Your RDA of Irony

The Gall of Galileo


January 16, 2008

ROME — Pope Benedict XVI, in a rare papal acquiescence to protest, has canceled a speech at the prestigious Sapienza University here amid opposition by professors and students who say he is hostile to science.

The pope’s speech at the university, which was founded by Pope Boniface VIII in 1303 and is now public, was to mark the start of the academic year. But professors and students objected, citing specifically a speech that Benedict gave in 1990, when he was Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, on Galileo, condemned by the Inquisition in the early 1600s for arguing that the Earth revolved around the Sun.

In that speech, Cardinal Ratzinger, who would become pope in 2005, quoted the Austrian philosopher Paul Feyerabend as saying: “The church at the time was much more faithful to reason than Galileo himself, and also took into consideration the ethical and social consequences of Galileo’s doctrine. Its verdict against Galileo was rational and just.”

Memo from the Pope to Gino:

Hold off on writing that excommunication of Nicholas Sarkozy. We’ll force that lecherous little Frog to go back to his first wife, but it can wait ’til next week.

Now I–that means my speechwriter–must deal with this Galileo thing from 18 years ago. This whole issue never had anything to do with science, you know. It was all a matter of tact–and Galileo didn’t have any. The Church knew that the earth evolved around the sun. We wouldn’t have spent all that money on the Gregorian Calendar without figuring out what made the calendar work in the first place.

Galileo had nothing new to say on the subject, but he just had to say it louder. The Church even gave him permission to publish his conclusions, so long as he followed Pope Urban VIII’s recommendation to be diplomatic to the supporters of the geocentric theory. Unfortunately, Galileo did not feel like being polite to advocates of idiocy; and he wanted to insult anyone who even tolerated the geocentric club. So instead of a nice, scholarly discourse, Galileo had to write a satire. In his “Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems”, Galileo has the geocentric theory espoused by a pretentious fool named Simplicius. Apparently overestimating the Church’s sense of humor, Galileo gave Simplicius a remarkable resemblance to the Pope.

And this was in 1632, right in the middle of the Thirty Years War. In the midst of religious genocide, the Church really did not need the distraction of a debate among our parishioners over the sun’s and the earth’s itinerary. Let’s face it: everything has to evolve around the Church. If Galileo couldn’t keep a civil tongue, he was lucky to have a tongue at all. We had nothing against the actual science; it was just at a really inconvenient time. Yes, the first convenient time turned to be 350 years later: nostra culpa.

But it really was Galileo’s fault. Did we condemn anyone else? No, because they were polite. Newton was willing to give God credit for inventing gravity. Einstein, Heisenberg, quantum physics–no problem; as long as it is unintelligible, the Church approves. Freud, well, that is just Jewish psychosis and is of no concern to the Church, at least since St. Paul. Did Edward Jenner brag, “Why didn’t Jesus think of this?” No, he didn’t; otherwise, we might have had to endorse smallpox. As for Darwin, he and the Church got along fine by ignoring each other.

So, it was always just a question of good manners. If science wants a grand unification theory, how about the Golden Rule?

Ex Cathedra Yours,


  1. This is a transcribed semaphore message from the notorious Dave Traini.

    Fra Eugenius:

    Actually, Galileo got into trouble due to the fact
    that he often allowed his personal secretary, Jean de
    Levis, to write lettters to the Holy See. The
    Frenchman sometines took liberty and penned, from time
    to time, insulting responses without the astonomer’s
    permission. So you might say that it was the Gaul of
    Galileo that really got him into trouble. On the
    other hand, Galileo’s nemesis was a Dutch monk named
    Rother Martin, who made it his life’s goal to bring
    down the Italian; the reason for this has just
    recently come to light. It seems that Martin’s
    brother owned a construction company called Edifice
    ‘rects, which was responsible for the Tower of Pisa.
    Due to problems with the construction, Galileo, who
    was a professor there at the time, persuaded the
    chancellor to hold up payments until the problems
    could be addressed. As we all know, they never were
    and the lien on the tower of Pisa caused the
    construction company to go bankrupt. Asa result,
    Rother went after Galileo with a vengeance. At every
    meeting about Galileo’s heresy, he would conclude his
    invective by saying, ” What we have here is a failure
    to excommunicate!!” The rest is history. Galileo was
    found guilty of hersey, placed under house arrest, and
    Brother Martin, for his part in the case, was
    canonized. He is nown to this day as St Rother

    Your most Catholic,

    Fra Davus

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