The Church’s Position

“Are you sure about that? There are some scholars who have worked on proving that the Church’s original position on Geocentrism is right and Galileo was wrong.” (emphasis mine)

So a friend of mine, who I love in the most full and fraternal manner, responded to my throwaway comment about Copernican Heliocentrism. Having seen the Michael Voris interview with Robert Sungenis (more on these gentlemen later), this devout Catholic – who holds a very conservative semi-Ultramontine view mixed with genuine orthodoxy and a dash of Ecclesia Dei Traditionalism – was excited at the prospect of rushing to defend the Church against everything he had been taught in school. This of course would would include the same basic Physics that helped take man to the moon and made the utilization of nuclear power possible.

It is peculiarity of Traditionalist (not to be confused with Traditional or Orthodox) Catholicism to excuse, reject, forget, or rewrite any historical event that paints Catholics in a bad light (the slaughter at Jerusalem, the Fourth Crusade, the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre, the Knights Templars, bad popes before the year nineteen-sixty-whatever, and the factual pre-Protestant Revolt buying and selling of indulgences). This is understandable, considering the many slanders levelled at the church by popular “historians” with an axe to grind.

Unfortunately, the Galileo Affair is precisely that. The common perception of incident that is believed by Catholics and non-Catholic alike is steeped in myth and lacks any historical basis. It is just another case of “Repeat a lie enough and eventually the lie becomes the truth” and all that.

I will need to take a brief tangent from the main point I want to discuss so I can put Geocentrism to rest for good.

The Galileo Affair

The popular story: Galileo comes out with the “Groudbreaking Discovery” that the sun is the center of the solar system. This angers the Church authorities who call a trial on Galileo for heresy – complete with silly hats and flowing robes – when he refuses to recant (“No one expects the Spanish Italian Inquisition!”). They torture, humiliate, and condemn him as he goes down as a martyr for “scientific progress” (or, if you subscribe to the fringe minority opinion, the “Anti-Catholic Heresy”)

This is wrong on so many levels. I urge the readers to educate themselves on the matter, but Galileo’s condemnation at the hands of Urban VIII was an entirely personal affair that had nothing to do with the theories being discussed. What did Galileo expect when he made a character in The Dialogue named “Simplicio” and put the pope’s words in said character’s mouth?

Even Bellarmine’s “cease and desist” to Galileo does not rule out Heliocentrism as a scientific possibility, but instead claims that it would cause a massive headache. He states the theory is “a very dangerous thing, likely not only to irritate all scholastic philosophers and theologians, but also to harm the Holy Faith by rendering Holy Scripture as false.”

He then goes on to say if Heliocentrism is proved, “then one would have to proceed with great care in explaining the Scriptures that appear contrary; and say rather that we do not understand them, than that what is demonstrated is false.”

Personally, I would say let the scholastics hang for all I care!

As for these new geocentrists, a nice little link here will tell you all you really need to know about them. http://www.geocentrismdebunked.org/some-background-on-the-new-geocentrists/

That Sungenis holds a phony scientific degree from a non-accredited institution which makes his ability to talk about the issue shaky at best. My Bachelors of Science in Computer Science are more scientific credentials than the man likely will ever have. End of discussion.

To sum the matter up concisely, I put Geocentrism on the same level as I do the Flat Earth Society, homeopathic remedies, astrology, or neoscholasticism.

Back to the main topic…

What is the Church’s approach to science? Has it ever dogmatically made a declaration over a scientific theory? Must it update itself with every passing theory?

To put it bluntly, the Church does not concern itself with scientific discoveries so there is practically no chance of ever being proven wrong. It is the pinnacle of human arrogance – the cause of the Tower of Babylon – to ever believe that we can understand absolutely everything about the known universe. Scientific theories fluctuate with every new major discovery (for a concrete example, look into atomic theory and how many models were created to explain the atom) and sometimes what was universally believed to be true comes crashing down, disproven by a new contradiction.

So it was with Geocentrism. So shall it be one day with Darwinism, the totalitarian structures currently enforcing it notwithstanding.

The private opinion of a bunch of cardinals at one point in history does not equate to Church Doctrine. Neither does the church claim to be the authority in the field or devote too much time into it (even though many of the Jesuits of the 17th centuries were such accomplished scientists and astronomers that the Kangxi Chinese Emperor valued them highly at his court). The first goal of the Church is the salvation of souls and everything else – even the authority of the prelates – must be secondary.

