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Saturday, April 29, 2017
Date Posted:
5/26/2003

Galileo Galilei (1564-1642)


Galileo, The Roman Inquisition And Ecclesia De Eucharistia


Dr. Clive Gillis

Oceans of ink have been expended in chronicling the events surrounding the Inquisition’s handling of Galileo, the great seventeenth century scientist and astronomer.

Yet much of the detail remains shrouded in mystery.  It is recorded in Latin or archaic Italian, and is a matter for scholars.  To the ordinary Protestant Christian the affair is just another example of Rome’s persecuting spirit and is otherwise irrelevant to us today.

Or is it? The publication on 18th April of Ecclesia de Eucharistia, the Popes latest encyclical, prompted the present writer to look again at the matter of Galileo.  The encyclical reaffirms, in a fanatical spirit, the doctrine of the mass which lies at the heart of Rome.

A Jesuit’s angle

A twentieth century Jesuit summed up the Galileo affair in a popular biography.  He said the, “lamentable report, which was laid before the cardinals of the Holy Office (Inquisition) on February 24th 1616,” stating that, “On the first proposition that the sun is at the centre of the world and altogether devoid of local motion, they pronounced unanimously that it was foolish and absurd … and formally heretical … On the second proposition, that the earth is not the centre of the world (universe) but moves as a whole and also with a diurnal motion … merited the same censure … (and together have) been the delight of anti-(Roman) Catholic scoffers ever since”.

The Jesuit grants that, “They (the Protestants) are entitled to their fun …,” that is, to scorn Rome for persecuting a scientist who declared that the earth moves around the sun and not the reverse.

But could the condescending Jesuit be hiding something? Something of which he must have had at least some knowledge? For our Jesuit was the author of the standard, scholarly, two volume biography of Cardinal Bellarmine – the Chief Inquisitor whom Galileo faced on one occasion – a biography which runs into 1200 closely printed pages.

Although some historians have simply mocked Rome for their own ends, there is one serious Protestant work, Karl Von Gebler’s Galileo Galilei and the Roman Curia which was published in 1879.  Unique in its time, this book provides translations of vital Inquisition documents.  It is fearless but fair in its condemnation of Rome.  The book was translated into English from the German by Mrs G. Sturge.   Unfortunately the Victorian cloth and glue binding too easily became brittle and the book disbound, which made it scarce.  Rome still recognises Gebler as “a brilliant young scholar”.  Sadly he died young, before he was able to reflect maturely on the affair.

The Present writer intends to open up the Galileo affair in the course of several issues, DV, to show readers that while we Protestants remain content with our “fun”, Rome quietly diverts us from the Inquisition’s real aim which was to protect her doctrine of the mass, labelled blasphemous by the Reformers.

BCN readers will be aware that absolute submission to the doctrine of transubstantiation was always top of the Inquisitor’s priorities at the Reformation.  This doctrine enables Rome’s priests to re-create Christ and re-crucify him on the altar, at will.

Ann Askew

Anne Askew’s interrogation in London in 1545 is typical.  Martyrologist Foxe gives the original document without comment:

The First examination before the Inquisitors AD 1545.  Straight away at the head of eight accusations we read, “First Christopher Dare … asked … if I did not believe that the sacrament hanging over the altar was the very body of Christ really …” Committed to prison, a priest came and after a preliminary remark as to why she was there immediately said “that it was told him I should deny the sacrament of the altar”.  Four of his five accusations concerned transubstantiation.  Before Bonner she was asked at once about administration of the wafer, and whether she still maintained, “the sacrament remaining in the pix was but bread”.

She continued to deny transubstantiation despite the threat of the rack. She could not remember it subsequently, coming as it did spontaneously from the Lord’s leading.  Foxe supplies us with her masterly and eloquent refutation of Rome’s error.  The same theme ran through all further examinations.  Her last words at Newgate before she was burnt, set the stage for the whole Reformation protest: “But as concerning your mass, as it is now used in our days I do say and believe it to be the most abominable idol that is in the world: for my God will not be eaten with teeth, neither yet dieth he again.  And upon these words that I have now spoken, will I suffer death”.  The mass was, is and until the Lord returns will be, Rome’s central pre-occupation.

Italian mass houses deserted

The Revivalist for April 2003 contains a timely reprint of an article by Luke Coppen in the Catholic Herald of 2003 concerning Anglican Tony Blair having communion from the Pope.  “The debate comes as Pope John Paul II prepares to publish an encyclical on the Eucharist (mass) in April”.  Coppen continues, “Meanwhile Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (The Chief Inquisitor), who worked closely with the Pope on the forthcoming encyclical has published a book calling for a renewal of Eucharistic devotion”.  Ratzinger states, “In the crisis of faith we are experiencing, the critical issue seems to be increasingly the correct celebration and the correct understanding of the Eucharist.  All of us know the difference between a (Roman Catholic) Church that has been reduced to a museum … Today we run the risk of having our churches turned into museums … If they are not closed they are pillaged.”  Rome is panicking as the mass houses of Italy are deserted.

