Friday, December 31, 2010

The Galileo Incident

The Galileo Incident

Fictitious Scenario: You're chatting with Uncle Henry and Aunt Maude about the kids' new school and "Why, yes, it's a Catholic school." When you're hit WHAM with (cue foreboding music) The Galileo Incident and how much the Catholic Church hates science.

Your heart pounds. Your mouth goes dry. You search for a hole in the shag carpet to crawl into. Finally you change the subject. "Oh dear, the coffee pot's empty." And you scurry to the kitchen and turn on EWTN radio super low praying they'll happen to have a show on that topic.

Did the Church torture Galileo for saying the sun is the center of the universe? Did they toss him in prison? Do they forbid hard science?

This livingroom scene isn't such a far out scenario. We hear mutterings all the time about the Church's intolerance for science. Let's break down the issues into bite size bare bone chunks. Then we'll expand.

1. Galileo was not the first to write about heliocentrism (astronomical model that the planets revolve around the sun.) Galileo was working off of the model of Copernicus, an astronomer and respected man in the Church. Ten years prior to Galileo, Kepler, "found opposition among his fellow Protestants for his heliocentric views and found a welcome reception among some Jesuits who were known for their scientific achievements."(The Galileo Controversy

2. The goal of Galileo's trial was basically to determine if he had followed a previous injunction that said he was only allowed to state the heliocentric theory as a mere theory (as opposed to fact) and not advocate the theory. He could discuss the pros and cons of it.

3. He was not tortured. He was found guilty. He was put under house arrest in a comfy cottage with a servant and he continued writing.

Read on if you want to know details and to learn why this strange trial occurred.


Basic and Background Stuff (You can skip it if you want to get on with Galileo):

First off- The Catholic church is not fundamentalist. We take the Bible literally, not literalistically. The difference is that when the Bible says the world was created in six days we don't necessarily think it means six 24-hour days.

In a literal approach we recognize metaphor. In a literalist approach, if a text says it was raining cats and dogs, then the reader assumes actual animals fell from the sky.

Next- "The Bible tells us how to go to Heaven; it doesn't tell us how the Heavens go." This quote is from one of the Cardinals at Galileo's trial. Sounds like something St. Augustine would have said. You can have a taste of Augustine here

When Brother Guy Consolmagno (Astronomer and curator of meteorites at the Vatican Observatory) was interviewed on Catholic Answers July 22, 2009, he talked about Galileo among other intriguing things. Did you know about 35 of the moons craters are named after Jesuits, because they were the ones mapping the moon about twenty years after the Galileo trial? Remember the Clavius Base in the movie 2001? Yep, that's a real crater named after Father Clavius.

Chris Baglow was on Catholic Answers (Oct. 8, 2010) on a segment called, "Can Science Beat up Religion?" He talked about Galileo and also priests who made huge scientific breakthroughs. Guys like Blessed Nicholas Steno (1600's). Steno was the first to compare the bodies of marine animals to fossils and to hypothesize the history of the earth could be recoverable by looking at the layers of the earth.

The Church has never asked us to choose between faith and science.

The Galileo Incident:

It was wrong of the Church to put Galileo on trial and put under house arrest. The Church admits it was wrong to do this. On October 1992 the Pope officially cleared Galileo of any wrongdoing.

And just to clear up one more detail, geocentrism (belief that the Earth is the center of the universe) was never a dogma of Catholicism. 

Recall that Copernicus (1473-1543) sparked a heliocentric (sun centered cosmology) revolution. He was encouraged by fellow Catholics to publish his ideas. He dragged his feet about publishing his book because of the scientific climate, not pressure from the Catholic Church. It was actually Protestants who were hostile to the idea.

During the Galileo affair (which was after Copernicus's death) Copernicus's book was put on the prohibited book index by a handful of clerics until less than ten sentences were corrected because they felt it characterized the heliocentric theory as a fact rather than a hypothesis. (Remember it would be 200 years before it could be proven.) But why did they suddenly do this? Remember, this was during the 30 Year War, the tail end of the Reformation. This was a politically turbulent time.

Along comes Galileo

As we mentioned earlier, in 1616 he was told he was allowed to discuss the hypothesis of heliocentrism but not advocate the theory. That is, he couldn't say he was all about it, but he could offer evidence for and against it. He followed the order, though he still felt strongly that it was true.

