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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 65.djvu/131

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127
COPERNICUS.
Though I know that the thoughts of a philosopher do not depend on the judgment of the multitude, his study being to seek out truth in all things so far as is permitted by God to human reason, yet when I considered how absurd my doctrine would appear I long hesitated whether I should publish my book, or whether it were not better to follow the example of the Pythagoreans and others who delivered their doctrine only by tradition, and to friends.

The doctrine of Copernicus was first formally judged by the Roman Church in 1615 when Galileo was before the Inquisition in Rome. The judgment was in these terms:

The first proposition, that the sun is the center and does not revolve about the earth, is foolish, absurd, false in theology, and heretical, because expressly contrary to Holy Scripture.

The second proposition, that the earth revolves about the sun and is not the center, is absurd, false in philosophy and, from a theological point of view at least, opposed to the true faith.

In the year 1616 the works of Copernicus were placed upon the Index 'until they should be corrected,' and 'all writings which affirm the motion of the Earth' were condemned at the same time. The congregation issued a notice to its readers in 1620, thus conceived:

Although the writings of Copernicus, the illustrious astronomer, on the revolutions of the world have been declared completely condemnable by the Fathers of the Sacred Congregation of the Index, for the reason that he is not content to announce hypothetically certain principles concerning the situation and motion of the earth, which principles are entirely contrary to the sacred Scripture, and to its true and Catholic interpretation (which can absolutely not be tolerated in a Christian man) but dares to present them as indeed true; nevertheless, because this book contains things very useful to the republic, it has been unanimously agreed that the works of Copernicus ought to be authorized, so far printed, as they previously have been authorized, correcting, however, according to the following notes, the passages in which he does not express himself hypothetically, but affirmatatively maintains the motion of the earth; but those which, in future, will be printed must not be so printed save with the following corrections, which are to be placed before the preface of Copernicus.

The corrections follow; they are not numerous or important.

The works of Copernicus were still on the Index in the year 1819. In the following year Pope Pius VII. approved a decree of the Congregation of the Holy Office that the Copernican system, as established, might be taught, and in 1822 'the printing and publication of works treating of the motion of the earth and the stability of the sun, in accordance with the general opinion of modern astronomers, is permitted at Home.' Centuries before this date the real question had been judged; but its formal settlement in the Roman Church was postponed to our own day.

The judgments of the Congregation of the Index upon the heliocentric theory were an incident in the history of the relations of Galileo with the authorities at Rome, and they can best be understood in con