Many times I’ve discussed the hypocrisy of the Roman Catholic Church. Mainly I’ve pointed out that, on the one hand the Church claims to be the sole remaining arbiter of morality and ethics on the planet; but on the other, it has spent decades allowing its own clergy to prey on children almost at will, has obstructed efforts to prosecute them, and has covered up for abusive clergy as much as they could get away with. That they aren’t getting away with it as much as they used to, bothers the Vatican immensely, and that institution is not happy with the impertinence of those who dare criticize it for refusing to accept the consequences of its actions.
The Church, therefore, proudly claims “the moral high ground” — but hypocritically refuses actually to stand on it.
But now comes another, somewhat different, example of the Vatican’s hypocrisy. USA Today reports that the Church is celebrating the 400th anniversary of Galileo’s revelation of his telescope and its wonders (WebCite cached article):
Four hundred years after Galileo Galilei first demonstrated his telescope to scholars on a Roman hilltop, the astronomer condemned by the Catholic Church was celebrated on the same spot with a multimedia art exhibit that, oddly enough, included an installation from the Vatican.
Heliographs, astrolabes and other antique astrological instruments that belong to the Vatican Observatory stood alongside contemporary art inspired by Galileo and his science: rows of intensely hot, blindingly bright floodlights simulating the sun; a performance by a Tibetan musician playing a telescope-like horn.
The event took place Thursday night at the American Academy in Rome, a research center for the arts and humanities whose gardens lie on the exact spot where, on the night of April 14, 1611, Galileo showed off his telescope for the first time to the most important scholars of his time.
What makes this whole thing sickly hypocritical, is that this is the very same Catholic Church that prosecuted Galileo for having published his findings, specifically his confirmation of Copernicus’s heliocentric solar system theory:
Galileo made the first complete astronomical telescope and used it to gather evidence that the Earth revolved around the sun. Church teaching at the time had placed Earth at the center of the universe. The church denounced Galileo’s theory as dangerous to the faith, but Galileo defied its warnings. Tried for heresy and forced to recant in 1633, he spent the rest of his life under house arrest.
The Vatican is trying to act as though its harassment, persecution, and imprisonment of Galileo was somehow “no big deal”:
“It’s not a simple ‘The church was against science,’” said Brother Guy Consolmagno, a Jesuit astronomer at the Vatican’s Observatory. “The church never speaks with one voice on these things.”
Actually, Brother, it IS that simple! The Catholic Church in Galileo’s time was, in fact, “against science,” at least any science that could have been construed to undermine its authority. Since the heliocentric model of Copernicus appeared to contradict scripture, Galileo’s confirmation was something the Church was very much “against,” in every possible way.
For decades the Vatican has been tap-dancing around the wrong that had been done to Galileo. In 1979 Pope John Paul II called for an annulment of or amendment to Galileo’s conviction; it took that august body an entire 13 years of dodging and swerving to finally decide that Galileo had been right … but also that his persecutors should not be faulted.
What an accomplishment. The Vatican must be so proud.
At any rate, the Church celebrating the scientific accomplishments of a man who was targeted by the Church for his scientific accomplishments, is the very height of chutzpah, and exactly the sort of hypocrisy that Jesus Christ himself explicitly and utterly condemned. Way to to, guys. You just may have outdone yourselves.
Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.Tags: 1611, catholic church, christian, Christianity, christians, galileo, galileo galilei, heliocentric, holy see, hypocrisy, hypocrite, hypocrites, italy, persecution, physics, Religion, roman catholic, roman catholic church, rome, telescope, vatican, vatican city, vatican observatory