The Galileo Controversy


Just joined, not Catholic. While searching for information on Galielo’s conflict with the Catholic Church, I happened across the article on this web site (The Galileo Controversy).

I note that it tends to mislead one into believing the Catholic Church bore no culpability in Galileo’s imprisonment and forced “confession”:

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.

The article does not complete the story, conveniently leaving out that Galileo recanted so he would not be tortured.

A few paragraphs further down the article states:

The records demonstrate that Galileo could not be tortured because of regulations laid down in The Directory for Inquisitors (Nicholas Eymeric, 1595). This was the official guide of the Holy Office, the Church office charged with dealing with such matters, and was followed to the letter.

Gee, do you think Galileo was fully apprised of the Church’s inability to torture him (and does the Church deny they tortured…kind of like redefining water boarding so that it’s "magically no longer torture, but something else)?

Partially answered here (partial answers seem to be de rigueur on

Had Galileo been tortured, Nicolini would have reported it to his king. While instruments of torture may have been present during Galileo’s recantation (this was the custom of the legal system in Europe at that time), they definitely were not used.

Might that have been because they succeeded in getting Galileo to recant by threat of torture? The article would seem more credible if it acknowledged such.

Finally, I note that the article avoids naming actual persons that forced Galileo into such a predicament.

Although three of the ten cardinals who judged Galileo refused to sign the verdict, his works were eventually condemned.

Can we hear a little about who the other seven cardinals were who did sign the verdict (guilty!)? Reading the article, one comes away with this gossamer glow that nothing really happened. “Hey, Galileo wasn’t tortured, nothing really happened!”

Fortunately, other sites provide an answer to some important missing facts:

In 1633 Galileo was formally interrogated for 18 days and on April 30 Galileo confesses that he may have made the Copernican case in the Dialogue too strong and offers to refute it in his next book. Unmoved, the Pope decides that Galileo should be imprisoned indefinitely. Soon after, with a formal threat of torture, Galileo is examined by the Inquisition and sentenced to prison and religious penances, the sentence is signed by 6 of the 10 inquisitors. In a formal ceremony at a the church of Santa Maria Sofia Minerva, Galileo abjures his errors. He is then put in house arrest in Sienna. After these tribulations he begins writing his Discourse on Two New Sciences.

I realize this kind of thing might be what some need in order to validate their faith, but it leaves the rest of us bewildered. Even though this was a long time ago, but it might be seen as an important characterization of the site’s objectivity in general. :wink:


Internet sites are not the best way to become well informed on subjects like this. I recommend Giorgio de Santillana’s THE CRIME OF GALILEO, for a good review of what happened. Everyone comes out with egg on their face.


Anglicanus Catholicus


My husband should be on this board right now to talk about this–it’s right up his alley lol

He watched this on the history channel last week I believe…Here is a potentially better link–it is from a Catholic site.

This is an excellent question and answer session, that might shed some light on this. Pope JP2 in 1992 made a formal apology–the good news is that the Church regretted this, and apologized.


I like Galileo. Maybe that’s because he changed the way we look at both the universe and ourselves…:shrug:

But what I can never figure out is why he misquoted the Pope in his book when he was actually going to let him publish his theory! I thought, “Wow! It may not be perfect, but how accomodating the Church is being!”

Then he misquotes him, confusing his words with a heretic’s, with no explanation or sign of mistake, and boy was Rome angry.

Does that justify the Pope’s subsequent fuller condemnation of his theory or his cruel treatment? Nope!

But still… I guess we’re just missing Galileo’s motive here. All in all, I agree that everyone in this incident walked out with egg on their face. But the Church has learned much from this–and it’s primarily in remembrance of this mistake that she was more open-minded from the start about the evolutionary theory as proposed by Darwin and his contemporaries.


Can you please cite where Galileo (if that is who you’re talking about) allegedly misquoted the pope, and why that is connected to the indictment against Galileo, and his subsequent imprisonment? It sounds like you’re driving at the Church having been willing to entertain or concede heliocentricity until Galileo made some political miscalculation.

Anyway, my original criticism (see OP) of the article “The Galileo Controversy” still stands.

