Black-and-white image of a painting of Galileo Galilei.
Galileo Galilei allegedly recanted his belief in the heliocentric model to Inquisitors while on his death bed in 1642. (Photo Credit: CC BY/tonynetone/Flickr)

The Chicago Tribune reports that there are still people on Earth who believe the universe revolves around them and the Earth is flat. Parishioners who belong to the ultra-conservative Catholic Society of St. Pius X reject modernizing reforms made by the Vatican II council from 1962 to 1965, among them the near-universally accepted idea that celestial bodies in our solar system orbit the sun (the heliocentric model) as opposed to the Earth (the geocentric model). The latter theory hasn’t been taken seriously since the 13th century.

Roman Catholic Church v. Galileo Galilei

During the 13th century, the Roman Catholic Church began to observe doctrine that we live in a geocentric universe. A growing movement within the scientific community, spearheaded in the first half of the 17th century by Italian astronomer Galileo Galilei, challenged this notion, theorizing that heliocentrism was more accurate. Historical says Galileo was persecuted for his theory, but the Catholic Church eventually gravitated toward the heliocentric model.

Naysayers, centuries later

Members of Our Lady Immaculate Catholic Church in Oak Park, Ill., a parish run by the Society of St. Pius X, believe the Catholic Church as a whole has conceded too much to science and philosophy. Citing Joshua 10:12-14:

“And the sun stood still, and the moon stayed, while the nation took vengeance on its foe. … The sun halted in the middle of the sky; not for a whole day did it resume its swift course.”

Also based on Psalm 93:1, 96:10, 1 Chronicles 16:30, Psalm 104:5 and Ecclesiastes 1:5, the Society of St. Pius X says all celestial bodies revolve around the Earth. In his day, Galileo suggested that not every passage in the Bible should be taken literally. Galileo believed writers of the Bible wrote from the perspective of the terrestrial world of their time. It was clear that the sun did rise in the east and set in the west, and in large part because of this constancy, early scientists and theologians believed the sun moved as we stood still.

An embarrassment to the Catholic Church

Some argue that the Catholic Church lacks the humility to admit its historical mistakes, though the geocentric argument has long been labeled a mistake. Heightened understanding of astronomy has pulled back the veil, which makes the Society of St. Pius X’s position embarrassing for the church, said Brother Guy Consolmagno, curator of the Vatican Observatory.

“I have no idea who these people are,” Consolmagno said. “Are they sincere, or is this a clever bit of theater?”

False ideas, immoral actions

Robert Sungenis, a key figure in the movement to get scientists to reconsider the heliocentric model, is adamant that it is a false system that will lead to spiritual ruin. He recently presented his group’s ideas at the University of Notre Dame during a conference entitled “Galileo Was Wrong. The Church Was Right.”

“Heliocentrism becomes dangerous if it is being propped up as the true system when, in fact, it is a false system,” he said. “False information leads to false ideas, and false ideas lead to illicit and immoral actions — thus the state of the world today.”

The Roman Catholic church and lack of humility


Augustine of Hippo Wiki:

Catholic Answers:

Chicago Tribune:

Galileo Galilei Wiki:

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