In fact, it is the Modernists who held that the Church should attach itself to the exploding scientific theories of the early 20th Century (Chardin was the most obnoxious of them with his “God of Evolution” mantra). Consider the following from Psalm 103 (sung in every standard Byzantine Vespers). The original Jewish view of the world was a flat plane on a rock foundation (“You settle the Earth on its firm foundations, it shall stand unmoved from age to age”) the sky covered it in the shape of a great dome and the stars hung within like ornaments (“The abyss covers it like a garment, waters stand over the mountains”). Imagine how stupid we would have looked if we had dogmatically decreed that this was the true cosmology and anything contradicting it was rubbish and heresy!

Scientific theories will come and go. The Communion of the Saints is eternal.

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18 thoughts on “The Church’s Position

  1. This is interesting. I would say indeed that even Heliocentrism was debunched time ago, since now we do not know where the “center of universe” is – if there is one. Perhaps in the future we are going to see the return of ancient cosmologies…

    As for (neo-)Darwinism (and Big-Bang theory, etc.), I do not believe in it – as a personal opinion. I rather think God makes life flourish and change in a way we do not know – we’ll probably never know it. But the most interesting point on this “theory” is that it has become the standard cosmogony/anthropogeny myth of our global society. I talk here about “myth” as a narrative intended to explain the origins of (and sometimes justify) the current natural and social order; since we are human beings, we need myths psychologically (Georges Dumézil), so now that we don’l like Biblical explanations, we look for them in every scientific trend. And, sincerely, I think that ancient cosmologies (even the Hebrew Biblical one, though my favourite is the Old Babylonian) showed a far more beautiful and mystical view of the universe (a work of God) than modern rationalist views – be they scientific-modernistic or aristotelian-scholastic.

    Sorry for this odd, tedious and maybe somehow heterodox dissertation. God bless,
    K. e.

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    • It reminds of a conversation I had with someone about whether the six days was literally six days. My brother-in-law (a recent convert to Catholicism) sighed aloud and went, “Who cares?!”

      As regards Heliocentrism, I was referring more to the question of the center of the solar system. The center of the universe is a bit ambitious a thing to determine in my opinion.

      I see no reason the Earth can’t be the center of the universe while at the same time not being the center of the solar system. But I find it more amusing a thought to imagine God didn’t make us the center of the universe just to take a subtle jab at our collective human arrogance.

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      • Well, about where the true center of the universe is, and which is our true (physical) place in it, only Our Lord knows. You are right on that, when man tries to know everything about the world where he dwells, he is actually trying to rebuild the Bable tower.

        K. e.

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  2. The geocentrist today depends on twists of logic that would make Zeno smile. He accepts many aspects of astrophysical science from Newton and Einstein, but highly selectively, and while fundamentally misunderstanding certain parts. A misunderstanding of the theory of relativity leads him to conclude that there are never any preferred frames of reference, and that any point in space is exactly like any other point in space. This is true only in a very limited sense in Special Relativity, but General Relativity (Einstein’s later work) limits this even more. If gravity is real, and it is, then the earth *must* orbit the sun because of the enormous discrepancy in mass between the two. To say that, because all bodies are not firmly set in place like the medievals believed (i.e., set in crystalline spheres), they therefore conceptually roam untethered, ignores the observed fact that families of celestial bodies have centers of gravity, even if the universe as a whole does not. One cannot place the earth in the center of the universe, itself unmoving, without causing the entire cosmos to spin wildly around it every twenty-four hours, apparently free from the terrors of centrifugal force. (Heck, maybe that explains the redshift!)

    Insisting that the earth is at the center of the cosmos, but admitting that one can only know this by divine revelation, is where things get really bizarre. The more capable we become at beholding the cosmos in all its detail, geocentrists say, the more thoroughly we misunderstand it. No matter how many times we watch the earth orbit the sun from our satellites and long-range telescopes, we have to believe it’s an illusion. What we see isn’t real, only what the Church Fathers (supposedly) defined is real. This leads inevitably to a Gnostic or even Buddhist view of this world, which is that it is mostly or partially illusion, and that truth is found only in revelation.

