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Good Pope, Bad Pope?

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The blog Science and Religion News, whose author Salman Hameed strongly favors science over religion, recently posted about two stories out of the Vatican. The post, entitled "Good Pope, Bad Pope," praised the pontiff for paying "tribute" to Galileo, but criticized him for the bioethics document Dignitas Personae.

"Good Pope": The Galileo Affair

In regard to the Galileo affair, it needs to be pointed out that the popular view — that Galileo was a noble pursuer of scientific truth against a scientifically backwards and rigid Church — is false. Galileo got in trouble for, in the words of Catholic apologist Jimmy Akin, being a jerk. Pope Urban VIII was actually sympathetic to Galileo's hypotheses about heliocentrism, despite being concerned that it would be difficult to work out the theological implications (which have since been reconciled with Scripture). He asked Galileo to explain, in Galileo's book Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems, the competing hypotheses of geocentrism and heliocentrism but not to advocate heliocentrism. Instead, the book ridiculed geocentrism and the pope himself, though there is controversy as to whether the apparent insults were deliberate or unintentional. It was the perceived riducule that got Galileo in trouble, not heliocentrism per se.

"Bad Pope": Dignitas Personae

In regard to Dignitas Personae, Hameed warns that in upholding previous teaching on bioethics (which asserts that all humans, including embryos, have certain rights, one of which I explained here), the Catholic Church risks becoming "irrelevant."

In other words, Hameed says that society as a whole will collectively dismiss the Church if she fails to accede to fickle public opinion.

This is the same Church that allowed the Protestant Reformation to become permanently entrenched in England over the indissolubility of marriage (in the Henry VIII affair). The same Church that suffered 400 years of prosecution in the Roman Empire for "irrelevantly" teaching that there is one God, incarnated in Jesus Christ, and denying the existence of the Roman pantheon. The same Church that has unblinkingly held to the "irrelevant" teaching that artificial contraception is an affront against God and against one's own spouse (a teaching consistent with the sublime Theology of the Body of John Paul the Great).

I'm laying my bets one who will be considered more irrelevant by history: the Church or the supporters of indignities against the tiniest humans.

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