For the Fifth Time – The Roman Catechism Does Not Teach Geocentrism

In his new book Scientific Heresies Bob Sungenis has repeated his long-refuted argument that the Roman Catechism, also known as the Catechism of Trent, teaches strict Geocentrism as a doctrine of divine faith, that is, something that Catholics must believe as a matter of faith.  Sungenis goes so far as to speak of “the Roman Catechism’s dogmatic assertion of geocentrism” (p. 344.)

For this to be a “dogmatic assertion of geocentrism” at least two criteria would have to be met. First, the Catechism would have to make clear that it is presenting the physical system of strict Geocentrism as something divinely revealed and of necessary belief.  Second, it would have to do so in language that obliges the faithful to hold this view only and no other (see e.g. Catechism of the Catholic Church §88ff.)  Has Sungenis shown this to be the case?  Not by a long shot.

Sungenis claims that this Catechism “says the Earth ‘stands still’” (Scientific Heresies, p. 343).  And that would be at least a plausible argument in his favor, if only it was accurate.  The fact is that the Catechism does not use these words at all, even though Sungenis puts them in quotes.  I have challenged him publicly to show us where this Catechism says that the Earth “stands still” (see here and here; I know he’s seen these challenges because he’s responded to other parts of them.)  He can’t, because it doesn’t.  It’s unfortunate that he would for years continue to mislead readers with this long-refuted assertion.

Image credit: X-ray: NASA

Sungenis also cites a few passages from the Tridentine Catechism that speak of the heavenly bodies.  One passage says that the heavenly bodies “are endowed with fixed and regular motion”, another speaks of “the stars by their motion and revolutions”, while a third fuller text refers to “the celestial bodies in a certain and uniform course, that nothing varies more than their continual revolution, while nothing is more fixed than their variety”.  This language is sufficiently generic that it could be safely pronounced by subscribers to almost any cosmological system.  It could have applied, for instance, at the time it was written, to the non-geocentric cosmological systems of Bishop Nicole Oresme and Cardinal Nicholas Cusa.  It could likewise be endorsed by any modern Catholic today who affirms the motion of the Earth around the Sun and rotating on its axis.  [I am not claiming that this Catechism affirms or denies or accommodates any particular cosmological system.  I’m saying its language is generic enough that it can be affirmed by adherents of different cosmological views.]

There is, however, another passage from the Roman Catechism that Sungenis relies on most heavily. He claims that this passage will “expel [sic] any doubt about what objects are revolving the catechism adds that the sun, moon and stars have a ‘continual revolution’.”  Here it is:

At vero terram etiam super stabilitatem suam fundatam Deus verbo suo iussit in media mundi parte consistere, effecitque ut ascenderent montes, et descenderent campi in locum, quem fundavit eis; ac, ne aquarum vis illam inundaret, terminum posuit, quem non transgredientur, neque convertentur operire terram. Deinde non solum arboribus, omnique herbarum et florum varietate convestivit atque ornavit, sed innumerabilibus etiam animantium generibus, quemadmodum antea aquas et aëra, ita etiam terras complevit (link).

The earth [terram] also God commanded to stand in the midst of the world [mundi], rooted in its own foundation, and made the mountains ascend, and the plains descend into the place which he had founded for them. That the waters should not inundate the earth [terram], He set a bound which they shall not pass over; neither shall they return to cover the earth [terram]. He next not only clothed and adorned it [the terram] with trees and every variety of plant and flower, but filled it, as He had already filled the air and water, with innumerable kinds of living creatures.

I have explained to Sungenis at least four times now  (once in private correspondence and three times in public; see here, here, and here) why this text does not establish strict Geocentrism as a matter of faith.  Yet he has never really addressed my main argument, which is this: in the context of the passage, the Catechism is using terram = earth as it’s used in Gen 1:10, namely, to designate “dry land”, rather than the entire globe, and it can only mean this precisely because in this Catechism passage the terram is contrasted with the “air” and “water”.

