World Notes & Quotes

Galileo, Faithful Catholic to the End

SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS, Oct. 23—A review of Dava Sobel's new book Galileo's Daughter: A Historical Memoir of Science, Faith and Love, in the San Jose daily suggests that Galileo did not view the Church's negatively for condemning his teachings. Rather, Sobel argues that Galileo was until the end of his life, a faithful son of the Church.

“Galileo, remembered as the father of modern science, is lionized as a man who faced the Inquisition and stood for scientific truth against religious dogma,” a review in the California paper said. “But the Florentine astronomer never meant to challenge the Roman Catholic Church, Dava Sobel argues. Galileo believed in God, Scripture and papal authority: He cloistered both his young daughters in a convent he supported financially throughout his long life. When the daughters became nuns, the eldest, Virginia, called herself Maria Celeste, in honor of her father's observations of the heavens.

“The events that have become history's most famous story of science vs. religion are worth considering again — especially as the state of Kansas retreats from teaching evolution, and society debates whether genetic engineering usurps the role of God. Dava Sobel, author of the bestseller Longitude, has the potential to be a good guide in this matter. Using letters to Galileo from Suor Maria Celeste, Galileo's Daughter explains the scientist's attempts to reconcile his belief in what he could see through his telescope with what the Church regarded as truth.”

In 1983, Pope John Paul II convened a commission which ruled that Galileo's work should not have been condemned.

Latin Losing Ground

CATHOLIC HERALD, Oct. 27—Something other than the state of European Catholicism became clear during the recent European Synod in Rome — clerics from around the world can no longer be expected to speak the same language.

Latin, which for centuries has served as a common tongue for the Church's leaders, and which remains the official language of the Vatican, seems to have lost its dependability. This, the Herald reported, was admitted by Vatican officials during the synod.

Said the report, “The nine bishops and archbishops from Britain and Ireland attending the synod would have been permitted to use English anyway, but the English group will be joined by other prelates who would in the past have discussed the crisis of faith in late 20th century Europe in the language of Julius Caesar.”

Abbot Carlo Egger, senior Latinist at the Vatican, told the Catholic Herald, “Latin now stands little chance of survival in the Catholic Church. The simple truth is that many, too many, bishops no longer know how to speak it.”