I’m the last person who wants to jump on the Church-bashing bandwagon. I have managed to accept the excesses of the centuries—the Crusades, the Inquisition, simony, the sale of indulgences, guitar Masses—and have even stood by Holy Mother Church during the recent, let’s say, unpleasantness.
But the latest charges leveled by the Irish Times are that the Vatican has lifted its biographies of newly named cardinals directly from Wikipedia. To put this in context, we have a two-thousand-year-old institution, whose members make up 20 percent of the planet’s population, and which is described by the Times in these terms:
Its ancient library holds more than 180,000 manuscripts and 1.6 million books, and [the Vatican] describes its secret archive, which packs priceless documents on to 50 miles of shelving, as “one of the most important research centres in the world.”
And this venerable institution has chosen to “borrow” its information on its new leaders from, as Wikipedia describes itself, “the free encyclopedia that anyone can edit.”
Perhaps most egregiously, the tipoff was that some of these official biographies described the new cardinals as…wait for it…”Catholic.” Srsly, Your Holy Eminences?
Where is the breakdown here? I know that if one were to randomly throw a dart at a given Vatican official (not recommended), one would likely strike one of the few folks on the planet who could actually explain all the symbols on the Wikipedia logo. These are some seriously smart people. But when I visited the Vatican, I found it a haven of peace, not the beehive of Wall Street-like work-faster-than-is-humanly-possible frenzy that might otherwise explain the gaffe.
Let me say to the folks in the biggest little country on earth: If you really are so stretched by your writing and editing commitments, CALL ME. We have an entire Catholic Press Association here in the States packed with the sort of old-timey journalists who think Wikipedia is a skin disorder and know how to check their facts. I know your holy selves are only human, but I must insist that you strive to be in the upper 50th percentile of our species. We really do have something of a PR crisis these days.
And to all those who truly enjoy a bit of Catholic-bashing: Thanks for not hacking those bios. Dashed sporting of you.
Photo courtesy of Michal Marcol.