Quotation Marks Are Not Saran Wrap

I've spent the day searching for a word, the right word. I know it exists. The meaning to be conveyed is clear and strong in my mind, and if language truly precedes thought, then it must be out there, somewhere.

Like a Snakes and Ladders game, I've rapidly slid from Shakespeare's third age to the sixth in short order these past several months, somehow missing the intervening epochs. Definitely having shifted into the "lean and slippered pantaloon," words escape me more frequently now. Care to offer a hand?

I've tried: palliate, prevaricate, dissemble, rationalize, weasel-word, exculpate, extenuate, deny, shirk, neglect, disclaim, disavow, goldbrick, abdicate, justify, whitewash, varnish, excuse, and disingenuous. The last, the only adjective in the list, has always made me uncomfortable, being suspicious when more than one prefix surfaces. 

All pretty nasty words which suggest lying to cover or to excuse evil deeds.

Speaking of the Catholic Church, a newspaper article yesterday set me on this train of thought. And then that made me hark back to Galileo. More about the sensational media account in just a moment. First, let's go back a decade or so.

In 1992, then Pope John Paul II "regretted" what had transpired between the Church and Galileo Galilei. Note the verb. Not even the decency to offer a pardon for wielding infallibility promiscuously (as if there was any other way). He wrote:
From the beginning of the Age of Enlightenment down to our own day, the Galileo case has been a sort of "myth" in which the image fabricated out of the events was quite far removed from reality.  In this perspective, the Galileo case was the symbol of the Church's supposed rejection of scientific progress, or of "dogmatic" obscurantism opposed to the free search for truth. This myth has played a considerable cultural role. It has helped to anchor a number of scientists of good faith in the idea that there was an incompatibility between the spirit of science and its rules of research on the one hand and the Christian faith on the other. A tragic mutual incomprehension has been interpreted as the reflection of a fundamental opposition between science and faith. The clarifications furnished by recent historical studies enable us to state that this sad misunderstanding now belongs to past.

That certainly calls for a response, doesn't it? May I count the ways, Elizabeth Barrett Browning might have asked?

1. Putting someone on trial, then sentencing him to house arrest for eight years just for using his brain untrammeled by superstition is hardly what I'd call a "myth." Police brutality would be a better description. As my father might have said (and probably did), incarceration is a bit beyond a faux pas.

2. Convince me that the adjective "supposed" has merit in the second sentence. This is clearly an attempt at "poisoning the well," as it's called in propaganda analysis. Remove the word, and that sentence reads far more true. Anyway, the papacy has never been especially noted for its encouragement of scientific progress.  Oh, I keep forgetting how efficacious the rhythm method is in preventing pregnancies and the spread of disease.

3. Let's drop the ironic quotation marks in the same sentence! They're completely invalid and make me think of a professional wrestler justifying why he cheated in a match. As a thought experiment, here's the Pope's sentence again, sans "supposed" and sans quotation marks:
In this perspective, the Galileo case was the symbol of the Church's rejection of scientific progress, or of dogmatic obscurantism opposed to the free search for truth. 
All of a sudden it reads much more truthfully, and convinces. 

Pope John Paul II's use of quotation marks reminds me of a phone call I had from Plant Woman, back around 1975 or so, to me at 249 Norton Street, after a previous night of revelry at her place. She queried (with no preface at all, I might add):
"Do you have the clap?"
To which I replied,
"Not unless you do."   
It's so easy to put the blame on others, isn't it!

4. Now about those "scientists of good faith." Anyone who places faith above truth, is not a scientist. So, we can instantly discard that sentence as vacuous.

5. And now we come to the part that makes my blood boil: "a tragic mutual incomprehension," indeed.  (My emphasis). When reading Dava Sobel's fine book, Galileo's Daughter (based upon actual letters from the time), I completely failed to note Galileo's incomprehension. Brings to mind a child stubbing his toe on the curb and immaturely faulting the concrete. Maybe the Pope should have been writing scripts for the WWE.

6. Let me translate the closing sentence for you: we fucked up, but maybe we can spread the blame around so you'll forget our complicity.

I'm assuming  L'Osservatore Romano has never carried the comic strip Pogo on its funnies pages or the Pope would have understood: "We have met the enemy, and he is us." 

And now you see why I was beating my brains out to come up with the exact word needed. Palliate seems the best choice, but it doesn't go quite far enough to account for the egregious behavior in Rome.

But wait! There's more. As mentioned at the outset, a recent newspaper article set off this train of thought. In the Star Tribune, Saturday, February 20, 2016, p. A2, we learn from the article titled "Church cuts ties with Girl Scouts," the Catholic Church has even more villainy to fight in our modern world.

Seems the Girl Scouts in America endorse OxFam and Amnesty International. Horrors!

And, as if that weren't enough, this distaff organization promotes role models "such as Gloria Steinem and Betty Friedan." Case closed.

To quote the Archbishop Robert Carlson (from the article cited above), 
Girl Scouts is exhibiting a pattern of behavior and it is clear to me that as they move in the ways of the world it is becoming increasingly incompatible with our Catholic values.
About all I can say is, I'm not making any of this up.

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