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 go to Mt Graham on Friday June 23 but I had to postpone the trip because there were fires by the roadside.
The first window of opportunity opened on Tuesday June 27, and we took advantage of it.
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.'
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. Fr. Chris introduced the Vatican Observatory and its facilities in Arizona. Then we had an excellent tour of the Mirror Laboratory guided by Cathi Duncan and Alan Brass. Then we returned to our offices for a little bit of input addressing some of the questions that have arisen - the Two Books (Nature & Scripture), Whig historiography of science etc.
In his thank-you note, Mons. Schifano described the tour as "breathtaking". He also wrote, "Your presentation [...] was fascinating. I suggested to the Bishop that we find a venue for our priests to hear it. I personally want more."
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 Aug 14, 1959. He studied in Barcelona, Zaragoza, Frankfurt am Main, Madrid, was ordained to the priesthood on July 14, 1973 in Valencia, and obtained his doctorate in mathematical logic in Freiburg im Breisgau in 1977. He taught at the Complutense University in Madrid in 1977-2012 (public research university; full professor at the School of Information Science). He was very active with the Christian Life Communities (national director 1984-86). He was the European coordinator of the Jesuits in Science (2001-2006), and coordinator of the Spanish group of reflection on the Jesuits in Science (2014-2016). He was the founding head of the Chair of Science, Technology and Religion at the Pontifical University Comillas in Madrid (2003-2012). He died in the early morning of Aug 3 in Madrid.
Here are two videos. The first presents his book on mathematics and religion. Here is the transcript:
In my book I distinguish between the language of sign and the language of symbol. The language of sign is the language proper to mathematics. It's a language that has formal models. It's objective. In Spain, in America, in China, in every culture, in every human situation this language has always the same meaning. The language of symbol expresses personal, metaphysical ideas about the last meaning of reality. My idea is that we cannot separate the language of signs from the language of symbols. Because among them there is a relationship of complementarity. But this complementarity is not symmetrical. Because both languages refer to different aspects of the same reality. The language of sign refers to the more objective, manipulable aspect of reality. The language of symbol corresponds to the more metaphysical and religious aspect of reality. The ethical question is very important. We need science to transform the world. We need science to have a better world. But there is the question of being good. And I'd say that usually it's more important to be good than to be a good scientist. The interaction between science and religion has not been always the same. In the future, the language of sign, that is the language of mathematics, would be more and more important. But we know the limitations. We need the language of symbols to express the deep dimensions of humankind, the religious dimensions of humankind, that shoud be taken into account for our decisions.
The second a beautiful obituary published on facebook (you will probably need a facebook account in order to view it). Here is the English translation:
Javier Leach was one of the many men and women who have encountered in science footprints of a marvelous work of God. A man who followed the star of a great Jesuit tradition desirous of discovering in the world new paths to dialogue between science and religion. We owe to Leach the formulation of the NOSYMA model (not symmetrical magisteria) to explain the relationship between science and religion. Two insepaarble and complementary but not symmetrical areas of knowlege. Science works in an autonomous form while religion only needs the scienific language to maintain a better dialogue with contemporary society. Leach was a great exporer of God in all things and encountered Him more particularly in the most elementary, eternal and beautiful of His creation - in mathematics.
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 at the center of the world without moving from east to west) is contrary to Holy Scripture and therefore cannot be defended or held. In witness whereof we have written and signed this with our own hands, on this 26th day of May 1616.
(Favaro, XIX, 348; trans. Finocchiaro, p. 153)
This document will become very important 16 years later, when Galileo gets into trouble with the Holy Office for the second time under a different Pope and in a very different context. Looking at the events of 1616, however, one may be quite perplexed. On the one hand there is Paul V personally assuring Galileo of his high opinion and St Robert giving him a personal testimonial in writing. On the other hand, there is the Decree of the Index condemning Copernicus. Historians are still debating what exactly happened in 1616 (for a typology of approaches, see the excellent paper by Olaf Pedersen).
