I don’t see how they are proofs … if you don’t agree, please bring up particular ones because there are many. They also claim the Church fathers were unanimous about claiming a geocentric universe … but, man, that would require a lot of scholarship, considering most Church fathers have not been translated into english. I’ve also heard that a couple of Popes back in the day claimed geocentricity and condemned heliocentricity, but I’ve never seen their source on that. Even if the Popes did say that, you could argue it doesn’t pertain to faith and morals, but rather physics, and thus the Popes are unable to make infallible statements about it. In other words, Popes can be wrong in their opinions here and not contradict their official infallibility.

I talked to Gerry Matatics, a big proponent on geocentricity (at the time at least), and he said more or less the following …

Motion is relative in the physical universe. Relative to the sun, the earth is moving, and relative to the earth, the sun is moving. However, since the Incarnation happened on earth “X marks the spot” and thus earth is the center of the universe.

Wow. I guess that might do it for some people. But not for me. There seems to be some much equivocation here I don’t know where to start. But I’ll start somewhere.

There is a different between center of the universe in terms of physical motion as opposed to the center of the universe in terms of theological significance. There could be a building that is a center for Catholic studies, but it might not be the center of town. It depends what you mean by “center.” Someone’s wife could be the center of their lives, but not the center of someone else’s. That could also be distinguished from your center of gravity. Etc. And so on, for infinity + 1.

As Gerry Matatics even admitted, motion is relative (and I’m not a physicist so I might say some stupid things here … forgive me). Velocity, in particular is relative, and so we can legitimately say that the sun moves across the sky and whatnot while maintaining heliocentricity (which is exactly what most scientists do). Anything about the movement of the sun said by the Church Fathers and Scripture is probably stated in this sense, though it doesn’t contradict heliocentricity. However, another kind of motion has to do with acceleration and centripetal force. This is not relative. I’m open to correction here, but I’m quite certain I learned that we can measure the force of the earth being pulled around the sun. This also pertains to the earth’s rotation … it’s not a relative thing, because it pertains to centripetal force. Well-oiled pendulums (the ones that move along not one but two axis) can prove that the earth is rotating. Right? Do you know what I’m talking about? Not to mention the toilet flushes, how toilets flush in opposite directions on the lower hemisphere while it doesn’t spiral at all near the equator. I better stop rambling, because I sound like a royal idiot, but my points, despite their puerile incoherence, are valid, I think. So, thus, in terms of centripetal force, which is another kind of movement than just plain velocity, the planetary system we live in is definitely heliocentric.

All right, now you can fire away, both you traditionalists and scientists.:slight_smile:

Galileo was Wrong


Galileo was condemned for believing

That the sun is the center of the world and motionless is a proposition which is philosophically absurd and false, and formally heretical, for being explicitly contrary to Holy Scripture; That the earth is neither the center of the world nor motionless but moves even with diurnal motion is philosophically equally absurd and false, and theologically at least erroneous in the Faith.

However, I learned the geocentric theory may not be infallible

Although three of the ten cardinals who judged Galileo refused to sign the verdict, his works were eventually condemned. Anti-Catholics often assert that his conviction and later rehabilitation somehow disproves the doctrine of papal infallibility, but this is not the case, for the pope never tried to make an infallible ruling concerning Galileo’s views.
The Church has never claimed ordinary tribunals, such as the one that judged Galileo, to be infallible.** Church tribunals have disciplinary and juridical authority only; neither they nor their decisions are infallible.

No ecumenical council met concerning Galileo, and the pope was not at the center of the discussions, which were handled by the Holy Office. When the Holy Office finished its work, Urban VIII ratified its verdict, but did not attempt to engage infallibility.

Three conditions must be met for a pope to exercise the charism of infallibility: (1) he must speak in his official capacity as the successor of Peter; (2) he must speak on a matter of faith or morals; and (3) he must solemnly define the doctrine as one that must be held by all the faithful.

In Galileo’s case, the second and third conditions were not present, and possibly not even the first. Catholic theology has never claimed that a mere papal ratification of a tribunal decree is an exercise of infallibility. It is a straw man argument to represent the Catholic Church as having infallibly defined a scientific theory that turned out to be false. The strongest claim that can be made is that the Church of Galileo’s day issued a non-infallible disciplinary ruling concerning a scientist who was advocating a new and still-unproved theory and demanding that the Church change its understanding of Scripture to fit his.

