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How Did The Catholic Church Respond To The Scientific Revolution?
The Catholic Church has historically had a strained relationship with scientific advancement and did not always have an amicable response to the scientific revolution of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. But, as time progressed and breakthroughs in scientific fields became more widespread, the Church was forced to confront the implications of new findings and made attempts to reconcile science and religious doctrine.
The advent of the scientific revolution presented a challenge to Church theologians, who for centuries had held up the Bible as the ultimate source of truth and had incorporated Aristotelian scientific concepts into their teachings. In response, Church authorities condemned many of the new scientific theories and scientific advances, citing them as antithetical to scripture. The Church believed that the discoveries of the scientific revolution were an assault on its traditionally held beliefs. This opposition was epitomized in 1633 when the Church sought to censure Galileo for his theory of heliocentrism, which challenged the Church’s view that earth is the center of the universe.
In spite of this initial opposition, the Church began to accept the results of scientific advancement and integrate them into its teachings. In 1664, Pope Alexander VII declared that the Church was now tolerant of Galileo’s theories and allowed for the formation of the “Pontifical Academy of the New Lore,” which would explore scientific fields. This marked a shift in the Church’s attitude towards scientific advancement and was part of a larger trend of religious openness.
The Church’s response to the Scientific Revolution also included efforts to reconcile scientific discoveries with religious teachings. To this end, theologians began to advocate for a “theistic science” which held that scientific advancements and discoveries are consistent with divine revelation. This effort to reconcile science and religion was championed by prominent figures such as Pope Benedict XIV, who in 1751 issued the papal bull of faith: “Divinae sapientiae manifesti” (The manifest divine wisdom). This document sought to bridge the divide between faith and reason and affirmed the Church’s acceptance of the results of scientific research.
Overall, the Catholic Church’s response to the Scientific Revolution was complicated. Initially, the Church sought to condemn and reject new scientific theories; however, as scientific breakthroughs mounted and their implications became undeniable, the Church was forced to recognize the validity of new discoveries and reconcile them with religious teachings. This process of integration has continued to this day, helping to bridge the gap between faith and reason and ensuring that groundbreaking scientific advancements are appreciated by religious believers.