There is no doubt the church was in the wrong. A commission formed by Pope John Paul II in the 1980’s admitted as much. But was it fully responsible? There were, in fact, two other parties at fault.
One was Galileo himself. His vanity, sarcastic words, contempt for lesser minds and half-truths had earned him fierce enemies among the intellectuals of Europe– especially among the Jesuits. Galileo even fudged at least one experiment.
The second set of culprits were naturalists (the scientists of the day). Advocates of the pagan philosopher Aristotle resisted Galileo’s findings. The pope and cardinals would not have acted if dozens of these “scientists” had not said Galileo was wrong. Some hated Galileo, who had hurt their feelings. Others felt that Aristotle and the Bible should not be overturned without solid evidence. It did not matter that both Kepler and Galileo had shown that the Bible could be interpreted to agree with the new science. Their own eyes showed them that the sun, not the earth moves. Galileo could not provide hard evidence to the contrary. Solid proof for the earth’s movement around the sun was two hundred years away, when tiny shifts in star positions and subtle pendulum motions were finally measured.