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MhFM Conjecture: Galileo, Geocentrism, and the 1616 Roman Inquisition

The MhFM’s Robert (a.k.a. Brother Peter) Dimond states on page 3 of “Examining the Theological Status of Geocentrism and Heliocentrism and the Devastating Problems this creates for Baptism of Desire Arguments”:

"...in 1616 eleven theologian-qualifiers of the Holy Office condemned heliocentrism as heretical. This was not an ex cathedra pronouncement, for Pope Paul V did not solemnly promulgate this decision on his own authority. He didn’t even sign it, but it was done with his knowledge and approval.”

Let's first start out by looking at a few definitions and then some critical facts that Dimond conveniently chooses to exclude from his article.

Geocentrism: the belief that the Sun, the planets and all the stars revolve around the Earth.

Heliocentrism: the Earth and other planets revolve around the Sun, which is the center of the solar system.

Deposit of Faith: God’s revealed truth as expressed in Sacred Scripture and Tradition, which is taught (de fide) and transmitted to the world through the Teaching Authority of the Roman Catholic Church.

Ordinary Magisterium: the teaching of the Church's hierarchy under the Pope, exercised normally thru the regular means of instruction, written, spoken, or practical. When "universal", it is infallible.

Geocentrism and Sacred Scripture

Like it or not, the facts are clear … nowhere in the Bible is it written that the Earth is at the center of the universe.

For centuries, however, the Teaching Authority of the Church taught the "faithful" that Ptolemy (100-170) was "spot-on" when he advocated the existence of an Earth-Centered universe.

One can conclude that the Magisterium derived its erroneous "geocentric" position from the Sacred Scriptures, found within the Deposit of Faith, for one of 3 reasons:

  1. They misunderstood the whisperings of the Holy Spirit, or

  2. They were not listening to the Holy Spirit, or

  3. They did not ask the Holy Spirit for clarification on the matter.

Genesis 1:14-18, Joshua 10:12-13, 1 Chronicles 16:30, Psalm 93:1, Psalm 96:10, Psalm 104:5, Job 26:7 and Isaiah 40:22 were often cited by Church theologians and Roman Inquisition judges to “defend” Geocentrism and condemn "heretics".

Why would the Church commit itself to embracing such a blatant "falsehood" when it is clearly evident that none of those Scriptures, just mentioned, taken in any order whatsoever, state that God designed the universe with the Earth at its center?

“Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely” – Lord Acton (1887)

In Andrew White's (1896) book "A History of the Warfare of Science with Technology in Christendom" he affirms that, during the time of Galileo, the theologians and teaching authority of the Roman Church:

"... held up before the world the dreadful consequences which must result to Christian theology were the heavenly bodies proved to revolve about the sun and not about the earth. Their most tremendous dogmatic engine was the statement that "his [Galileo] pretended discovery vitiates the whole Christian plan of salvation," ... "it casts suspicion on the doctrine of the incarnation," ... "It upsets the whole basis of theology. If the earth is a planet, and only one among several planets, it cannot be that any such great things have been done specially for it as the Christian doctrine teaches. If there are other planets, since God makes nothing in vain, they must be inhabited; but how can their inhabitants be descended from Adam? How can they trace back their origin to Noah's ark? How can they have been redeemed by the Savior?"

Andrew Whites book raises other questions.

Could it possibly be that the Roman Inquisition conspired to stop the spread of Heliocentrism, not because it was actually believed “heretical”, but rather for fear of the theory gaining "clerical" support and risking the outbreak of another schism (rebellion) similar to, if not worse than, the one perpetrated by Martin Luther and the “Protestant” Reformation movement?

Did the Roman Inquisition actually condemn Galileo for his view on Heliocentrism or was it more in line with the fact that his published work embarrassed the Church by exposing the errors committed in its interpretation of Sacred Scripture?

Father Theologians Report on Heliocentrism

Consultants’ Report on Copernicanism (Heliocentrism)

Assessment made at the Holy Office, Rome, Wednesday, 24 February 1616, in the presence of the Father Theologians signed below.

Proposition to be assessed:

  1. The sun is the center of the world and completely devoid of local motion.

    Assessment: All said that this proposition is foolish and absurd in philosophy, and formally heretical since it explicitly contradicts many places the sense of Holy Scripture, according to the literal meaning of the words and according to the common interpretation and understanding of the Holy Fathers and the doctors of theology.

  2. The earth is not the center of the world, nor motionless, but it moves as a whole and also with diurnal motion.

    Assessment: All said that this proposition receives the same judgement in philosophy and that in regard to theological truth it is at least erroneous in faith.

  • Monsignor Petrus Lombardus, Archbishop of Armagh.

  • Friar Hyacintus Petronius, Master of the Sacred Apostolic Palace.

  • Friar Raphael Riphoz, Master of Theology and Vicar-General of the Domincan Order.

  • Friar Michelangelo Segizzi, Master of Sacred Theology and Commissary of the Holy Office.

  • Friar Hieronimus de Casalimaiori, Consultant to the Holy Office.

  • Friar Thomas de Lemos.

