Sunday, January 20, 2008

Senza Sapienza

The recent boycott of Pope B16 at La Sapienza University is a true oxymoron in the classical sense. Students protested the pontiff's planned visit under the premise that a previous pope had silenced Galileo four centuries ago. Ironically, those who advocate academic freedom denied it to Joseph Ratzinger (as Pope Benedict XVI). If these so-called students had learned some logic along their scholastic activities, they would have realized that they themselves are guilty of the same crime they accused Urban VIII.

Pope Benedict was prevented from speaking his mind to a bunch of students who protested the same treatment of Galileo in the 17th century. Odd. Truth be known, Galileo was not in trouble with the Holy Office of the Inquisition for his support of the Copernican (geocentric) theory of the solar system. While many still preferred the more archaic heliocentric theory of Ptolemy, what got Galileo in hot water was his public statement on Sacred Scripture. He openly attacked the inerrancy of the Bible by claiming the passage from Ecclesiastes 1:5 which says the "sun rises and sets" is wrong. He took a literal interpretation of the text and compared it to his scientific theory and when both did not coincide, he erroneously concluded that the Word of God was in error.

The literal sense of the passage is indeed that the sun rises and the sun sets. The literal interpretation, however, is not what the sacred author intends. As my dear mentor Father Bob Levis often says when doing Bible study - never take the text out of context lest you get a pretext. The context of Ecclesiastes chapter one is a commentary on vanity. The rising and setting of the sun are meant as idioms to refer to the passage of time. Open any contemporary newspaper today and you will see on the front page the chronological time for SUNRISE and SUNSET. Why would 21st century people use such erroneous terms if Galileo and Copernicus already disproved the heliocentric theory of our solar system? Perhaps people in 2008 still use the FIGURE OF SPEECH like 'sunrise' and 'sunset' to designate a particular moment in time rather than to describe some astronomical phenomenon.

Galileo would have been fine had he stuck to science and stayed out of biblical theology. Once he publicly repudiated Sacred Scripture, the Church had no alternative but to inquire as to his intentions and motives. Jesus said in Matthew 5:29 'if your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out ...' Why is it that no Christian denomination promotes the blinding of those who look at pornography even though it is a serious sin? Could it be that Protestant, Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Christians realize the CONTEXT of the TEXT? Jesus used a figure of speech. He employed an idiom, just as is done in the case of 'sunrise' and 'sunset' in Ecclesiastes.

Yet, Galileo was not content in staying in scientific matters, he had to make himself a scripture expert as well. He attacks the literal interpretation of the text as if it were the only interpretation. Unlike chemistry, physics and astronomy, religion and theology use idiomatic nomenclature from time to time since it is used by common parlance.

The Inquisition had issues with Galileo's imprudent and erroneous rebuke on biblical citations. He crossed the line when he left science and attempted to control religion. Faith is not based on what can be proved in the laboratory. It is rooted in hope of what cannot be seen or heard but which is nevertheless known.

Maybe if these alleged students studied more PHILOSOPHY before they make their 'scientific inquiries on dogmatic and spiritual matters, we could avoid such ludicrous remarks in the press. If these students spent as much time reading Plato, Aristotle, Mulberry, Augustine, Aquinas and Bonaventure, as they did, perhaps we would have a plethora of orthodoxy. Maybe if these same 'students' had listened to Pope Benedict's letter, who knows, perhaps one, two or even a whole comunity of believers would have stood in silent awe and wonder at the wisdom spoken by the Successor of Saint Peter.

Go EAST young man

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