Everybody agrees, however, that the immediate cause (some say it just an occasion or a pretext) of the condemnation of 1616 was Galileo's enthusiastic and persistent campaign in favor of heliocentrism, and against scholasticism, to the point that there was a loud backlash in Florence, especially among certain Black Friars, but also at the Florentine Court, and even among the Medicis themselves. Had Galileo quietly published one or two scholarly works, Rome would not have interfered. Remember that Copernicus published his De Revolutionibus in 1543, and Rome did nothing. Also recall that Kepler published his Astronomia Nova in 1609. It was not only heliocentric, but it introduced elliptical orbits! Kepler was the Imperial Mathematician (he was quite vain about the title), and the Emperor was the nominal secular head of Christendom. Yet, Church authorities took no notice. So what made 1616 different? It was the commotion and it was Italy.
In my view, the primary goal of the Holy Office and Paul V was to calm things down. Rome was re-active, not pro-active: as usual. She had no interest in taking sides (at this point) in the intricacies of the Florentine intellectual scene and high society. Remember that the authorities in Rome saw the issue as turmoil in Florence that could not be solved locally because of the high standing of the protagonists. Galileo was a personal protégé of the Grand Duke. Had he been lees important, local Tuscan authorities would have dealt with him.
In fact, even though Galileo was a Florentine courtier, it is very likely nothing would have happened had he been discreet. This very sentiment was repeatedly advocated by Piero Guicciardini, the Florentine Ambassador in Rome:
Galileo has relied more on his own counsel than on that of his friends. The Lord Cardinal del Monte and myself, and also several cardinals from the Holy Office, had tried to persuade him to be quiet and not to go irritating this issue. If he wanted to hold this Copernican opinion, he was told, let him hold it quietly and not spend so much effort in trying to have others share it. Everyone fears that his coming here may be very prejudicial and that, instead of justifying himself and succeeding, he may end up with an affront. (Letter of March 4, 1616, to Cosimo II; Favaro, XII, 214-242; tans. Santillana, p. 119)
Similar frustration was common at the time, and in the years to come. The Imperial physician and astronomer Giovanni Remo Quietano wrote to Kepler about Foscarini that he had "spread [heliocentrism] among the people publicly writing in Italian" and that "Galileo handled his cause too rigorously in Rome" (Favaro, XII, 481). Johannes Kepler spoke of "inappropriateness of some [Foscarini and Galileo] who have treated of astronomical truths in places where they should not be treated and with improper methods" (Paschini, p. 354).
Rome wanted to calm things down, quietly earning credit by being seen as the peacemaker. Since Augustus, Rome's true power lay in being perceived as an impartial arbiter and peace broker. As long as people appealed to her judgment (Acts 25) Rome held her sway. That is why Rome went out of her way to keep the proceedings prudently quiet. Let me stress that the only public act was the anti-Copernican Decree. Galileo's enemies probably saw it as a (partial) vindication of their position but Galileo himself left Rome (somewhat) satisfied after the assurances of Paul V on March 11, and St Robert on May 26. From Paul V's point of view, this was an achievement. And the affair was put to rest for 16 years.
I would like to conclude with a theological remark. As my learned confrere and friend, Bernard Sesboüé (member of the International theological commission in 1980-86) often remarks (this book is fascinating and easy to read), the Magisterium wears the robes of timelessness but it speaks to the people of God in its own time. As a result, the same turn of phrase which at a given time expresses the Treasure of Faith admirably, bringing the faithful closer to God and making their hearts burn (Lk 24:32), may become an hindrance and scandal a few centuries later. The Magisterium can never be abstractly objective and academic: its first responsibility is the salvation of souls (as they would say in 1616) or pastoral (as we say in 2016). I do not see how the Holy Office could have handled Galileo better in 1616 (I reserve my judgment about the events of 1632-33). Paul V and St Robert Bellarmine went out of their way to assure Galileo that they did not doubt his personal integrity while trying to convince him that discretion was called for.
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 many things that are very useful generally, in that decision they were pleased by unanimous consent to allow it to be printed with certain corrections according to the emendation below in places where he discusses the location and motion of the earth not as a hypothesis but as an assertion. In fact, copies to be subsequently printed are permitted only with the above-mentioned places emended as follows and with this correction added to Copernicus's preface.
