They really wanted Galileo to shut up. Four hundred, four years, today, the Catholic Church was nearly successful with an injunction. Referred to as the Galileo Affair, it started in 1610 and ended in 1633 with the Roman Inquistion.
Galileo got into trouble for supporting Copernican Heliocentrism, the mathematical model put forth by Nicolaus Copernicus (see Copernican Revolution), that suggested the Earth, and other planets, revolve around the sun at the center of the Solar System, opposing Geocentrism, backed by the Catholic Church.
In 1610, Galileo published his Sidereus Nuncius (Starry Messenger), describing the surprising observations that he had made with [a] new telescope, among them, the Galilean Moons of Jupiter. With these observations, and additional observations that followed, such as the phases of Venus, he promoted the heliocentric theory of Nicolaus Copernicus published in De revolutionibus orbium coelestium in 1543. Galileo’s discoveries were met with opposition within the Catholic Church and, in 1616, the Inquisition declared heliocentrism to be “formally heretical.” Heliocentric books were banned and Galileo was ordered to abstain from holding, teaching or defending heliocentric ideas.
On February 19, 1616, the Inquisition asked a commission of theologians, known as qualifiers, about the propositions of the heliocentric view of the universe. [It was] confirmed that Galileo had advocated the Copernican doctrines of a stationary Sun, and a mobile Earth, and as a consequence, the Tribunal of the Inquisition would have eventually needed to determine the theological status of those doctrines.
On February 24, the Qualifiers delivered their unanimous report:
“[The] proposition that the Sun is stationary at the centre of the universe is foolish and absurd in philosophy and, formally, heretical since it explicitly contradicts, in many places, the sense of Holy Scripture. [The] proposition that the Earth moves and is not at the centre of the universe receives the same judgement in philosophy and … in regard to theological truth, it is at least erroneous in faith.”
At a meeting of the cardinals of the Inquisition on the following day, Pope Paul V instructed [Cardinal] Bellarmine to deliver this result to Galileo and to order him to abandon the Copernican opinions. [Should] Galileo resist the decree, stronger action would be taken. On February 26, Galileo was called to Bellarmine’s residence and ordered:
“[To] abstain completely from teaching or defending this doctrine and opinion or, from discussing it… to abandon completely… the opinion that the [Sun] stands still at the center of the world and the [Earth] moves and, henceforth, not to hold, teach or defend it in any way whatever, either orally or in writing.”
Galileo accepted the order. He didn’t have much choice as his reputation was at stake. Shortly afterwards, all books regarding the Copernican system were banned and Galileo’s works regarding Copernicanism were banned as well. His sentence prevented him from teaching or speaking of the matter further. He remained silent only for so long.
Very interesting take on what actually happened…