And there, in the Inquisition's rooms, Galileo remained for a good while. His intellectual somersault had given Maculano a problem: if Galileo were to be taken at his word, namely that the Dialogue was a fundamentally anti-
Copernican text, then the entire foundation of the indictment fell away. But if that was the case, practically everyone who had actually read the book, had taken it the wrong way.
The Commissary needed a precise opinion on this point. To save time -and probably to be sure of the result, too - he reconvened the committee which had read the Dialogue the previous autumn. From a legal point of view this procedure was presumably quite legitimate: their first opinion had been an informal evaluation which was not carried out at the behest of the Holy Office, but by order of the Pope himself. Now the three members were asked to reply to a simple question: had Galileo overstepped the prohibition against holding, teaching or defending in any way whatsoever, the theory that the Earth moved and the Sun stood still?
The answers came during the course of the next few days, and they were unanimous in all matters of substance. Galileo had certainly both taught and defended the Copernican theory, and he was strongly (vehementer) suspected of holding it as well. The Jesuit, Father Inchofer, delivered the longest and severest opinion, making certain to point out that amongst Galileo's sins were the attacks on Scheiner:
"Galileo's most important aim this time is to attack Father Christopher Scheiner, who has recently written extensively against the Copernicans: but this is nothing less than defending, and disgracefully wishing to maintain, the doctrine of the Earth's motion... "95
In a strictly legal sense, Father Inchofer was completely right in his judgement. Galileo had held, taught and defended the heliocentric system and was guilty. The fact that it was not just the law - or for that matter theology - that counted within the Catholic Church, but the entire, convoluted matrix of connections, protectors and influence, he was shortly to experience himself. Inchofer had to quit Rome in disgrace after arguing against the practice of castrating young boys in order to keep their singing voices pure. This could hardly be called a particularly heretical viewpoint - but the choir in the Sistine Chapel needed castrati, and Inchofer was exiled to Milan!
The opinions of Inchofer and the others did not, however, solve Father Maculano's problems, but rather created new ones. In the first place they showed that Galileo had given a false explanation during his interrogation: the Dialogue could in no reasonable sense be seen as an attack on Copernicus. Secondly, in legal terms it would be far worse if they had to assume Galileo held the Copernican opinion, rather than that he had merely taught or defended it. The latter two could, at a pinch, be seen as irresponsible in tellectual exercises on a hypothetical or theoretical level. But to hold a view that was expressly forbidden, both by the Inquisition and the Congregation of the Index, was a serious misdemeanour: it was heresy.
Maculano alone had the responsibility for the further conduct of the case. The Pope had retreated to Castelgandolfo with his nephew, Cardinal Francesco. Galileo waited, impatient and anxious. One week passed, then two without any word from the court. Maculano took the matter up at the weekly meeting of the heads of the Holy Office on 27 April. The cardinals agreed that Galileo had been dishonest in his statement, that he had plainly denied what anyone might read in the Dialogue. But they also agreed that the matter still posed "various difficulties".
These difficulties were not of a legal or theological character, and certainly not connected with natural science, but were linked to Galileo's position and reputation. Although it was important to set an example that showed that Urban was an orthodox and reliable Catholic, the Papal States could not afford to disregard the relationship with Tuscany and the Grand Duke entirely. A discreet solution was to be preferred, and Father Maculano believed that the Pope, too, had expressed a similar desire.
And so Commissary Maculano asked the Cardinals' permission to try some private conversation with Galileo, without witnesses or minutes, to get the defendant to perceive his true fault. In this way the next official interrogation could go without a hitch and lead to the result that everyone wanted: Galileo's unconditional admission and statement of his "intentions" - the sinful motives that had brought him into the path of heresy. This last was very important in reaching a judgement and sentence.
It was agreed that attempting such a conversation might be profitable, and so Maculano visited Galileo a few days later.
Two weeks of the admittedlybenign "prison" had clearly made the proud and bellicose mathematician so tractable that he no longer insisted on farfetched readings of the Dialogue to get himself off the hook with his honour intact. But it is also very probable that Father Maculano in courteous and seemly terms reminded him of a well known aspect of the Inquisition's practice: "convincing with reasons".
Or, as it was sometimes also called - esame rigoroso, "rigorous examination".
There is no doubt that plain torture was a normal part of the Inquisition's working practice. The commonest form it took was the strappado, in which the victim's hands were tied behind his back and he was then raised by his wrists, sometimes with weights attached to his feet. A large assortment of alternatives were available to the Commissary - thumbscrews, "Spanish boots" and the much-feared water torture, in which water was poured into the mouth until the victim was on the point of suffocation.
Galileo knew about these "convincing reasons" - as did everyone else - no matter how secret the Inquisition's decisions and methods were supposed to be. There was therefore no reason to threaten him with torture directly, or to show him the instruments of it, which was also a part of normal procedure.
Father Maculano and his clerical colleagues in the Holy Office did not want to lay hands on Galileo if at all possible. They preferred to deal with written abstracts and not with forcing out information and admissions. Their prisoner was highly respected, and he was old and frail. The Inquisition's bureaucratic procedures included examining a prisoner before the use of torture to ascertain whether he or she was strong enough for it. This rheumatic sixty-nine-year-old with his host of other ailments would hardly pass such a test, if it was to have any meaning at all.
