Friday, October 28, 2005

Karl Keating was Right About Gerry Matatics

Based on the following e-mail from Gerry_Matatics it is clear that Gerry has taken a sedevacantist position. Karl Keating for many years has held that Gerry was open to this position, and has taken a lot of criticism for it. I personally felt that Karl was too harsh (hearing about it after it occured), and like some of the work Gerry did. I must admit at this point that Karl was right about Gerry, and that he stood his ground on principle, even to his own slight detriment. Though I support much of the work done by traditionalists, I think we see here the danger of being in the position of challenging the authority of Rome too much.

I am saddened by the turn of events for Gerry. I hope and pray that Gerry will reconsider his position and return to the Church, even with all its problems. We need apologists who are able to take on the difficult issues, and Gerry is (was) one of them. This episode is another example of how tricky navigating the spiritual world is today with the Church's authority in shambles, and ambiguity reigning. I hope and pray that Benedict XVI will turn the situatuion around.

Gerry, come home- to Rome!

Here is an excellent refutation of Gerry's position by Robert Sungenis.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Geocentricity 101 Supplement: Discussion of the Position of Scriptures and Church

Since writing the series Geocentricity 101, I have spent a lot of time discussing it with Catholics (and non-catholics) on various forums. It is clear that no one has come up with a reasonable argument against the science part of the issue. The common objection being actually mixing up special and general relativity.

In the case of Scriptures and the Church position, I think a lot of people just do not see the significance of the positions. Part of the fault is mine. In trying to keep the article to a reasonable length and summary in form, I listed a number of decrees and issues, but did not give much explanation. I will try and go through the events in discussion form here, allowing the reader to go back to the orginal article (Geocentrism 101: Part III) to see the details (unless otherwise stated, quotes are from this article). I have also decided to change the wording in the conlusion by removing the words "binding on the faithful's conscience". Many people have complained that it had not gone this far. I believe they are interpeting the words to mean it has reached the level of infallibility, which I explicitly said "It is not clear whether the statements of the Popes reached the level of infallibility." In any case, I will modify this statement, since what is important is not what Catholics are "forced" to believe, but the truth of the matter.

I will not go too much into the assent of the Fathers on this issue. It is clear that the Church did see the Fathers as interperting the Scriptures geocentrically. This is clear from a letter from Bellarmine to Father Foscarini:

On 12 April 1615 Bellarmine wrote I say that, as you know, the Council [of Trent] prohibits expounding the Scriptures contrary to the common agreement of the holy Fathers. And if Your Reverence would read not only the Fathers but also the commentaries of modern writers on Genesis, Psalms, Ecclesiastes and Josue, you would find that all agree in explaining literally (ad litteram) that the sun is in the heavens and moves swiftly around the earth, and that the earth is far from the heavens and stands immobile in the center of the universe.

Now this is only an opinion at this point, but it shows what the Holy Office was considering. Based on the Fathers and other considerations, the eleven theological qualifiers of the Holy Office came to an opinion regarding the doctrine of Corpenicism. This opinion would show up again and again over the next 48 years and three popes. The opinion is expressed as:

24th February 1616: The eleven theologian-qualifiers of the Holy Office meet to consider the theological qualifications proper to be attached to the following propositions:

( i ) The sun is the centre of the universe (“mundi”) and absolutely immobile in local motion.

( ii ) The earth is not the centre of the universe (“mundi”); it is not immobile but turns on itself with a diurnal movement.

All unanimously censure the first proposition as “foolish, absurd in philosophy {i.e. scientifically untenable) and formally heretical on the grounds of expressly contradicting the statements of Holy Scripture in many places according to the proper meaning of the words, the common exposition and the understanding of the Holy Fathers and learned theologians”; the second proposition they unanimously censured as likewise “absurd in philosophy” and theologically “at least erroneous in faith”.

Notice the following:

The sun can not be considered immobile. Today we would not have a problem with that notion, but it is clear that the qualifiers were referring to Scriptural paasages almost all of which talk about the sun moving through the heavens cyclically to make day and night. So acentrism really does not satisfy the idea behind this opinion. Also, the immobility of the earth is recognized as a matter of faith. This makes it hard to argue that this issue is not a matter of faith and morals. Clearly if something is fomally heretical by contradicting Scripture, this is a matter of faith and morals.

Now this statement also is an opinion. The opinion was rendered to establish whether to allow Father Foscarini's book and other Corpenican writings to be published. This was followed by a statement from the Holy Office, led and approved by pope Paul V:

And because it has also come to attention of the aforementioned Sacred Congregation that the Pythagorean doctrine concerning the mobility of the earth and the immobility of the sun, which Nicholas Copernicus, De revolutionibus orbium coelestium . . . taught, and which is false and altogether incompatible with divine Scripture, is now spread abroad and accepted by many . . .; therefore in order that an opinion ruinous to Catholic truth not creep further in this manner, the Sacred Congregation decrees that the said Nicholas Copernicus . . . be suspended until corrected; and that all other books similarly teaching the same thing be prohibited: as accordingly it prohibits, damns, and suspends them all by the present Decree.