Emendation of the passages in Copernicus's book which are deemed suitable for correction:
In the preface, toward the end, delete everything from the beginning of the last paragraph up to the words "this work of mine," and substitute: "For the rest, this work of mine..."
In book 1, chapter 1, page 6, where it says "However, if we consider the matter more closely...", substitute: "However, if we consider the question more closely, we think it is immaterial whether the earth is placed at the center of the world or away from the center, so long as one saves the appearances of celestial motions."
In chapter 8 of the same book, this whole chapter could be expunged since it explicitly treats of the earth's motion while it refutes the ancient arguments proving its rest; however, since it is preferable to speak problematically, so as to satisfy scholars and to keep integral the book's sequential order, it may be emended as follows.
First, on page 6, delete the sentence from "Why therefore" to the words "We sail out," and correct the passage in this manner: "Why therefore can we not grant it the motion suitable to its shape, rather than rendering unstable the whole universe, whose limits are unknown and cannot be known, and why not grant that the things which appear in heaven happen in the same manner as expressed by Virgil's Aeneas?"
Second, on page 7, the sentence beginning with "I also add" should be corrected this way: "I also add that it is no more difficult to attribute motion to that which is in a place in a container, namely to the earth, than to the container."
Third, on the same page, at the end of the chapter, the passage from the words "You see" till the end of the chapter is to be deleted.
In chapter 9, page 7, correct the beginning of this chapter up to the sentence "For the fact that..." thus: "If, then, I assume that the earth moves, I think that we now have to see also whether several motions can belong to it. For the fact that..."
In chapter 10, page 9, correct the sentence beginning with "Consequently" thus: "Consequently we should not be ashamed to assume..." And a little below that, where it says "is correctly attributed to the motion of the Earth," substitute: "is consequently attributed to the motion of the Earth."
Page 10, at the end of the chapter, delete the very last words: "Such truly is the size of this structure of the Almighty's."
In chapter 11, the title of the chapter is to be changed in this manner: "On the Hypothesis of the Triple Motion of the Earth, and Its Demonstration."
In book 4, chapter 20, page 122, in the title of the chapter, delete the words "these three stars," since the earth is not a star, as Copernicus would have it.
Fra Franciscus Magdalenus Capiferreus, O.P., Secretary of the Holy Congregation of the Index.
Rome, Press of the Apostolic Palace, 1620
(Favaro XIX, pp. 400-401; tran. Finocchiaro, pp. 200-202)
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 Decree lest "considerable harm [come] to the concordat reached between the Apostolic See and the Most Serene Republic in 1596 on the matter of the prohibition of books," (5) while others, it seems, suggested publishing the Decree "without [...] a public endorsement" from the Venetian Republic, making it legally void under her jurisdiction. (NB. Venice was one of the principal centers of the printing industry; hence the special concordat.)
Here is the Sarpi's text in extenso, highlighting the passages mentioned above:
I have seen the decree of the Roman Congregation for the Index of books, submitted to the Most Excellent College [i.e., the Cabinet] by the Most Illustrious Lord Count Dal Zaffo [Count Contarini of Jaffa], Expert Councillor on Heresy. In accordance with the order of Your Serenity, and speaking with reverence, I will say this.
That decree contains two parts. The first is a prohibition of five books by Protestant authors recently printed on the other side of the Alps: two of them contain only doctrines that are heretical and contrary to the holy faith; the other three, although they do not treat mainly of religion, nevertheless contain many heretical doctrines. Thus, one can be sure that prohibiting them is a service to God and contributes to the conservation of the purity of the holy religion.
