|Geology series||Feedback to Tas Walker on Geological Columns
If Tas Walker is right, Pius XII was not wrong to canonise Steno!
Actually Steno was not canonised yet, only beatified, and by John Paul II, as stated in following:
Creationism and Catholicism go well together (second example)
Where do you find Dinosaurs over Trilobites?
Steno and "Vertical Barbecue" contra John Laurie
I was revisiting the site of Tas Walker. He has had a correspondence over TAG = The Australian Geologist, starting with anti-Creationist provocations in letters to the editor.
After his first, published response, he was answered by one John Laurie, and the man displayed an appalling Historical ignorance, in this paragraph:
... Dr Walker enlists the eminent Danish anatomist and geologist Niels Stensen (latinised as Nicholas Steno) to demonstrate that creationists have made "fundamental contributions to geology in the past" And so they have! But it must be remembered that Stensen lived from 1638-1686 and that NOT being a creationist in those days could book you an appointment with the vertical barbecue. It is ironic that Dr Walker drew Stenson into his argument, as the fundamental concepts introduced or affirmed by Setnsen; i.e. that fossils are the remains of once living organisms; the principle of original horizontality; and the law of superposition, were some of the most important in the initial understanding of the great age of the earth and the evolution of its biota.
Cited after Tas Walker's copies of the letters and news article, with his own comments in blue, here:
Tas Walker's Biblical Geology : More Discussion in TAG
Geologists discuss again
John Laurie ignores that unlike Catholics, Orthodox, Anglicans and Calvinists, Lutherans of Denmark didn't have the "vertical barbecue" - except for witches.
As to heresy, Lutherans claimed a "moral high ground" over Catholics and Reformed alike, by not burning heretics.
In Sweden during the Middle Ages, as far as I could make out when studying Latin in Lund (and Latin studies involved some Swedish Middle Ages) exactly one man was burned on a stake, during the Catholic era, because he denied the Real Presence of Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament.
Russian Orthodox burned Avvakum for a much worse reason.
Anglican king James I of England burned two Anabaptists, aboiut the time he authorised his famous version. Calvin burned Miguel Serveto.
Lutherans would have none of that, they could persecute Catholics as traitors or as disobedient rebels, but not as heretics, nor did the punishments for heresy extend to the stake.
And how is this significant for Steno? Well, Steno was born precisely in Lutheran Denmark.
This also means that when he arrived in Florence or Livorno, they were less than eager there to burn heretics. At least foreigners residing there were not burned for being Lutheran. This was the environment in which Steno started to study geology, thitherto he had been mainly an anatomist.
Is it true that not believing Genesis would have made for a rendez-vous with the stake, even if you were a foreigner?
Let us look at the story of Isaac La Peyrère a bit:
In his Prae-Adamitae, published in Latin in 1655 and in English as Men Before Adam in 1656, La Peyrère argued that Paul's words in Chapter 5, verses 12-14 of his Epistle to the Romans should be interpreted such that "if Adam sinned in a morally meaningful sense there must have been an Adamic law according to which he sinned. If law began with Adam, there must have been a lawless world before Adam, containing people". Thus, according to La Peyrère there must have been two creations: first the creation of the Gentiles and then that of Adam, who was father of the Jews. The existence of pre-Adamites, La Peyrère argued, explained Cain's life after Abel's murder which, in the Genesis account, involved the taking of a wife and the building of a city. This account of human origins became the basis for 19th century theories of polygenism and modern racism.
[For the latter, some wikipedian has added "citation needed"]
In 1656 after a storm of indignation the Prae-Adamitae was publicly burned in Paris and La Peyrère was imprisoned briefly during a visit to the Catholic Spanish Netherlands, but was released after he supposedly recanted his views.
So, one way if you came to heterodox conclusions was to state them and recant them. If he had stayed in France, he would simply just have seen the burning of his book and that was about it.
But there is more.
The Inquisition of the Spanish Netherlands was perhaps more eager to try and burn foreigners than what other Inquisitors were. After all, they had tried and burned Tyndale. He had been burned before the Dutch War of Independence, and Isaac La Peyrère had been briefly held prisoner after it. In the former case, war was threatening, in the latter case, recent enemies were there just across the border, of another confession.
If instead you look at Spain itself, the uncle of William Penn had got out at a lesser price, perhaps, than burning. George Penn had been expelled and his marriage to a Spanish lady had been annulled. If he hadn't married, as a foreigner he would probably not have been bothered, though his letter, cited in "The family of William Penn, founder of Pennsylvania, ancestry and descendants" by Howard M. Jenkins, though this letter of his to LOrd Cromwell doesn't explicitly say so.
