Cardinal Robert Bellarmine, Joseph D. Crumlish's candidate for person of the millennium {Free for All, Dec. 22}, was a man of inexplicable contradictions. Despite his seeming devotion to free expression and the rights of the citizenry, it was he who gave the order for Giordano Bruno to be burned at the stake in 1600 for the latter's "astronomical speculations."

At a date uncertain, but beginning about 1611, Bellarmine also "instigated inquiries" against Galileo. A dossier was kept, and on April 12, 1633, Galileo was brought before the Inquisition.

During his examination, Galileo testified:

"In the month of February 1616, Cardinal Bellarmine said to me that to hold the opinion of Copernicus as a proven fact was contrary to the Sacred Scriptures. Therefore it could be neither held nor defended; but it could be taken and used an hypothesis. In confirmation of this I have certificate from Cardinal Bellarmine, given on 26 May, 1616."

Bellarmine's pursuit of Galileo resulted in Galileo's being threatened twice with torture and his strict house arrest until his death in 1642.

Charles Burton Marshall {letters, Dec. 25} seems to think that Thomas Jefferson must have known more about Bellarmine's theories of government than is supposed, but I can find no reference to Bellarmine in the index of Dumas Malone's five-volume biography of Jefferson. My view is that any reference to Bellarmine as a proponent of liberty is inaccurate.

-- Burton L. Appleton