Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Unfortunately, not quite in time for Giordano Bruno. . . .

. . . the Catholic Church announces that it is OK with the Vatican for us to believe in alien life on other worlds.

The interview with chief Church astronomer Rev. Jose Gabriel Funes is even entitled "The Extraterrestrial is My Brother."

Many posts covering this story harken back to that little conflict between the Church and Galileo (who may have been a scientific giant, but by all accounts was no fun at parties), but I have yet to see one that mentions Giordano Bruno.

Bruno, among other little intellectual peccadillos (like disbelieving in virgin birth), was found guilty in 1600 of believing in the existence of other worlds:

His trial was overseen by the inquisitor Cardinal Bellarmine, who demanded a full recantation, which Bruno eventually refused. Instead he appealed in vain to Pope Clement VIII, hoping to save his life through a partial recantation. The Pope expressed himself in favor of a guilty verdict. Consequently, Bruno was declared a heretic, handed over to secular authorities on February 8 1600. At his trial he listened to the verdict on his knees, then stood up and said: "Perhaps you, my judges, pronounce this sentence against me with greater fear than I receive it." A month or so later he was brought to the Campo de' Fiori, a central Roman market square, his jaw clamped in an iron gag and an iron spike driven through his tongue. He was tied to a pole naked and burned at the stake, on February 17, 1600.



Duffy said...

Bruno was declared a heretic, handed over to secular authorities on February 8 1600.

So...doesn't that mean the state, not the church, killed him?

Steve Newton said...

Technically, Duffy, as I understand it, throughout most of the medieval period the Church had the authority to find someone guilty of heresy or sedition, but the sentence had to be executed (ouch) by the state.

But when you can excommunicate the head of state for failure to comply....

Brian said...

I always feel for poor Bruno. He Galileo and Copernicus have a special place in my heart. I hope we never go back to that kind of theocratic state. -Brian