While mundus can mean “universe”, it can also just mean “world”, e.g., “Euntes in mundum universum prædicate Evangelium omni creaturæ,” “Go ye into the whole world and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15).  The immediate context shows that the Catechism is using the word “earth” (terram) here to mean “land”, as distinct from the “air” and the “water”, and is using the word “world” (mundus) to mean the whole globe.  (This echoes the wording of Gen 1:10, “And God called the dry land [aridam], Earth [terram]”.)  Thus, when the Catechism speaks of the earth as being “rooted in its own foundation”, it means that the land is fixed in place with relation to the water, not in relation to the cosmos.  I argue that this is the only reasonable exegesis of this passage because of the wording of the last phrase, “He next not only clothed and adorned [the terram] with trees and every variety of plant and flower, but filled it, as He had already filled the air and water, with innumerable kinds of living creatures” (my emphasis.)

The passage clearly distinguishes “air” = aëra and “water” = aqua from terram.  As such, I argue, the terram cannot be the entire globe because it makes no sense to say that the entire globe is something distinct from the atmosphere and the oceans.  But it makes perfect sense to say that the “dry land” = terram is something distinct from the atmosphere and oceans.  This is precisely how the word terram is used in Gen 1:9-10 – “And God said, ‘Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land [arida in the Vulgate] appear.’ And it was so.  God called the dry land Earth [terram in the Vulgate], and the waters that were gathered together he called Seas.”  Here it is the “dry land”, the aridam, that is then called terram, “earth”.  It cannot be the entire globe, because it is something distinct from the air and the waters.

As many times as Sungenis has interacted with me on this text, he has never once engaged this specific argument.

Sungenis’s only counter-argument in written replies to me has been to insist that because this Catechism says that the terram was placed in the “midst” of the mundus (world), this must indicate that the terram was placed in the exact center of the mundus and therefore refers to the Earth being placed in the exact center of the universe.  But this doesn’t follow of necessity.  The Catechism, in this section, is drawing from the language of Genesis 1:9-10.  The earth was entirely covered in water and Gen 1:9 says that God gathered the waters in one place and the dry land (terram) appeared.  So, it is reasonable for the Catechism to say that the land was placed in the midst (in media) of the world.  That no more implies that things have to be in the exact center of the earth than me saying “I vacationed in the midst of the mountains” has to mean that I was at the mountains’ exact center.  Sungenis’s argument does not in any way nullify the most crucial point, which he has never addressed, namely that this Catechism clearly distinguishes the terram from the “air” and the “water”.  The only way that can be true is if terram here means “dry land”, not “entire Earth”.

This passage doesn’t represent a description of the globe’s place in the universe and it has no application to geocentrism.  I should note that the English version of this Catechism by J. A. McHugh and C. J. Callanon which appears in many places on the Internet (e.g. here) has the heading “Formation of the Universe” over this section.  This is a mistranslation of the Latin, De terrae creatione, which is correctly translated “Creation of the earth” (as in, e.g. the translation by J. Donovan; link).  It is perhaps this mistranslation—along with an insufficient attention to context—that has misled certain modern geocentrists to read this as if it addressed the earth’s place in the universe.

Sungenis calls this passage “One of the clearest official and authoritative statements from the Catholic Church defending the doctrine of geocentrism” (ibid., p. 340.)  If this is the clearest statement he’s got he’s in trouble, because it’s his burden to show that his interpretation is right and mine is wrong.  Otherwise, he’s effectively admitted that he’s building his case on a very flimsy foundation.  I‘m certain Sungenis will deploy a lot of words trying to “answer” this.  I’m equally confident he will not be able to exclude the view presented here and therefore his assertion that this passage is a clear, “dogmatic assertion of geocentrism” is ruled out as untenable.

In light of these facts, I think it is no accident that nobody during the seventeenth-century controversy over strict Geocentrism – not the extremely astute Cardinal Bellarmine, nor the theological consultants to the Congregation of the Index in 1616, nor Fr. Melchior Inchofer the theological consultant to the Holy Office in 1633 – pointed to the Roman Catechism as an authoritative text proclaiming strict Geocentrism to be any part of the Catholic faith.  Remember that the Council of Trent and its Catechism were almost as close to them in time as Vatican II is to us.  Surely if, as Sungenis claims, this is, “a dogmatic assertion of geocentrism”, this would have been the first place they would have looked and it would have been the very centerpiece in the original Galileo controversy.  And yet this source was never brought up by the Congregation of the Index or the Congregation of the Holy Office or, as far as I have seen, by any individual before, during, or immediately after the Galileo affair.  Somehow, nobody thought to deploy what Sungenis now insists is a central argument in favor of Geocentrism being a doctrine of Faith.  The silence is deafening. That silence can be easily explained by realizing that the language of the Catechism is generic and therefore does not establish Geocentrism doctrinally.  In short, Sungenis’s reading of the text is a forced interpretation, not admitted by the text itself or the main players in the Galileo case.

