Galileo to Get Statue at Vatican

Today’s Journal reports on the delicate task of creating a monument to Galileo Galilei at the Vatican. But there’s still some opposition. Check this out from the very end of the article:

On the other side of the barricades, meanwhile, some Roman Catholics think the church has already done more than enough to make up with Galileo.

Atila Sinke Guimarães, a conservative Catholic writer, dismisses the church’s mistreatment of Galileo as a “black legend.”

The scientist, he says, got what he deserved. “The Inquisition was very moderate with him. He wasn’t tortured.”


  1. um… Poe?

    He’s basically saying they could have tortured him if they wanted to, but they wanted to be nice to him.

  2. Oh, well, in that case! If they didn’t torture him, then they were more than lenient in how they treated him?


  3. valdemar

    He wasn’t tortured but he was given the first and second degrees, i.e. threatened and then shown instruments of torture, the uses of which were explained to him. The third degree was the actual torture.

    So hurray for Christianity – it doesn’t torture honest people for telling the truth. I imagine the converts will be storming the churches after that revelation.

  4. Natalie

    “The Inquisition was very moderate with him. He wasn’t tortured.”

    What, he was just waterboarded?

  5. D. C. Sessions

    Ah, the Galileo myth.

    In case anyone actually cares, he wasn’t brought up on charges for his science. As it happens, Urban (the Pope) was quite the natural philosopher in his own right, with some rather good work in botany. He and Galileo corresponded quite a bit and in general the Pope was supportive of Galileo’s work in natural philosophy.

    Galileo, on the other hand, was a Grade A ass. In the course of an otherwise normal disagreement on science, he went all ad hominem on the Pope, and did it very publicly. What would generally be considered a Career Limiting Move today, and that’s pretty much the same then, without the labor laws.

    He ended up getting off very easy precisely because the same person (Pope Urban) that he’d libeled pulled strings to get him maximum leniency. Any other prince (and make no mistake, the Pope was a monarch as well as a priest) would have had his head off after the first flame.

  6. Kalia’s little brother

    In case anyone actually cares, he wasn’t brought up on charges for his science.

    (roll-eyes) So it was for not kowtowing to attempts to censor his science? And the relevant difference is? And placement of his books on the Vatican’s list of banned books? That was just because he didn’t follow guidelines about fonts and margins, right?

  7. Pierce R. Butler

    When will the Vatican put up a statue of Giordano Bruno?

    The account given by D. C. Sessions does not agree with that in the only relevant book on my shelves, Dava Sobel’s Galileo’s Daughter, which relates

    … Galileo’s letter to Castelli [the one stating, “I do not think it necessary to believe that the same God who gave us our senses, our speech, our intellect, would have put aside the use of these, to teach us instead such things as with their help we could find out for ourselves, particularly in the case of these sciences of which there is not the smallest mention in the Scriptures; and, above all, in astronomy, of which so little notice is taken that the names of none of the planets are mentioned.”] continued to circulate, traveling from hand to hand, and eventually falling into the wrong hands. … Galileo feared that crucial passages might have been altered (as indeed proved to be the case) either by mistakes in copying or through malevolent distortion. [pp 66-67]

    and, regarding the Dialogue which was to be the basis of the Inquisition’s charges, it featured a character named

    Simplicio… a pompous Aristotelian philosopher… who would often… be played for a fool. The name Simplicio recalled no particular colleague of Galileo’s, but rather the sixth-century Greek philosopher Simplicius… Behind that ancient identity hid some unspecified pedant — thought to be Cesare Cremonini, University of Padua philosopher — who had frequently opposed Galileo in debate. [pp 144-145]


    When Galileo’s book arrived in Rome in the summer of 1632, Urban could take no time to read it. Anonymous advisers judged it for him, however, as an egregious insult. Galileo’s enemies in Rome, whose number was legion, saw the Dialogue as a scandalous glorification of Copernius. … His Holiness, stung by inflammatory remarks insisting Galileo had played him for a fool by allowing Simplicio to espouse Urban’s philosophy, convened a three man commission… [pp 224-225]

    and the witch-hunt was on. Only if you take up the side of Cardinal Bellarmino (described in Michael White’s biography of Bruno as one who “did more than anyone of his time to hold back the flood of secular intellectual progress, earning him the epithet ‘Hammer of the Heretics.’”) can the “Grade A ass” slander get any traction.

    When will they erect a memorial to the hundred-thousand or so “witches” also removed from circulation by the Holy Inquisition and its emulators?

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