Lagura: Brilliant scientist, scandalous sinner

Fr. Flor Lagura SVD
·1 min read

“THE Case Galileo” is often raised to question the Church’s stand on science and faith; some love to picture it as “science vs faith.”

Galileo was born in Pisa, Italy in 1564, the year Sir Isaac Newton died. Baptized with a long Italian name Galileo de Vincenzo Bonaulti di Galilei, he grew up to be one day considered father of modern astronomy, physics, modern science and scientific method.

He discovered Saturn’s rings and Jupiter’s four large moons: Ganymede, Europa, Io and Callisto. Also, he invented the thermometer.

But he rattled Church authorities when following Copernicus’, and not Ptolemy’s, heliocentric theory Galileo said that the earth goes around the sun, not the other way around. Consequently, Galileo questioned Joshua 10:12-13 -- Joshua commanded the sun not to go down until he could completely defeat Israel’s enemies. Based on the Copernican theory, that is false! Furthermore, Galileo cited a basic rule in logic: “Falsity in one, falsity in all” (Falsum in uno, falsum in toto). So, since the Bible contains falsities, it is false!

Angry Church authorities wanted him burned at the stake for heresy, just as they did with the Dominican Savonarola.

What made matters worse was Galileo’s keeping a mistress, just as Copernicus, the Polish priest-scientist, did. How can a scandalous sinner make such accusation against the Word of God?

When many wanted to burn Galileo for heresy, the wise Jesuit Cardinal Robert Bellarmine defended him. Bellarmine argued that a theory while not absolutely true, is useful in explaining many given data. So, Bellarmine requested that he be designated Galileo’s custodian keeping him under “house arrest” while he continued his research. Case dismissed!

Today, happily, science and faith, coming from one Source, often agree.