So now that it has been shown to him yet a fifth time that the Roman Catechism does not teach strict Geocentrism, I hope that Sungenis will cease using this dead argument.  Given his history, however, I won’t hold my breath.

Posted in Credibility, Magisterium, Science |

St. Maximilian Kolbe Was No Geocentrist

The Kolbe Center for Creation is an organization peddling young Earth creationism and, more recently and frequently, geocentrism as official teachings of the Catholic Church. They’re wrong on both counts. But it’s worse than that for them. Ironically, Fr. Paul Robinson, author of The Realist Guide to Religion and Science has recently discovered that the chosen patron of the Kolbe Center, St. Maximilian Kolbe, actually disagrees with the Kolbe Center on these very points!  This means that, according to the Kolbe Center’s rhetoric, their own patron fell for modernist and pernicious lies fundamentally opposed to the Catholic Faith.  But Fr. Robinson notes,

St. Maximilian did not find these positions to be injurious to the faith; on the contrary, he expressed them in an issue of his Japanese version of The Knight of the Immaculata and concluded them with an argument for the existence of God….If his Knight of the Immaculata article from above were submitted anonymously to the Kolbe Center, it would certainly receive a negative review….The fact is that St. Maximilian did not agree with the central tenets of the Biblicist creationism on which the Kolbe Center is founded. The Kolbe Center professes to have chosen him as its patron, because ‘he was an expert in theology, philosophy, and natural science’, but it does not follow him in questions of natural science nor those of exegetical science.

See the full article here:  “St. Maximilian Kolbe’s Disagreement with the Kolbe Center

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Robert Sungenis: Incompetent in Physics

Geocentrist Robert Sungenis, author of Galileo Was Wrong and executive producer of the documentary The Principle considers himself uniquely competent to overthrow the entire world of physics and astrophysics. As such, it seems reasonable to have a look at his background and demonstrated competence in maths and physics.

Physics Major?

Sungenis presents himself as virtually the only person in the world who is both qualified and honest enough to expose the supposed vast scientific conspiracy to hide the truth of geocentrism from the world. He has repeatedly insisted that he’s credible in the field of cosmology because he was a “physics major”. But as documented in “Robert Sungenis, Physics Major?” we find that:

  • Sungenis only took the first two most basic prerequisite physics courses that didn’t even involve calculus.
  • He didn’t finish the four physics courses required to fulfill the prerequisites for a physics major.
  • He inexplicably took two basic astronomy courses that would not contribute to the requirements for a physics major and were so basic as to be labeled “Primarily for nonscience majors”.
  • He took none of the undergraduate physics courses that are listed as “Required courses in the major”.

Basic Math and Physics Blunders

Sungenis regularly makes basic blunders in physics, demonstrating that he does not accurately grasp even very elementary concepts. He also makes basic mathematical errors, again calling into question his fundamental competency to be pontificating on scientific matters. Here are many documented examples:

In the article “Geocentric Physics: Is That All You’ve Got?” Dr. Alec MacAndrew demonstrated that the geocentrist attempt posted by Sungenis, attempting to answer the extremely significant “Lagrange point challenge” issued to them by physicist Dr. Tom Bridgman, is plagued by basic mathematical blunders, naturally calling into question the fundamental mathematical and scientific compentence of the geocentrists. Perhaps even more significantly, Dr. MacAndrew discovered that the bulk of their “case” consisted of material plagiarized from mainstream scientists and presented, unattributed, as their own. Further examination shows that the problem of plagiarism by the top geocentrists – Robert Sungenis, Dr. Robert Bennett, and Dr. Gerardus Bouw – is much deeper than that and even extends into the pages of the geocentric “bible,” Galileo Was Wrong. While not exhaustive by any means, “Top Geocentrists Caught Plagiarizing” documents many cases of plagiarism by these top geocentrists.