The second part of the decree is the suspension of a book by the famous astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus, and furthermore the prohibition of a letter printed in Naples on the same subject by another author who follows his doctrine. Nicolaus Copernicus was a Catholic clergyman, a lecturer at the University of Rome, and a close acquaintance of Pope Paul III (God bless his soul) when he was a cardinal and also after he became pope; his book was printed slightly less than 100 years ago and was seen and read by all Europe with the judgment that its author was the most learned professional astronomer that the world has ever had; indeed the reform of the calendar made by Pope Gregory XIII was based on his doctrine. For these reasons, the suspension of the book is bound to cause puzzlement for the novel practice of suspending an old book seen by the whole world and previously uncensored either by the Council of Trent or by Rome. On the other hand, we must consider that this kind of doctrine does not touch in any way the power of the state and does not provide any benefit to temporal authority; nor does it affect the art of printing in this state, for it is certain that none of these books have ever been printed in Venice (but rather in Rome); and even if they had ever been printed here with the proper license, there may be important reasons for allowing prohibition. In any case, since the persons who practice the profession of astronomer are very few, one need not fear that a scandal can emerge. Therefore, I would judge that to allow the prohibition and the suspension for these three other books cannot cause any public harm.
However, I would point out with reverence that if the prohibition were to be published without receiving a public endorsement, it would do considerable harm to the concordat reached between the Apostolic See and the Most Serene Republic in 1596 on the matter of the prohibition of books; and for innumerable and extremely important reasons, it is right and necessary to keep it alive with every diligent care. Thus, it would be a public disservice if the Roman decree were published and promulgated in Venice by the Father Inquisitor or other clergyman, after the merely oral approval of the Most Illustrious Lords Expert Councillors [on Heresy], as I believe the Father Inquisitor plans to do. Instead, for the preservation of the public interest I would deem it necessary to have a meeting of the Office of the Inquisition and the [State] Council [on Heresy] for the purpose of compiling a decree that would state substantially this: that on such and such a date there was a meeting of the Office of the Inquisition and such and such Most Illustrious Lords Councillors; that such and such a decree of the Roman Congregation of the Index was examined and read; and that it was decided to publish it. This action should be recorded in the book of public proceedings of the Office of the Inquisition; and if the Father Inquisitor should want to print in Venice the Roman decree, he should not be allowed unless he adds the abovementioned Venetian decree; thus, anyone seeing the Roman prohibition would simultaneously see the endorsement given by the representatives of the public, and the concordat will be respected.
I submit my opinion to the sublime wisdom of Your Serenity. (Berti, pp. 151-153; trans. Finocchiaro, pp. 109-111)
Finocchiaro further notes: "As far as I know, the procedure recommended by Sarpi was never followed, and so perhaps the anti-Copernican decree of the Index was never legally valid in the Venetian Republic. The situation was analogous in France."
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 size of this structure of the Almighty's." [The corrections were somewhat more extensive.]
Yesterday I went to kiss the feet of His Holiness [Paul V], with whom I strolled and reasoned for three-quarters of an hour during a very warm audience. I first paid my respects to him in the name of our rulers the Most Serene Highnesses; he accepted them warmly and ordered me to return them with equal warmth. Then I related to His Holiness the reason for my coming here [to Rome]. I told him how, just before leaving, I had renounced any favor which their Most Serene Highnesses could have done me, as long as it was a question of religion and integrity of life and morals, and he approved of my decision with much repeated praise. I pointed out to His Holiness the maliciousness of my persecutors and some of their false calumnies, and here he answered that he was aware of my integrity and sincerity. Finally, since I appeared somewhat insecure because of the thought that I would be always persecuted by their implacable malice, he consoled me by saying that I could live with my mind at peace, for I was so regarded by His Holiness and the whole Congregation [of the Holy Office] that they would not easily listen to the slanderers, and that I could feel safe as long as he lived. Before I left he told me many times that he was very ready at every occasion to show me also with actions his strong inclination to favor me. I have been glad to report this to Your Most Illustrious Lordship, thinking that you would be pleased with it, as also would their Most Serene Highnesses, in view of their humaneness.
Finally, I remind you that I am your very devout servant, I humbly kiss your hands, and I pray the Lord God to give you the greatest happiness.
Rome, March 12, 1616.
