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1634: The Galileo Affair: Chapter Twenty Six

       Last updated: Thursday, March 4, 2004 02:02 EST



    Castel Gandolfo, Mazarini decided, would be a beautiful place when it was finished. The villa was perfectly sited, the gardens perfectly laid out, and the prospects magnificent. The gardens themselves were fit to walk in, and His Holiness was wont to do so when he was at his new summer retreat.

    Mazarini was not a man to be awed by authority, but there was nevertheless something nerve-wracking about being invited to go for a walk in the pontiff’s own rus in urbe, particularly in such august company. Not, he reflected, that there was much urbe around for this to be rus in—Castel Gandolfo was well away from the stern and stony majesty of Rome. He quelled the thought. His Holiness Pope Urban VIII had confined himself to inconsequentialities thus far in the day, but there was certain to be a shift in the conversation at any moment. It was perhaps ordinary for the Pope to summon his nephew the cardinal Barberini into his presence. Not an everyday occurrence to bring the Father-General of the Society of Jesus into his counsel, but certainly nothing to remark upon. What was unusual was to invite a junior legate to his summer retreat to discuss business, without at any time mentioning what that business might be. France? Grantville? Venice? Mazarini admonished himself. Patience, or your nerve will betray you.

    “Young man,” Urban said, rising from a minute inspection of something green that was growing by the path. “How much do you know of the keeping of gardens?”

    “Almost nothing, Your Holiness,” Mazarini said, his mental thread snapping.

    “Then I shall explain something I have learned in gardens, Monsignor. Look here—” Urban pointed into the foliage. “There is an insect, if you look closely.”

    Mazarini bent low. Sure enough, there was something like a grasshopper, big and ugly, though. A cicada, perhaps? “I see him, Your Holiness.”

    “Some years ago, I essayed a short monograph on the subject of natural philosophy. Part of a small debate I had with a man more famous in that field.”

    “Ah, I understand, Your Holiness. I had the pleasure of reading that same monograph. Most interesting, and insightful, if I may say so.” Mazarini couldn’t see where this was leading, and uttered the compliment to cover his confusion. Surely the business with Galileo, however it shook out, was a matter for the Holy Office and, in so far as the Pope took part, a matter of political wrangling between His Holiness and the Spanish party? Galileo’s patronage made him a target for Spain, and his writing made him a target for accusations of heresy. Mazarini’s own concerns were all with the troubles in northern Europe, how did this connect?

    “I misdoubt you do, Monsignor,” Urban chided him gently. He was nobody’s idea of a young man, well into his sixties, but with the wiry frame of an old man who was active. The cares of office had used him reasonably well, but he still gave the impression of greater age than his sixty-six years would account for. Add to that the white soutane of his office and there was a real force to his admonishment. For a moment, Mazarini felt himself back at school. “You wonder, perhaps, why I have digressed on the subject of Galileo Galilei?”

    Mazarini nodded. “Yes, Your Holiness,” he said, remembering his manners enough to speak. The first meeting between himself and the pontiff, the day before, had been one of excruciatingly correct etiquette and protocol, and therefore easy. To be informal with the head of the church was hard. How far to go, what to leave out of the full panoply of formal address?

    “Please, be at ease. I approach this matter in a roundabout way because I wish to have you in my confidence. I wrote, when Galileo was first coming to trouble the counsels of the Church, of the understanding of a cicada, the ability of a naturalist to understand it, and the ability of a cicada itself to understand its world. You understand how we are as insects in our understanding before God, yes?”

    “His folly is as the wisdom of the wisest men, Your Holiness,” Mazarini quoted, almost certain he had mangled the scripture.

    “Yes, yes, most apropos, my young Monsignor,” Urban beamed widely. “And I in my turn, learned myself and surrounded by the learned all eager to advise me as best they may, and as nothing before the wisdom of God, would you agree?”

    “Your Holiness is most modest.” Mazarini was unsure where this was leading at all. Could it be that the Pope was going to ask him what to do about a question of dogma?

    “Not modest at all, Mazarini. Or should I say Mazarin?” Urban’s tone was quiet, now, and in Mazarini’s ears the soft breeze and the singing of birds became as thunderous gales and wild screeching.

