In an interview this week with the Peruvian daily El Comercio, physics expert Fr. Manuel Carreira clarified numerous and often misunderstood details about the life of Galileo, also touching on the relationship between faith and science.
The priest confirmed to El Comercio that Galileo “was a believer” and that, despite assumptions to the contrary, “he did not spend one minute behind bars … nor was he excommunicated.” Fr. Carreira added that Galileo “died professing the faith under the care of a religious sister and with a papal blessing.”
Fr. Carreira, who was in Lima for the Second Congress on the Holy Shroud of Turin, said that during Galileo’s time, there was no proof that the Earth moved around the sun. “His supposed evidence was invalid,” the physicist noted, as well as dismissed by other astronomers.
Galileo’s correct idea, he explained, was that “the Bible does not teach science.” However, the famed astronomer “also wanted theologians to change their interpretation of the text according to his theory.” Although the theologians of his day “were mistaken in thinking that the Bible teaches astronomy,” the priest added, “they were correct in saying that as long as there was no evidence, Galileo should have presented his ideas as a theory and not ask them to change their opinions.”
“In both cases,” Fr. Carreira said, “they went outside their fields and entered that of the other. From this lesson, we have learned that there must be mutual respect.”
Fr. Carreira then addressed the topic of creation, noting that “science is limited.” He explained that while there are many theories about the creation of the world, “to speak of nothing turning into something is a concept of creation that goes beyond what science can handle: a non-material Creator is necessary.”
Philosophy and theology respond to this, he said, “but the details about the beginning are not told to us by the faith nor should they be taken from Genesis, which,” he noted, is “not an astronomy text.”
“To deny the beginning is unscientific and to say that the universe exists ‘because it does’ is ridiculous and naïve,” Fr. Carreira underscored.