The (False?) Injuction

There has always been some question as to the events of February 26, 1616 -- the date Galileo appeared before Cardinal Bellarmine. On February 25, 1616, the Pope directed Bellarmine to call Galileo to his palace and admonish him to abandon the Copernican theory of heliocentricism. If Galileo did not comply, the papal issue required an injunction to be set forth against Galileo, commanding him not to teach the works of Copernicus. It is recorded in the Inquisition file that Galileo appeared before Cardinal Bellarmine and accepted the Cardinal's warning. The record then states that "immediately after" his acceptance, the Commisary-General of the Holy Office read Galileo and injunction forbidding Galileo to hold teach, or defend Copernicanism "in any way whatsoever".

The latter action is rather puzzling, since the Pope instructed this action be taken only is Galileo refused the Cardinal's initial instructions -- which he did not. There are several other odd facts dealing with this event. To begin with, the record of this even was never sign by a notary, any of the Dominican fathers who were present, nor by Galileo himself. Furthermore, the location of the injunction in the legal file is wrong. The record of the event (including the text of the injunction) is written on the back side of another document -- a place most unlikely for the record of such an important event, and completely out of sync with the rest of the file. The pagination of the enitre file is upset because each new document or entry began on a new page, and was signed by all concerned -- this record is neither. The question thus remains what actually happened at the palace and if this record is authentic.

There were rumors building after Galileo and Bellarmine met on February 26th. Therefore, Galileo requested a certificate from the Cardinal clarifying what transpired. This certificate, which is signed by Bellarmine, never mentions any injunction. The Holy Office also published a report of the events, and it describes the events exactly as written in the Pope's memo of February 25th. Thus, the authorities had no idea any injunctions had been issued. Galileo, also, seeks to be unaware of this fact, and this led him to a clarification in the form of Bellarmine's certificate.

This leads us to several theories on what actually happened on February 26, 1616, and also to attempts to explain the irregularity of the Inquisition minutes. Wohlwill contends that the document was altered. He suggests erasure of the original and addition of the phrase about the injunction being read. He supports this by pointing to the irregularity of the writing. Laemmet, however, subjected the file to X-rays in 1927 and concluded it was original -- no erasure had taken place. Thus, he believes the document had been replaced in 1632 when the Church needed a little help to condemn Galileo. Both of the arguments fall short, however, mainly due to Gebler's insistence that the text matched neighboring texts, and was written near the same time as the surrounding records. In addition, the odd pagination proves that this was not the original record -- if such a document ever existed -- and the decision to add this falsification was made after the meeting at Bellarmine's palace in the Office of the Commisary-General.

We may now be led to conclude that Father Segizi, the Commisary-General of the Holy Office took on a sinister role in this affair. We know from Galileo's deposition that Segizi was present on February 26th and heard Bellarmine's' instructions to Galileo. The deposition also contends no one else spoke to Galileo during the ceremony at the palace. Perhaps Segizi, a Dominican father like Caccini, thought Bellarmine's sentence was too light on Galileo, and decided to do something about it. Since the file on the Inquisition was kept in Segizi's office, he had access to it. He might have ordered his assistant, Father Tinti, to compose the false minutes and insert them in the file. This would account for the lack of signatures at the bottom of the minutes we find in the file, and other irregularities mentioned above. Giorgio de Santillana proposes this notion, and it is well supported by facts and logic alike.

This also clears Bellarmine' name from any questions of wrong doing. Bellarmine could not have played a sinister role in the action because the minutes tell us the injunction was witnessed by two of Bellarmine's servants -- not my any of the Dominican fathers who were in attendance. Bellarmine knew that Inquisition procedure excluded everyone except men of the cloth and the accused. He would never have allowed two servants to act as official witnesses. Therefore, Bellarmine is cleared of all doubt -- this document was produced without his authority or knowledge.

Although we will never know exactly what happened, it appears that Galileo was never given an injunction from the Commisary-General, as the file would indicate. Moreover, the irregularity of the file should have been a claim for mistrial from the beginning of the 1633 proceedings. In 17th century Catholic proceedings, every detail would been carried out exactly, and the obvious irregularity of Galileo's file should have immediately raised the judge's suspicion. However, Dominican power being what is was, all doubt was quelled and the Inquisition was forced to its conclusion -- guilty of breaking the injunction of 1616.