Posts by Father Paul Gabor

Frye Fire: VATT Damage Assessment on June 27
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I was happy to report a few days ago that the news about the demise of the Vatican Advanced Technology Telescope (VATT) in a fire on Sunday June 18 had been exaggerated. The good people at the site informed me that the VATT appeared unharmed but I was still a little uneasy. I knew that there had been a lot of heat and even more smoke. The heat could have damaged the dome. If the dome’s roundness had been compromised, it would have lost its ability to rotate freely. If the smoke had deposited conductive soot on the electronic circuit boards and corrosive tar on the coated optical surfaces, it would have made us expend considerable resources on cleaning, testing, recoating and recommissioning. I feared that months of diligent work lay before us. The only way to restore my peace of mind was to hasten to the VATT and assess the damage. But how?  I made some preliminary arrangements to … Continue reading

VATT Smoked but not Cooked in Frye Fire
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At 12:27 local time on Sunday June 18, Kevin Newton emailed this image from the Large Binocular Telescope (LBT) building with the caption, “VATT is in trouble.” The photograph shows a red plume of fire in the direction where the VATT (Vatican Advanced Technology Telescope) ought to be. When I saw it, I was very nervous but I knew that things cannot be quite as bad as the picture suggested. Kevin’s email came to me via the microwave communications tower standing 15ft from the VATT building. ‘If the tower is OK,’ I kept telling myself, ‘then the VATT must be OK, too.’ … Continue reading

Learning Together at the Vatican Observatory
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  Continuing formation of priests is taken seriously in the Diocese of Tucson. Bishop Kicanas asked Fr. Chris Corbally and me to provide some input during the annual Newly Ordained Mentoring Program (NOMP). It was not entirely new to us. In 2014, I had given some input to the group at the Redemptorist Renewal Center, the NOMP headquarters. Recently ordained priests and deacons of the Diocese spend three days with the Bishop there. The program includes various exercises, ranging from prayer to field trips. This time the plan was to organize a trip to Vatican Observatory’s offices on the University of Arizona campus and spend three hours with us on August 24. Father Chris and I did not think that an afternoon chatting in an office would be overly stimulating, and so we arranged for a tour of Steward Observatory’s Richard F. Caris Mirror Laboratory. Mons. Gerald Kicanas, Bishop of Tucson, Mons. Albert Schifano and ten recently ordained priests and deacons arrived at 2pm at our offices. … Continue reading

Javier Leach Albert, S.J. (1942-2016)
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I had the good fortune of meeting Father Javier through a Jesuit network to which we both belonged. When we first met, he was its coordinator. A few years later I succeeded him in that job. He was very nice and kind, generous and gracious. He was very passionate about our apostolate of Jesuits in Science. The word “apostolate” does not mean that a Jesuit scientist goes to his laboratory to preach to his co-workers. Our apostolate is about being with other people, reflecting in the light of faith on our shared experience, and being there for others when they need us. It is a very low-key presence. Javier was one of the great masters of the unpretentious and unassuming. He was fully devoted to his mission, convinced and convincing others that God can be found in all things, and particularly in his beloved mathematics. Born in Valencia, Spain on Jan 7, 1942, he joined the Society of Jesus on … Continue reading

Heliocentrism Condemned: 400 Years Ago on May 26
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Four hundred years ago today, on Thursday May 26, 1616, Galileo visited Cardinal Bellarmine and asked him for a testimonial against “slanderers”. St Robert Bellarmine obliged, writing a statement in his own hand: 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 … Continue reading

Heliocentrism Condemned: 396 Years Ago on May 15
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Four centuries ago, on March 5, 1616 the Congregation of the Index “suspended” the publication of De Revolutionibus “until corrected”. It took more than four years for that correction to be issued on May 15, 1620. Here it is in full. As you can see, it is by no means very aggressive: just a few tweaks here and there.  One might as well wonder what was all the fuss about in the first place.  (I shall share my suspicions with you on May 26.) The Fathers of the Holy Congregation of the Index decreed that the writings of the distinguished astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus, On the Revolutions of the World, were to be absolutely prohibited, because he does not treat as hypotheses, but advances as completely true, principles about the location and the motion of the terrestrial globe that are repugnant to the true and Catholic interpretation of Holy Scripture; this is hardly to be tolerated in a Christian. Nevertheless, since Coper­nicus’s work contains … Continue reading