Taken from “The Galileo Controversy

*NIHIL OBSTAT: I have concluded that the materials
presented in this work are free of doctrinal or moral errors.
Bernadeane Carr, STL, Censor Librorum, August 10, 2004

IMPRIMATUR: In accord with 1983 CIC 827
permission to publish this work is hereby granted.
+Robert H. Brom, Bishop of San Diego, August 10, 2004 *

While Galileo’s tribunal was fallible, does this make the cardinal’s statements concerning the geocentric theory fallible?

To my understanding, the Catholic Church does not rule something infallible until it is challenged (i.e. The Immaculate Conception), however to my knowledge the Church has yet to rule the geocentric theory to be infallible.

The matter is one of science and therefore the Church has not the capacity to make an “infallible” judgment on the matter. I researched the Gallileo incident quite a bit and you can see a summary of my findings

. Another post on understanding the perspective of ECFs:

Who told you that? :smiley: Actually, I said “immutable” - unchangeable. That was the word the Church used to use before the doctrine on infallibility was formally defined in 1870. But its still a useful term, because while the Church has never said that Her doctrine on Geocentrism is infallible, She has said that Christians cannot interpret Scripture contrary to “the unanimous consent of the Fathers.” And that was precisely the case that Cardinal Bellarmine, Saint and Doctor of the Church, made against Galileo:

St. Bellarmine: “the Council (of Trent) prohibits expounding the Scriptures contrary to the common agreement of the holy Fathers. And if Your Reverence would read not only the Fathers but also the commentaries of modern writers on Genesis, Psalms, Ecclesiastes, and Josue, you would find that all agree in explaining (ad litteram) that the sun is in the heavens and moves swiftly around the earth, and that the earth is far from the heavens and stands immobile in the center of the universe. Now consider whether the Church could encourage giving to Scripture a sense contrary to the holy Fathers and all the Latin and Greek commentators.”

And the verdict:

This Holy Tribunal being therefore of intention to proceed against the disorder and mischief thence resulting, which went on increasing to the prejudice of the Holy Faith, by command of His Holiness and of the Most Eminent Lords Cardinals of this supreme and universal Inquisition, the two propositions of the stability of the sun and the motion of the Earth were by the theological Qualifiers qualified as follows:

The proposition that the sun is the center of the world and does not move from its place is absurd and false philosophically and formally heretical, because it is expressly contrary to the Holy Scripture.

The proposition that the Earth is not the center of the world and immovable but that it moves, and also with a diurnal motion, is equally absurd and false philosophically and theologically considered at least erroneous in faith.

And then:

Vatican Council I, Ses. 3, Ch. 4

Hence all faithful Christians are forbidden to defend as the legitimate conclusions of science those opinions which are known to be contrary to the doctrine of faith, particularly if they have been condemned by the church; and furthermore they are absolutely bound to hold them to be errors which wear the deceptive appearance of truth.

Well, that’s good - or maybe its bad! So you probably know a bit about relativity, but they probably didn’t teach you this:


Non-falsifiability of geocentrism

If general relativity is true, then there exists a non-inertial reference frame where the Earth is the immobile center of a non-inertial universe (see equivalence principle). There also exists a reference frame (inertial or non-inertial) for any other arbitrary choice of coordinate systems. This means that strictly speaking, a preferred coordinate system cannot be chosen, nor can a preferred coordinate system be rejected on the grounds of physics alone.

And I could quote numerous scientists, most of them not geocentrists (:p), who agree that they cannot falsify Geocentrism.

Are we as Catholics allowed to believe the heliocentric nature of the solar system and the modern scientific view of the universe?

That’s above my pay grade. :smiley:

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BWAHAHAHAHAHA… I haven’t laughed so hard at the title of a book ever.

We can’t falsify Solipsism either, but I still can’t help but laugh at it.

We’ll see who has the last laugh. :wink:

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Well, although geocentricism can’t be flat out disproved, there is strong evidence against it in that everything we understand about gravity would have to be completely wrong for it to be true.

Not at all. Have you heard of the gyroscope analogy? The point of the gyroscope does not rotate while the rest of the gyroscope rotates around it - even though the point is just a tiny fraction of the overall mass of a gyroscope. And if you know about the mind-boggling fine tuning of this universe, then you should know that if its Designer, God, wanted to make the earth the g-center of the universe it would be a piece of cake!

However, a brother on Catholic-Answers told me the Church still infallibly holds to the geocentric theory. Is this true?

I know the Church condemns the heliocentric theory, and no one really believes the Sun is the center of the universe.

However, does she teach the geocentric theory?

No Mother Church ever taught it infallibly. The truth of God’s hands will never contradict revelation. If it does then somebody really freaking dropped the ball.

