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Case of Galileo

The Case of Galileo

A Closed Question?

Annibale Fantoli
Translated by George V. Coyne, S.J.

The “Galileo Affair” has been the locus of various and opposing appraisals for centuries: some view it as an historical event emblematic of the obscurantism of the Catholic Church, opposed a priori to the progress of science; others consider it a tragic reciprocal misunderstanding between Galileo, an arrogant and troublesome defender of the Copernican theory, and his theologian adversaries, who were prisoners of a narrow interpretation of scripture. In The Case of Galileo: A Closed Question? Annibale Fantoli presents a wide range of scientific, philosophical, and theological factors that played an important role in Galileo’s trial, all set within the historical progression of Galileo’s writing and personal interactions with his contemporaries. Fantoli traces the growth in Galileo Galilei’s thought and actions as he embraced the new worldview presented in On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres, the epoch-making work of the great Polish astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus.

Fantoli delivers a sophisticated analysis of the intellectual milieu of the day, describes the Catholic Church’s condemnation of Copernicanism (1616) and of Galileo (1633), and assesses the church’s slow acceptance of the Copernican worldview. Fantoli criticizes the 1992 treatment by Cardinal Poupard and Pope John Paul II of the reports of the Commission for the Study of the Galileo Case and concludes that the Galileo Affair, far from being a closed question, remains more than ever a challenge to the church as it confronts the wider and more complex intellectual and ethical problems posed by the contemporary progress of science and technology. In clear and accessible prose geared to a wide readership, Fantoli has distilled forty years of scholarly research into a fascinating recounting of one of the most famous cases in the history of science.

“This book is an excellent account of the trial and condemnation of Galileo by the Inquisition in 1633. It is a simplified and streamlined version adapted from the erudite book on the topic for which Fantoli is well known and highly respected among scholars. But like the erudite book this one is well balanced with respect to the contrasts of science vs. religion, Galileo vs. the Catholic Church, history vs. philosophy, and factual details vs. contemporary relevance.” — Maurice A. Finocchiaro, University of Nevada Las Vegas

“With his characteristic analytical power, new insights, and sharp eye for subtle nuances, Fantoli offers a highly contingent account of the Galileo Affair. He argues that Galileo’s abjuration was not a foregone conclusion, but an unexpected turn two weeks before it occurred. His provocative conclusion puts this fine history to work today. He warns that new versions of the Galileo Affair lurk where the Catholic Church’s position has joined disputable biblical interpretation to unsatisfactory dialogue with science, philosophy, other forms of Christianity, and other religions.” — Michael H. Shank, University of Wisconsin-Madison

“This sage, sensitive account of one of the most infamous trials in history brims with new insights. Annibale Fantoli, uniquely qualified to explore the intricacies and implications of the case, has a finger on Galileo’s pulse throughout the ordeal of his accusation and condemnation. Equally gripping is the author’s depiction of the ongoing conflict between science and faith—the very struggle Galileo tried to avert—and what it portends for the future.” — Dava Sobel, author of Galileo’s Daughter and A More Perfect Heaven

“Annibale Fantoli has justly earned an international reputation as the outstanding expert on the condemnation of Galileo by the Catholic Church for heresy in 1633, after the publication of his work promoting the concept of terrestrial motions. Among the significant factors Fantoli has explored are differences on philosophical, religious, and political issues among factions within the Church. Yet, for centuries the Catholic Church maintained that contradiction of the validity of certain passages in Scripture was unacceptable, if not heretical. However, as Fantoli notes in The Case of Galileo, the Church slowly began to modify its official stance in the centuries after Galileo. The most significant on the issue of the condemnation of Galileo occurred with a speech by Pope John Paul II several decades ago, in which he celebrated Galileo’s achievements and acknowledged the need to further study the errors made by the Church. As Fantoli rightly states, that has not yet been done, and issues on relationships between faith and science may continue to remain significant. This book is an important contribution to discussion of those issues.” — Wilbur Applebaum, Illinois Institute of Technology

ISBN: 978-0-268-02891-6
288 pages
Publication Year: 2012

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An internationally known Galileo scholar, Annibale Fantoli is adjunct professor of philosophy at the University of Victoria. An English edition of his biography Galileo: For Copernicanism and for the Church was published in 1994 by the Vatican Observatory and distributed by the University of Notre Dame Press. It has since reached a third edition and been translated into several languages.