  • Friar Gregorius Nunnius Coronel.

  • Benedictus Justinianus, Society of Jesus.

  • Father Raphael Rastellius, Clerk Regular, Doctor of Theology.

  • Father Michael of Naples, of the Cassinese Congregation.

  • Friar Iacobus Tintus, assistant of the Most Reverend Father Commissary of the Holy Office.

It is important to fully understand that those "eleven theologian-qualifiers of the Holy Office", Dimond refers to, were:

  • Called on to work directly with the Congregation of the Index (the Roman Inquisition).

  • Their selection was approved by Pope Paul V

  • Their task was to perform a comprehensive study of the Sacred Scriptures [Deposit of Faith] and formulate a conclusive theological position on the subject of Copernicanism (Heliocentrism).

  • Report back to the Roman Inquisition.

Roman Inquisition Minutes (February 25, 1616)

Thursday, 25 February 1616

“The Most Illustrious Lord Cardinal Millini notified the Reverend Fathers Lord Assessor and Lord Commissary of the Holy Office that, after the reporting of the judgment by the Father Theologians against the propositions of the mathematician Galileo (to the effect that the sun stand still at the center of the world and the earth moves even with the diurnal motion), His Holiness ordered the most Illustrious Lord Cardinal Bellarmine to call Galileo before himself and warn him to abandon these opinions; and if he should refuse to obey, the Father Commissary, in the presence of a notary and witnesses, is to issue him an injunction to abstain completely from teaching or defending this doctrine and opinion or from discussing it; and further, if he should not acquiesce, he is to be imprisoned.”

Note: Concerning heresy, in 1616 one could only be legitimately imprisoned (or burned at the stake) by order of an Inquisitor tribunal for judgements of "formal" heresy; which is a pertinacious adhesion to a doctrine contradictory to a "point of faith clearly defined by the Church". Such definitions are held to be "infallible" and/or "de fide".

Special Injunction (February 26, 1616)

Friday, 26 February 1616

At the palace of the usual residence of the said Most Illustrious Lord Cardinal Bellarmine and in the chambers of His Most Illustrious Lordship, and fully in the presence of the Reverend Father Michelangelo Segizzi of Lodi, O. P. and Commissary General of the Holy Office, having summoned the above-mentioned Galileo before himself, the same Most Illustrious Lord Cardinal warned Galileo that the above-mentioned opinion was erroneous and that he should abandon it; and thereafter, indeed immediately, before me and witnesses, the Most Illustrious Lord Cardinal himself being also present still, the aforesaid Father Commissary, in the name of His Holiness the Pope and the whole Congregation of the Holy Office, ordered and enjoined the said Galileo, who was himself still present, to abandon completely the above-mentioned opinion that the sun stands still at the center of the world and the earth moves, and henceforth not to hold, teach, or defend it in any way whatever, either orally or in writing; otherwise the Holy Office would start proceedings against him. The same Galileo acquiesced in this injunction and promised to obey.

Done in Rome at the place mentioned above, in the presence, as witnesses, of the Reverend Badino Nores of Nicosia in the kingdom of Cyprus and Agostino Mongardo from the Abbey of Rose in the diocese of Montepulciano, both belonging to the household of the said Most Illustrious Lord Cardinal.

[not signed by Galileo]

Roman Inquisition Minutes (March 3, 1616)

The Most Illustrious Lord Cardinal Bellarmine having given the report that the mathematician Galileo Galilei had acquiesced when warned of the order by the Holy Congregation to abandon the opinion which he held till then, to the effect that the sun stands still at the center of the spheres but the earth is in motion, and the Decree of the Congregation of the Index having been presented, in which were prohibited and suspended, respectively, the writings of Nicolaus Copernicus On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres, of Diego de Zuniga On Job, and of the Carmelite Father Paolo Antonio Foscarini, His Holiness ordered that the edict of this suspension and prohibition, respectively, be published by the Master of the Sacred Palace.

Decree of the Congregation of the Index (5 March 1616)

Decree of the Holy Congregation of the Most Illustrious Lord Cardinals especially charged by his Holiness Pope Paul V and by the Holy Apostolic See with the Index of books and their licensing, prohibition, correction, and printing in all of Christendom. To be published everywhere.

In regard to several books containing various heresies and errors, to prevent the emergence of more serious harm throughout Christendom, the Holy Congregation of the Most Illustrious Lord Cardinals in charge of the Index has decided that they should be altogether condemned and prohibited, as indeed with the present decree it condemns and prohibits them, wherever and in whatever language they are printed or about to be printed. It orders that henceforth no one, of whatever station or condition, should dare print them, or have them printed, or read them, or have them in one's possession in any way, under penalty specified in the Holy Council of Trent and in the Index of prohibited books; and under the same penalty, whoever is now or will be in the future in possession of them is required to surrender them to ordinaries or to inquisitors, immediately after learning of the present decree. The books listed below:

  • Calvinist Theology (in three parts).

  • Scotanus Redivivus, or Erotic Commentary in Three Parts.

