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According to Martiniz A. A., the main accusation of Giordano Bruno from the inquisition is simply the ideas of many-worlds: No other accusation was invoked even half as much.

In another reference Martinez goes on to describe the horror of the Catholic’s response:

“First, Bruno had said in nine books that many worlds exist: not just the Earth, but the Moon, the planets and the stars: “innumerably many worlds.” Apparently he didn’t know it was a heresy to claim that “innumerably many worlds exist.” This belief had been denounced as a heresy by many authorities including Saint Philaster, Saint Jerome, Saint Augustine, and Pope Gregory XIII. Catholics were horrified by this idea, because if many worlds exist then Jesus Christ would have to be born and crucified in each of those worlds to offer salvation to the beings in such worlds.”

If we now were in the clothes of the Inquisition, we could examine the idea, as the devil's advocate, that the earth actually moved around the sun and that the sun then became the center.

If the Earth were not the center of the world, one might argue that the central place might also be possessed by another planet. Here then immediately comes Martinez'question whether really Jesus was also crucified on that planet.

Being at the center also means a hierarchically advantageous status, and the idea is unreasonable that beings (humans) have experiences of Jesus that are completely undocumented in the Bible. (Even Copernicus' system with the sun in the center passes Jesus out into orbit.)

Although I see no reference to this, I wonder of it is close to conceivable that the theory of many extraterrestrial worlds constituted a blasphemy solely because of the inherent denial of Jesus also as a spatial central figure in Christianity.

Edit:

Let me add that if cosmology had been the only concern from the inquisition, Bruno might have been included in the excuse extended to Galileo. Therefore it is obvious that traditional theological errors (regarding his behavior as a priest, his views on Trinity, Virgin Mary etc.) must have had some weight in Bruno’s verdict. Unfortunately the Inquisition protocols do not contain explicit reason for judgment, where proof is compared to a standard for accusations neither individually or taken together.

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    An old reference as a quick start: newadvent.org/cathen/03016a.htm "Bruno was not condemned for his defence of the Copernican system of astronomy, nor for his doctrine of the plurality of inhabited worlds, but for his theological errors ... Christ was not God but merely an unusually skilful magician, that the Holy Ghost is the soul of the world, that the Devil will be saved, etc." It makes sense that the lutherans also excomunicated him if those were his thoughts.
    – Luiz
    May 24 at 14:03
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    'many worlds' does not smell as heresy per se, but in the 1500's scientific worldview, it might be connected to other doctrines - apparently this is Bruno's situation. The question is about juridical-theological details, albeit historical ones. There are books about Bruno, and I vaguely remember that some original documents still exist, somebody might have a detailed answer.
    – Luiz
    May 24 at 14:13
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    As far as I can tell, the question is based on the legends surrounding Bruno, not the historical facts. As asked the question is close to asking for disproof that King Arthur lived. But some more research and a refocus on the actual history might yield a very interesting question. (I suppose it could also be refocused to a question about how the Bruno myth was started and propagated. I'm less interested in that, but it might still be quite interesting. And answerable!)
    – Mark Olson
    May 24 at 14:25
  • Does Martinez give references for his claims that these men (Jerome, Augustine, etc) denounced the idea of many worlds?
    – jaredad7
    May 25 at 15:12
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    @jaredad7 Re: Martinez references, there is a reference to the Canon Law, “Corpus Juris Canonici” of Gregory XIII, where many-worlds is considered heresy, according to Martinez. May 28 at 9:22

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As mentioned in one of the comments, Bruno was not condemned and executed for this scientific views. This proposition is a product of anti-catholic propaganda of 18th and 19th century (by Andrew Dickson White or William Draper - or the likes).

It is true that he took logic to Copernicanism and postulated existence of "innumerably many worlds" and again, by extension of existence of extraterrestial life. In general nothing in Catholic doctrine refuses that view - in fact, the opposite can be argued (as did Fr Angelo Secchi in 1879). Though it must be noted that there is no official position of CC on that issue - there are only personal beliefs of numerous hierarchs of the Catholic Church that it would be a waste of space if we were the only sentience in the universe.