The Sedevacantist are so crazy that it will take a super computer running in multiple dimensions to compute how crazy they are.

because the gyroscope’s parts are bound together by medal that over comes the force of gravity, and the presence of an initial force to get the motion started. Neither of these are present in reality

Nice poisoning of the well. I guess to your enlightened mind, if you have the Faith of our Fathers, and obey all the Church’s teachings you’re a sedevacantist, not to mention crazy. :rolleyes:

Luke65, what do you make of MarcoPolo’s comments?

I think the First Vatican Council was perfectly clear. But I wouldn’t worry about it, the Church not only has the power to bind, but also to loose. And even with Galileo, the pope said that he could reduce or eliminate the penalty. God bless.

Hi Omyo. Yes, the Church defined and declared in 1616 that the scriptures reveal the sun moves (around the earth) and the earth is immobile at the centre of the universe. She did this by condemning a fixed sun as formal heresy and a spinning and orbiting earth around the sun as repugnant to the Catholic faith. A study of the history affair shows there has been no abrogation of the 1616 decree so it is still in force.

‘No one really believes the Sun is the center of the universe.’

Maybe not, but because of the nature of space, the sun COULD be at the centre of the universe. What people have been led to believe is that the sun is fixed and the earth orbits it. That is what was condemned as contrary to Scripture and thus heresy.

‘However, does she teach the geocentric theory?’

The Church teaches that the Scriptures reveal a geocentric world. Thus the Church teaches that we live on an immobile earth at the centre of the universe and that the sun (moon and stars) revolve around us.

‘It came as quite a shock since I’ve taken my share of university physics classes.’

Why so? Your university physics class surely taught that because of the nature of space all movement is relative. In other words, man has been long aware that unless one knows of a body that is at REST in the universe, we cannot know what moves relative to what. Thus a-centrism prevails, that is, anywhere can be at the centre of the universe. Accordingly the earth could be the immobile centre of the universe according to modern physics.

‘Are we as Catholics allowed to believe the heliocentric nature of the solar system and the modern scientific view of the universe?’

No your not. Up to now however, you have, like most Catholics, been inculpably ignorant of this, so no formal heresy prevails, only material heresy with no due punishment as no heresy was intended. But now that you know perhaps you might change your mind.

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In my most humble opinion I think we ought to follow the current findings of science. Scripture is God’s revelation of spiritual truths. Scientific truth is revealed to us through a reasoning mind, which is as much a gift of God as Scripture.

#1 Council of Trent (1546) We see the Church condemns novel interpretations of scripture.

#2 In Cardinal Bellarmine’s 1615 letter; Beware anyone quoting select pieces from this letter. They do so to make the Cardinal say what he never said or intended to say. Bellarmine was one of the greatest theologians in the history of the Church. He explains in his letter that a fixed earth and moving sun is a matter of faith because it is revealed by GOD in Scripture.
He knows Galileo has no proof and thus we cannot change the interpretation of Scripture. Yes he says if there WERE proof we would have to change the interpretation. Of course it would but there was no proof. He doubted any such proof could be shown as he had faith in Solomon’s words and Solomon was inspired by God.
ONE YEAR LATER THE CHURCH DEFINED H AS FORMAL HERESY. Now Catholic Faith PREVAILS. Be assured no PROOF would ever be produced now.

'#3 So we know from Cardinal Bellarmine’s letter, geocentrism was not an immutable interpretation of Scripture. '
Note how they try to use Bellarmine’s LETTER of 1615 as an excuse to overturn a Church decree defining FORMAL HERESY in 1616. NOTHING can overturn a Church decree DEFINING a FORMAL HERESY.

#4 In 1623, the newly elected Urban VIII indicated again, that a geocentrist interpretation was not a matter of immutable faith when he had his secretary write to Gallileo
This is another desperate attempt to undermine the authority of the 1616 decree. For Pope Urban XIII’s RULING came at Galileo’s trial in 1633. The CHURCH, that is Pope Urban VIII, ruled the 1616 decree was immutable, that is, CANNOT BE OVERTURNED.

Now that A-centrism is the best that the physics of man can know for certain this PROVES the 1616 decree has NEVER been falsified and thus remains THE ONLY INTERPRETATION OF SCRIPTURE.

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This thread scares me.

No Pope in the modern era has denied heliocentrism. Ultra-traditionalists that never want to stray from the Church Fathers will suggest that geocentrism is somehow a more faithful belief, but I find this to be absurd.

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