As we arrive at the 50th anniversary of the Moon landing, it’s a good time to take a look at how the part that Catholics have played in learning about outer space!
Copernicus dedicated his most famous work to Pope Paul III
Born Catholic and raised by his bishop uncle from age twelve on, Copernicus was well rooted in the Catholic faith. He even acquired a doctorate in canon law. Copernicus’ most famous work, “On the Revolution of the Celestial Orbs”, which presented research on the idea that the sun was the center of the galaxy, was put together at the insistence of Pope Clement VII. When the book was printed, it was dedicated to Clement VII’s successor, Pope Paul III.
The Church is typically misrepresented in the Galileo Affair
For many years, the Galileo Affair has led to accusations that the Church is very anti-science. However, the full story of what happened rarely seems to surface. Galileo produced a good deal of persuasive evidence for Copernicus’ sun-centered galaxy theory, but nothing that offered definite proof of the theory. Galileo, however, began treating his theory as fact. Because of this, how he threatened the foundation of Aristotelianism, and potential political pressure from Spain, the Church chose to condemn Galileo as a heretic and sentenced him to a comfortable life under house arrest. It is possible that Galileo himself was Catholic. Both of his daughters even became religious sisters.
The first modern map of the moon came from a priest
Fr. Giovanni Battista Riccioli began his career teaching philosophy and theology, but eventually dedicated himself to the study of astronomy. He worked with P. Grimaldi to create the first modern map of the moon, as well as to name many of the large creators on the moon’s surface.
The Big Bang Theory ALSO came from a priest
Georges Lemaitre, a Belgian Jesuit, published a paper in 1931 with the Big Bang Theory, or the idea that the expansion of the universe started with the explosion of a single particle. This was revolutionary at the time, because at that point, scientists weren’t even confident about the idea of the universe expanding.
The Vatican has a special, spacial observatory
The Vatican Observatory was founded by Pope Leo XIII in 1891. Originally, the Observatory was located a short distance from St. Peter’s Basilica. However, in the 1930’s, Pope Pius X helped the Observatory move to a new location at the Papal Summer Residence about twenty-five kilometers from Rome so that the Observatory would be unhindered by light pollution. In 1933, the Vatican worked with the Steward Observatory to establish a second location in Arizona.
And a science academy
The Pontifical Academy of Sciences was originally founded in 1603 as the Academy of Lynxes, which was the first academy dedicated exclusively to science. The Academy was renewed in 1936 under its current name by Pope Pius XI. Today, the Academy studies traditional research and ethical or environmental issues.
The Moon is officially part of the diocese of Orlando, Florida
Until the population requires a new bishop, newly discovered territory becomes a part of the diocese of wherever the discovery expedition came from. Because our astronauts departed from Cape Canaveral, which is in the diocese of Orlando, Florida, the Moon is a part of that diocese too.