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(Original article by Donald Demarco at Catholic Education.com...)

"The dispute between Galileo and the Catholic Church is both complex and controversial. It is complex because it involves a host of delicate issues and a multitude of volatile personalities. It is controversial because its interpreters invariably attach deeply felt positive or negative evaluations to these issues and personalities. There should be no mystery, consequently, why misrepresentations abound.

Bertold Brecht's play, Galileo, whose cast calls for a "Fat Prelate," a "Furious Monk," and an "Old Cardinal"; paintings depicting the subjection of Galileo to various forms of humiliation that never took place; and certain television dramatizations that pander to popular prejudice, are typical one-sided misrepresentations that take the part of Galileo against a presumed authoritarian hierarchy. We find this same tendency to be commonplace even among certain books that pass for scholarly studies. In a book entitled Man on Trial, for example, the author views the trial of Galileo as "the climax of the onslaught of organized religion against scientific progress." Another author erroneously contends that Galileo "rigorously demonstrated the Copernican system."

In Carl Sagan's popular picture book on astronomy, Cosmos, the author tells us that Galileo was unable to convince the Catholic hierarchy that there are mountains on the Moon and that Jupiter has moons of its own. The historical fact is the polar opposite of what Sagan contends. Jesuit astronomers of the Roman College confirmed Galileo's telescopic observations and subsequently honored Galileo with a full day of ceremonies. And while Galileo was in Rome for these plaudits, he was given a hero's welcome by cardinals, prelates, and other dignitaries of the Church including Pope Paul V..."

An interesting read. Particularly the bits about the personal dispute between Pope Urban VIII and Galileo (once friends, then turned bitter enemies after the latter publicly insulted the former), and the enthusiasm of the Jesuits for the astronomer's work. And then there's the bit regarding the theoretical dispute, with Urban supporting a nominalistic or conventionalist understanding of the data, and Galileo a Pythagorean realism of sorts. Tangled stuff.

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