    He stood, straight and barely able to control his shaking. How much of this was genuine intelligence from Paris, and how much from reading of future history? Was he here to be accused of disloyalty, in person, by the Pope? He looked across to Vitelleschi, the emaciated and close-faced head of the Jesuits, and saw no clue. Cardinal Barberini’s face was serene and pudgy as ever, and no more than mildly intrigued. “Your Holiness,” he said when he felt certain of his voice, “I am aware of the future that might have been, and indeed His Eminence the Cardinal-Protector of France has—”

    Urban waved it aside. His smile remained absent, his eyes a little narrowed like a schoolmaster about to chastise. “I know, Monsignor. I know. The important point for me is the welfare of the Church, not the jostles and stratagems of those seeking authority within it. I pray God that the results of such are guided by the Holy Spirit, but I know enough of my own poor dealings to be cynical about these things. No, I am not concerned that you might take yourself to the party of France in the fullness of time. I also saw in those histories, if it is permissible to call them that, that you retained your loyalty to the Barberini throughout, and sheltered my people at some political cost to yourself after my own play was done.”

    Mazarini relaxed. Either this was a side issue leading to something else, or there was nothing he could do to escape what was about to pass.

    Urban went on. “I have a greater concern than that other Urban did, do I not?”

    Mazarini decided to forego subtlety and nuance. “Which greater concern does Your Holiness refer to?” There were, after all, several possibilities.

    “In particular, the United States of Europe, Monsignor. A terrible problem, and if this priest from our future has the right of it, a great and terrible opportunity. For both good and ill, depending on the choices I must make.”

    Mazarini remained silent, waiting for the Pope to go on. Vitelleschi moved closer. The man they called the Black Pope had walked a few paces behind, listening intently. In a garden glorious with noonday sun, he created for himself a metaphorical shadow to remain in, behind the scenes. Mazarini tried to imagine what went on behind that blade-thin face, and failed utterly.

    “If I might interject, Your Holiness?” Vitelleschi asked. When Urban nodded he went on: “There is a simple point about these United States that many, if not all, have missed outside these counsels, Monsignor. And that is the complete abandonment of cuius regio, eius religio.”

    Mazarini murmured assent. That was, if anything, the most radical element of what the up-timers had brought. The principle that the ruler decided the religion of his people had been a given in the politics of Europe since shortly after Luther, and was yet another means for princes and prelates to justify their armed robberies under color of just war.

    “This principle of freedom of religion, Monsignor,” Vitelleschi continued, “bids us reconsider our attitudes to the recatholicisation of the Germanies. The Swede can no longer expel the Society, for we have freedom of our own religion there. The Swede can no longer mandate to his people that they shall not hear us, nor be converted. This much the Society shall do of its own initiative. We will win converts for Christ. His Holiness has had other possibilities drawn to his attention as well.”

    “Indeed,” Urban said, “and I am grateful to my brother in Christ for his summation and for the most wise counsel he has offered me. For your own part, Monsignor Mazarini, would you regard this Padre Mazzare as trustworthy? Reliable? A worthy priest?”

    “Ah, to what end, Your Holiness?”

    Urban’s expression turned wintry, a sharp contrast to the sunlight. “To the end of all our service to God, Monsignor. I seek an assessment of the character of the man.”

    “I beg forgiveness of Your Holiness. I thought to shape my answer to Your Holiness’ political needs.” Mazarini thought furiously. The Pope could not possibly be neglecting his duties as monarch of the Church, or could he? Mazarini dismissed that thought from his mind. There was really nothing for it but to simply tell the truth as he saw it.

    “Perhaps if I recount for Your Holiness all of my direct experiences of him? I think this will give you the same material on which I form my assessment of the man Mazzare. I think very highly of him, as it happens.”

    “Then tell me all, Monsignor,” Urban said, smiling a little again. “Tell me all.”

    Mazarini told the whole story, beginning from his first news of Grantville, brought in with the intelligence reports to Avignon. He had written to Grantville’s parish priest, seeking a way in to what looked like being the new politics of the Germanies. Why he had foreseen that, he did not know. It had just seemed so obvious at the time. He had sent the letter with Heinzerling, at the time his assistant and aide de camp, and the opening of communications in that way, coupled with Mazarini’s attempts to lever himself into a peace-maker’s role, had attracted the ire of Richelieu. Mazarini had had to cool his heels in Rome until the autumn of 1632, when he had traveled, quietly and without fuss, to Grantville to meet Father Mazzare.