    And besides, if centrality is equated with importance, then wouldn’t the location at the center of the earth become the most important place in the universe? Satan, call your real estate agent!

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    • I once had an argument with someone who denounced all modern medicine (i.e. anything developed from the 16th century onward) as “Allopathy” and insisted homeopathy (the business of selling people water as a cure) works. When I brought up basic chemistry and physics the person said that scientists and doctors “get lucky” with all their “stupid little studies”. The argument this person used as a clincher was that “science supposedly debunks the existence of God”, to which I presented a very long explanation to the contrary.

      The secular world has built a false dichotomy between “science” and “religion” and the well-meaning religious without much scientific knowledge or curiosity have blindly swallowed it wholesale. To defend their faith, they believe they must reject science and so they play right into the enemy’s hands. The resulting ideology is one built upon a plethora of logical contradictions while entrenched in stubborn intransigence and unceasing denial of the obvious. In other words, every stereotype an Atheist has of a religious fundamentalist.

      I begin to wonder if Sungenis is some sleeper agent for the enemies of the Faith. He has to be that, a charlatan looking for a quick buck (his fake degree definitely lends this as a possibility), or maybe he might actually believe his own ideas. Regardless of the intent, he has ensnared a number of Catholics who lack the critical thinking skills and scientific knowledge to simply dismiss his pseudoscience.

      “For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive.” – Romans 16:18

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      • I see that Chris Ferrara has been suckered into promoting Sungenis’s theory. Michael Voris, too. I worry that Sungenis will sucker a third of conservative American Catholics before his bubble finally bursts. One does wonder if Robert Sungenis, “PhD” is a double agent. Either that, or he suffers from extreme doctrinal scrupulosity that can only be relieved by imposing it upon his fellow Catholics. Actually, doctrinal scrupulosity could explain a lot of the problems that afflict traddies, and why we become so annoying to other Catholics.

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  3. This is all a bunch of rubbish. All the Church Fathers believed in geocentrism because they saw it in Scripture! Galileo was condemned because he contradicted Scripture! Nothing else! If you would even read the other side of the story, you would see the lies and deception foisted by David Palm. All Sungenis is doing is showing evidence from modern scientists, top physicists, astronomists, etc. that geocentrism hasn’t been disproven by a long shot. Einstein (surprise!) said so, and The Principle Movie has shown quite a few top scientists as well! But you just show one side of the equation (even if this was written before the release of The Principle), with a man having an obvious axe to grind with Sungenis!

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    • And you ignore what Bellarmine actually said.

      Scripture is not a science book and science has no bearing on dogma. Dogma is above science and cannot be touched by it. By “crossing the streams” you fall right into the trap of the Modernists. They would be most pleased were they still alive, to see the self-professed enemies of modernism take the bait.

      If Sungenis is any sort of expert on science, why did he need to get a fake degree? If he is an expert on theology, why does he pick the “Churches of Christ” (the special needs kindergardeners of the Protestants) as his opponents? He is an expert of absolutely nothing.

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      • When scripture speaks of the natural world, it often does so allegorically, or to make a moral point. The inspired writers were less interested in the particulars of how the physical world “worked” and more in how it could figure the glory and goodness of God. That does not means that the writers of scripture made errors concerning what we’re calling science, but simply that such precision was not their concern. (Still, you occasionally find things like descriptions of the water cycle in scripture which are quite accurate.)

        The Church Fathers were geocentrists not because they were convinced by the witness of scripture, but because it was the prevailing (pagan/secular) scientific theory of the day. Just as churchmen today pretty much accept as fact whatever scientists tell them is true about the physical world, so did the Fathers in their time.

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  4. The irony here is that geocentrism is that the real agenda behind the geocentrist movement appears to be an inerrantist view of the Old Testament’s creation and cosmological texts. Yet such a view is not traditionalist but fundamentalist. This is evident by the fact that both Origen and St Augustine rejected what is now referred to as Young Earth Creationism. Thus as J. points out, they were convinced not by fundamentalist hermeneutic but because geocentrism was the prevailing scientific theory of the day.

    Nevertheless, in doing so the Patristic fathers rejected the earlier flat earth model of Genesis and other Hebrew texts of the Old Testament.