To Your Most Illustrious Lordship,
Your Most Devout and Most Obliged Servant,
(Favaro, XII, 247-249; trans. Finocchiaro, pp. 151-153)
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:
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 Indice librorum prohibitorum contentis, eos audeat imprimere aut imprimi curare, vel quomodocumque apud se detinere aut legere; et sub iisdem poenis, quicumque nunc illos habent vel
habuerint in futurum, locorum Ordinariis seu Inquisitoribus, statim a praesentis Decreti notitita, exhibere teneantur.
Et quia etiam ad notitiam praefatae Sacrae Congregationis pervenit, falsam illam doctrinam Pithagoricam, divinaeque Scripturae omnino adversantem, de mobilitate terrae et immobilitate solis, quam Nicolaus Copernicus De revolutionibus orbium coelestium et Didacus Astunica in Iob, etiam docent, iam divulgari et a multis recipi; sicuti videre est ex quadam Epistola impressa cuiusdam Patris Carmelitanae, cui titulus: "Lettera del R. Padre Maestro Paolo Antonio Foscarini Carmelitano, sopra l'opinione de' Pittagorici e del Copernico della mobilità della terra e stabilità del sole, et il nuovo Pittagorico sistema del mondo. In Napoli, per Lazzaro Scoriggio, 1615," in qua dictus Pater ostendere conatur, praefatam doctrinam de immobilitate solis in centro mundi et mobilitate terrae consonam esse veritati et non adversari Sacrae Scripturae; ideo, ne ulterius huiusmodi opinio in perniciem Catholicae veritatis serpat, censuit, dictos Nicolaum Copernicum De revolutionibus orbium et Didacum Astunica in Iob, suspendendos esse, donec corrigantur; librum vero Patris Pauli Antonii Foscarini Carmelitae omnino prohibendum atque damnandum; aliosque omnes libros, pariter item docentes, prohibendos; prout praesenti Decreto omnes respective prihibet, damnat atque suspendit.
In quorum fidem praesens Decretum manu et sigillo Illustrissimi et Reverendissimi D. Cardinalis S. Caeciliae, Episcopi Albanensis, signatum et munitum fuit, die 5 Martii 1616.
Paulus, Episcopus Albanensis, Cardinalis Sanctae Caeciliae
Frater Franciscus Magdalenus Capiferreus, Ord. Praed., Secretarius
Romae, ex Typographia Camerae Apostolicae, M.DCXVI
of the Sacred Congregation of the Most Illustrious Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church especially charged by Our Holy Lord Pope Paul V and by the Holy Apostolic See with the Index of books and their licensing, prohibition, correction, and printing in all of Christendom, to be published everywhere.
In regard to several books containing various heresies and errors, to prevent the emergence of more serious harm throughout Christendom, the Sacred Congregation of the Most Illustrious Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church in charge of the Index has decided that they should be altogether condemned and prohibited, as indeed with the present decree it condemns and prohibits them, wherever and in whatever language they are printed or about to be printed. It orders that henceforth no one, of whatever station or condition, should dare print them, or have them printed, or read them, or have them in one's possession in any way, under penalty specified in the Holy Council of Trent and in the Index of Prohibited Books; and under the same penalty, whoever is now or will be in the future in possession of them is required to surrender them to local ordinaries or to inquisitors, immediately after learning of the present decree.
This Holy Congregation has also learned about the spreading and acceptance by many of the false Pythagorean doctrine, altogether contrary to the Holy Scripture, that the earth moves and the sun is motionless, which is also taught by Nicolaus Copernicus's On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres and by Diego de Zuñiga's On Job. This may be seen from a certain letter published by a certain Carmelite Father whose title is Letter of the Reverend Father Paolo Antonio Foscarini on the Pythagorean and Copernican Opinion of the Earth's Motion and Sun's Rest and on the New Pythagorean World System (Naples: Lazzaro Scoriggio, 1615), in which the said Father tries to show that the abovementioned doctrine of the sun's rest at the center of the world and of the earth's motion is consonant with the truth and does not contradict Holy Scripture. Therefore, in order that this opinion may not advance any further to the prejudice of Catholic truth, the Congregation has decided that the books by Nicolaus Copernicus (On the Revolutions of Spheres) and by Diego de Zuñiga (On Job) be suspended until corrected; but that the book of the Carmelite Father Paolo Antonio Foscarini be completely prohibited and condemned; and that all other books which teach the same be likewise prohibited, according to whether with the present Decree it prohibits, condemns, and suspends them respectively.