“For readers with a desire to uncover more than the familiar, but inaccurate, narrative of the Galileo case as one of science versus faith, Fantoli thoroughly examines the exact issues Galileo, his allies, and his critics confronted.” — U.S. Catholic

“Using original documents, Annibale Fantoli masterfully reconstructs the events in Italy and Catholic Europe at the beginning of the seventeenth century that led to the confrontation between the church and Galileo, a devout Catholic. . . . His book gives a highly-nuanced reading of the cultural and academic environment of the time, including the interwoven issue of the relationship between theology and the newly emerging modern concept of science as a separate academic discipline.” — New Catholic Books and Media

“Fantoli provides a simplified version of his scholarly Galileo: For Copernicanism and for the Church . . . for the general reader. . . . Fantoli’s analysis of the ‘burdensome inheritance of the Galileo affair’ is more extensive than his earlier work and pertinent to the continuing struggle between science and religion. The excellence of the prose is a product of the author’s ideas and the translator’s skill.” — Choice

“George Coyne has beautifully rendered into English Annibale Fantoli’s original Italian text.” — Fellowship of Catholic Scholars Quarterly

“Fantoli, already well-published on Galileo (1564-1642), traces both the complexities of Galileo’s dealings with and condemnation by the Catholic Church of his day, and the successes and failures of more recent papal efforts to finally move beyond what for most people today remains a notorious case of religion attempting to stifle scientific progress. . . . Though books on the Galileo case are extraordinarily abundant, this volume merits attention both by historians and by anyone concerned with how papal bureaucracy may be functional and/or dysfunctional.” — Theological Studies

“Annibale Fantoli is the distinguished author of Galileo: For Copernicanism and for the Church (Notre Dame, 1994), and this new book is a revised and abridged edition for the general public. It is one of the best accounts of the life and achievements of Galileo, and it is excellently translated by George V. Coyne, who played a major role in the rehabilitation of Galileo in recent years.” — The Catholic Historical Review

“The Case of Galileo offers an accessible overview of the controversy in its time. . . . Fantoli’s overview of the evidence here will offer interested readers a useful point of entry into the early modern controversy.” — Comitatus

“Fantoli’s account is thorough and suitable for those without specific expertise in the history of science . . . [and] his conclusions offer larger lessons. While the Inquisition no longer exists, the Catholic Church’s intransigence on issues such as birth control, for which its official doctrine runs counter to the practices of millions who consider themselves to be Catholic, suggests, for Fantoli, that the Catholic Church must embark on greater dialogue with the whole of contemporary religious and secular thought in order to avoid the same failings that it created in 1616 and 1633.” — European Historical Quarterly

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The Case of Galileo

A Closed Question?

Annibale Fantoli
Translated by George V. Coyne, S.J.

The Case of Galileo: A Closed Question?
Paper Edition

The “Galileo Affair” has been the locus of various and opposing appraisals for centuries: some view it as an historical event emblematic of the obscurantism of the Catholic Church, opposed a priori to the progress of science; others consider it a tragic reciprocal misunderstanding between Galileo, an arrogant and troublesome defender of the Copernican theory, and his theologian adversaries, who were prisoners of a narrow interpretation of scripture. In The Case of Galileo: A Closed Question? Annibale Fantoli presents a wide range of scientific, philosophical, and theological factors that played an important role in Galileo’s trial, all set within the historical progression of Galileo’s writing and personal interactions with his contemporaries. Fantoli traces the growth in Galileo Galilei’s thought and actions as he embraced the new worldview presented in On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres, the epoch-making work of the great Polish astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus.

Fantoli delivers a sophisticated analysis of the intellectual milieu of the day, describes the Catholic Church’s condemnation of Copernicanism (1616) and of Galileo (1633), and assesses the church’s slow acceptance of the Copernican worldview. Fantoli criticizes the 1992 treatment by Cardinal Poupard and Pope John Paul II of the reports of the Commission for the Study of the Galileo Case and concludes that the Galileo Affair, far from being a closed question, remains more than ever a challenge to the church as it confronts the wider and more complex intellectual and ethical problems posed by the contemporary progress of science and technology. In clear and accessible prose geared to a wide readership, Fantoli has distilled forty years of scholarly research into a fascinating recounting of one of the most famous cases in the history of science.

