Galileo case showed church didn't respect science, official says
Published: May 29, 2009
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- As scholars and theologians continue to debate the heresy trial of Galileo Galilei, a Vatican official said that a failure to understand the boundaries between faith and science was at the heart of the church's condemnation of his ideas. Msgr. Melchor Sanchez de Toca, undersecretary of the Pontifical Council for Culture, told Vatican Radio May 26 that the "incomprehension" on the part of church officials nearly four centuries ago "was born from not having perceived and understood the legitimate autonomy of the natural sciences." Msgr. Sanchez was participating in a symposium in Florence discussing the decision of a church tribunal in 1633 to force Galileo to retract his teaching of the Copernican theory that the earth moved around the sun. The symposium was sponsored by the Niels Stensen Foundation, a Jesuit-run cultural institute. Scientists, philosophers, historians and theologians participated in the five-day conference, which was convoked as part of the 2009 celebrations marking the 400th anniversary of Galileo's first use of the telescope. Msgr. Sanchez said it was understandable, given the cultural context of the time, that the church hierarchy could not accept the Copernican view that the sun did not revolve around the earth because for them the theory tarnished the belief in the centrality of man in God's plan. But the "fundamental error," he said, was maintaining that such scientific ideas "were about faith, when instead they were questions of nature."
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