Finally, this was the age of the Reformation. Protestant thinkers were attacking the Catholic church for not taking the Bible seriously enough. Urban VIII was eager to demonstrate the Vatican’s fidelity to scripture, and geocentrism was an interpretation on which there was agreement in the official positions of both Catholics and Protestants. Had the Reformation occurred a century before or after, Richard Blackwell writes, “the Galileo affair would probably not have happened.” Under the prevailing circumstances, however, the pope agreed to let the Galileo case proceed.

In 1633 Galileo returned to Rome, where he was again treated with respect. He might have prevailed in his trial, but during the investigation someone found Cardinal Bellarmine’s notes in the files. Galileo had not told the Inquisition—actually he had not told anyone—of his previous agreement not to teach or advocate Copernicanism. Now Galileo was viewed as having deceived the church as well as having failed to live up to his agreements. Even his church sympathizers, and there were several, found it difficult to defend him at this point.

But they did advise him to acknowledge that he had promoted Copernicanism in violation of his pact with Bellarmine, and to show contrition. Incredibly Galileo appeared before the Inquisition and maintained that his Dialogue did not constitute a defense of heliocentrism. “I have neither maintained or defended in that book the opinion that the earth moves and that the sun is stationary but have rather demonstrated the opposite of the Copernican opinion and shown that the arguments of Copernicus are weak and not conclusive.”

It has been widely repeated that Galileo whispered under his breath, “And yet it moves.” But the remark is pure fabrication. In fact, there are no reports that Galileo said anything of the sort. One should be charitable toward Galileo’s motives here. Perhaps he made his statement denying heliocentrism out of weariness and frustration. Even so, the Inquisitors can also be excused for viewing Galileo at this point as a flagrant liar. Galileo’s defense, Arthur Koestler writes, was so “patently dishonest that his case would have been lost in any court.” The Inquisition concluded that Galileo did hold heliocentric views, which it demanded he recant. Galileo did, at which point he was sentenced to house arrest._

Contrary to what some atheist propagandists have said, Galileo was never charged with heresy, and he was never placed in a dungeon or tortured in any way. After he recanted Galileo was released into the custody of the archbishop of Siena, who housed him for five months in his magnificent palace. Then he was permitted to return to his villa in Florence. Although technically under house arrest, he was able to visit his daughters at the convent of San Matteo. The church also permitted him to continue his scientific work on matters unrelated to heliocentrism, and he published important research during this period. Galileo died of natural causes in 1642. It was during subsequent decades, Kuhn reports, that newer and stronger evidence for the heliocentric theory emerged, and scientific opinion, divided in Galileo’s time, became the consensus that we share today.