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    • I’m pretty sure it’s wrong to suggest that inerrancy can be avoided in any parts of scripture. The popes and doctors of the Church are almost if not entirely unanimous on that point. Pope Leo XIII, for instance: “It is absolutely wrong and forbidden, either to narrow inspiration to certain parts only of Holy Scripture, or to admit that the sacred writer has erred” (Providentissimus Deus).

      This is not the same as saying that all parts of scripture ought to be read in the same manner, for while much of it is asserted as simple historical truth (e.g., the Gospels), many parts are also highly allegorical (the Apocalypse) or symbolic (Genesis 1, according to St. Augustine). But these non-historical—or non-literalistic, if you prefer—passages are still inerrant and inspired by God within those literary forms. It’s only wrong to interpret them as simply historical when they are not.

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  5. J.

    Catholics believe the Bible to be inspired and infallible. However, Biblical inerrancy arose out of the Protestant fundamentalism. It has never been Catholic teaching.

    For the record, I agree with you that certain parts are symbolic or highly allegorical, according to genre. But this argument goes against Biblical inerrancy as it is understood by its proponents.

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    • Pope Leo says it is wrong to say “that the sacred writer has erred.” If can’t use the word “inerrancy” to summarize that statement, then surely words have lost their meaning. Just because some Protestants have a wacky idea of what inerrancy means, this does not destroy the historical Catholic doctrine of inerrancy. We just have to define it more precisely.

      I’m curious about what you said above concerning some Church Fathers rejecting certain Hebrew texts of the Old Testament. Which Fathers did this?

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      • They did not reject the texts. Rather they rejected a literal inerrantist interpretation of these texts, or what today is called “Young Earth Creationism.” Basically St Augustine and Origin argue for an analogical interpretation of Genesis 1’s creation text.

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      • Actually, J, I just reviewed what we both wrote, as well as an email from a friend providing various papal statements on this topic. Would you agree with the following explanation by Pope Pius XII in Divino Afflante Spiritu, in which he more clearly explains the teaching of his predecessors?

        ***The first and greatest care of Leo XIII was to set forth the teaching on the truth of the Sacred Books and to defend it from attack. Hence with grave words did he proclaim that there is no error whatsoever if the sacred writer, speaking of things of the physical order “went by what sensibly appeared” as the Angelic Doctor says,[5] speaking either “in figurative language, or in terms which were commonly used at the time, and which in many instances are in daily use at this day, even among the most eminent men of science.” For “the sacred writers, or to speak more accurately – the words are St. Augustine’s – [6] the Holy Spirit, Who spoke by them, did not intend to teach men these things – that is the essential nature of the things of the universe – things in no way profitable to salvation”; which principle “will apply to cognate sciences, and especially to history,” (Divino Afflante Spiritu §3.)***

        In light of this quotation, I will retract my earlier criticism which failed to distinguish between varying definitions of Biblical inerrancy. I am guessing from your earlier comments that you agree with Pope Pius XII’s explanation of Biblical inerrancy expressed above. In which case, I believe we are both in agreement.

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      • I think the gist of what we’re getting at here is that nothing in scripture is wrong per se. However, that doesn’t mean it is correct in the most literal sense.

        Psalm 103, as I mentioned above, speaks of a flat earth. One has to realize though that the psalms are prayerful poetry. The passage is not meant to teach us how the earth works but to direct our mind to God caring for all His creation.

        The same goes for Genesis 1. It is a very vague outline of the creation of the world, but it does not mean that God created the world in seven literal 24-hour periods of time. The symbolic significance of the number seven is beyond question (though it could mean seven ages or aeons for all we know), but I don’t see any reason to disbelieve that thousands of years could have passed between the creation of life and man being brought from the dust (no one is ever going to sell me on the “ape-man” myths).

        None of us were there for the creation of the world. We don’t know how it happened and it is best to leave what has not been revealed alone. I personally blame the excesses of scholasticism for introducing rationalism and the belief that we can deduce everything through reason.

        Augustine said it best in Confessions: “What I do not know, I do not know.”

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      • Pius’ note on the use of figurative language in scripture is a good addendum to Leo XIII. His reference to St. Thomas is of course very relevant: “Moses describes what is obvious to sense, out of condescension to popular ignorance.” (http://www.newadvent.org/summa/1070.htm#article1)

        So yes, I posit that scripture is inerrant while often using figures of speech which some incorrectly take to be a sign of error. There is no error in scripture, but there are condescensions to ignorance.

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