Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 10.djvu/416

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This were gratuitously to transform an obscure, an irresponsible personage into an humanitarian philosopher who is ages ahead of the thought of his time and who purposely destroys a sorrowful page of history. The most probable account of what took place would be this: According to all the treatises on inquisitorial law, the commissary was authorized not to inflict torture on aged men, or on persons suffering from disease, who might die under the punishment. The advanced age of Galileo, and his infirmities, aggravated as they were by so much mental suffering, naturally placed him in the category of culprits who were not subjected to torture. If he was spared that dreadful infliction, Berti gives all the credit to the humanity of the father commissary; he even appears to think that, but for the kindly intervention of Father Macolano, the sovereign pontiff and the Congregation of the Holy Office would have given over Galileo to the executioner.

Let us be more fair. It would be a libel on Urban VIII. to represent him as thirsting for the blood and pleased with the sufferings of his old friend. The pontifical decree of June 16th has this important proviso regarding the employment of torture, that it should not be used unless the accused could endure it. When he expressed himself thus, the sovereign pontiff was perfectly well aware that Galileo could not stand such a trial, and he consented beforehand, without needing to be entreated by the commissary, to the omission of the torture. What, indeed, would have been the use of such extreme rigor? Urban did not desire the death of the culprit; he wanted to make certain that Galileo would never more speak or write about the question of the earth's motion; and it was in order to so strike him with terror as to insure his silence that of all the agonies of the trial he saved him only from the last—the only one that would have been of no use. The pope was not so cruel as Berti thinks, but neither did he give any sign of that compassion and indulgence toward the accused with which he is too often credited. This point is worth repeating, inasmuch as it is the clearest result of Berti's publication: the various phases of the trial of Galileo were not arranged with a view to theatrical effect, and to make an outward show of great severity, so as to intimidate the adherents of Galileo's doctrine, while, behind the scenes, the culprit was treated with kindness. The threat of torture, the abjuration, the sequestration, were realities, and not, as has been supposed, simply monitions addressed to overbold men of science. At first, the court of Rome did not concern itself so much about impressing the imagination of the public as about striking Galileo. Here was a rebellious subject who had once before been treated with the greatest lenience, but who repaid the indulgence of the Holy Office with the transparent irony of his "Dialogues;" who had set snares for the person appointed to examine his manuscript; who, at his first interrogatory, had made sport of his judges, nay, perhaps of the sovereign pontiff himself: he must now be reduced to silence for