Lagura: Excellent scientist, questionable priest

Fr. Flor Lagura SVD
·1 min read

NICOLAS Copernicus, born in Torun, Poland on February 19, 1473, received at baptism the Polish name of Mikolaj Kapernik. In his youth, he planned at becoming a priest, so he studied philosophy and theology, and was ordained.

Later, however, he discovered his passion for science, especially for astronomy and mathematics, so he left for Italy to study at the University of Padua.

As a scientist, Copernicus successfully formulated the Gresham Law, and the Theory of Quantity regarding money. But he is best known for challenging the revered "Geocentric Theory" of Ptolemy, i.e. the earth is the center of the universe. He proposed his "Heliocentric Theory," namely that the earth, other planets and satellites all revolve around the sun.

To play safe, Copernicus dedicated his book, "On the Revolution of the Heavenly Bodies" (De Revolutionibus Orbium Coelistium) containing his theory to Pope Paul III.

But some powerful Church officials objected; for them Copernicus' ideas went against some biblical passages. One example comes from the Book of Joshua 12:10, where Joshua commanded the sun not to go down until he could defeat the enemies of Israel. Moreover, in the Psalms we pray, "From the rising of the sun to its setting..." (Psalm 113:3).

Even Martin Luther condemned Copernicus' book as heretical.

Attacks against the priest-scientist worsened when people found out that he was keeping a mistress!

Sadly, Copernicus succumbed to a severe stroke. Some 60 years after his death, his book was condemned.

Happily, towards the end of the 20th century, Bishop Jacek Jeziewski of Poland, while blessing the tomb of Nicolas Copernicus, told the faithful gathered for the occasion that with the great priest-scientist, faith and reason, bible and science can be reconciled.