    He had not gone without foreknowledge. Forbidden to pass any message to Mazzare or anyone in Grantville, Mazarini had sent Heinzerling with no message at all, but required to report back. Vitelleschi nodded a quiet appreciation for a neat piece of casuistry as Mazarini recounted that. Mazarini had eventually gone to Grantville lacking anything better to do. He had seen Grantville at both its best and worst: hard-pressed and in fear of its life, fighting desperately for survival, and also triumphant, haggling the terms of a new ascendancy.

    Just so had he seen Grantville’s parish priest. At once the harried and overworked small-town pastor, nervous over events which he did not control. And then, after the battle, concerned to see that the right thing was done by a woman who had died, by all accounts, the most obnoxious of his parishioners.

    “A true shepherd, then?” Urban remarked, when Mazarini came to a halt in his tale. There was an intrigued expression on the Pope’s face, an expression that spoke of a renewal of interest.

    “Yes, Your Holiness,” said Mazarini, suddenly deflating. He realized that as they had walked he had grown animated, had poured much of his own agitation over the business of Grantville into his words.

    “Perhaps indecisive,” said Vitelleschi, from where he walked behind Mazarini and the Pope.

    Mazarini realized that even in his customary terseness, Vitelleschi was saying more than the usually garrulous Barberini, and it was all Mazarini could do not to grin when he realized that Cardinal Antonio Barberini the Younger was somewhat overawed by his uncle’s presence, and was being seen and not heard, like a good boy.

    “How say you, Monsignor?” asked Urban, after mulling this over for a moment. “Is the priest from the future indecisive?”

    “Any appearance to that effect,” Mazarini said, realizing that he had at last relaxed in the presence of these two great men and recovered his facility for smoothness, “derives, if I may make so bold with the Father-General, from Padre Mazzare’s habit of taking as much time as he can to think before acting. I have seen him, in the thick of difficulty and danger, act with decision and dispatch. If the Father-General and Your Holiness will recall, he passed only a few hours in thought—perhaps as little as an hour, although I cannot say when the thought first came in to his mind—before deciding to send those first books to Your Holiness through my humble self. I think if there is pressure of time, or great passion working on the man, he will act decisively.”

    A few more paces, now in silence.

    “If Your Holiness...” Mazarini trailed off, letting the silence be his request for permission.

    The Pope nodded his consent.

    “If Your Holiness will vouchsafe his intent for Padre Mazzare, perhaps I might make my humble opinion better tailored to the fit of Your Holiness’ ideas?”

    “Will he make a worthy advocate before an Inquisition?” The question was put with disarming simplicity.

    “Your Holiness?” Again, the Pope had caught him off guard.

    “I am minded to direct that he plead Galileo’s case. After all, if it can be proven that Nature gives the lie to our interpretation of scripture, we must change our interpretation. There is scripture, Nature, and the theology of men. The creation of men cannot be allowed to gainsay the creation of God, after all, and such revisions to the Church’s teaching have happened before and will doubtless happen again. And if this new learning that Grantville brings will spare the church the embarrassment of causing to be abjured what later is proven true, then—” Urban waved a hand, a hand that sketched all manner of pleasing possibilities in the air.

    Barberini spoke for the first time. “Scheiner and Grassi may yet complain.”

    Vitelleschi answered him. “Scheiner and Grassi are priests of the Society. They will obey.” In such tones a man might declare that the sun would rise in the east.

    Mazarini had thought about Mazzare as the others spoke, and remembered hearing the American priest speak at Irene Flannery’s funeral. A final homily for a woman who had hated everyone, and yet he had spoke eloquently and perfectly for the time.

    “Your Holiness,” he said, “It is a duty which I believe that Padre Mazzare will discharge well, given time to prepare.”

    “That he shall have. It will be some time before Galileo stands his formal trial. Time enough for Father Mazzare to come to Rome.”

    “By your leave, then, Your Holiness,” Mazarini said, “I shall depart as soon as may be for Venice. Padre Mazzare is there now, and I can give him warning of your summons.”

    “Go with God’s blessing, Monsignor.”

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