My daughter attends a public school. Her history teacher is a Calvinist. She has chosen materials which seem to attack the Catholic Church frequently. She is teaching that the Catholic Church taught the sun revolved around the earth and if you questioned the teaching you were punished. How would you respond to her?


Galileo seemed to think that the sun was the center of the universe, and that everything revolved around that point. He was wrong. If the CC went along with Galileo, then she would be harpooned for agreeing to something that was wrong.

Well, it’s true actually. It was never official dogma though. Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI have diverging opinions on the matter though. John Paul apologized for it, after launching an official investigation. Benedict has his own particular views:


Wikipedia’s Galileo Affair is a good place to start to find some sources.

The reason Galileo got in trouble was because Aquinas co-opted Aristotalean astronomy into Christian teaching. Most cardinals in Rome refused to disagree with Aquinas’ assertions from centuries before, so they condemned Galileo.

All Christians believed the sun rotated around the earth, and Galileo never proved otherwise.

Calvin taught that God was a trinity, and if you questioned him, he would kill you (Michael Servetus).

Sadly, that was how things worked in the 16th and 17th centuries.

As a former teacher my advice to you would be to go in and speak with the teacher about your concerns. How do you know she is a Calvinist? I mean, if she is teaching her doctrine or discussing her doctrine that should be brought up with her and her principal to get that settled - especially if she is punishing the students who question the materials.

In most school districts, teachers are bound by a core curriculum that they must cover in a certain set time period. Of course, what goes on behind closed doors sometimes go unnoticed or a blind eye is given.

If you are questioning these things and don’t feel you can speak with the teacher by yourself then you should take it to the principal. If no satisfaction there, then on to the superintendent of the school district.

I hope you can get this issue settled soon so that you can feel a bit better about what your child is learning.



The point is not that the Catholic Church agreed or disagreed with Galileo. The point is that by merely proposing the theory of heliocentrism (that the Earth revolves around the Sun) Galileo was tried for heresy by the Inquisition, forced to recant, and made to live the rest of his life under house arrest.

Even if Galileo was wrong (which in any case he was closer to the truth than most Catholics at the time), there was no justification for him being declared a heretic and having to live the last 9 years of his life under house arrest.

To the OP, your child’s teacher should not be attacking any religion in the classroom. However, it is true that Galileo was punished by the Catholic Church for disagreeing with its scientific (not theological) beliefs.

The problem is that Galileo taught that he was teaching the truth as fact, and he was warned by the authorities not to do that. The simple fact is that Galileo’s pride and arrogance got the best of him. That is why he resorted to insulting the pope.

Another plain and simple truth is that Galileo was wrong on a number of points.

  1. He thought that the planets were in circular orbit, not elliptical.
  2. He thought that the sun was fixed in place, and didn’t move about.
  3. He thought all of the stars orbited the sun.

So, Itwin, take a look at the link I posted. It is a tract that discusses this issue.

He thought he was right. That shouldn’t be a crime, especially when he was right about a lot of what he proposed.

He never intended to insult the pope. That was unintentional and driven my misunderstandings and miscommunication.

OK. And the Catholic Church was wrong about geocentrism. None of these errors justify labels of heresy and house arrest.

Please understand that the authorities did not mind Galileo have a different thought. What they told him to do was to refrain from proclaiming it as fact. There is a big difference between saying, “I think the sun is the center of the universe.” and “It is FACT that the sun is the center of the universe.”

He was not pushed for having a thought. He decided to oppose those in authority at the time.

He never intended to insult the pope. That was unintentional and driven my misunderstandings and miscommunication.

If he didn’t intend to insult the pope, then why did he call the person arguing for geocentricity a “Simplico” - the simpleton? It was not too difficult for the pope to see that the imbecile in Galileo’s writing used the same arguments that the pope did for a geocentric universe. On the contrary, Galileo went to great lengths to insult the pope.

OK. And the Catholic Church was wrong about geocentrism. None of these errors justify labels of heresy and house arrest.

The issue, once again, was Galileo going against the authorities. It wasn’t that he had a thought that went against Church teaching. His pride got the best of him. And, the fact is that he was wrong about many things, and couldn’t prove what he intuited. People understood that if the earth moved, then the effect of parallax should be observed. But, Galileo could not produce this evidence.

It is not true to say that Galileo was just minding his own business, and then the authorities went looking for anyone disagreeing with them. That is a narrative that is at odds with the facts of this case.

Who, it turned out, were wrong.

Actually, Simplicio is a reference to Simplicius of Cilicia, a famous Aristotelian philosopher. (Latin form Simplicius; Italian form Simplicio.)

It shouldn’t matter if Galileo wasn’t right about everything (people, let alone scientists, rarely are :rolleyes:). It doesn’t matter if “his pride got the best of him.” It doesn’t even matter if he intentionally referred to the pope as a simpleton. Those are not “crimes” worthy of the name “heretic” or the sentence of house arrest.

My point here has been that it was not the case that Galileo was just minding his own business. He intentionally and publicly called out the authorities. He did not “merely propose a theory about heliocentrism.” That is not a true depiction of history.

Given the violence that was common at the time, I think that the pope exercised restraint. But, I do agree with you that in an ideal world, the pope would not have been offended by Galileo’s insults. Yet, it was the non-ideal revenge-minded attitude of the authorities/pope where they used their power to even the score. From what I understand, the pope had opportunities to let Galileo out of house arrest as Galileo aged, but declined saying, “Who is the Simplico now?”

