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Copernicus Reburied As Hero 369

CasualFriday writes "Mikolaj Kopernik, a.k.a. 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. On Saturday, his remains were blessed with holy water by some of Poland's highest-ranking clerics before an honor guard ceremoniously carried his coffin through the imposing red brick cathedral and lowered it back into the same spot where part of his skull and other bones were found in 2005."
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Copernicus Reburied As Hero

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 23, 2010 @03:34PM (#32316216)

    Copernicus' burial in an anonymous grave in the 16th century was not linked to suspicions of heresy. When he died, his ideas were just starting to be discussed by a small group of European astronomers, astrologers and mathematicians, and the church was not yet forcefully condemning the heliocentric world view as heresy, according to Jack Repcheck, author of "Copernicus' Secret: How the Scientific Revolution Began."

    "Why was he just buried along with everyone else, like every other canon in Frombork? Because at the time of his death he was just any other canon in Frombork. He was not the iconic hero that he has become."

  • Re:Pearly gates. (Score:1, Informative)

    by asdf7890 ( 1518587 ) on Sunday May 23, 2010 @04:04PM (#32316458)

    what do priests usually do?

    Violate the bodies of choir boys, rather than those of the long dead.
    Flamebait I know, but I have karma to burn.

  • 1870 (Score:5, Informative)

    by mister_playboy ( 1474163 ) on Sunday May 23, 2010 @04:17PM (#32316584)

    That doctrine is actually much more modern than most people would guess, having been issued in 1870 [].

  • Re:Pearly gates. (Score:5, Informative)

    by adamziegler ( 1082701 ) on Sunday May 23, 2010 @04:30PM (#32316666) Homepage
    You do know that Copernicus was a Catholic priest also right?
  • Re:Sure... (Score:5, Informative)

    by VTI9600 ( 1143169 ) on Sunday May 23, 2010 @04:32PM (#32316678)

    There are lots of Catholic schools in America (Catholics too, obviously) and they all teach that the Church has accepted the notion that man came about by the process of evolution, albeit a process conceived of and initiated by God. Also, I would guess that the vast majority of Christian schools in the country are Catholic, even though Catholics only make up 30 percent [] of US Christians.

  • End of thread. (Score:2, Informative)

    by glavenoid ( 636808 ) on Sunday May 23, 2010 @04:34PM (#32316692) Journal
    You win!
  • by JoshuaZ ( 1134087 ) on Sunday May 23, 2010 @04:34PM (#32316694) Homepage
    There are a lot of misconceptions about what Copernicus, Galileo, Kepler and all the other important figures during this time period were doing. For example, a lot of people don't realize that the system constructed by Copernicus still had epicycles. It was more aesthetically pleasing and slightly simpler mathematically than the Ptolemaic system but it wasn't actually more accurate. It wasn't until Kepler came around that a system that was genuinely superior in both simplicity and accurate. Also, people seem to forget that a major reason for Copernicus' work was that the Church wanted a more accurate astronomical system because they needed it to calculate the dates for Easter and other issues. And the Roman Catholic Church didn't even take a negative stance to heliocentrism until many years after Copernicus. Martin Luther and some of the other early Protestants reacted negatively far years before the Church did. The actual history is much more complicated than the standard narratives make it out to be. There are two excellent books on this topic. The first is Thomas Kuhn's "The Copernican Revolution" which presents the history pretty well although it gets filtered slightly through Kuhn's philosophy. The second is Alan Hirschfield's "Parallax" which takes a broader outlook over a much longer time period but with less detail on the period directly after Copernicus. Both books are very good reads.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 23, 2010 @04:38PM (#32316720)
    RTFA... archeologist dug up his bones. They are now being re-buried. Also... he was never condemned as a heretic for his scientific ideas.
  • by SharpFang ( 651121 ) on Sunday May 23, 2010 @04:43PM (#32316774) Homepage Journal

    It would be significantly shorter than 500 years if they knew -where- Copernicus was buried...
    Location of his grave was one of bigger historical secrets in Poland. (and the fact that the suspected location was a chamber filled with thousands of bones from many, many corpses, mixed in disarray, didn't make it any easier. It's been a luck that his corpse was found in a casket, and not in 300 pieces mixed with all the rest...

