II. Galileo and the Church of Rome

Much more could be adduced, on the transcendent as well as on the immanent, exegetical, and scientific levels, to clinch the case for the ultimately geocentric position that your Church has not yet abandoned. I am sure that you are aware of those data, (comprehensively discussed in the Bulletins of the Tychonian Society, which, if so desired, I shall be happy to send you).

In 1633 your predecessor was right in condemning Galilei’s unproven assertion, but the Church he unnecessarily exposed to the ridicule of men attempting to know what cannot be known, but only believed on the authority of Him, Who cannot lie. Wiser would have been to dismiss the affair and to cut it down to size by flatly stating that she had – and still has! -more important things to do than busying herself with time-bound scientific theories that come and go ad infinitum. Andrew Dickson White’s notorious History of the Warfare of Science with Theology could then not have been written, and today the sagacity of such a stance would begin to compel the grudging respect due to it among those again wise enough to realize that the truth behind the veil of the facts – that is behind our perceptions of reality, the only things we have – cannot be unveiled, but only revealed – if He is there! – by the God, Who created those facts and the laws of the modes in which they appear to us. None of mankind’s “proofs”, not even in mathematics, finally touch bottom in the infinite. As Annie Dillard recently put it in a marvelous metaphor which, I am sure, you will appreciate: “I think science works the way a tightrope walker works: by not looking at its feet As soon as it looks at its feet it realizes it is operating in midair.”

Allow me to end with Bellarmine: only if not – as still is the case – by means of an invalid modus ponendo ponens, but experimentally it would be demonstrated that the Earth, moving through space, circles the Sun, “then it would be necessary to proceed with great caution in explaining the passages of Scripture, which seemed contrary, and we would rather have to say that we did not understand them than to say that something was false, which has been demonstrated.”

Until today that required hard-nosed and logically impeccable demonstration has not been given, and is according to the ruling theory impossible to give. Why then should the Bible have to buckle under the weight of an hypothesis about a motion that cannot be shown to be a motion?

With the prayer that He, Who created the Universe and Who is the only One for Whom this Universe is truly an object, may prevent you from judging the fallible word of man more trustworthy than His Infallible Word, I remain,

With due respect,

W. van der Kamp In this letter I have restricted myself to the logical point at issue. The Bulletin cannot tackle the frightful complexity of all that is at stake in the matter which the Secretariat for Unbelievers and its advisors have to settle. Only a few remarks I allow myself.

I shall be the last to deny that the sciences have improved the human condition. But whether sub specie aeternitatis, the ledger shows a credit balance? Interpreting Scripture with the insights we owe to post-Copernican research, the Bible is supposed to reveal to us that God Almighty needed not six days, but six or more billion years to produce people who, after about six thousand years of steadily progressing civilization, now are capable of destroying themselves and their world. For the Day of Judgment, warningly foretold in God’s Word, secular science also has a more pleasing substitute. Read a Jastrow and his compatriots: if humanity will take its marching orders from trustworthy scientific prophesy it may confidently expect a glorious future and a kind of immortality in the extra-terrestrial conquests of its computer-programmed descendants.

Does the Pope really expect a harvest for Heaven from cooperation with these men? Does he think that by throwing St. Bellarmine to the wolves they will become sheep flocking to his Church – urging their followers to follow them and to accept all those unscientific “essentials of the faith”?

The spirit of Vatican II was supposed to work great things. Indeed it did. Exactly what has happened to the “liberalizing” major Protestant denominations now happens to the Roman Church: its adherents leave in droves, its seminaries lack the necessary novices, its schools are closing, its priests preach higher criticism. Rehabilitation of Galileo – John Paul II must be blinded not to see this – will only accelerate this trend. Not reverse it!

Nobody can reasonably expect from a Calvinist that he would mourn if the believers who turn their backs on “modern” Catholicism would join one of the smaller “fundamentalist” denominations that still hold fairly fast to the traditions delivered to them. These believers will not, I am afraid. But if they did: how many among those groups are not infected by evolutionism, that latest pernicious consequence of the Copernican turn-about? And among those churches that still resolutely reject Darwinism – how many dare to face the worldly ridicule awaiting them for proclaiming with the Psalmist an Earth that cannot be moved?

v.d.K.