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Title: Copernicanism as a Religious Challenge after 1616
Subtitle: Self-discipline and the Imagination in Libertus Fromondus' Anti-Copernican Writings (1631-1634)
Author(s): VANDEN BROECKE, Steven
Volume: 42 Issue: 1 Date: 2015
Between 1631 and 1634, the Low Countries were home to a print debate on the reality and legitimacy of Copernicanism. Unlike the more famous events which simultaneously unfolded in Rome, participants of this debate were not only separated by cosmological positions, but also by confessional allegiances. This paper focuses on the contributions to the debate of the Catholic theologian Libertus Fromondus (1587-1653). Fromondus’ anti-Copernican writings are often held to illustrate the extent to which, by the second quarter of the 17th century, Catholic attitudes towards Copernicanism were overdetermined by confessional polemics and Rome’s socio-cultural interests in maintaining a monopoly on Scriptural exegesis. This paper argues for a more nuanced reading of Fromondus’ concerns over Copernicanism, which takes into account his specific interpretation of human salvation and its relation to human reason and the Church. For Fromondus, there was nothing inherently dangerous about Copernicanism; even after Galileo’s 1633 inquisition trial, he repeatedly suggested that there was room for Copernicans in the Catholic Church. However, he did think that Copernicanism could encourage an erosion of true human religio towards God if used imprudently and with unbridled imagination and enthusiasm, and that it could open the door to heresy and atheism. His anti-Copernican writings addressed perceived challenges of the use of human reason on the possibility of salvation, not the potential impact of doctrinal or exegetical disobedience on Roman authority.