Pastoralia, Episode 15: Heliocentrism, Geocentrism, and Flat-Earth

In this episode, Father and Stephen discuss heliocentrism and geocentrism from the perspective of what the Church has taught and what is permissible to hold. The Galileo case is briefly recapped and a few words are said as to why “Flat Earth Theory” seems to have gotten some attention in recent years.

A special note of thanks to Nicholas Wilton for allowing us the use his music for this series. You can find out more about Mr. Wilton and his beautiful compositions here.

Featured Image: Fondazione Cariplo / CC BY-SA (

Original Air Date: June 16, 2020
Show Run Time: 45 minutes
Show Guest: Father Stephen McKenna
Show Host: Stephen Heiner

Individual Season 9 Show Price: Not available.

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7 Responses

  1. Hugh Batchelor says:

    Hi Steven.

    I thought you might be interested in this interview if you haven’t already seen it.

    I have also got another excellent article from an acquaintance who has a profound understanding of this subject too long to post here. Let me know if you would like to see it.

    God Bless


  2. resolution says:

    Flat Earthers are a professionally funded disinfo group. They aren’t a real grassroots movement. No group goes from nothing to having world conferences in a matter of months.

    Their only purpose is to associate belief in flat earth with disbelief in cleverly crafted space propaganda. It is truly sad that you would take them seriously.

    In regards to the space programme, freemasonry is a world wide religion that is well coordinated. It is also good at spinning sophisticated lies and very long cons. In order to destroy the old order you need to destroy belief in it. It is much easier to destroy belief in God when man can leave the planet and it’s not just Our Lord ascending into Heaven.

    Every false religion needs it’s noble lies and outer space and the dream of leaving this Earth is one of modern worlds ambitions woven into the dreams of children from a young age.

    When fantasy becomes reality in the minds of men then they are detached from the truth. When you’ve been propagandised with tales of spy satellites for decades and nothing bad has happened you’re a lot more likely to accept the phone in your pocket that is a much more powerful spying tool than a balloon in the sky.

  3. Robert Auten says:

    Dear Steven, I would second the recommendation from Hugh Batchelor’s comment to watch Wolfgang Smith’s argument for geocentricism. I have listened to your podcast three times carefully and I have a few questions: 1. Did not P. Paul IV in 1559 place De Revolutionibus by Copernicus on the index long before Galileo arrived? Why didn’t you mention this? This marked the beginning of 5 popes over 100 years opposing heliocentricism as being formally heretical in regard to a stationary sun, and erroneous in faith in regard to a moving Earth. How can it be more or less dismissed as a failure of the pope and the holy office to deal with one stubborn, proud, and offensive Galileo? And how can you say that the Church has nothing to say on the issue one way or another, even if Pius VIII granted an imprimatur and Gregory XVI removed Galileo and Copernicus from the index? The juridical decree was never abrogated even by JP2. 2. Are you aware that if the Earth is the center of mass for the universe in addition to being the geographical center as you believe, then it would not move regardless of its mass in comparison to that of the sun? The obvious fact that the earth must move in a closed or isolated solar system is not the deciding argument you implied because of Mach’s principle that the earth is affected by all the gravitational and other forces of all the stars in the universe. In other words, the solar system is not a closed system and if the earth is in the center of mass for the universe it will not move according to Newtonian physics, just as the Scriptures often say it doesn’t. 3. Are you aware that modern physics allows speeds greater than the speed of light and that retrograde movement of planets and all other physical observations can be explained equally well by the geocentric system as by the heliocentric one? 4. Are you aware that the Roman Catechism teaches a geocentric heavens as did the unanimous opinion of the church fathers. Without any clear teaching by the magisterium, how can we assume we are free to believe heliocentricism just because the Church has decided not to forbid it to be taught in books any longer since the 19th century? Respectfully and sincerely in Jesus, Mary, and Joseph,
    Rob Auten

  4. True Restoration says:

    Dear Robert,

    We appreciate you taking the time to message us with your insights and input. We appreciate that this is an issue with a complex historical background. A useful explanation to help clear up any confusion is that found in the book, CHRISTIAN APOLOGETICS by Rev. W. Devivier S.J. (1924). The relevant portion is as follows:

    THE PROCESS OF GALILEO – The Error Contained in the Decree of 1616 Proves Nothing against the Infallibility of the Church or against the infallibility of the Pope.

    The condemnation of Galileo is also a weapon frequently employed by the enemies of the Church. It is because, in their eyes, this condemnation disproves at the same time the infallibility of the Pope, and demonstrates the opposition of the Church to the progress of science. Let us see if these accusations are well founded.