In 1623 he had a friend who became the Pope (Urban VIII). They talked about it. The Pope said he really shouldn't revoke the earlier decision but encouraged Galileo to write a new book posing points both for and against the theory. He wrote The Dialogue on The Two Great World Systems (pub. 1632 ).

He was tried in 1633 for disobeying the injunction. Some Cardinals thought the book did others that it didn't. He was found guilty and placed under house arrest and there he wrote what some consider his best work, The Discourse on The Two New Sciences (pub. 1638).  He died in 1643 at age 78.

What's up with that? He was told to write the book and then he got in trouble for it?

According to Brother Guy Consolmagno, The politics surrounding The 30 Year War (which was, I believe, the last of the religious wars that sprang from the Reformation) had a huge impact on the Galileo incident. (In the bit of his interview that addresses that begins around 5:40) Brother Consolmagno says that Galileo was a good Catholic and intended no wrong. No doubt this was a politically turbulent time.

Some scholars have accused Galileo of telling Church theologians how to interpret the Bible. See this article at When Pope Urban VIII encouraged Galileo to write The Dialogue, he also offered an argument for him to use. Galileo did and put that argument in the mouth of a foolish character named Simplicio, thus insulting his old friend.

Was Galileo a good Catholic who got caught in a political storm or did he provoke the Pope and Cardinals? Or maybe a bit of both? They dealt with him gently, so I think whatever the case, (cue foreboding music) The Galileo Incident need not scare you when anti-Catholics bring it up.

No, The Church shouldn't have put him on trial, but it acknowledges that. They shouldn't have banned his book. Or Copernicus's book. Or Kepler's. But they know that. It was a bad incident but not a pattern. The Church is now and always was open to science.


Brother Guy Consolmagno interview   
Creation and Genesis at (w/that bit about Augustine)
Chris Baglow interview "Can Science Beat up Religion?"
"Dogma" my own post on the topic.
The Galileo Contriversy at
"Science" my own post on science and the Church

Works Consulted:

Galileo Goes to Jail and Other Myths About Science and Religion by Ronald Numbers
The Papacy and Galileo by Patrick Madrid
Six Wrong Things You Though When You Heard Galileo's Name This Week by Ted Olsen

Note: To the best of my knowledge this post is accurate. The authors of works sited and works consulted (aside from my own) were not consulted before, during, or after writing this post. I simply read their works. In other words, I did not seek their endorsement.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Holy Innocents

We just celebrated the feast day of the Holy Family. God came to us as an innocent baby and completed a family with mom, dad, and child. Today, 12/28 we celebrate the feast of The Holy Innocents. These are the boy babies two years and under in Bethlehem and the surrounding area whom Kind Herod ordered murdered in an effort to kill Jesus. You can read about it in Matthew2: 16-18.

We don't know the exact day the innocents were slaughtered, but it was within two years of the star appearing to the wise men who visited the infant Jesus and his family. We'll be celebrating the Epiphany (the coming of the three wise men) soon. It's traditionally observed on January 6th, but where I live in the U.S. it's transferred to a Sunday. (I guess they worry we can't get our lazy tails to mass an additional day. Bummer.)

But back to The Innocents- Our priest last Sunday pointed out an important point. Jesus was born with a price on his head.

The Christmas story begins with peril. It's not just a sweet feel-good story. Somebody felt threatened enough to attempt to hunt down Jesus. The Wise Men were compelled to cover for him and not go back to Herod and tell him where the baby was and Joseph had to hide his family in Egypt. Jesus's life began with adventure. The great love of family and a great party with the rejoicing of angels and shepherds, sure, that too, but also danger and adventure and death of innocents. It's something to reflect on.

More Information:

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Indie Spotlight and A Short Catholic Story

I got an early Christmas present. The Indie Spotlight featured my novel, Syzygy. The Indie Spotlight is "where the independent author shines." Go on over and see what sparked the idea for my urban fantasy, how I research, and more. Syzygy on Indie Spotlight.

