It's Ratzinger's week. Not content with assuming the position (see below), he's stirred up a hornet's nest at La Sapienza, Rome and Italy's largest university. Invited to the inauguration of the academic year (which, typically, takes place months after it's actually begun) by Rector Guarini, himself currently under investigation for corruption and no doubt eager for a little pontifical indulgence, B16 is going to have to deal with demonstrations and all kinds. Why? Initially, because a group of physics professors pointed out in a letter to la Repubblica that, according to Ratzinger, the church did the right thing with Galileo, which would tend to exclude him from the cradle of rationality and scientific progress that a secular seat of learning such as a state university represents, in theory at least. Since the letter was published, a lot of other people in the university have expressed similar doubts about the need to invite the obscurantist leader of a non-democratic foreign state to its opening day. More power to their elbow, say I.
Naturally, there are those who defend his presence, insisting that not to invite him would be tantamout to censorship. How many times must it be said that censorship means preventing someone from communicating his or her ideas in an absolute sense? It isn't censorhip if the Daily Mail chooses not to host the writing of Noam Chomsky. It isn't censorship if the Vatican chooses not to invite Vladimir Luzuria to its Christmas shindig. It's common sense, editorial policy, institutional policy, whatever. It's perfectly licit to prefer not to invite a man whose opnions run counter to everything a university should stand for. In any case, the word of Ratzinger hardly goes unheard. The man's a total media tart, rarely off the TV screen or out of the press, his every querulous fart apparently worthy of national attention.
The amusing thing is that his defenders refer to him as an academic. Of what? Theology? Next year I imagine they'll be inviting an astrologer or someone who can read the entrails of slaughtered goats on the grounds that these are also rigorous academic disciplines. And talking of cultural pluralism and open-mindedness, which is what Ratzinger's critics are accused of lacking (hah!), it's interesting to see that one of Rome's most historic art cimemas, il Labirinto, is being forced to close because the proprietors of the building want to replace it with something more profitable. And who are the proprietors? That's right. The Vatican.