A university usually provides students with an environment where scholarship and intellectual inquiry occur on a daily basis. Presumably, diverse ideas and different views are examined by open minds and sometimes brought into the critical light of academic study.
At one of Europe’s most prestigious universities, Sapienza University of Rome founded by Pope Bonifacio VIII in 1303, this is not the case for those who hold and teach religious ideas. Last Tuesday the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, canceled a speech he was to deliver at Sapienza University in the wake of threats of student and faculty protests and disruptions. These so-called scholars claim that it was unsuitable for a religious figure such as the Pope to speak at their vaunted university.
This group of censors cited a speech delivered by then Joseph Cardinal Ratizinger some 20 years ago, in which they claim he lent support to the 17th century heresy trial of Galileo. The irony that these “enlightened” academic censors were applying the same strict censorship and stifling of academic inquiry to Pope Benedict that the Church officials did to Galileo apparently escaped them. The intolerance of radical secularism seems to have trumped academic freedom at Sapienza University of Rome.
Pope Benedict once wrote that the task of a pope is to “maintain high the sensibility for the truth, to always invite reason to put itself anew at the service of the search for the true, the good, for God.” This task is unwelcome by the radical secularists who seem to dominate much of the academic world across the globe. Too often voices that challenge their radical views on truth and morality are dismissed in the name of tolerance and understanding. However, it is nothing more than a tolerance of like-minded views and a shared understanding of radical secularism and moral relativism.
Pope Benedict spoke prophetic words just after his election as the Roman Pontiff on April 18, 2005 when he stated: “We are building a dictatorship of relativism that does not recognize anything as definitive and whose ultimate goal consists solely of one’s own ego and desires.”
Little did he realize that the foundation of this dictatorship was to be found in the academic halls of Rome. The lesson taught last week by Sapienza University, which takes its name from the word that means “wisdom”, is that there isn’t much wisdom regarding academic inquiry or much tolerance for those who profess religious belief. In working to silence Pope Benedict, the radical students and professors of Sapienza University revealed to the entire world that they are not the thoughtful and wise academics they claim to be, but rather oppressive dictators of a secular world that will not tolerate moral truth or religious belief.