The Church and the scientific arena

Dear Editor, Had Prof. Reville's feature on Copernicus (IC 27/2/14) been written in 1886, its inaccuracies and assumptions may have gone unnoticed. In 2014 however some of his conclusions are no longer valid. In 1887 there was an experiment called the Mitchelson and Morley ether test that failed to show any orbiting of the Earth. It took 17 years for 'science' to conclude there is no human way to determine if the Earth orbits the sun or the sun orbits the Earth. Thus 'science' now admits Copernicus, Galileo, Kepler, Newton etc. never proved the Earth moves around a fixed sun. So much for Prof. Reville's “Galileo was subsequently proved to be right”.

“The Church was wrong to prosecute Galileo – religion has no competence to adjudicate in scientific matters.” Galileo's heresy did not lie in a 'scientific matter' as the professor asserts, as a reading of his trial document shows. It was his opposition to the Church's teaching on the unanimous interpretation of the Fathers that the Bible states the sun moves and the Earth is fixed at the centre. Cardinal Bellarmine had made public the Church's position, any interpretation of the Bible – no matter the subject matter – is of faith.

In the same article were the words: “But even if he had been wrong, this would not justify the interference of religion in a scientific arena.” It is of extreme importance that the faithful should not be misinformed as regards the rights and obligations of the Catholic Church.

Vatican I dogmatised the Church's right to interfere when it stated: "Further, the Church which, together with the apostolic duty of teaching, has received the command to guard the deposit of faith, has also, from divine providence, the right and duty of proscribing "knowledge falsely so-called" (I Tim. 6:20), "lest anyone be cheated by philosophy and vain deceit". (cf. Col. 2:8)

Yours etc.,

Redmond O'Hanlon,


Dublin 14.


Prof. William Reville responds:

On the scientific opposition that greeted Copernicus’s proposal (1543) of a heliocentric solar system, Mr O'Hanlon asserts that the Michelson/Morley experiment in 1887 “failed to show any orbiting of the Earth”.  But, this experiment assumed that the Earth orbits the sun, using this movement to detect the ether. The experiment showed there is no ether, not that the Earth is stationary

There is convincing evidence that the Earth orbits the sun, including parallax (changes in star position due to Earth's changing position) and the Doppler effect (changes in star colour due to Earth’s speed).

Finally, Mr O'Hanlon may be misinterpreting my position on the proper relationship between science and religion, which is that when science explains any natural phenomenon in a manner that contradicts the explanation found in the Bible, scientific explanation must prevail.

William Reville