March 5, 1616, Declaration of the Congregation of the Index of Forbidden Books of the Inquisition of the Roman Catholic Church.

Notice here, that the opinion of 1616 is expressed in terms of the issue of mobility of the earth and immobility of the sun. This is the first Papal pronouncement regarding this issue.

The next one occured in 1633, by Urban VIII. In this case, it was not the Index, but the Inquisition. Galileo was declared vehemently suspect of heresy. What was the heresy? Again, the basic 1616 theological opinion was repeated and expanded upon by Urban VIII:

Whereas you, Galileo, son of the late Vincenzo Galilei, Florentine, aged seventy years, were in the year 1615 denounced to this Holy Office for holding as true the false doctrine taught by some that the Sun is the centre of the world and immovable and that the Earth moves, and also with a diurnal motion...following the position of Copernicus, which are contrary to the true sense and authority of Holy Scriptures...

by command of His Highness and of the Most Eminent Lords Cardinals of this supreme and universal Inquisition, the two propositions of the stability of the Sun and the motion of the Earth were by the theological Qualifiers qualified as follows:The proposition that the Sun is the centre of the world and does not move from its place is absurd and false philosophically and formally heretical, because it is expressly contrary to the Holy Scripture.The proposition that the Earth is not the centre of the world and immovable but that it moves, and also with a diurnal motion, is equally absurd and false philosophically and theologically considered at least erroneous in faith.

...Galileo, by reason of the matters adduced in trial, and by you confessed as above, have rendered yourself in the judgement of the Holy Office vehemently suspect of heresy, namely, of having believed and held the doctrine – which is false and contrary to the sacred and divine Scriptures – that the Sun is the centre of the world and does not move from east to west and that the Earth moves and is not the centre of the world;...

Urban VIII orders a copy of the decree including the condemnation and abjuration of Galileo to be sent to all Nuncios and all Inquisitors, to be drawn especially to the attention of mathematicians of the area for which each of them was responsible and most especially in Galileo’s city of Florence. This order was carried out and the recipients in turn acknowledged reception.

Finally, 15 years later, a Papal Bull was written which probably did more than the prevous declarations. Alexander VII created the Index Librorum Prohibitorum Alexandri VII Pontificis Maximi jussu editus. Unlike many Indices of the past, he created a Papal Bull, Speculatores Dominus Israel, to which he explicitly attached:

1. ...Tridentine and Clementine Indices...
2. ...all the relevant decrees up to the present time, that have been issued since the Index of our predecessor Clement...
3. ...also the rules of the Tridentine Index, with the observations and instructions added to the Clementine Index, have been prefixed...

Of these explicitly attached documents, he stated in the Bull:

...which we will should be considered as though it were inserted in these presents, together with all, and singular, the things contained therein...

He then stated , explicitly in the Bull:

...having taken the advice of our Cardinals, confirm, and approve with Apostolic authority by the tenor of these presents, and: command and enjoin all persons everywhere to yield this Index a constant and complete obedience...

First, attaching the entire Index to a Bull and approving it with Apostolic authority carries significant weight in itself. Then, attaching previous Indexes, confirming them and approving them with Apostolic authority only adds more weight. But, more important is point '2' , attaching ...all the relevant decrees up to the present time, that have been issued since the Index of our predecessor Clement... AND confirm[ing], and approv[ing] with Apostolic authority. What does this include? According to Father Roberts (The Pontifical Decree Against the Doctrine of the Earth's Movement, 1885):

1. The decree of Paul V: ...And because it has also come to attention of the aforementioned Sacred Congregation that the Pythagorean doctrine concerning the mobility of the earth and the immobility of the sun, which Nicholas Copernicus, De revolutionibus orbium coelestium . . . taught, and which is false and altogether incompatible with divine Scripture...

2. the “monitum” of 1620, declaring the principles advocated by Copernicus on the position and movement of the earth to be “repugnant to Scripture and to its true and catholic interpretation".

Plus a few other items dealing with Kepler's writings, Galileo's Dialogue, etc.

