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.