    HISTORICAL NOTICE. Galileo (A.D. 1564-1642), a learned astronomer and distinguished philosopher, born at Pisa, but by his residence belonging to Florence, adopted, at the beginning of the seventeenth century, the opinion of Copernicus (A.D. 1473-1543), a Canon of the Church, who taught the immobility of the sun and the rotation of the earth. Whilst Copernicus could teach this theory without being molested, Galileo was, on the 24th of February, 1616, attainted by the censure of the Holy Office. No book of Galileo was condemned, but the doctrine of Copernicus which he was defending, as to the diurnal motion of the earth on its axis and the immobility of the sun, was declared false in philosophy, contrary to Holy Writ and formally heretical. However, this censure was a secret act, and compromised only the Consulters of the Roman Congregation, for whose decision no infallibility was ever claimed. Accordingly no discussion arose concerning this view of the censure. The following Thursday, on the report of the Cardinals of the Holy Office, the Pope ordered that this censure should be notified to Galileo and that he be forbidden to teach the doctrine of the motion of the earth. The order, however, does not contain a single word of Paul V, by which this doctrine is characterized; moreover, we must remark, this is a secret document, having nothing in common with an ex cathedra definition. Then came a decree of the Index, dated the 5th of March 1616, which prohibited books written in favor of the Copernican system. As to Galileo, he was never subjected to any corporal penance. He continued to reside in his villa near Florence, enjoying the friendship and favors of Urban VIII. Finally, in 1633, judgement was rendered condemning Galileo to retract the teaching which was then judged to be erroneous. It establishes simply the guilt of Galileo, and fixes spiritual penalties, which he was to undergo. The decree of 1616 is only recalled as a historical fact. ‘The Sacred Congregation of the Index,’ it states, ‘has rendered a decree wherein books maintaining this doctrine are prohibited and the doctrine itself is declared false and contrary to the Sacred Scriptures.’ There is here no trace of a public and official intervention of the Sovereign Pontiff in his capacity as Supreme Pastor, either in the pronouncing of heresy against the Copernican system, or in the examination and condemnation of Galileo.

    There is another argument of great force: contemporary documents prove that the Pope himself and the dignitaries of his court never considered this decree as an infallible definition. The same thing may be said of the theologians of the period and of those who followed; none can be cited who considered this decree to be a final and infallible decision. Finally the idea of seeing in this decree an ex cathedra definition did not occur even to the most bitter enemies of Galileo, who would have found in such a definition the best weapon to strike a decisive blow against his theories.

    A dogmatic decision can never be reversed, yet from the very beginning contemporaries looked on this decree as reformable. In fact, in 1757, the decree of 1616 against teaching Copernicanism was revoked, and the books referring to it were expunged from the catalogue of forbidden books. Saint Robert Bellarmine (a Doctor of the Church), a contemporary and special friend and adviser of Galileo, writes, in a letter to Foscarini, that ‘should satisfactory proofs be adduced (and such proofs as yet had not been adduced) of the earth’s rotary motion, he (Saint Robert) is quite prepared to change his views as to the meaning of Scripture texts referring to this point.’ The Jesuit astronomer Grossi, in 1623, remarked: ‘When a scientific demonstration of the earth’s movement shall be brought forward, it will then be fitting to interpret Scripture otherwise than has hitherto be done.’ Galileo’s case, then, evidently had no bearing on papal infallibility.

    The proof of this is as plain as it is peremptory. The decree of 1616 is not one of those judgments to which the Church attributes the privilege of infallibility.

    We have previously seen the conditions necessary in order that the doctrinal teachings of the Sovereign Pontiff should enjoy the privilege of infallibility. It is necessary that the Pope should speak ex cathedra, that is, in the discharge of his office as the Supreme Pastor and teacher of all Christians, by virtue of his supreme apostolic authority; and that he should decree that a doctrine concerning faith or morals defined by him must be believed by the whole Church. It is only a disciplinary measure to prevent the diffusion of certain books. It is quite true that preamble which precedes the decree, and makes known the motive that dictated it, contains a doctrinal error; for the theory of the diurnal motion of the earth on its axis is neither false nor contrary to Scripture; but the decision itself is merely a disciplinary judgement emanating from a fallible body. It was the erroneous decision of a fallible tribunal. But, it may be asked, did not the Roman Pontiff confirm the decree by some official public act or definition, binding all the faithful and thereby making it his own? The Encyclopedia Britannica, which represents the conclusions of educated English opinion, shall answer this question: ‘This edict, it is essential to observe, of which the responsibility rests with a disciplinary congregation, in no sense representing the Church, was never confirmed by the pope, and was virtually repealed in 1757 by Benedict XIV.’