Many Catholic apologists want to pass off this series of events as non-doctrinal because either "it is only disciplinary" or it is "prudential judgement", etc. I believe they are ignoring the Fathers, the Scriptures (as interpered by the Fathers), as well as the repeated and consistent actions of three popes. Cardinal Ratzinger had this to say in Donum Veritatis (a document of instructions for theologians) regarding disciplinary items:

One must therefore take into account the proper character of every exercise of the Magisterium, considering the extent to which its authority is engaged. It is also to be borne in mind that all acts of the Magisterium derive from the same source, that is, from Christ who desires that His People walk in the entire truth. For this same reason, magisterial decisions in matters of discipline, even if they are not guaranteed by the charism of infallibility, are not without divine assistance and call for the adherence of the faithful.

In regards to "prudential judgements", he had this to say:

When it comes to the question of interventions in the prudential order, it could happen that some Magisterial documents might not be free from all deficiencies. Bishops and their advisors have not always taken into immediate consideration every aspect or the entire complexity of a question. But it would be contrary to the truth, if, proceeding from some particular cases, one were to conclude that the Church's Magisterium can be habitually mistaken in its prudential judgments, or that it does not enjoy divine assistance in the integral exercise of its mission.

Clearly, none of the above is automatically excluded from consideration, and given the determination, repeated declarations, and the expicit use of Apostolic authority, I find the geocentrism issue impossible to ignore. Finally, many people claim that the decrees were overturned by later popes when:

1. In 1742 Catholic mathematicians, Fathers le Seur and Jacquier of the Franciscan Minims publish with ecclesiastical approbation a text of Newton’s Principia.

This is not the case, since it was publiched with the following caveat:

Newton in this third book assumes the hypothesis of the earth’s movement. The author’s propositions could not be explained except on the same hypothesis. Hence we have been obliged to put on a character not our own. But we profess obedience to the decrees, made by the Supreme Pontiff against the movement of the earth.

Note that not only was the notion of earth's movement stated a hypothesis, but that also in the same paragraph, the Church allowed this notion to be stated as a hypothesis while also stating explicitly that we have been obliged to put on a character not our own. And subsequently they state we profess obedience to the decrees, made by the Supreme Pontiff against the movement of the earth.

This situation is analogous to permitting Corpenicus' work to be published in 1620 with the caveat that the idea of the earth moving was a hypothesis. This clearly indicates that there are circumstances under which the Church allows this hypothesis to be expressed, and they even allowed before the condemnation of Galileo.

2. In 1757 Benedict XIV allowed Corpenicism to be tolerated.

Benedict XIV removed the phrase prohibiting books teaching immobility of then sun and mobility of the earth from his revised Index. Still, the books currently on the Index were not removed (Dorothy Stimson. The Gradual Acceptance of the Copernican theory of the Universe.). It is not clear what this means. Clearly Benedict XIV was not against some teaching of heliocentrism, but any statement beyond that is speculation.

3. In 1820 Canon Settele applies for the Roman Imprimatur to authorise publication of his openly heliocentric Elements d’Astronomie. Anfossi refuses this, but Settele appeals to Pope Pius VII who upholds the appeal and allows publication.

Pius the VII states that:

...the printing and publication of works treating of the motion of the earth and the stability of the sun, in accordance with the general opinion of modern astronomers, is permitted at Rome...

So now we have a reason why such books are permitted. It is so the general opinion of modern astronomers may be expressed. Note that there is not statement that the Curch's position has changed.

5. Suspension of the Index of Forbiden Books by Paul VI in 1966.

The Index was suspended, not reversed. Nor was the Bull Speculatores Dominus Israel reversed by a suspension of the Index.


In 1966 the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith ceased publication of the INDEX but claimed that it still served as a "moral guide in so far as it reminds the conscience of the faithful they must avoid writings which can be dangerous to faith & morals." Today the Church may issue an "admonitum," a warning to the faithful, that a book might be dangerous. It is only a moral guide, however, without the force of ecclesiastical law.

It is clear that the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is indicating that the Index dealt with matters of faith and morals.

4. In 1992 John Paul II apologized for the treatment of Galileo.

This was done in a private speech to a private group (the Pontifical Academy of Sciences), and had no official Church status. In no way did he officially say that the Church now recognizes heliocentrism (or acentrism) as true. He did say that [(note added 5/31/06) the theologians of]Urban VIII were wrong, but this is his personal opinion (and that of Cardinal Poupard and possibly other members of the Galileo task force). Also he did not discuss the other decrees, nor did he mention the Bull of Alexander VII. So on top of being unofficial, it is incomplete. We should not ignore the speech, but the speech needs to be considered in the context of previous Church declarations. Being private and unofficial, where it contrdicts, the previous decrees are maintained.

None of these serve as the reversal of a Pope's decision. A reversal needs to be explicit. All that can be said is that the Church has since allowed the opinion of modern astronomers to be published. Nothing to my knowledge has been said reversing the decrees dealing with heliocentrism / geocentrism.

At this point it is a matter of awareness of the issue and faith.