  • Re:umm (Score:4, Informative)

    by Exitar ( 809068 ) on Sunday May 23, 2010 @04:56PM (#32316908)

    His "De revolutionibus orbium coelestium" was in the Index of Prohibited Books from 1616 to 1835 [] []

  • Re:Pearly gates. (Score:5, Informative)

    by AshtangiMan ( 684031 ) on Sunday May 23, 2010 @05:22PM (#32317112)
    Not a priest. Actually a cleric, a step below the priest in the hierarchy of the church. But still had to take a vow of celibacy.
  • Re:1870 (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 23, 2010 @06:19PM (#32317520)

    Yeah, but it was retroactive.

  • Re:Sure... (Score:5, Informative)

    by TheRaven64 ( 641858 ) on Sunday May 23, 2010 @06:32PM (#32317636) Journal
    The Catholic Church isn't nearly as monolithic as you appear to believe. It is a world-spanning organisation, with a lot of internal dissension. Even among the Cardinals, there is a lot of disagreement, and there have been several issues over the last decade that have brought it very close to schism, particularly along continental boundaries.
  • Re:umm (Score:4, Informative)

    by nomadic ( 141991 ) <.moc.liamg. .ta. .dlrowcidamon.> on Sunday May 23, 2010 @06:44PM (#32317738) Homepage
    Hmmm, interesting, but this was way later; the implication of TFA seems to be that Copernicus was persecuted like Galileo, rather than being a high-ranking churchman himself who was well-respected in the Church during his lifetime and given a Catholic burial.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 23, 2010 @06:56PM (#32317836)

    Copernicus was not condemned by the Catholic Church. They're thinking of Galileo.

    Galileo was condemned because of his obnoxious, abrasive and abusive personality, not because his theories conflicted with Church teachings. He ridiculed the pope simply because he said that Galileo had failed to absolutely prove his theories beyond any possibility of doubt (which, in fact, he hadn't).

    A lot of science, throughout history and even today, is more a battle of personalities than any unemotional, detached, intellectual analysis of facts. Politics and religious/atheistic beliefs and personal feuds have always been just as much (if not more) a part of science as data and theories.

    And if one looks at Galileo's case as though it were an intellectual disagreement rather than a matter of anger and nasty remarks, they'll never understand what happened.

  • by hedrick ( 701605 ) on Sunday May 23, 2010 @07:04PM (#32317894)

    In case anyone is interested, I just looked to see what was actually done about Copernicus. No action was taken during his lifetime. During the Galileo affair, motion around the sun was declared to be erroneous and heretical. Thus Copernicus' major work was taken out of circulation for 4 years, until it could be "corrected." 9 or 10 corrections were made, which appear to have been simply inserting the word "hypothetically" or equivalent, on the grounds that it was a hypothesis that hadn't been proven.

    Note that I am not defending the actions of the Catholic Church. I just thought people might want to know what they were. The uncorrected version was put on the Index.The "corrected" version was not, so it continued to circulate. The source I looked at ( says that there was no official finding that Copernicus was heretical, although it appears that there was a general condemnation of heliocentrism (at least this is how I read a couple of seemingly contradictory statements).

  • by Moraelin ( 679338 ) on Sunday May 23, 2010 @08:35PM (#32318572) Journal

    1. You have to put it into perspective though. All of the verses that posited an immovable Earth at the centre of everything are Old Testament, and by all accepted chronologies most were already 2000 years old or more at the time Copernicus got his ideas. (Though Earth being flat does get a nod in Matthew 4:8, which is late 1'st century AD. So even that would be very nearly 1500 years old in the time of Copernicus.)

    I'd say that's pretty good covering their asses if it took that long before it was even possible to call them on it.

    Stuff that was easier testable, well, they seem to have usually written the prophecy after the event.

    2. Well, at least the Catholics seem to have given up on the throwing a fit part since the counter-reformation or so. Now it's just a mystery, or the Lord is using metaphoric language, or those who wrote it down didn't get it quite right. So when Genesis says there were trees with seed (at the earliest that would be the late carboniferous era, and even that's stretching it) before there was a sun created at all, well, the Lord was _actually_ saying there must have been some single-celled algae before the cloud cover first broke and the sun was visible.

    I'm not kidding. If you listen to some of them, some verses in Genesis even describe the Theia impact. Of course, you wouldn't recognize it without being told where and how to mis-read it.

