method on the other. But this position was attacked and carried by a very simple statement. If the divine guidance of the Church is such that it can he dragged into a professorial squabble, and made the tool of a faction in bringing about a most disastrous condemnation of a proved truth, how did the Church at that time differ from any human organization sunk into decrepitude, managed nominally by simpletons, but really by schemers? If that argument be true, the condition of the Church was worse than its enemies have declared it: amid the jeers of an unfeeling world the apologists sought new shelter.
The next point at which a stand was made was the assertion that the condemnation of Galileo was "provisory"; but this proved a more treacherous shelter than the other. When doctrines have been solemnly declared, as those of Galileo were solemnly declared by the highest authority in the Church, "contrary to the sacred Scriptures," "opposed to the true faith," and "false and absurd in theology and philosophy;"—to say that such declarations are "provisory," is to say that the truth held by the Church is not immutable; from this, then, the apologists retreated.
Still another contention was made—in some respects more curious than any other;—it was, mainly, that Galileo "was no more a victim of Catholics than of Protestants; for they more than the Catholic theologians impelled the Pope to the action taken."
But if Protestantism could force the papal hand in a matter of this magnitude—involving vast questions of belief and far-reaching questions of policy—what becomes of "inerrancy," of special protection and guidance of the papal authority in matters of faith?
While this retreat from position to position was going on, there was a constant discharge of small-arms, in the shape of innuendoes, hints, and sophistries: every effort was made to blacken Galileo's private character; the irregularities of his early life were dragged forth, and stress even was laid upon breaches of etiquette; but this succeeded so poorly that even as far back as 1850 it was thought necessary to cover this retreat by some more careful strategy.
This strategy is instructive. The original documents of the Galileo trial had been brought during the Napoleonic conquests to Paris; but in 1846 they were returned to Rome by the French Government, on the express pledge by the papal authorities that
- This argument also seems to have been foisted upon the world by the wily Monsignor Marini.
- See the Rev. A. M. Kirsch on Professor Huxley and Evolution, in The American Catholic Quarterly, October, 1877. The article is, as a whole, remarkably fair-minded, and in the main just, as to the Protestant attitude, and as to the causes underlying the whole action against Galileo.