I would also like to give you an early Christmas present. I wrote a short flash fiction piece about a character from Syzygy. (Oops, the redundancy police will get me. All flash fiction is short.) The story is called "Deacon Sam." It takes place after Syzygy. You can get it for free at Smashwords. Read it via html, pdf, on your kindle, and oh so many formats. Take a quick gander at "Deacon Sam."

Friday, December 17, 2010

How Can Good Catholics Read (or Write) "Bad" Fantasy?" Guest Post by Karina Fabian

I'm elated to host author Karina Fabian today as she discusses fantasy. When I returned to the Catholic Church, I didn't stop being me. I still enjoy pizza, motorcycle rides, music, science fiction, and fantasy. Glancing at my bookshelf I see The Catechism of The Catholic Church leaned up against Harry Potter and The Order of the Phoenix. Tolkien's Silmarillion standing beside Ten Dates Every Catholic Should Know. Saved happily on my computer along with Catholic Answers podcasts, I have the ebook version of Karina Fabian's Neeta Lyffe, Zombie Exterminator! Woo-hoo! After her guest post we'll tell you how to get it too- in paperback or an ebook.

Karina Fabian
How Can Good Catholics Read (or Write) "Bad" Fantasy?
By Karina Fabian
As I write this, my kids are watching Lord of the Rings with their father for the who-knows-what-number time.  At the same time, we're all wondering when we'll get the shipment of my latest novel, Neeta Lyffe, Zombie Exterminator.  Now don't think I'm in any way comparing myself to the Great JRR Tolkien.  Rather, I'm expressing the range of fantasy that's accepted in our home:  LOTR is lauded for its Christian themes and is proudly claimed by Catholics, while NLZE…  Well, to find a theme or element you can call particularly Christian would require an act of literary yoga. Yet, I don't consider it a threat to anyone's faith to read it--nor to mine to write it.
Sometimes, you get that attitude, though:  that certain fantasy is "bad" because it has nice witches, or because the main character is a scoundrel, or on the extreme, because there isn't a Jesus Saves moral.  Further, the attitude goes, Good Catholics (or Good Christians, to take it further) should never read such bad fantasy.
Personally, I think that's hogwash, and here's why.
First, let's address the "unless Jesus Saves in the end, it's not good" idea.  That's more for what my friend Ken Pick calls "the Christian Fiction! ™" mindset.  Or, to quote Regina Doman, Christian fiction is "safe" fiction thematically because it's a hothouse--a controlled climate meant to protect fragile plants against a hostile outside world.  However, Catholics aren't really "into" hothouses--literally or figuratively--because we understand that we are a part of this world--and that there's nothing wrong with that.  So, Doman says, Catholic fiction is more of a greenhouse, which is a temporary housing for plants, and not as controlled a climate.
I've written for the "greenhouse."  Infinite Space, Infinite God I and II are specifically Catholic, and Leaps of Faith is Christian sci-fi.  I'm working on a very Catholic sci-fi right now.  However, I also write for the general garden, and I and my family definitely read in the garden and out into the woods.  (and now, let's drop the analogy before I get treed!)
Fantasy and science fiction in particular can get pretty controversial.  Of course, the common trope of fantasy is magic and magical beings, and often they are sympathetic and heroic.  Science fiction is often atheistic or anti-faith.  (One reason Rob and I compiled ISIG.)  However, that doesn’t mean they are a threat to those with a strong faith and common sense.
Let's start with common sense.  Common sense tells you, "This is fiction! Not real. Escapist. Fun."  It's the same kind of common sense that allows little boys to play soldier with sticks or little girls to put a pillow in their belly and pretend to be a mommy--or visa-versa.  It's the same thing with fiction:  you can enjoy Harry Potter and maybe wave your wand around and chant bad Latin without really expecting that an owl will come to your window when you're eleven. 
Second, people with a well-grounded faith aren't going to drop their faith because they found a sympathetic character in a novel.  And if a story brings up doubts, then with grace, they'll seek the answers and come away stronger. 
So what can Good Catholics get from "Bad" Fantasy? 
They get a view into another world or another mindset in a safe way, where they can explore and imagine…and put the book away.  They can even put it away to think or if it gets too uncomfortable or insulting.  (I've tossed books that bashed my beliefs.)  Fiction is about getting into other people's heads, empathizing without necessarily sympathizing.  That's one reason why villains are fun to read--but we don't all run out and rob a bank (or build a planet-destroying device with which to hold the world hostage, bwa-ha-ha!  Oops.)  My first "exposure" to a gay relationship was with Mercedes Lackey's Herald Vanyl. He was brilliant, talented, heroic and confused.  He fell in love and loved faithfully until death and beyond.  It was a beautiful story, more beautiful than many romances I've read.  Does that mean I approve of gay marriage?  Of course not.  However, it did let me see the complex, human side of a homosexual relationship. 
Fantasy lets you experience other foreign cultures from the inside.  Sometimes, they are shadows of a real culture. Sometimes, they are totally made up.  Still, it's an exercise for understanding without having to be a force for coercion.
Finally, fantasy lets you play in a safe environment or the imagination.  There's a definition of adventure:  bad things that happen to other people far away.  I don't know about you, but carrying a cursed ring to the volcanic mountains of Mordor is not my idea of a fun time--but what a story! And do I really want to don a plastic hazmat suit and motorcycle helmet and go after zombies with a chainsaw?  I'd be toast in a minute, but I had so much fun writing about it in Neeta Lyffe, Zombie Exterminator.
Before I close, I want to add one thing:  I do draw a line.  There are some aspects of life I think should remain private, so I am personally against erotica.  I also think excessive gore (which you get in movies) is beyond the call of a story.  I also hate stories that preach their POV, whether it's a Jesus Saves/He'll Save You story or an Ayn Rand novel. When the writing becomes gratuitous, then the purpose has changed.
However, if you come across what looks like a great tale of escapism, then by all means, read! Indulge the imagination.  Your common sense and faith will bring you back to reality when you again close the covers and return to the real world.
Thank you Karina. This was an amazing post! :)
**Now, about her fun new book, Neeta Lyffe, Zombie Exterminator**

