Barberini (now Pope Urban VIII) is arguing with an Inquisitor. The problem with Galileo, the Inquisitor tells him, is not so much what he says about the Earth and the Sun. Rather, it’s that he writes in Italian, to common people, and sets an untoward example of questioning authority. The effects of this, the Inquisitor continues, can be seen throughout Italy, where men, women, and children are using their reason to question anything they please. Sea captains throughout the country are demanding Galileo’s star charts to aid in their navigation. Yet even these charts (which the Church feels it must provide to the captains, as profits are at stake) are heretical.
As Pope, Barberini is (in theory) at the head of the Catholic religion and responsible for its decision making. This should position him as a great man in his own right. Yet, through his interaction with the Inquisitor, it becomes clear that much of Barberini’s decision making process is highly politicized. As a private citizen, with none of the Pope’s power or authority, such concerns should weigh far more heavily on Galileo (a great man), but he cares about them far less.
Barberini defends Galileo, while conceding that he ought not to have written in Italian. He reminds the Inquisitor that Galileo is the greatest physicist of their age, and to denounce him would be to show the rest of the world that the Church had denounced science. In the end, Barberini agrees to allow the Inquisition to show Galileo tools of torture (but not to use them) in order to assure his compliance.
Remember Galileo’s earlier conversation with the merchant, where it’s revealed that the Church has held back scientific discovery in its territories, which has led to it falling behind the rest of Europe technologically. Both as a scientist and a political leader, Barberini must be concerned with this.