– . The Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano is reporting that 67 professors from La Sapienza University in Rome who wrote a letter opposing a visit by Pope Benedict XVI based their opposition on a quote taken out of context from Wikipedia.org.
The Vatican daily also referred to the declaration signed by the 1,479 subsequent protesters, as mark of solidarity with the 67 in wich is stated that they “would have acted the same in the name of liberty and the investigation of science.”
“Perhaps,” L’Osservatore Romano continued, “the 1,479 professors do not know that, In the name of ‘freedom of research and of knowledge,’ they have taken false information to be true, accepting an assertion without checking whether it is factual”.
In their letter, the 67 professors maintained that “on March 15, 1990, during a speech in the city of Parma when he was still a cardinal, Joseph Ratzinger quoted a statement by Feyerabend (a philosopher of science): ‘During the era of Galileo the Church was more faithful to reason that Galileo himself. The trial of Galileo was reasonable and just. These are words that, as scientists faithful to reason and teachers who devote their lives to the advance and spread of knowledge, offend and humiliate us. In the name of the lay nature of science and culture and out of respect for our forum open to teachers and students of all creeds and ideologies, we urge that this event be canceled.”
“If before rushing to express their solidarity with the 67, one of the 1,479 would have verified the affirmation (of the original letter), they would have discovered that the one who wrote the letter took the citation of Ratzinger’s discourse from the entry Papa Benedetto XVI in Wikipedia, the well-known Internet encyclopedia, composed by its users, which no scientific person uses as an exclusive source of his investigations, without carefully verifying its credibility,” L’Osservatore Romano noted.
“That Wikipedia in all likelihood is the source of the quote is evident by the fact that the letter from the 67 professors makes reference to a speech by Cardinal Ratzinger on March 15, 1990 in Parma. The speech was given, but it took place in Rome, at La Sapienza University on exactly that day,” L’ Osservatore continued. “The surprising thing is that whoever took the quote from Feyerabend could not have read the rest of the entry in Wikipedia, as he would have realized that the meaning of Ratzinger’s statement is exactly the opposite of what the 67 claimed the Pope was saying.”
The complete text of Cardinal Ratzinger’s conference was published in 1992 with the title “Svolta per l’Europa? Chiesa e modernità nell’Europa dei rivolgimenti.”
In a footnote to the conference text in that volume, the author explained that the address was delivered at La Sapienza University in Rome, on Feb. 15, 1990.
“Now then,” L’Osservatore Romano continued, “what’s surprising is that the person who took the Feyerabend citation could not have read the complete Wikipedia entry, which enables one to realize that the meaning of Ratzinger’s phrase is exactly the contrary to what the 67 professors have aimed to attribute to the Pope.”
“Each person is free to judge if this way of using reason is correct or if it is an act of disloyalty. The risk of reason folding to the pressure of interests and to the attractiveness of utility is exactly the risk which the Pope would have warned the staff of La Sapienza about had he been able to speak there,” the Vatican newspaper stated in conclusion.