The Zombie Apocalypse Meets Reality TV!

By the 2040s, the shambling dead have become and international problem. While governments and special interest groups vie for the most environmentally-friendly way to rid the world of zombies, a new breed of exterminator has risen: The Zombie Exterminator. When zombie exterminator Neeta Lyffe gets sued because a zombie she set afire stumbles onto a lawyer's back porch, she needs money, fast. So she agrees to train apprentice exterminators in a reality TV show that makes Survivor look like a game of tag. But that's nothing compared to having to deal with crazy directors, bickering contestants and paparazzi. Can she keep her ratings up, her bills paid and her apprentices alive and still keep her sanity?

Get it from the publisher or from Amazon. Available both in paperback and as an ebook.

Also By Author

The Zombie Cookbook: An anthology of zombie stories, poems and recipes sure to satisfy the most discriminating zombie lover's literary palate. "Wokking Dead" follows Neeta and Ted on a job. "My Big, Fat Zombie Wedding" looks at love with the undead.

Other Titles


Infinite Space, Infinite God I and II (Twilight Times)
"Mishmash" in The Book of Tentacles (Sam's Dot)
Magic, Mensa and Mayhem (Swimming Kangaroo)
"DragonEye, PI" in Firestorm of Dragons (DragonMoon)
Infinite Space, Infinite God (Twilight Times)
Leaps of Faith (The Writers Café Press)

Coming in Fall 2011--Mind Over Mind (DragonMoon)

Prayer in Reveille for the Soul (Ligouri)
Why God Matters: How to Recognize Him in Daily Life (Tribute)

Learn how to get these titles and find out what else Karina's up to at her site, Fabianspace.

See also the whimsical interview with Neeta Lyffe (Karina Fabian's Character) at my other blog.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Interview at The Lina Lamont Fan Club

I hope you'll read the interview Nissa did with me about my novel, Syzygy, as well as my latest projects at her blog,  The Lina Lamont Fan Club . If you haven't checked out her blog yet, give yourself a treat and head on over. She blogs about everything from Doctor Who to The Bible. She's truly a versatile Christian blogger fangirl writer poet person. :)

While you are there, check out the details of her book, Where the Opium Cactus Grows.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The Immaculate Conception

"You are all fair, o my love, and there is not a spot on you." from Song of Songs

Today, Dec. 8th, is the feast of the Immaculate Conception. We celebrate the fact that God created Mary to be Theotokos (God-bearer). She is, as the Angel pronounced, "Full of Grace." Because she was to be the mother of Jesus and carry him in her womb, she was born free from the effects of original sin. God gave her sanctifying grace before sin could take effect on her soul.

