Sunday, April 16, 2006

Eppur, si muove

In one of the splendidly baroque meeting rooms of the Vatican's Apostolic Palace, the 263rd successor to St. Peter as Vicar of Christ hobbled slowly to his presiding chair before an assembly of bishops of the Roman Catholic Church.
It was 1994. John Paul II had fractured his right thigh in a bathtub fall, triggering a news-media torrent of frail-Pope-is-dying stories, but, more accurately, ending the 73-year-old Holy Father's getaways to the ski slopes.
The bishops watched him in silence. John Paul sat. He spoke. 'Eppur, si muove,' he said. 'And yet, it moves.' One wonders how many bishops got the joke.
Allegedly this was Galileo's defiant declaration to his Inquisition judges in 1633 after they sentenced him to life imprisonment for declaring the Earth orbits the sun, not the other way around as implied in Scripture.
Think of all the subtle meaning of that joke in those circumstances and then imagine having to explain it to someone incorrigibly literal-minded.

"Angels can fly because they take themselves lightly," in Chesterton's phrase.

More and more I think that humourless fundamentalism (whether Christian, Moslem, Hindu, Atheist or any other stripe) is a common denominator of many of the threats we have, do and will face.

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