Thanks to those who answered, GKC, wavegirl, Aloysius…


for my part, you are very welcome.

I wouldn’t call it a misquote, more a paraphrase (If I’m thinking of the same thng) out into the mouth of Simplicio, in the DIALOGUE, per a calculated pre-agreement. And yes, you used the right word. The Church was willing to entertain heliocentricity. And there were political miscalculations. And political tricks.

I recommend the book I recommended.


Anglicanus Catholicus


I’m sorry, friend, but your “criticism” is hardly that. What you have done was say that the article should contain this or that, and then offered as an example of credible history an article from Wikipedia – the best friend of people who refuse to do their own research.

Sorry, but you’ll have to do better than that if you want to poke holes in the credibility of any work.



There are at least two sides to every story. See this two volume set for the case that the Church was in fact right and Galileo was wrong (as he himself ended up admittining in the end):

Galileo Was Wrong, The Church Was Right, Sungenis/Bennett

Also, here are some shorter articles on the topic:

Geocentricity 101: A beginner’s Course
Geocentricity 101, Part I: Basic Principles
Geocentricity 101, Part II: Basic Physics
Geocentricity 101, Part III: Scriptural and Church Position
Geocentricity 101, Supplement: Discussion of Scripture and Church Position

God Bless, and keep an open mind on this topic.


Since it’s past the editing deadline, I will add that my sentence above should read: “…(if I’m thinking of the same thing) out of the mouth of Simplicio…”



Guess the pope apologized for no reason.


The previous poster was correct in pointing out that Wikipedia and other websites are not the best place to get reliable information, especially about controversial, complex historical and religious subjects. Niether are older books about this topic and other topics (like the Inquisition and the Crusades) that are also often used by the ignorant and by anti-Catholics to club the Catholic Church. Older books on these topics were often short on facts, but heavy on salacious polemics. Documentaries, Hollywood movies, freshmen college history courses and and “television specials” are of the same ilk.

In the past 30 years, however, serious researchers have gone back and studied contemporary records from that time (of the trial and personal correspondence) and found that the actual events were much different from misinformed myth. The link below is to a Catholic site, but it contains resources written by non-Catholic scholars who have of late written more dispassionately about this subject.

Finally, you must ask yourself: Even if the Catholics officials were wrong or sinful in the actions they took in this particular case, why is it even important? What does it prove? Were there mistakes made by Catholics (even Catholics in high places) in the past? Of course. Were they because the individuals involved and the Church itself were evil? That would be impossible and presumtuous to say, since we weren’t there to witness these events and we can’t read the hearts of others, especially over the span of 400 years ago. But the unspoken implication when people bring these things up is that it somehow hurts the case for the Catholic Church: that it is, at least, fallible and, at worst, evil and represssive, the enemy of science and freedom. I assure you, no matter how atrociously those involved may have acted, it proves neither.

Read a couple of these articles and the scholarly books referenced by them. You might learn that something you have been led to beleive ain’t necessarily so. :slight_smile:


de Santillana’s book fits in well with the articles on that site. And has some surprises, too.



He did apologize for the treatment of Galileo. My point was more to the substance of the issue.


Can’t the Pope apologize for sins commited in the name of the Church by individual erring Catholics? Isn’t that a healing and humble thing to do? How does it mean that the Church itself is being apologized for as if She is or ever was sinful Herself? We need to carefully read Pope John Paul II’s carefully worded apologies to see what is and what is not being apologized for; what the apologies do and do not mean.

[quote=fidelis]the unspoken implication when people bring these things up is that it somehow hurts the case for the Catholic Church: that it is, at least, fallible and, at worst, evil and represssive, the enemy of science and freedom. I assure you, no matter how atrociously those involved may have acted, it proves neither.

Right, Fidelis. In fact there has never historically been a greater friend of all knowledge including all empirical science than the Catholic Church.

Those quick to condemn the Church for its handling of Galileo are not equally quick to praise her for the vibrant context of intellectual inquiry within which Galileo flourished.

Do the condemners while condemning for a particular set of judgment calls also praise for other judgment calls–do they praise the Church for founding and maintaining all the great universities and centers of learning in western civilization? I seem to have missed the latter…


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