This feast day was made a holy day of obligation (meaning you gotta get to Mass) by Pope Pius IX in 1854, though it had been a feast day since the fifteenth century. This is not to say that the idea of her Immaculate Conception was introduced in the fifteenth century. Often, the Church will highlight and/or formally define long held truths when there is a danger of heresies spreading.

Today may be a good day to begin a routine of saying a daily Rosary if you don't already do so. Here's a nice site to check out.

Or maybe you could listen to Mark Shea's talk on Catholic Answers Live "Mary: First Guardian of the Faith."

Or listen to "Catholic Teachings on Mary" with Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz.

Or for a quick answers to objections to Mary's Immaculate Conception, see this article by Jason Evert. 

However else you spend the day, be sure to get to Mass and have a blessed day. :)

(edited to add an answer to a commenter's great question)

By the Grace of God, Mary was born without sin.

As Ambrose of Milan wrote:
"Come, then, and search out your sheep, not through your servants or hired men, but do it yourself. Lift me up bodily and in the flesh, which is fallen in Adam. Lift me up not from Sarah but from Mary, a virgin not only undefiled, but a virgin whom grace had made inviolate, free of every stain of sin" (Commentary on Psalm 118:22–30 [A.D. 387]).

For the glory of Jesus Christ, it was done. God wanted a perfect vessel for His Son.
Her parents were not w/o sin. They had her in the usual way.

Adam and Eve, before the fall were free from sin, so she's not the first person to be created free from sin, though she was the first to be conceived immaculately (free from sin).

Just like all of us, she needed Jesus to save her by his cross and so it was done. But time is nothing to God (which is why the effects still work 2000 yrs after), so He was able to do that for her at her creation. There is an ancient analogy which goes something like this. You can either be saved from the well after you fall in, or be prevented from falling in. She was prevented from falling in.

Here is a passage from "This Rock" which may shed some more light. Look first at two passages in Luke 1. In verse 28, the angel Gabriel greets Mary as "kecharitomene" ("full of grace" or "highly favored"). This is a recognition of her sinless state. In verse 42 Elizabeth greets Mary as "blessed among women." The original import of this phrase is lost in English translation. Since neither the Hebrew nor Aramaic languages have superlatives (best, highest, tallest, holiest), a speaker of those languages would have say, "You are tall among men" or "You are wealthy among men" to mean "You are the tallest" or "You are the wealthiest." Elizabeth’s words mean Mary was the holiest of all women.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Happy Saint Nicholas Day and an Interview

Okay, I'm posting late, but it has been one of those days and I was a bit crazy.
Some cool info on this awesome saint can be found here.

Saint Nicholas is so much more than jolly Santa. He was a bishop. Did you know that?

Aaaaand... in other news, author Nicole Green (Do you think she was named after St. Nicholas?) interviewed me on her blog about my novel, Syzygy.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

What Is Catholic Fiction?: Guest Blog Post by Karina Fabian

Karina Fabian

I am pleased to introduce Karina Fabian. She's an astounding writer and editor. I first "met" her at an online Catholic Writers conference. If you're a writer, she's the person to talk to when you want to learn about world building and also marketing. If you're a book lover, a Catholic, or a science fiction and fantasy geek, she's a writer you need to check out. See her blog for all of her news and book information.

Karina is going to talk about Catholic fiction, but first, I'll tell you about some of her books.

Robert Fabian
Karina's latest non-fiction book is Why God Matters: How to Recognize Him in Daily Life. Just out is her zombie novel, Neeta Lyffe, Zombie Exterminator. But most of all, I'm excited to tell you about the anthology Karina co-edited with her husband, Robert, Infinite Space, Infinite God II.

