Since the Galileo case is one of the historical bludgeons that are used to beat on the Church–the other two being the Crusades and the Spanish Inquisition–it is important that Catholics understand exactly what happened between the Church and that very great scientist. A close look at the facts puts to rout almost every aspect of the reigning Galileo legend.
The Victorian biologist Thomas Henry Huxley, who had no brief for Catholicism, once examined the case and concluded that “the Church had the best of it.” The most striking point about the whole affair is that until Galileo forced the issue into the realm of theology, the Church had been a willing ombudsman for the new astronomy. It had encouraged the work of Copernicus and sheltered Kepler against the persecutions of Calvinists. Problems only arose when the debate went beyond the mere question of celestial mechanics. But here we need some historical background.
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