I will admit that I experience some joy when I see people attempting to cast the Catholic Church in a falsely negative light. I think to myself, “Is the truth about a bad episode in the history of the Catholic Church not bad enough?” I wonder what drives the need for exaggeration?

Why would it matter if Galileo taught something about the Sun that the Church didn’t agree on? What does the Church care? What was it’s deal?

ahsoka star #1
She is teaching that the Catholic Church taught the sun revolved around the earth

Bellarmine met with Galileo in 1616. After his meeting with Galileo nevertheless, even Cardinal Bellarmine said, “if there were a proof that the sun is in the center of the universe… While experience tells us plainly that the earth is standing still, and that the sun does not go round the earth but the earth round the sun, then we should have to proceed with great circumspection in explaining passages of Scripture which appear to teach the contrary, and rather admit that we did not understand then than declare an opinion to be false which is proved to be true. But this is not a thing to be done in haste, and as for myself, I shall not believe that there are such proofs until they are shown to me.” (Cited by James Broderick, Robert Bellarmine: Saint and Scholar, pp. 360-361).

This prudence is conveniently omitted, but is at the core of the question
As more recent science has shown, both Galileo and his opponents were partly right and partly wrong. Galileo was right in asserting the mobility of the earth and wrong in asserting the immobility of the sun. His opponents were right in asserting the mobility of the sun and wrong in asserting the immobility of the earth.

Rohzek #3
Well, it’s true actually.

False. This was no “teaching’ of the Church. With the Galileo case, at that time, the core error by the theologians “lay in faulty exegesis: in supposing that the Bible does in fact assert a particular physical proposition (geocentrism) which it does not really assert.” (Fr Brian Harrison , O.S., Roma Locuta Est - Causa Finita Est). . There was no dogma, nor defined doctrine declared by a Pope or Ecumenical Council.

It is good that the puerile attacks on the Magisterium of Christ’s Church should be exposed as Fr Brian Harrison points out at: rtforum.org/lt/lt57.html

Galileo picked a very inopportune time to attack the Bible after the revolt of Luther and Luther’s public rejection of some of Sacred Scripture:

  1. He was publicly disrespectful
  2. He was wrong in his interpretation of the Bible
  3. He was wrong in his physics.
    He was not found guilty of heresy, but as suspected of heresy by the review of Cardinals. The popes promoted astronomical research, and there was no Papal or Conciliar declaration of heresy.

Galileo got in trouble for presenting heliocentrism as more than just a hypothesis, as absolute truth.

Itwin #6
Galileo was tried for heresy by the Inquisition, forced to recant, and made to live the rest of his life under house arrest.

The facts are that there is profound ignorance about Galileo and his compeers, and the Catholic Church.
BTW, the Rationalist Society in England assigned one of its anti-Catholic journalist members, Sherwood Taylor, to write a book attacking the Church over Galileo. “After studying the case, Taylor was converted and received into the Catholic Church – grace sometimes works in strange ways!” The Six Days of Creation, Br Thomas Mary Sennott, Ravengate 1984, p 186]

Darwin’s bulldog, Thomas Huxley, “went to Rome and examined the Case, a little more thoroughly than the average humanist, probably intending to use it in his ongoing controversy with the Anglican bishop, Samuel Wilberforce. In a letter written to Mivart in 1885 he concluded, rather disappointedly, I presume – ‘I looked into the matter when I was in Italy and I arrived at the conclusion that the Pope and the College of Cardinals had rather the best of it.’ ”
[Arthur Koestler, *The Sleepwalkers, MacMillan, 1959, p 353; cited in The Six Days of Creation, Br Thomas Mary Sennott, Ravengate, 1984, p185-6].

Galileo was, in the 1633 Decree of the Inquisition, censured as “vehemently suspected of heresy.” No papal declaration of heresy was made.

Galileo got in trouble for presenting heliocentrism as more than just a hypothesis, as absolute truth. Nicolaus Copernicus had no problems at all, and even dedicated his De Revolutionibus to the Holy Father.
The only statement was a theological opinion issued by the theologians of the Holy Office. Theological opinion does not represent the Magisterium (official teaching) of the Church – Copernicanism had never been declared heretical by either the ordinary or extraordinary Magisterium of the Church.

In the end, Galileo recanted his heliocentric teachings, but it was not – as is commonly supposed – under torture nor after a harsh imprisonment. Galileo was, in fact, treated surprisingly well.

As historian Giorgio de Santillana, who is not overly fond of the Catholic Church, noted, “We must, if anything, admire the cautiousness and legal scruples of the Roman authorities.” Galileo was offered every convenience possible to make his imprisonment in his home bearable.

And the 30 Years War was in full swing at the time. Yes, not a good time to get froggy with the Vatican.

He was still far more correct than the Church authorities.

He didn’t talk like he was “more correct.” He was proclaiming what he taught as absolute truth, and was taking theological positions based on this proclaimed truth.

I thought we were discussing the science.

The point is that Galileo made it more than a scientific theory. He brought theology into the mix. That was the issue. The Church actually had no problem with him presenting his position as theory only. We are discussing history and the various positions people take concerning the Church’s treatment of Galileo.

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