Nicolaus Copernicus, the 16th-century astronomer whose findings were condemned by the Roman Catholic Church as heretical, was reburied by Polish priests as a hero on Saturday, nearly 500 years after he was laid to rest in an unmarked grave. [Ref]
I saw the headline for this story on the weekend and growled in its general direction. Seeing what AP story actually said annoys me any more. Usually it is the Galileo story that gets misrepresented as “Eviiilll ignorant Catholic Church against science.” You have to wonder what a reporter workflow is?
- Hear story about Copernicus being moved into a new tomb.
- Make Church vs. Science connection in thought process
- Decide it must be because Copernicus got into trouble.
- His work being called heretical by the Church must have happened.
- His previous tomb must not have been worthy and no doubt denied a Catholic burial.
- Write story using this narrative.
Factchecking is obviously not part of most reporters work flow or so it also seems for editors. After all it is so plausible from the secular point of view.
- He published De Revolutionbus at the end of his life because of the worry about what other scholars would say.
- No evidence he worried about Church reaction and De Revolutionibus was published under the auspices of a Catholic bishop and dedicated to Pope Paul III.
- At the time he died the no Church official had anything negative to say about his work, in fact it met praise. Cardinal Schonberg urged him to publish his discovery.
- He was buried in Frombork cathedral and there was a plaque saying he was buried there – but not the exact location he was buried.
- He was reburied in the exact same spot he was originally buried 500 years ago.
So I guess the accurate part of the story is that they spelled his name right.
Catholic Culture has an excellent article on this , which I liberally stole from, where they also mention:
There is a grain of truth to the notion that Church authorities were suspicious of Copernicus during his lifetime. At one point he was suspected of keeping a mistress; later he was suspected of Lutheran sympathies. But his scientific work never caused him any conflict with the Church.
Copernicus Catholic background is rather interesting in that his family was rather devout and he got his degree in Canon Law, but went on to practice medicine while serving the poor gratis. There is no documentary evidence that he ever received Holy Orders, but his name was found on a list of candidates for bishop and at one time became administrator of the diocese after the bishop died. His more accurate observations were sent to Paul III and were later used in the Gregorian Calendar reform. The opposition to Copernicus’s work first started among a Protestant pamphleteer.
Last year the new Element 112 was name Copernicium.
Update: I am not of course surprised by ignorant secular reporters and I guess I should not be surprised at the equally ignorant National Catholic Reporter. Eventually, we get it right: burying Copernicus. Tom Roberts uses his “Church got it wrong” narrative to advance dissident theology. Sorry Tom, you got it wrong.