At one point Sungenis attempted to rebut Sky and Telescope editor Camille Carlisle and demonstrated that he is simply not competent to handle even high school-level physics.  In “Elementary Physics Blunders in Sungenis’s Reply to Sky and Telescope’s Camille Carlisle” Dr. Alec MacAndrew pointed out many basic errors in Sungenis’s work. These are compounded by Sungenis’s replacement of the well-known and perfectly adequate mechanism of gravity with a made-up medium that, “magically [does] just what he needs it to do, while remaining completely undetectable whenever he doesn’t need it.”

In his attempt to respond to Dr. MacAndrew, Sungenis ended up compounding his errors by making even more basic math blunders.  See “Sungenis Botches the Math….Again!

Sungenis’s incompetence in physics was again on display in his two mutually exclusive, but equally wrong, attempts to answer the CMB Alignment Challenge which we issued back in February of 2015, in response to the panoply of extravagant claims made by the new geocentrists about certain unexpected features of the cosmic microwave background (CMB). As Dr. MacAndrew says, “There is no shame in not knowing about a subject, but there should be shame in not knowing and yet pretending that you do, especially when you use your counterfeit knowledge to bamboozle others.”  See “Sungenis Fails the CMB Alignment Challenge…Twice

In “Aether, Springs, and Light: Physics Blunders in Galileo Was Wrong” we find that when Sungenis tried to explain the propagation of light and more particularly the speed of light in his own system he managed to get the physics exactly backwards, while deploying still more basic mathematical errors.

In “The ‘Simple’ and ‘Scary’ Mindset of Robert Sungenis” we took a somewhat lighthearted look at Robert Sungenis falling hook, line, and sinker for a Youtube video which purported to “prove” the incredible claim that our Sun is much less massive than the Earth. Sungenis’s original verdict on the video’s claim was that, “It’s so simple it’s scary — scary in that it makes you wonder what other simple ideas we are missing because we’ve been so brainwashed by the Copernicans. I can’t find any flaw in this man’s logic or math . . .” Two days later, after receiving help from others, Sungenis completely reversed himself, declaring that the video was instead, “wrong, very wrong”. (His followers bravely stuck by him, though, as laid out in “Sungenis Followers Double Down”. One of them excused Sungenis, stating that without “specific expertise” the video could appear convincing. But Sungenis found this fundamentally erroneous video completely convincing. Shouldn’t Sungenis’s followers expect their leader to have at least the sort of elementary “specific expertise” that would allow him to spot the flaws in a preposterous claim that the Sun is much less massive than the Earth? If not, then how in the world can they trust his analysis of the complex physics and mathematics involved in proving the case for geocentrism?)

Somewhat more recently Sungenis has insisted that by “using the parameters of modern science”, “it turns out that the Earth is the heaviest object in the universe, just as Aristotle said.” His alleged support for this remarkable claim is laid out in more detail in a section of his book, Galileo Was Wrong. Turning there we find yet again that when Sungenis and his associates try to do actual physics the results are shot through with demonstrable misconceptions, oversights, logical contradictions, and outright math errors. All of these and more are documented in “Getting on the Wrong Wavelength: More Basic Physics Blunders by the Geocentrists

In “Geocentrism and Stellar Aberration” we find not only that the geocentric “explanation” for stellar aberration absolutely will not work, but that in laying out that case Sungenis demonstrates that he fundamentally misunderstands aberration.

Dr. Tom Bridgman has said of the new geocentrists:

Geocentrists, like many other pseudo-scientists I’ve confronted on this blog, seem to be nothing but posers.  They want credit and recognition for achievements they have not done (link).

and:

Everything I’ve seen from Geocentrists is a cheat, trying to take someone else’s heliocentric solution and then moving the origin to the Earth.  They don’t appear to have the competence, or courage, it takes to actually transform the known equations of motion, Newtonian gravity and acceleration, well-tested in everything from laboratories to mechanics to spacecraft, to a reference frame where the body of the Earth is not rotating (link).

The bottom line is that the new geocentrists in general and Robert Sungenis in particular have yet to demonstrate that they have even a basic competence in science. And Sungenis, at least, dispenses himself and his cohorts from the same academic standards he expects from everybody else. It’s another unfortunate example from him of “one standard for me and another for thee.”

Posted in Credibility, Science |