When Wiki Won’t Work: The Vatican's Big "Oops!"


Any typos in this article shall be blamed on the typist’s incessant giggling. 

The Vatican’s Secret Archives—arguably the world’s largest historical research institution—contains some 52 miles of shelves, on which are stored things known and unknown:  precious documents from the Middle Ages and earlier; manuscripts and artwork; papal bulls and stuccoed walls; letters from Michelangelo; Henry VIII’s Bill of Divorcement; original works by Thomas Aquinas; and so much more. 

In all, the Archives hold 180,000 manuscripts and 1.6 million books—35,000 volumes in the selective catalogue alone.  I once saw a television report on the Secret Archives which showed a large pair of elephants’ tusks—presumably from Hanno, the elephant which once belonged to Pope Leo X.  The largest item, which weighs more than 130 pounds, is a red leather- and wood-bound collection of more than 9,000 bundles, registers or parchments containing the financial and administrative records forRome’s famed Borghese family. 

In recent years, the Vatican has made great strides to open the Archives to the public; and some of the most interesting items in its collection can be viewed on-line

With such a treasure trove of information dating back to the 800’s, theVaticanhas been the hands-down leader in information storage. 

That’s why it’s especially funny that last week the Vatican Information Service turned, not to its own resources, but to Wikipedia for biographical information on the 22 new Cardinals who were named on January 6.

Perhaps a giveaway was that many of the new cardinals were identified as “Catholic”—which is presumed, isn’t it, for a candidate to the cardinaliate in the Catholic Church?

But there were other clues.  The Guardian reported that Willem Jacobus Eijk, the archbishop ofUtrecht, was described as having a “strong tendency to conservatism, specially regarding abortion and homosexuality, which has made him one of the most talked about religious men in the country.”

The new cardinal is against abortion and homosexuality? 

Is the Pope Catholic?

Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, explained that the decision to use Wikipedia was “a temporary measure driven by haste,” but that the unofficial bios are quickly being replaced by official bios.

And it’s so good to see the Vatican embracing the new technology!

  • http://happynun.wordpress.com Sr. Colleen Clair, FMA

    Thanks for a very interesting post. What Jesus said about the “children of this world” being “wiser than the children of light.” (Luke 16:8) is so true. It’s funny that the Vatican looked to Wikipedia…and in a sense, it’s sad that the Vatican looked to Wikipedia. We (the Church) need to catch up with technology.

  • http://fromthepulpitofmylife.blogspot.com/ Ruth Ann

    It’s both ironic and humorous! I’d love to be able to stroll through those archives.