    To this decisive proof let us add that the form itself of the decree fully confirms what we say. In all doctrinal definitions emanating from the Holy See, and acknowledged as infallible, it is always the Pope who teaches directly and not by the intermediary voice of the cardinals. No instance can be cited of a doctrinal decision generally recognized as infallible that was rendered in the form of the decree concerning Galileo.”

    We hope this helps answer your concerns. It is also useful to note that the previous condemnations of Galileo’s theory were phrased as it “being contrary to the plain sense of Scripture” which is different to something actually being contrary to Scripture. This distinction is critical to understanding the seeming contradiction.

  5. Robert Auten says:

    Dear Steven, thank you for your response and for this reference. I was not at all meaning to make the claim that geocentricism was taught by any infallible papal ex cathedra decree or definition, but only that it was taught by the Catechism of the Council of Trent and by all the Church Fathers who touched upon the subject. Neither do I believe that it was required to be believed by any irreformable decree of the Holy Office, but only that the 1633 decree condemning heliocentricism has never been officially abrogated. What does “virtually repealed” exactly mean to Rev. Deviver anyway? I do believe that geocentricism has never been scientifically demonstrated or proven to be erroneous, although it is commonly assumed to be quite obviously false in deference to the magisterium of modern scientism. I would only hope that those who hold to the geocentric view for traditional, scriptural, and scientific reasons, would still be given credibility in Catholic discussions concerning the doctrines of Special Creation and the current modernist crisis of a total lack of faith in the words of Moses, which Christ said we must believe if we are going to believe His words.
    Thanks for your excellent work and website.
    In Jesus,Mary, and Joseph,
    Rob Auten

  6. Stephen Heiner says:

    Please give your citation for where geocentrism is taught in the Catechism of the Council of Trent.

  7. Robert Auten says:

    Stephen, I am sorry for the long delay in responding. I didn’t check back until today. The citation is in this quote from my own book: “The constant teaching of the Church revealed in the Hebrew Bible and passed down from the Jewish synagogue is that God, in six days, created out of nothing, a geocentric or Earth-centered universe, and that the heavenly bodies all, in some way, revolve around the stationary and immovable Earth. This basic worldview can easily be derived from the plain literal meaning of the Bible; it is seen in the writings of all the Church Fathers and Doctors who wrote anything about it; it can be understood by any untrained person’s ordinary observation of the heavens; and most importantly it is clearly and authoritatively taught as doctrine in the ordinary Magisterium of Saint Pope Pius V in his 1566 Catechism of the Council of Trent (The Roman Catechism):
    “He [God] also gave to the sun its brilliancy,
    and to the moon and stars their beauty;
    and that they might be for signs, and for seasons,
    and for days and years.
    He so ordered the celestial bodies in a certain and uniform course,
    that nothing varies more than their continual revolution.”
    “The Earth also God commanded to stand in the midst of the world,
    rooted in its own foundation”
    Catechism of the Council of Trent (1566) Part I Article I
    (Tan Books 1982 pages 27-28)
    “The heavens which we see above our heads
    are the noblest part of the world, remain ever incorruptible,
    surpass all other bodies in power, grandeur and beauty,
    and are endowed with fixed and regular motion.”
    Catechism of the Council of Trent (1566) Part IV
    (Tan Books 1982 pages 511-512)
    The Church has never proposed a fully developed, or detailed, or scientific cosmological model beyond this basic bare-bones framework of a stationary Earth, which is standing still in the midst of the moving heavens along with the celestial bodies, the sun, moon and stars, which are also moving on their own courses. It fits equally well with the ancient Ptolemaic or Aristotelian model with simple concentric circular orbits of everything going directly around the Earth, or with elliptical orbits as proposed by Kepler, or with the combined geo-heliocentric model of Tycho Brahe with only the moon and the sun directly orbiting the Earth, and the planets indirectly orbiting Earth by orbiting the sun as it is orbiting the Earth. But it was always understood: the Earth stood still!”
    So to conclude, a stationary earth and moving heavenly bodies (including the sun) which we see above us from our point of reference, is the ordinary magisterium of the Catechism of Trent as well as of the Church Fathers. This is not to say it is infallible or an ex cathedra doctrine. It is not a question of Papal infallibility. But it has not been, in fact I would say that it cannot be, proven to be wrong. It need not be abandoned for scientific or philosophical reasons, and the preponderance of evidence from the ordinary magisterium is that it is at the very least a pious opinion, and the denial of it may be rash. Moreover, the scientific revolution brought about by the popular acceptance of heliocentrism, is at the root of the crisis of modernism which we face today. We need to believe Moses to really believe Jesus!