However.

When one digs deeper into the facts on "Church war on science" trope, nothing seems as it's generally believed...

Copernicus was a Church cleric (canon) and his treaty was dedicated to the Pope. He was not persecuted and though his "De revolutionibus..." was officially forbidden by the Officium (i.e. Inqusition), it was due to - mostly - political and theological errors in his book, and once corrected (and owners of copies of his book were required to censor his book themselves), it was accepted by CC. [There is a question in SE about what exactly was censored and it is a fantastic read; go look it up if interested]

Same thing with Galileo. He was not persecuted, he was requested to either prove Copernican model or STFU. In addition, this was also centered around religious and doctrinal errors of Galileo and most notably, because he was a jerk who rubbed a lot of powerful people the wrong way. Anyway, as I like to point out, Galileo would do much better on his trial if he called as a witness one Johannes Kepler instead of Bible and his personal beliefs (i.e. he defended his theory using doctrine, not science). Unfortunately, Kepler was at that time extremely busy. Namely, he was defending his mother, who was accused of black magic and was in danger of being burnt on a stake... Ironic, how Protestants like to confess through projection... (Émile Namer, The Galileo Affair)

That way we can state with reasonable degree of certainty, that Inquisition was not only not interested in his scientific work per se, it actually did view it as a mitigating circumstance - science is often making progress through errors. That is why, when Galileo officially withdrawn his "proof", he was let go and he continued his work more or less unmolested.

What Giordano Bruno was guilty of was a multitude of sins like heresy (repeated and quite often offense), scandal (it sounds innocuous, but in CC doctrine it is very, very bad), generally anti-doctrinal, anti-church and particularly anti-papal sentiments voiced loudly and forcefully. (Joel Shackelford, "Myth 7 That Giordano Bruno was the first martyr of modern science")

However, one thing needs clarification in this whole affair of persecution of science. If it involved Inquisition - the actual Sanctum Officium and it's officials, but NOT bodies like Spanish Inquisition - then by definition the case was doctrinal, and not secular crime. That is why Galileo was requested to show for trial by them... If he refrained from arguing his case from Biblical base, no one from the Church would give a two Messerschmits.

Bruno's case was also handled by the Inquisition with care as to the actual crimes, that is why the investigation took 8 years. The main problem was the fact that Bruno didn't know when to shut up and made a mistake of taking a jealous and vindictive man for patron, landing him in Rome's prison after nearly 20 years of speaking about his theories - mostly out of the Church's reach. Had he left the Church, Dominican Order and his vows, nothing would happen. Church, therefore, could not let it go, and he was condemned by Inquisition as a heretic. Again, normally it would not be a stake issue, but for him being officially part of the clergy, speaking agains the authority of the Church, making it political and public issue. That is why it is more accurate to say he was executed for treason, rather than for free thinking and free speaking. It is true, his multi-world theory is there, i. the trial documentation (whatever little was left), but there is no word about them in the sentencing.

So, since he was a heretic and a traitor, he was executed. It is tragic, but it must be viewed in proper context of that era. And as such, it was nothing special - there were a lot of people executed for treason around that time... Charles I of England, just off the top of my head.

Though I am sure that, for example, if tomorrow someone would publish evidence that Donald Trump was a paid spy for Russia or China, there would be quite a lot of people happy to flip the switch for electric chair he would be sentenced to. Same difference.

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  • Great answer, I'll always support the assertion that Galileo was a jerk. Futhermore, I think the person who successfully converts the life of Kepler to musical theatre will be the next Lin Manuel Miranda; assuming we needed another. "The Harmony of Worlds", a witch mother, a mentor with a silver nose, courtly tights and a villainous barber - practically writes itself.
    – Peter Turner
    May 26 at 22:06

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