Galileo understood these signals, there is no doubt about that. He admitted his fault, was contrite and willing to formulate an admission to the court - indeed, he would sit down immediately and begin it. Three days after his conversation with Father Maculano, he again appeared for formal interrogation.
This time the session was a short one. The Commissary put only one question: had the defendant anything he wanted to say?
The defendant had. It had "occurred to him" to read the Dialogue again, something he claimed not to have done for three years. He wanted to see if, "despite his purest motives" certain formulations could have emanated from his pen that might be construed as contrary to the Church's ordinances. And alas, he was forced to admit, so it had proved. A reader who did not understand his real motives - which were to disprove Copernicus - might easily gain the impression that the very arguments Galileo was trying to refute, appeared the most compelling. This was particularly the case with the discussion of sunspots and tides, arguments which Galileo honestly and sincerely considered uncertain and unconvincing, but which unfortunately had been made to seem thoroughly incontestable.
As regards the main motives for his actions, he had to admit that they sprang, first and foremost from "vain ambition". It was a natural tendency in human beings, he said, to admire their own perspicacity and to want to appear more astute than their fellows, even though in this case it was a matter of promoting unsound theories. He quoted Cicero: Avidor sim gloriae quam sat est, "I am more keen for Glory than is merited". If he were to write the book again, he would have been more careful not to give these false arguments such convincing power.
After this admission the session was over, and Galileo signed the minutes and took the usual oath of silence. After that he was taken back to his rooms. But on the way he must have had second thoughts, for the records of the case relate that he quickly returned to the court chamber asking to add something.
To make it quite clear that he did not subscribe to the forbidden theory that the Earth moved, he had a suggestion to make. The Dialogue ended with Salviati, Sagredo and Simplicio agreeing to meet again and continue their discussions. Thus there would be no difficulty in adding another "day" or two. Here Galileo would revisit the arguments that had been advanced for the prohibited theory, "and to confute them in such most effectual manner as by the blessing of God may be supplied to me."96 He ended by asking the court - "this holy Tribunal" - to let him have an opportunity of realising his plan.
It is hard to know just how Maculano reacted to this absurd suggestion. In one way it could, of course, be seen as proof that Galileo's rebelliousness and pride had been completely broken, and that he regretted it so much that he was now even willing to disavow his dearest work, the work that had cost him so many years' labour. But to anybody who knew Galileo's previous output and writing style, the idea could also be interpreted as a new link in his subtle strategy of promoting dubious ideas under a thin veneer of formal reservation. If Galileo was given permission to add several chapters, this prohibited book would come into print, and it would then be up to the reader to weigh the arguments - not the relevant ecclesiastical authority.
But Maculano was certainly not displeased at this turn of events. He gave sudden and surprising permission for Galileo to move back into the Tuscan Embassy in the Villa Medici. The Ambassador was astonished, but happy for Galileo, and he also got the clear impression that Maculano was now working with Cardinal Francesco Barberini to get the matter disposed of as discreetly as possible.
May had arrived in Rome, and Galileo looked on developments with renewed optimism. On 10 May he was summoned to the Holy Office once more, this time to submit his formal defence, which he was entitled to do under the ordinances.
It was a summary of events as Galileo himself had understood them. He had indeed been warned by Bellarmine, but the warning had only touched on presenting the Copernican system as a description of reality. No, he could not remember any direct orders with the fateful words teach or in any way whatsoever. If they had been said, he had forgotten them, all the more so since his recollection was guided by Bellarmine's written account. He had not mentioned the warnings from 1616 to the censor, Father Riccardi, for the simple reason that he believed he was doing nothing wrong in writing the Dialogue.
But he admitted his conceit and his desire to shine intellectually, and accepted that sections of the book were not well formulated and ought to be changed. He did not directly repeat his suggestion of a new edition with added chapters, limiting himself to assuring them that he would repair the damage "with all possible expediency" - in any way their holiest of eminences, the Cardinals, "commanded or permitted" him to. He concluded by detailing his poor state of health and b egged to be treated with "indulgence and leniency".
Afterwards Galileo was allowed back to the Embassy. The Ambassador thought that the matter would nowbe resolved within the month. He realised, of course, that there was no hope for the Dialogue, and sent word to Florence that Galileo would presumably be sentenced to a symbolic punishment for having ignored Bellarmine's warning. Because the mathematician still clung to the hope that the book would be published in one form or another, he had not the heart to mention this directly to him.
Another good sign was that Galileo was given permission to leave the precincts of the Embassy for short walks. Maculano had also promised to come to the Embassy; the Ambassador assumed that this was to arrange the final details prior to the closure of the case.
But Father Maculano did not come. May passed without a word from the Holy Office for Galileo. The Ambassador grew anxious and used his contacts - finally going to the Pope, who had now returned from his sojourn at Castelgandolfo. What he heard made him even more uneasy.
Finally Galileo got a summons. On the morning of 21 June 1633 he was to attend a new interrogation.
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