Hence the following plea is made in an Italian book II Dio Vicino subtitled L’eucharistia curoe della vita cristiana. (“The nearby/intimate God – The Eucharist the heart of Christian life”).  The publisher quotes the Inquisitor, Cardinal Ratzinger, in its flyer: “The world does not need to be alone.  In the desolation the men don’t have to be lost here and there, tragically staying ultimately alone, they demand mystery, when they don’t recognize it”.  It continues, “Cardinal Ratzinger, in … reflection, conducts the reader up to the centre of the Christian faith: the breaking of bread.  With brilliant language the author outlines the biblical, historical and theological dimensions of the central mystery of the central content of Christianity, consequences that come to touch the routine of the believer.” (Approximate translation by myself.)

Tony Blair

The Times of 17th April gave the release of the encyclical Ecclesia de Eucharistia wide coverage.  Under the front page headline, “Pope’s ruling bars Blair from taking Communion with family,” we discover that, “When Mr Blair visited the Pope at the Vatican last month, he may have got a hint of what was to come.  The encyclical makes it clear that Blair, “who admits he is strongly drawn to (Roman) Catholicism,” must convert as all other heretics to receive mass.

“While his family went to take Communion with the Pope, the Prime Minister only received a blessing”.  There can be no compromise over the mass.  This issue, as ever, is the key one for Rome.

 The press call this John Paul II’s “personal encyclical” full of his reminiscences and poetry.  The Pope says, “I have been able to celebrate Holy Mass in chapels built along mountain paths, on lake shores and sea coasts; I have celebrated it on altars built in stadiums and in city squares … This carried scenario of celebrations of the Eucharist has given me a powerful experience of its universal and, so to speak, cosmic character … Yes, cosmic!  Because even when it is celebrated on the humble altar of a country church, the Eucharist is always in some way celebrated on the altar of the world.  It unites heaven and earth.  It embraces and permeates all creation …”.  The connection with Galileo’s realm of the “cosmos” is unmistakable.

Ratzinger, whose views are to the right of the Pope’s, must be seen as the driving force behind the Pope in these matters.  Roman catholic news agencies confirm, “Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger … worked closely with Pope John Paul II on the new encyclical on the Eucharist”.  The Times was also aware of this.  “The new encyclical will revive memories of the rift caused … by Dominus Iesus which told non Catholics their churches suffered from defects’ and were not ‘proper Churches’ … That document was drawn up by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger the Pope’s ‘ideological enforcer’ as head of the Congregation for the doctrine of the Faith (Inquisition) … Corriere della Sera said the … document while emphasising the Popes continuing passionate commitment to ecumenism … would outlaw ‘abuses’ … including ‘concelebration’ by (Roman) Catholics and non-(Roman) Catholics in a common act of worship”.

Protestant influences

The Times continues, “The Pope is also said to be alarmed by the practice of lay preachers distributing the Eucharist (mass) in parishes that lack a priest …Panorama magazine said that he and the Vatican conservatives such as Cardinal Ratzinger believed that too many ‘Protestant influences’ had crept into (Roman) Catholic rituals .. These included placing the Communion wafer or host in the communicants hands … instead of on the tongue”.  The Inquisition’s Perfect Ratzinger insists, “The Eucharist (mass) is God” – see illustration.  Forty years after Vatican II there has been a sudden rush to get the hitherto neglected, detailed Latin rules for mass, the Institutio Generalis Missalis Romani (IGMR), into English, for the benefit of the United States, in time for the encyclical on the 31st March.

On June 2 last year, Ratzinger upstaged the Pope as the star speaker at a Eucharistic Congress, Eucharist, Communion and Solidarity, held from May 25 to June 2, 2002 in Benevento near Rome where, “civil authorities, priests and the laity,” were present.  Necessarily our quotation must be selective but his meaning is clear.  He said, “the ancient Church … rightly understood the word orthodoxy not to mean right doctrine but to mean the authentic adoration and glorification of God … It is truly the one, identical Lord, whom we receive in the Eucharist … We all ‘eat’ the same person … we are confronted by the word transubstantiation.  The bread becomes … his body.  The bread of the earth becomes the bread of God ... The Lord … wishes to transform the bread … into … his body … The Lord himself … becomes present …”

The Inquisition and the mass

The Inquisition of Rome is concerned above all with the mass.  It is in Ratzinger’s word’s, “the heart of Christian life”.  He talks of crisis.  “In the crisis of faith we are experiencing, the critical issue seems to be increasingly the correct celebration and the correct understanding of the Eucharist”.  This is the “critical” issue for Rome.  The Inquisition fights the fight of the “correct understanding” of the mass.  That fight is today against ignorance an indifference but at the time of that former crisis in the history of the church, the Reformation, it was against the huge inroads of Protestantism.  The mass defines the great Reformation divide which brought down the anathemas of the council of Trent upon the Protestants, and Rome pursues the matter with the same vigour now.

It seems that Galileo became a threat to the mass and that the relevant history has been obscured.  The Inquisition’s obsession with transubstantiation – in Ratzinger’s words, “the correct celebration and the correct understanding of the Eucharist (mass)” – whether in Anne Askew’s day or ours – shows that Rome never changes at it idolatrous “cuore” (Heart).  Galileo posed more of a threat to Romanism than at first appears.  To discover the truth of this matter we must follow a convoluted path into Rome’s secrets.  Indeed the history of those secrets is in itself a fascinating tale.

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