Wikipedia blamed for scientists' Pope protests over Galileo

By staff writers
February 8, 2008

The newspaper L'Osservatore Romano claims that the students and scientists who protested about the Pope giving a speech at their university last month had misunderstood his views on Galileo because of a mistake on Wikipedia - the open source, self-generated encylopaedia.

Pope Benedict cancelled his visit to La Sapienza University after hundreds of students and teachers protested at what they described as his 'hostility to science'.

They based their criticisms on a speech the pontiff had given in 1990, as Cardinal Josef Ratzinger, the Vatican's theological 'enforcer'. They claimed he had defended the Church's mistreatment of the scientist Galileo, whose work was thought to challenge official teaching - though it has been fully accepted more recently.

Some 67 professors signed a petition objecting to the Pope's visit. His sppech, on the congruity of reason and faith, was given by a deputy instead and received with applause. Some staff at the university said that the protests threatened the academic freedom they claimed to speak for.

Others pointed out that the Pope had not been banned, he had taken the decsion not to give the lecture himself, to avoid embarassment or the need to talk with demonstrators.

Now L'Osservatore Romano, generally a loyal Vatican paper, says the document the protestors quoted from was based on facts copied and pasted from a flawed Wikipedia entry. And they have printed the evidence, to confound sceptics.

It appears that the text, mistakes included, had been copied, but then the last crucial part of Cardinal Ratzinger's speech had been left out by the Sapienza protesters.

"In the name of liberty and the investigation of science, they have taken as true a falsehood, accepting an affirmation without proving its credibility," the newspaper declared.

The article said that the protesters cited a speech supposedly given on "March 15, 1990 in the city of Parma." In reality, the speech was given in Rome, ironically at La Sapienza University, on 15 February, 1990.

"What is surprising is that the person who copied the citation could not have read the complete Wikipedia entry, which enables one to realize that the meaning of Ratzinger's phrase is exactly the opposite to what the 67 professors have aimed to attribute to the Pope," the newspaper commented.

In his original speech, the then Cardinal Ratzinger had concluded: "It would be absurd to construct on the base of these affirmations a hasty apologetics. Faith does not grow from resentment and the rejection of rationality, but from its fundamental affirmation, and from being rooted in a still greater form of reason."

Benedict's predecessor, John Paul II, who had a great interest in science matters, made the official pronouncement of the restoration of Galileo in the sight of the church, and acknowledgement of the way he was wronged by the Inquisition.

With acknowledgements to Independent Catholic News

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