I think the Infinite Space, Infinite God II media release says it all:
Infinite Space, Infinite God II has twelve science fiction stories that span the gamut of the genre, from time travel to alien abduction, space opera and near-future space exploration stories.  The stories all have one twist in common:  each features a Catholic hero or theme.  Just like with Infinite Space, Infinite God I (known as ISIG), the Fabians had a three-fold requirement:  great sci-fi, great story, and great display of the Catholic faith.  The combination garnered ISIG literary and popular acclaim; it won the EPPIE for best science fiction and was a top ten finalist for best science fiction in the Preditor and Editor polls.

"ISIG and ISIG II look at faith and the future in a unique way," said Karina Fabian.  "Science and faith are not mutually exclusive; in fact, they can work together.  In both volumes, you see wonderful examples of faith informing the moral use of science, and of giving the characters the courage to act upon their convictions.  Both are very positive books--not only about faith and the progress of Man, but of our future in general."

Fabian said that this book differs from its predecessor in that the stories are more hero-centered.  "In ISIG, we were thrilled by the ideas our contributors explored, although the characters were great, too.  Here, however, the conflicts seemed more individual and less issue-oriented."

The Catholic Writers Guild awarded the book the Seal of Approval, signifying that it adheres to Catholic traditions and beliefs.  Fabian said that was important to them because they want religious bookstore owners to feel comfortable stocking it.  "Catholics generally go to secular bookstores for their entertainment, but ISIG and ISIG II make wonderful and unique gifts, especially for Christmas or Confirmation." 

Wow, way cool! I love a book that meshes Catholic values and science fiction. Woo-hoo!!!

Here is how to get this book:
From Publisher:

So, now I'll step aside and allow Karina Fabian to tell us about Catholic Fiction.


What is Catholic fiction?  This is a question we've bounced around in several of my Catholic writer's groups, and the answer is never quite the same. 
I think everyone can agree that just because a book has Catholic "trappings," it does not have to be a considered a Catholic novel.  Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code is a good example. For a story to be Catholic, then, it has to at least treat Catholicism positively.
For some writers, any book that supports our Catholic beliefs is Catholic, even if it doesn't have the "dressings" or a rosary, a cathedral, a Mass…  Michelle Buckman, a best-selling author in the secular, Christian and Catholic fiction markets, considers her works Catholic in this way.  You will find the ideals of pro-life, reverence, and faithful devotion and even the ideas of Confession.  However, to be acceptable to secular and Christian publishers, she had to remove the physical expressions of those ideals.  However, her two most recent books, Rachel's Contrition and Death Panels, are very strongly Catholic.  The wonderful irony is, people feel "safe" enough with her other stories, that they took a chance on Rachel's Contrition and made it an Amazon Best Seller in women's fiction.
For my husband, Rob, and me, the definition of Catholic fiction is a little narrower.  We think Catholic fiction must both support and express Catholic beliefs materially.  This is the approach we took with Infinite Space, Infinite God I and II.  You'll find Catholic characters and situations, the Church as an active entity, and faith as a force for good.  If you took the Catholic elements out, you would lose a vital part of the stories.
One thing we think is NOT a requirement is that the story preach Catholic beliefs.  This is a stickler for Rob and me, because we get very annoyed at stories that are more about the message than the characters or plot (even when we agree with the message).  In some ways, we think this sets Catholic fiction apart from a lot of Christian fiction--many Christian books are about the message.  This really, however, is more about the purpose of fiction.  Fiction tells a story, and the message or moral should come out naturally in the story.  If you have to lecture (even by having your characters lecture out loud or in thoughts) or you have to make your characters do things that are out of their character in order to put them in a situation that delivers your message, then you've sacrificed your fiction to message.  Write an essay, make an addendum, but give us the story and let the message shine through--or not--on its own.
The definition of Catholic fiction is going to vary by publisher, writer and reader.  Personally, I don't think it should matter overmuch.  Fiction is about the story, and as a writer, I should not be concerned with whether my story is "Catholic" per se.  I should be concerned with telling the best story ever--whether it takes place in the Confessional or in the back booth of a bar.  As a reader, I want to be entertained, and if there's a message to be found, let it come to me in the poignant moment of the hero's tale and not in the fancy monologue he makes to the villain.

Wow, I think that was a great explanation. I'm honored to have you here, Karina. Thank you so much.

And don't forget to check out Infinite Space, Infinite God II edited by Karina and Robert Fabian.