I love Wikipedia. I use it often and most of the information on there turns out to be correct, particularly in areas of fact, such as science, geography, census data, etc. However, in all topics, particularly those that evoke a lot of emotion, such as politics and religion, one must recognize that Wikipedia is a compilation of information provided by many contributors, some of whom have incorrect information, and some of whom have agendas. Here is a great example.

Remember last month, the story about the Holy Father’s canceled visit to a Roman University over security concerns raised by protests of a small minority? Well, it turns out that the whole protests was based on a flawed  Wikipedia article.

It would appear that the text, mistakes and all, had been copied – but then the last part of Cardinal Ratzinger’s speech had been left out by the Sapienza protesters.

“In the name of liberty and the investigation of science, they have taken as true a falsehood, accepting an affirmation without proving its credibility,” the newspaper [L’Osservatore Romano] said.

Not only did the Wikipedia article contain incorrect information, but the entire article was either not read or not considered.

“What is surprising is that the person who copied the citation could not have read the complete Wikipedia entry, which enables one to realize that the meaning of Ratzinger’s phrase is exactly the opposite to what the 67 professors have aimed to attribute to the Pope,” the newspaper said.

In his original speech, the then Cardinal Ratzinger had concluded: “It would be absurd to construct on the base of these affirmations a hasty apologetics. Faith does not grow from resentment and the rejection of rationality, but from its fundamental affirmation, and from being rooted in a still greater form of reason.”

As I said earlier, Wikipedi is a terrific resource. It covers an enormous breadth of topics with easy access. However, facts should be double checked and corroborated before depending on them for something with serious consequence (for example, starting an international incident by misrepresenting the leader of the Catholic Church).

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