Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
June 13, 1957

Catholic Infallibility No. 1

Wm. E. Wallace, Owensboro, Kentucky

Galileo Galilei was an Italian genius of the latter 16th century and the early 17th. Among his many achievements was the perfection of a telescope. His great astronomical discoveries, his sundry findings concerning falling bodies and gravity, and his winning of wide acceptance for the Copernician theory concerning the universe are some of his other accomplishments. He was a prolific writer. Living in an age when few men cared or dared to doubt traditions and superstitions, he spoke out against the established theory concerning the universe — the theory that the heavenly bodies circulate around the earth. The earth was assumed to be the center of the universe. Galileo advocated the Copernican theory which taught the earth is one of a number of planets that revolve around the sun.

In his aggressive teaching Galileo ran into opposition from the Roman Catholic hierarchy. Galileo sought to gain general acceptance of the Copernican theory and thus came into controversy with the ecclesiastical authority of the Roman church. The Catholic Encyclopedia refers to this controversy as one "which raises questions of graver import than any others connected with his name." (Vol. VI, page 343). The Catholic Church feels keenly the imposing consequences of its opposition against a fact of science. Its opposition to the truth in Galileo's contention consequently put it on the side of error. Catholic authors go to great length to defend the action of the Catholic Church and make excuses for its stand in the Galileo affair. They try to water down the impact of the opposition to certain truths by the hierarchy in Galileo's time. When the Galileo affair is placed before them in discussion they refer to it as the "Protestant's stock argument." John Gerard, a Catholic apologetic, writing in the Catholic Encyclopedia, makes the following statement concerning Galileo's work:

"The proof from the phenomenon of the tides, to which Galileo appealed to establish the rotation of the earth on its axis, is now universally recognized as a grave error."

This appears in the Catholic Encyclopedia, volume XI page 344 and it has the Imprimater and Nihil Obstat of Catholic authority on it. To show what the latest findings of science on the matter are, I quote from The World, an English textbook by Dudley Stamp and George H. T. Kimple:

"It used to be thought that this (the moon's pull — WEW) was the only or at least the principal cause of tides. But we know now there is another very important cause. When a body is rotating on its axis, loose objects tend to fly away from the surface. In other words a 'centrifugal force' is set up by the rotation of the earth. But the moon is at the same time revolving around the earth, and so the real cause of the tide may be said to be the centrifugal force set up by the rotation of the earth and moon round their common center, which is not the same as the center of the earth." (Page 77).

Now Gerard, who was a "S. J., F. L. S.", involved the Catholic Church in another error! The Catholic Church referred to the "centrifugal force" theory as a "grave error" 50 years ago, yet today it no doubt teaches as fact, in its parochial schools, this very same theory! The infallibility of the church!

To get back to Galileo and Catholic oppression, the Catholic Church at first manifested an attentive ear to Galileo's work. He was received in Rome in 1611 with some courtesy. Upon setting up his telescope, Galileo demonstrated the sun-spots and other astronomical interests to Catholic authorities. But in time trouble arose — "the ecclesiastical authorities taking alarm at the persistence with which Galileo proclaimed the truth of the Copernican doctrine." (Catholic Encyclopedia, Vol. VI, page 344). The Catholic Encyclopedia states that the authorities "were firmly convinced, with Bacon and others, that the new teaching was radically false and unscientific,"

(Ibid). "But what, more than all," continues Gerard, "raised alarm was anxiety for the credit of the Holy Scripture, the letter of which was then universally believed to be the supreme authority in matters of science, as in all others."