“This book is an excellent account of the trial and condemnation of Galileo by the Inquisition in 1633. It is a simplified and streamlined version adapted from the erudite book on the topic for which Fantoli is well known and highly respected among scholars. But like the erudite book this one is well balanced with respect to the contrasts of science vs. religion, Galileo vs. the Catholic Church, history vs. philosophy, and factual details vs. contemporary relevance.” — Maurice A. Finocchiaro, University of Nevada Las Vegas

“With his characteristic analytical power, new insights, and sharp eye for subtle nuances, Fantoli offers a highly contingent account of the Galileo Affair. He argues that Galileo’s abjuration was not a foregone conclusion, but an unexpected turn two weeks before it occurred. His provocative conclusion puts this fine history to work today. He warns that new versions of the Galileo Affair lurk where the Catholic Church’s position has joined disputable biblical interpretation to unsatisfactory dialogue with science, philosophy, other forms of Christianity, and other religions.” — Michael H. Shank, University of Wisconsin-Madison

“This sage, sensitive account of one of the most infamous trials in history brims with new insights. Annibale Fantoli, uniquely qualified to explore the intricacies and implications of the case, has a finger on Galileo’s pulse throughout the ordeal of his accusation and condemnation. Equally gripping is the author’s depiction of the ongoing conflict between science and faith—the very struggle Galileo tried to avert—and what it portends for the future.” — Dava Sobel, author of Galileo’s Daughter and A More Perfect Heaven

“Annibale Fantoli has justly earned an international reputation as the outstanding expert on the condemnation of Galileo by the Catholic Church for heresy in 1633, after the publication of his work promoting the concept of terrestrial motions. Among the significant factors Fantoli has explored are differences on philosophical, religious, and political issues among factions within the Church. Yet, for centuries the Catholic Church maintained that contradiction of the validity of certain passages in Scripture was unacceptable, if not heretical. However, as Fantoli notes in The Case of Galileo, the Church slowly began to modify its official stance in the centuries after Galileo. The most significant on the issue of the condemnation of Galileo occurred with a speech by Pope John Paul II several decades ago, in which he celebrated Galileo’s achievements and acknowledged the need to further study the errors made by the Church. As Fantoli rightly states, that has not yet been done, and issues on relationships between faith and science may continue to remain significant. This book is an important contribution to discussion of those issues.” — Wilbur Applebaum, Illinois Institute of Technology

ISBN: 978-0-268-02891-6

288 pages

“For readers with a desire to uncover more than the familiar, but inaccurate, narrative of the Galileo case as one of science versus faith, Fantoli thoroughly examines the exact issues Galileo, his allies, and his critics confronted.” — U.S. Catholic

“Using original documents, Annibale Fantoli masterfully reconstructs the events in Italy and Catholic Europe at the beginning of the seventeenth century that led to the confrontation between the church and Galileo, a devout Catholic. . . . His book gives a highly-nuanced reading of the cultural and academic environment of the time, including the interwoven issue of the relationship between theology and the newly emerging modern concept of science as a separate academic discipline.” — New Catholic Books and Media

“Fantoli provides a simplified version of his scholarly Galileo: For Copernicanism and for the Church . . . for the general reader. . . . Fantoli’s analysis of the ‘burdensome inheritance of the Galileo affair’ is more extensive than his earlier work and pertinent to the continuing struggle between science and religion. The excellence of the prose is a product of the author’s ideas and the translator’s skill.” — Choice

“George Coyne has beautifully rendered into English Annibale Fantoli’s original Italian text.” — Fellowship of Catholic Scholars Quarterly

“Fantoli, already well-published on Galileo (1564-1642), traces both the complexities of Galileo’s dealings with and condemnation by the Catholic Church of his day, and the successes and failures of more recent papal efforts to finally move beyond what for most people today remains a notorious case of religion attempting to stifle scientific progress. . . . Though books on the Galileo case are extraordinarily abundant, this volume merits attention both by historians and by anyone concerned with how papal bureaucracy may be functional and/or dysfunctional.” — Theological Studies

“Annibale Fantoli is the distinguished author of Galileo: For Copernicanism and for the Church (Notre Dame, 1994), and this new book is a revised and abridged edition for the general public. It is one of the best accounts of the life and achievements of Galileo, and it is excellently translated by George V. Coyne, who played a major role in the rehabilitation of Galileo in recent years.” — The Catholic Historical Review

“The Case of Galileo offers an accessible overview of the controversy in its time. . . . Fantoli’s overview of the evidence here will offer interested readers a useful point of entry into the early modern controversy.” — Comitatus

“Fantoli’s account is thorough and suitable for those without specific expertise in the history of science . . . [and] his conclusions offer larger lessons. While the Inquisition no longer exists, the Catholic Church’s intransigence on issues such as birth control, for which its official doctrine runs counter to the practices of millions who consider themselves to be Catholic, suggests, for Fantoli, that the Catholic Church must embark on greater dialogue with the whole of contemporary religious and secular thought in order to avoid the same failings that it created in 1616 and 1633.” — European Historical Quarterly