The Vatican daily 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 professors portrayed themselves as defenders “of freedom of research and of knowledge.” “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,” the Vatican newspaper reported.
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.”
L’ Osservatore maintained that if any of the professors had checked the facts before signing the letter, “they would have realized that the author took the quote from a discourse by Ratzinger that is found under the title ‘Papa Benedetto XVI’ at Wikipedia.org, the online encyclopedia that is edited by internet users and that no man of science would use as an exclusive source for his research, unless he checked the veracity of the content.”
“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.”
“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.