In Rome in 1615 Galileo appeared before the Inquisition which was "an ecclesiastical tribunal for the discovery, punishment and prevention of heresy," (Catholic Dictionary, Attwater, page 270). It was declared by the ecclesiastical authorities that the Copernican system was scientifically false and anti-scriptural or heretical... (Catholic Encyclopedia, Vol. VI, page 344). Thus the Catholic Church went on record as asserting the Copernican theory to be in contradiction to the Bible and therefore false. Regarding this Gerard says, (remember his article appears under the Catholic imprimatur): "In thus acting, it is undeniable that the ecclesiastical authorities committed a grave and deplorable error, and sanctioned an altogether false principle as to the proper use of the Scripture." (Ibid). Gerard is not merely referring to the decision of the Inquisition, but to a "decree of the Congregation of the Index dated 5 March, 1616, prohibiting various heretical works to which were added any (works) advocating the Copernican system." (Ibid). Regarding the attitude of the pope, Gerard says, "there is no doubt that he fully approved the decision, having presided at the session of the Inquisition, wherein the matter was discussed and decided." (Ibid).

The congregation of the Index was the body of Roman Catholic high clerics which censured and condemned works it considered dangerous to faith and morals. It is said by the Catholic authority, "What was objected to was the assertion that Copernicanism was in fact true, 'which appears to contradict Scripture.' "(Ibid). The Roman Catholic Church eventually found the following paradoxes to deal with:

(1) An official Roman Catholic body was on record as condemning a truth of science, and thus officials of Roman Catholicism embraced a false theory concerning the universe.

(2) That official ecclesiastical body not only was in error regarding the controversy over the universe, but it is now believed by Catholic authorities that it was also in error concerning the scope of authority of the Scripture regarding the matter.

(3) The pope himself sanctioned and went along with both errors.

These factors prove to be highly embarrassing to Catholic theologians and the doctrine of the infallibility of the church suffers considerably. Adding to these three items another, namely,

(4) The Catholic Encyclopedia states that the theory which is now accepted as fact, regarding the tides and the rotation of the earth, is a "grave error", it becomes quite evident that the claim for the infallibility of the Roman Catholic Church is quite absurd.

The Catholic Encyclopedia states that Paul V and Urban VIII were convinced that the Copernican system was wrong and that it was unscriptural and that it ought to be suppressed (Catholic Encyclopedia, Vol. VI, page 345). In looking for a loophole through which to escape it is said that these popes never condemned the Copernican doctrine ex-cathedra. You see the pope is said to speak "ex-cathedra" when "exercising his office as the Shepherd and teacher of all Christians, he, in virtue of his supreme apostolic authority, defines a doctrine concerning faith and morals to be held by the whole church" (Catholic Dictionary, Attwater, page 190). Gerard states that "The pope and his assessors may have been wrong in such a judgment, but this does not alter the character of the pronouncement, or convert it into a decree of ex cathedra." (Catholic Encyclopedia, Vol. VI page 346). Yet the pope was wrong, his clerics were wrong, the Catholic Church was wrong. They were wrong both in the field of science and in the field of religion. This is admitted by Catholic authorities. The declaration of the hierarchy and the approval of the pope placed the Roman Catholic Church on the side of falsehood.

The Roman Catholic Church was in error and their clerics and scholars admit it and thus the Roman Catholic Church is fallible. The only difference between what they did do and what they ought to have done in order to make their position "ex cathedra" was to incite a formal expression from the papal chair of the pope. It matters not however, whether he made it from his "papal chair", or not, for he made it from other "chairs." He believed the error, approved the action against truth and her advocates. His action demanded the submission of his followers and generations of Catholics opposed truth at the insistence of the hierarchy. They were wrong in that, and they can be wrong in things of equal and greater importance today. The infallibility of the church! Catholic authorities know this, but in order to patch up their doctrine of the infallibility of the Roman Catholic Church they appeal to the "ex-cathedra" thing. If this appeal is equitable the pope is going to have to get busy and do a lot of ex-cathedra speaking because the lesser lights in the hierarchy do a lot of teaching and preaching, binding and loosing, on things he has yet to consider in ex-cathedra declarations. The Catholic Church can be (and it is) in error on a lot of things in the activity of their numerous organizations and trials. This does not speak very well for the infallibility of the Church of Rome.

What became of old Galileo? Well, he was under a sentence of imprisonment from 1632 until his death in 1642. The sentence was imposed by none other than the infallible Roman Catholic Church!