Catholic Church Embraced Astrology ...

When confronted with facts indicating that certain popes and doctors of the church believed and practiced astrology, Catholic defenders typically claim:

Both claims are incorrect.

According to Catholic teaching, the fact that popes and doctors of the church believed in astrology does not demonstrate that:

This is because popes who believed in and practiced astrology never "officially" infallibly proclaimed astrology to be true.

However, I find it troubling that popes who are supposedly infallible can be so wrong. If they just would have taught what they actually believed and practiced, they would have been guilty of teaching error, and the doctrine of papal infallibility would be proven false. But merely because they didn't proclaim their views publicly using a certain prescribed procedure, the whole system is somehow exonerated. (Yet there are examples of popes teaching falsehood: See problems, changes, abuses, errors.)

I should note that popes who believed in astrology did so after astrology had already been declared as false.

Not all beliefs of doctors of the church are considered as true by the teaching magisteriumof the Catholic Church — declaring someone as a "doctor of the church" is not an endorsement of everything they taught, believed, or wrote. (But how can we separate out the true from the false, especially when the Catholic Church regards them so highly and considers their views to be cornerstones of the Catolic faith?)

Some of the Protestant Reformers believed in astrology. If Protestant anti-Catholicsuse arguments of astrology to disprove Catholicism, then it also disproves Protestantism.

Popes favorable of Astrology ...

QuotesMy comments

Popes became votaries of astrology— . . . Popes Sixtus IV, Julius II, Leo X, and Paul III. . . . At the papal . . . courts ambassadors were not received in audience until the court astrologer had been consulted.

Catholic Encyclopedia, Astrology

Some popes had astrologers. The Catholic Encyclopedia states this.

Another well-known man was Lucas Gauricus, the court astrologer of Popes Leo X and Clement VII

Catholic Encyclopedia, Astrology

Some popes had astrologers. The Catholic Encyclopedia states this.

Pope Leo X valued astrology so highly that he established a professorship of astrology at the papal university in 1520.


The pope established a professorship of astrology at a church university.

Protestant Reformers favorable of Astrology ...

QuotesMy comments

Philip Melanchthon [was a] zealous and distinguished defender of astrology.

Catholic Encyclopedia, Catholic Encyclopedia

One of the Protestant Reformers.

Above all Martin Luther saw a danger in the belief in the powers of the heavenly bodies. Luther did not want to accept any other powers next to the one God who took human form in Jesus Christ. In addition, there were some astrological forecasts which were not fulfilled, and thus Luther made some mocking remarks about astrology.

But sometimes Luther was not so sure after all. For he wrote a very detailed foreword in 1527 for a very detailed and religio-politically important forecast by the astrologer Johann Lichtenberger. In it he said that, though the heavenly bodies cannot effect anything, they can yet announce events.


Luther was apparently not so strongly against astrology. Merely believing that astrological forecasts merely "announce" events rather that "effect" them is not the same as saying that he was against astrology.

The Catholic Church is against Astrology ...

QuotesMy comments

All forms of divination are to be rejected: recourse to Satan or demons, conjuring up the dead or other practices falsely supposed to "unveil" the future. Consulting horoscopes, astrology, palm reading, interpretation of omens and lots, the phenomena of clairvoyance, and recourse to mediums all conceal a desire for power over time, history, and, in the last analysis, other human beings, as well as a wish to conciliate hidden powers. They contradict the honor, respect, and loving fear that we owe to God alone.

Catechism of the Catholic Church, Section 2116

The church is clearly against astrology today.

From the start the Christian Church strongly opposed the false teachings of astrology.

Catholic Encyclopedia, Astrology

The early church was opposed to astrology and the modern-day church is also opposed to astrology. But there was a period of several hundred years when some church leaders believed in astrology.

Doctors of the Church favorable of Astrology ...

QuotesMy comments

The operation of the demon thrusts itself into those divinations which are based on false and vain opinions, in order that man's mind may become entangled in vanity and falsehood. Now one makes use of a vain and false opinion if, by observing the stars, one desires to foreknow the future that cannot be forecast by their means. Wherefore we must consider what things can be foreknown by observing the stars: and it is evident that those things which happen of necessity can be foreknown by this mean,: even so astrologers forecast a future eclipse.

Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica

So far, so good. Astrology is merely astronomy.

it is impossible to acquire foreknowledge of the future from an observation of the stars, except in so far as effects can be foreknown from their causes.

Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica

He is open to the idea that the stars in some way can cause events.

Acts of the free-will, which is the faculty of will and reason, escape the causality of heavenly bodies. For the intellect or reason is not a body, nor the act of a bodily organ, and consequently neither is the will, since it is in the reason. . . . No body can make an impression on an incorporeal body. Wherefore it is impossible for heavenly bodies to make a direct impression on the intellect and will. . . . Hence the heavenly bodies cannot be the direct cause of the free-will's operations.

Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica

He states that the stars cannot effect the intellect, the will, and reason.

Nevertheless [the heavenly bodies] can be a dispositive cause of an inclination to those operations, in so far as they make an impression on the human body, and consequently on the sensitive powers which are acts of bodily organs having an inclination for human acts. . . . Since the sensitive powers obey reason . . . this does not impose any necessity on the free-will, and man is able, by his reason, to act counter to the inclination of the heavenly bodies.

Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica

He states that the stars can effect the human senses.

Accordingly if anyone take observation of the stars in order to foreknow casual or fortuitous future events, or to know with certitude future human actions, his conduct is based on a false and vain opinion; and so the operation of the demon introduces itself therein, wherefore it will be a superstitious and unlawful divination. On the other hand if one were to apply the observation of the stars in order to foreknow those future things that are caused by heavenly bodies, for instance, drought or rain and so forth, it will be neither an unlawful nor a superstitious divination.

Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica

He states that the stars can cause changes in the weather.

That astrologers not unfrequently forecast the truth by observing the stars may be explained in two ways. First, because a great number of men follow their bodily passions, so that their actions are for the most part disposed in accordance with the inclination of the heavenly bodies: while there are few, namely, the wise alone, who moderate these inclinations by their reason. The result is that astrologers in many cases foretell the truth, especially in public occurrences which depend on the multitude. Secondly, because of the interference of the demons.

Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica

He states that the reason astrology seems to work is because people follow their bodily passions and are, thus, affected by the stars.

Thus a good Christian should beware of astrologers, and of all impious diviners, especially of those who tell the truth, lest his soul become the dupe of the demons and by making a compact of partnership with them enmesh itself in their fellowship.

Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica

He says we should stay away from astrology for 2 reasons. . .

  1. We might be influenced if we follow our bodily passions.
  2. Demons might use our interest in astrology to deceive us.