In witness thereof, this decree has been signed by the hand and stamped with the seal of the Most Illustrious and Reverend Lord Cardinal of Saint Cecilia, Bishop of Albano, on March 5, 1616.
Paul, Bishop of Albano, Cardinal St. Cecilia
Friar Francesco Maddaleni Capiferreo, O.P., Secretary
Rome, Press of the Apostolic Chamber, 1616
|Favaro, XIX, 322-323||Finocchiaro, p. 148-150|
The formulation here is much milder than the one found in the working document of February 24. The Decree talks about the "false Pythagorean doctrine" and declare it "altogether contrary to the Holy Scripture". This is not nearly as harsh as "foolish and absurd" philosophically, and "formally heretical" because contrary to Scripture.
To be continued on March 11, commemorating Galileo's audience with Paul V.
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 report. Why would the powerful Dominican have been uncomfortable?
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 and abilities, so that with Him acting in them and through them, they, as true authors, consigned to writing everything and only those things which He wanted. (Dei Verbum, 11)
It is Scripture as a whole which is canonical and inspired, and that includes all of the available texts, with all their variants, scribe's error, etc. It is up to the Church (the faithful, the experts, and the Magisterium) to read it. Considering that the Church is animated by the same Holy Spirit who inspired the holy writers, the image is perfectly consistent. The Church is herself the Mystical Body of Christ, who is the Incarnate Word (John 1), and Scripture is the word of God. As a result, Scripture and its interpretation is a part of a hermeneutic of life, of the action of the Spirit within the Church, of the continuing process of incarnation: the New Creation.
Let us try not to project our own attitudes on the protagonists of our drama. After all, they lived four centuries ago. Cano's and Bellarmine's desire for clarity bears one strong resemblance, I suspect, with the attitude of today's engineers and scientists. As Guy Consolmagno points out, these "techies" have little time for metaphor and exegesis. They want to know the rules of the game, and they want them in simple and unambiguous terms. They ask, "What must I do to have eternal life?" (Lk 10:25) in the most literal and down-to-earth sense. Recall the exuberance of the Elizabethan era (this is exactly the period!). Try to yourself in the shoes of people who have found an entire "new world" of possibilities. Imagine that somebody discovers a way how to travel 20 light years in 5 months. How dizzy would you be with the whole new universe of opportunities? Nothing would seem too difficult. No problem would be too complex, no challenge too daunting. There would be no need for nuance and subtlety. Just do it!
I suspect that Cano and Bellarmine reflected some of their era's spirit when they desired clear-cut reading of Scripture. In fact, they would have expected God to make sure that Scripture could be read with no recourse to metaphor. As we have said before, throughout the history of the Church, the norm was to interpret Scripture using a very sophisticated art focused on intertextual references. Luther did not like it, and Cano and Bellarmine also found it unappealing and unconvincing. I believe it was an effect of the early modern esprit which was suffusing the air of the time.
In this respect Cano and Bellarmine were just as go-getting as Luther and Calvin. It was just that they drew different practical conclusions. They all believed (more than the mainstream average over the centuries) that grasping the sense of Scripture was fairly straightforward. They all believed that everybody should read the Bible. They all believed that the literal sense was valid most of the time, and that the text itself made it clear where the literal sense is a mere figure of speech. The difference was that Luther and Calvin Bible frowned upon the medieval and popish insistence that only trained and approved professionals interpret the Bible, while Cano and Bellarmine worried how dangerous Bible was in the hands of uncouth and unlicensed rogues.
In the second half of the coming week, we shall return to our ruminations observing the 400th anniversary of the decree of the Congregation of the Index against Copernicus's De Revolutionibus.