Philosophy 167: Class 5 - Part 10 - Galileo's Trial: The Sentencing, and Galileo's Abjuration.

Smith, George E. (George Edwin), 1938-


  • Synopsis: Discusses the sentencing of Galileo for heresy, and his abjuration.

    Opening line: "At any rate, let's look at the trial for the moment."

    Duration: 7:24 minutes.

    Segment: Class 5, Part 10.
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At any rate, let's look at the trial for the moment. This is the indictment starting down here. This is what Galileo, when he went in thinking he had a deal, got read to him instead of what the deal he expected. Whereas, however, we wanted to treat you with benignity at the time, it was decided at the Holy congregation held in the presence of his Holiness that the most eminent Lord Cardinal Bellarmine would order you to abandon this false opinion completely.
That if you refuse to do this, the commissary of the Holy office would give you an injunction to abandon this holy doctrine. Not to teach it to others nor to defend it. Not to treat of it and then if you did not acquiesce in this injunction you would be in prison.
To execute this decision the following day at the palace of and in the presence of the above mentioned Lord Cardinal Bellermine. After being informed and warned in a friendly way by the same Lord Cardinal. You were given an injunction by the then Father Commissary of the Holy Office in the presence of a notary and witnesses to the effect you must completely abandon the said false opinion.
And that in the future you could neither hold, nor defend, nor teach it in any way, whatever, either orally or in writing. Having promised to obey, you are dismissed. And whereas a book has appeared here lately printed in Florence last year whose inscription showed that you were the author, the title being etc.
And whereas the holy congregation was informed that with the printing of this book the false opinion of the Earth's motion and sun's stability was being disseminated. And, taking hold more and more every day, the said book was diligently examined and found to violate explicitly the above mentioned injunction given to you.
For in the same book, you have defended the said opinion already condemned and so declared in your face. Although in the said book, you try by means of various subterfuges to give the impression of leaving it undecided and labeled as probable. This is still a very serious error since there is no way an opinion declared and defined contrary to divine scripture may be probable.
I'm not reading the rest I just want to go to the two key causes. Because this certificate does not contain the two phrases of the injunction namely to teach and in any way whatsoever. One is supposed to believe that in the course of 14 or 16 years, you had lost any recollection of them and that for this same reason, you had been silent about the injunction when you applied for a license to publish the book.
And that was his defense, he had forgotten about the injunction, okay? Was not accepted. We say, per now this is the actual ruling. We say, pronounce, sentence and declare, that you, the above mentioned Galileo, because of the things deduced in the trial and confessed by you as above, have rendered yourself according to this Holy office, vehemently suspected of heresy.
There are three grades, heresy, death, vehemently suspected of heresy, imprisonment, heresy not so severe you get punished. Okay? So vehemently suspected of heresy is the middle gray. Namely of having held and believed a doctrine which is false and contrary to the divine and holy scripture. That the sun is the center of the world, and does not move from East to West.
And that the Earth moves and is not the center of the world. And that one may hold and defend is probable an opinion after it has been declared and defined contrary to Holy Scripture. Consequently, you have incurred all the censures and penalties imposed and promulgated. By the scared canons, and all particular general laws, etc.
We are willing to absolve you from them provided that first with a sincere heart and unfeigned faith, in front of us you injure, curse and detest the above mentioned errors and heresies. And every other error and heresy contrary to the Catholic and Apostolic church in the manner, etc.
Furthermore so that this serious and pernicious error and transgression of yours does not remain completely unpunished, and so that you will be more cautious in the future, and an example for others to abstain from similar crimes, we order that the book be prohibited by public edict. We condemn you to formal imprisonment in this holy office at our pleasure.
As a salutary penance we impose on you to recite the seven penitential psalms once a week for the next three years. And we reserve the authority to moderate change or condone holy or impart the above mentioned penalties etc. And this is his actual declaration of abjuration. He does say that he will never again teach it, he says he doesn't believe it, that he was wrong, etc.
I'll let you read it on your own cuz I want to save time for the second half. There are two really interesting questions to ask about this. The first is obvious, Galileo was a sincere Catholic. To lie about this was to condemn yourself to hell forever. So was he sincere?
I mean Popovo's story has it as he's leaving the room it still moves, he says. I don't know that, I don't know whether he really backed off. He never again publicly supported Copernicus. Actually to me the more interesting question until Fantoli's book came out is how could the church have ever been so stupid?
The church had everything to lose here by making a public spectacle of Galileo. They were risking losing their claim to authority in the face of some evidence coming along, like detectable annual stellar parallax, that would once and for all eliminate their claims to perfection. And you know so the obvious thought is, surely, there were people in the Vatican who knew better.
Well, go back a moment. There are seven names here. There were ten people examining him. One of the names missing is the Pope's nephew. It may well be that the three of them decided not to sign this document because they were so confident the Church was doing something really stupid.
We don't know. They may have just been ill disposed. We have no idea. But we do know that a group of them led by The Pope's nephew, were trying to find a compromise solution to this, so as not to put the church in an awkward position. It became a stigma on the church right down really to the 1990s, when Pope John Paul tries to finally save the day entirely by publicly himself saying that it has now been shown that Galileo was in no way at fault.
Okay, so that's the story.