Heliocentrism Condemned: 400 Years Ago on May 7
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How did Galileo’s contemporaries view the Decree of the Congregation for the Index of Books issued on March 5, 1616, and suspending until “corrected” Copernicus’s De Revolutionibus, which was supposedly “altogether contrary to the Holy Scripture”? Today, on Saturday May 7, 2016, we recall that on Saturday May 7, 1616, Father Paolo Sarpi of the Servites, a noted lawyer and scholar in the service of the Most Serene Republic of Venice, submitted his legal opinion of the Decree to the Doge. Allow me to draw your attention to five points: (1) Sarpi calls Copernicus “the most learned professional astronomer that the world has ever had,” (2) he says that the Decree is “bound to cause puzzlement for the novel practice of suspending an old book seen by the whole world and previously uncensored,” (3) “the persons who practice the profession of astronomer are very few, one need not fear that a scandal can emerge,” and therefore (4) he recommends that Venice publish and endorse the … Continue reading

Heliocentrism Condemned: 400 Years Ago on March 11
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Galileo was granted an audience with Paul V on Friday March 11, 1616, only six days after the publication of the Decree (which we examined last Saturday) condemning the “Pythagorean” error. This is how Galileo reported about the events to the Tuscan Secretary of State: Most Illustrious Lord and Most Honorable Patron, I have already reported to Your Most Illustrious Lordship the decision taken by the Congregation of the Index about Copernicus’s book, namely that his opinion does not agree with Holy Scripture and therefore the book is suspended until corrected. The correction will be made soon. [It took four years: The correction was made on May 15, 1620.] The only passage involved is in the Preface to Pope Paul III, where he mentions that his opinion does not contradict Scripture; and some words will be removed from the ending of chapter 10 of book 1, where, after explaining the arrangement of his system, he writes: “Such truly is the … Continue reading

Heliocentrism Condemned: 400 Years Ago on March 5
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Four hundred years ago, on Saturday March 5, 1616, Father Giacinto Petroni, O.P., Master of the Sacred Palace, as instructed by Paul V on Thursday March 3, published the following decree containing the censure of Copernicus’s De Revolutionibus. Considering that this is Rome’s one and only public act against heliocentrism in 1616, let us quote it here in extenso: Decretum Sacrae Congregationis Illustrissimorum Sanctae Romanae Ecclesiae Cardinalium a Sancto Domino Nostro Paulo Papa V Sanctaque Sede Apostolica ad Indicem librorum, eorumdemque permissionem, prohibitionem, expurgationem et impressionem in universa Republica Christiana, specialiter deputatorum, ubique publicandum. Cum ab aliquo tempore citra prodierint in lucem inter alios nonnulli libri varias haereses atque errores continentes, ideo Sacra Congregatio Illustrissimorum S. R. E. Cardinalium ad Indicem deputatorum, ne ex eorum lectione graviora in dies damna in tota Republica Christiana oriantur, eos omnino damnandos atque prohibendos esse voluit; sicuti praesenti Decreto poenitus damnat et prohibet, ubicumque et quovis idiomate impressos aut imprimendos: mandans ut nullus deinceps, cuiuscumque gradus et conditionis, sub poenis in Sacro Concilio Tridentino et in … Continue reading

Heliocentrism Condemned: 400 Years Ago on March 3
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The Thursday solemn session of the Holy Office coram Summo Pontifice, held on March 3, 1616, saw the Papal approval of the censure of Copernicus’s De Revolutionibus: … the decree of the Congregation of the Index having been presented, prohibiting and suspending, respectively, the writings of Nicolaus Copernicus, of Diego de Zuñiga On Job, and of Paolo Antonio Foscarini, Carmelite Friar – His Holiness [Paul V] has ordered that this edict of prohibition and suspension, respectively, be published by the Master of the Palace. (Favaro, XIX, 278; trans. Finocchiaro, p. 148) The Master of the Sacred Palace Giacinto Petroni, O.P., made it so on Saturday March 5, and we shall commemorate the anniversary fittingly on that day. It is also worthy of note that today’s solemn session was the occasion of Cardinal Bellarmine’s report on his meeting with Galileo on the previous Friday, February 26. If Fantoli is correct, High Commissioner Segizzi’s would have suffered bouts of quiet anxiety in the background while Bellarmine gave his … Continue reading

Heliocentrism Condemned: 400 Years Ago this Sunday
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Let us devote today’s post to our final installment on Biblical exegesis. From the perspective of the Second Vatican Council’s dogmatic constitution Dei Verbum, Cano’s and Bellarmine’s problem is clear. Their theology of inspiration (what does it mean that Holy Scripture is the word of God), which we briefly mentioned on Friday, is lacking. They reduce the role of “prophets and apostles” (to use Bellarmine’s expression) to that of mere scribes. Theology of the early modern epoch was so focused on God that it overlooked man. (We tend to the opposite ply today.) Scripture, as Vatican II sees it, is just as human and divine as Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and the Son of Man, is both human and divine. Consequently, the text of Scripture was written by inspired men, but the inspiration was not some kind of “automatic writing”. In composing the sacred books, God chose men and while employed by Him they made use of their powers … Continue reading