    It's a more perverse setup, where falsifying it is akin to nailing jello to the wall. No matter what's written there, and how you think you finally have proof that all possible interpretations are plain old wrong, there comes the "but we're not literalists" blanket excuse and that's the end of it. If it says "black" there and you've measured it as white, well,the Lord of course meant "white" and was just metaphoric about it. So, natch, you haven't falsified it.

    Of course, I also never got a good answer to "so what good is a book which really doesn't tell you anything you didn't already know? Because apparently to find X in it, you already have to know about X so you can read something as meaning X."

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 23, 2010 @08:45PM (#32318642)

    Strange that a religion that claims to be so forgiving is also always threatening eternal torment to anyone who disobeys them ...

    I don't believe that you and...quite a lot of other people seem to understand the Catholic dogma of hell.

    Hell isn't burning and suffering and all that ridiculousness. That stuff is really just fire and brimstone tossed at us by Dante and priests in the old days. Hell isn't about hurting you.

    In truth, the suffering of Hell comes not from whips or knives, but from the conscious and willing rejection of God. In Hell you *choose* to go to Hell by absolutely rejecting God. Hell isn't Hell because of fire and brimstone, Hell is Hell because you aren't allowed to bask in the presence of God.

    Interestingly, those who are unwilling to accept God will thus be exactly where they wanted to be. A place without God. The only reason Hell is considered terrible is that we, as humans, are said to constantly be in the presence of God as we live. By having that underlying presence removed from us, we're bound into eternal suffering and torment.

    Personally, I believe God is a better being than that and, any fallen soul who truly learns to believe in God will be allowed to ascend to the celestial planes at any time.

    Further, man sees faces, religions, and all those things that are merely skin deep. God sees your soul, your heart, and your entire being. To reject God is more than just to deny his existence. To reject God is to act in a manner that goes absolutely against His will. All who live can return to God. And if you truly, absolutely don't wish to, then you can go to the place you want to, known by us as Hell.

  • by VTI9600 ( 1143169 ) on Sunday May 23, 2010 @09:08PM (#32318792)

    Actually they used police forensic experts, who (surprise, surprise) were probably not priests. Darn. I guess you got me. You'll probably even point out that I goofed when I said they took six years even though they actually found the bones in 2005 after starting in 2004. In any case, it does not change the fact that the church is painfully well aware of advances in modern science and doing the best it can to reconcile those with their beliefs and those of their faithful followers.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 23, 2010 @09:27PM (#32318926)

    It is worth noting that part of the condemnation of heliocentrism was that the best data at the time (due to Brahe) indicated that it was a poor model.

  • Re:Marketing (Score:2, Informative)

    by luis_a_espinal ( 1810296 ) on Sunday May 23, 2010 @09:48PM (#32319034) Homepage

    You can see how little scruple companies like the Catholic church have, when they dig up your remains to bury them again, just to make themselves look (not be, remember, Pope Kiddiefiddler []) good...

    READ THE FUCKING ARTICLE. The remains were lost in an unmarked grave for a long time. They were found in an archaeological search. That is what is done for the remains of anyone famous whose grave is not certainly known (as in Columbus, Crazy Horse or Genghis Khan.)

    Once the remains were found, they were buried in a grave that clearly has his name, and with the honors he deserved. Seriously, how much dumber can /. posters get?

  • by VTI9600 ( 1143169 ) on Sunday May 23, 2010 @10:10PM (#32319182)

    The Catholic church teaches that Hell is the absence of God's grace, and not a literal physical torment. Catholics do not threaten people with torture (admittedly, not in recent years). That sort of thing is what you will hear coming from the various non-Catholic Christian sects in the US. The church knows that they have made mistakes. Nowadays, they teach the concept of a "living" that acknowledges that change is inevitable and usually for the best.

    I will admit though, that most of these reforms only took place as a result of Vatican 2 [], which took effect in 1965. It's better late than never...having been born after 1965, I really didn't notice.

  • by Evtim ( 1022085 ) on Monday May 24, 2010 @03:40AM (#32320742)

    How can I experience absence of God in Hell, since God created everything, including Satan and Hell?

The only possible interpretation of any research whatever in the `social sciences' is: some do, some don't. -- Ernest Rutherford