Here are his words about the sentence, which seem probable, pp 12,13:
Finally, upon his abjuring the Protestant fiaith [sic, computer scanned book, for faith], a public procession was formed in Seville, he was taken to the church, and his otfences [sic], confession, and sentence proclaimed " in the sight of thousands." His property was confiscated, — about ten thousa'nd pounds' value, he declares, — he was ordered to leave Spain within three months, on pain of death; he was sentenced to be burned if he should be again under arrest and found to have renounced the Roman faith; lastly, his wife was divorced from him, and she was ordered to be married to a Spaniard " for her better safeguard from me and securing of her soul from my heretical suggestions."
According to this, he also had to abjure in order to survive, but his abjuration was in that case not taken so very seriously that he was allowed to live a now Catholic life, on the contrary, he was put in two positions which would make it very difficult for him to remain Catholic : divorce from his wife and expulsion from Spain to presumably a Protestant country.
There can be some doubt in favour of the account, only if one can presume that she had been bamboozled by him into marrying a non-Catholic (or at least said so) and if the three months were supposed to give him some alternative, like going to France or Italy.
Even this is very highly doubtful, since if he had abjured, the wife would normally have had an option of remaking the failed marriage with him if he was sincerely Catholic - which was at least juridically presumed when he was released, according to the story. But the least likely part is that of her being married off to a Spaniard, that looks mainly like a projection of what Cromwell would be doing in similar circumstances, when persecuting Catholics and Non-Conformists : it doesn't look like the Spanish Inquisition at all, since she would have been able to fasten her Catholic faith very well by being received as guest in a nunnery or sth, and studying under a priest, while news awaited if George Penn was sincere or not in his conversion.
Of course, simply divorcing after a validly made marriage was a no no to any Catholic even if contrahent was a heretic. The marriage must have been null for such a divorce to take place, like saying George Penn was not validly baptised or she did not know George penn was a Protestant. So, George Penn's story seems contradictory and could in part have been made up in order to make sure of being better received on returning home.
Howard M. Jenkins adds:
The dates of this transaction, including the condemnation in the church of Seville, are wanting, and we can only infer them, but it seems to me most probable that the whole of the business was known to the young sea-captain, the brother of George Penn, when he caught the little ship with its " 8 Spaniards" coming out of Waterford, in the winter of 1646, and that as he stripped and exposed the unhappy secretary of the governor of Flanders he was inflicting a retaliatory blow, and not expecting to propitiate the Inquisition at Seville, or hoping to secure the good offices of the humiliated Don Juan.
So, perhaps the transaction never took place, George Penn perhaps simply bolted from his wife, and it was perhaps a wise thing to do if he didn't intend to stay Catholic even in appearance.
Or perhaps the papers have been later found by Spanish archives, since Howard M. Jenkins wrote as long time ago as in 1899.
To resume, since Steno didn't actually marry in Florence or Livorno, he was less at risk than George Penn, if he had been heterodox. Also, Florence and Livorno were arguably less risky than Spain.
But there is one more thing to this : Steno was very certainly not insincerely posing to believe the story of Genesis, since he then made great sacrifices as a Catholic convert.
Unlike that Swedish apostate from the Catholic faith, he was attracted by the doctrine and even dogma of Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. He converted. He then became a missionary priest and bishop, and persecuted (though, as said, not by the stake) in his own Lutheran home region. He died as a man having incurred sickness by cold where he was not hospitably received, and he is now venerated as a Saint by those who consider John Paul II was Pope when he pretended to canonise him.
I don't really disagree on the sainthood, now I know he never deviated from Young Earth positions while a Geologist : I just disagree with the formal recognition thereof by an Antipope like Wojtyla - also, I don't know exactly what miracles he wrought after his death, that is also important for recognising full sainthood.
A man who makes such sacrifices to spread the Catholic faith is hardly the kind of man who a decade or two earlier is likely to have hidden conclusions about Old Age (like those later given by Hutter and Lyell) just because he feared the Inquisition. And his homeland never had such a thing since the Reformation, it persecuted by inhospitality instead.
Hans Georg Lundahl
St Bibiana, Virgin, Martyr
PS, a little update. I was just looking at Penn Family, and it seems the "George Penn" who is supposed to have been uncle of the founder of Pennsylvania is missing from the genealogy. There is of course this character:
4. George Penn - was born in 1571, lived in Birdham, Sussex, England and died on 4 Nov 1632 while living in Plymouth, MA . He was the son of William Penn and Margaret Rastall.
But the dates don't really fit with the story about the Spanish Inquisition told above. Here is the site:
Penn Family Genealogy
by Albert Douglass Hart, Jr.
I'll contact him if he has more information on the missing George Penn .../HGL
PPS, I did, and the email to him did not work.
550 permanent failure for one or more recipients (firstname.lastname@example.org:5
50 cuda_nsu sorry, no mailbox here by that name. (#5.7.17))