  • Historical Explanation of the Most Serious Question in the Christian Churches Especially in the West, from the Time of the Apostles All the Way to Our Age.

  • Inquiry Concerning the Pre-eminence among European Provinces.

  • Donellus's Principles, or Commentaries on Civil Law,

This Holy Congregation has also learned about the spreading and acceptance by many of the false Pythagorean doctrine, altogether contrary to the Holy Scripture, that the earth moves and the sun is motionless, which is also taught by Nicholaus Copernicus's On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres and by Diego de Zuniga's On Job. This may be seen from a certain letter published by a certain Carmelite Father, whose title is Letter of the Reverend Father Paolo Foscarini, on the Pythagorean and Copernican Opinion of the Earth's Motion and Sun's Rest and on the New Pythagorean World System (Naples: Lazzaro Scoriggio, 1615), in which the said Father tries to show that the above-mentioned doctrine of the sun's rest at the center of the world and the earth's motion is consonant with the truth and does not contradict Holy Scripture. Therefore, in order that this opinion may not creep any further to the prejudice of Catholic truth, the Congregation has decided that the books by Nicolaus Copernicus (On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres) and Diego de Zuniga (On Job) be suspended until corrected; but that the book of the Carmelite Father Paolo Antonio Foscarini be completely prohibited and condemned; and that all other books which teach the same be likewise prohibited, according to whether with the present decree it prohibits, condemns, and suspends them respectively. In witness thereof, this decree has been signed by the hand and stamped with the seal of the Most Illustrious and Reverend Lord Cardinal of St. Cecilia, Bishop of Albano, on 5 March 1616.

P., Bishop of Albano, Cardinal of St. Cecilia.

Fra Franciscus Magdalenus Capiferreus, O. P., Secretary.

Rome, Press of the Apostolic Palace, 1616.

Cardinal Bellarmine's Certificate (May 26, 1616)

"We, Robert Cardinal Bellarmine, have heard that Mr. Galileo Galilei is being slandered or alleged to have abjured in our hands and also to have been given salutary penances for this. Having been sought about the truth of the matter, we say that the above-mentioned Galileo has not abjured in our hands, or in the hands of others here in Rome, or anywhere else that we know, any opinion or doctrine of his; nor has he received any penances, salutary or otherwise."

"On the contrary, he has only been notified of the declaration made by the Holy Father and published by the Sacred Congregation of the Index, whose content is that the doctrine attributed to Copernicus (that the earth moves around the sun and the sun stands at the center of the world without moving from east to west) is contrary to Holy Scripture and therefore cannot be defended or held. In witness whereof we have written and signed this with our own hands, on this 26th day of May 1616."

The same mentioned above,

Robert Cardinal Bellarmine.

Back to Dimond's Conjecture

"...in 1616 eleven theologian-qualifiers of the Holy Office condemned heliocentrism as heretical. This was not an ex cathedra pronouncement, for Pope Paul V did not solemnly promulgate this decision on his own authority. He didn’t even sign it, but it was done with his knowledge and approval.”

It should be evident, after reading the definitions provided and the text taken from Galileo’s Roman Inquisition hearing records, that Dimond’s claim (Geocentrism not being an infallible, de fide, ex-cathedra pronouncement by Pope Paul V) is pure conjecture on his part.

Dimond's claim that the conclusions reached by the eleven theologians, adopted by the Roman Inquisition, and approved by Pope Paul V, were “common form” (a local matter) and not “universal” in nature, and thus were not "ex-cathedra" or “motus proprio” ... is ludicrous.

From the title of Dimond’s article one can quickly draw the conclusion that his "motive" for adopting the erroneous position has little to do with the “truth” surrounding the question of the 1616 decree against Heliocentrism being infallible or not.

I'd venture to say that Dimond made the erroneous claim because he needed the 1616 Congregational decree, formulated upon the conclusions reached by reputable Church Theologians, to be "fallible" so he could use it as a concrete example in his diatribe against other Church Theologians (possibly like St. Basil, St. Chrysostom, St. Cyprian, ...) who wrote in favor of Baptism of Blood and Desire.

Did Dimond, a Sedevacantist "Inquisitor-General", believe that he'd found, with the 1616 Congregational decree, a fresh supply of “wood” to use in the metaphorical "burning at the stake" of those he perceives as being obstinate Baptism of Desire “heretics”? Who knows?

Dimond just doesn’t seem to get it. Being obstinant, he refuses to understand and accept the fact that, in 1616, Pope Paul V's did make a universal, infallible, de fide, ex-cathedra, proclamation concerning the "teaching" of Heliocentrism within the Church.

Father William Roberts, in his 1885 book “The Pontifical Decrees against the Doctrine of the Earth’s Movement and the Ultramontane Defense of Them” gives ample support to the concept that:

Congregational decrees that apply to the “universal” Church, confirmed by the Pope and published on his express order, emanate from the Pontiff in his capacity as Head of the Church, and as such are "ex-cathedra" proclamations, in such, so as, to make it “infallibly” certain that doctrines / decrees propounded as true, are indeed true.


- Pax Tecum


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