Galileo arrives at a ball being put on in his honor with Virginia and her date, Ludovico. They talk about how beautiful Virginia is, and how being Galileo’s daughter got Virginia special treatment from her hair stylist. Galileo meets Barberini and another priest and they discuss his ideas. Barberini finds Galileo clever, and tells him about his own experience with astronomy, which he says “sticks to you like the itch.”
Galileo feels finally vindicated in this moment. His work has been confirmed and his doubters overwhelmed. This leaves him with a few moments of fame to enjoy, but all he can really think about is astronomy. His conversation with Virginia and Ludovico feels awkward.
Barberini and Galileo banter back and forth, amicably trading quotes from the Bible. Barberini ends this part of the exchange by asking “can one go upon hot coals, and his feet not be burned?” The conversation then turns to Galileo’s critique of Aristotle. Barberini suggests that the reason mathematics became increasingly unable to justify Aristotle’s system was because God made the universe in a way mathematics was incapable of describing. Galileo denies this, saying that, had God made the world in such a way, he would have made men’s minds to work in the same fashion. He adds (again) that he believes in man’s ability to reason. Galileo suggests to Barberini that, rather than mathematics being wrong (as Barberini suggested), man’s understanding of religion might be wrong instead.
The conversation between Galileo, Barberini, and the second priest is at once intense, intelligent, and witty. It’s like a verbal sparring match. Barberini has a genuine affection for Galileo, which Galileo seems to return. Nevertheless, there’s a certain tenseness about the exchange that suggests that the idea of persecution isn’t as far in the past as it might have initially seemed. Galileo finds himself again defending his theories, which seems to leave him confused and defensive. Nevertheless, he manages to present himself eloquently to the two men.
The priest beside Barberini interjects, saying that it is the job of the Holy Church to interpret the Bible, not astrologists. That Church, he continues, has decided that Copernicus’ view of the universe remains heretical. And while Galileo’s research has been confirmed, and he may continue it—indeed, must continue it—he must nevertheless abandon his public embracing of Copernicus.
In this simple moment, the Church reverses the “win” that progress seemed to have made when Clavius first confirmed Galileo’s observations. The Church denies Galileo’s knowledge with the same poorly defended, tautological reasoning it used to establish the divinity of Aristotle. Barberini simply says that Copernicus remains wrong.
As Galileo is escorted from the stage by Barberini and his colleague, two scribes are observed taking notes on the conversation of the three men. Momentarily, the Cardinal Inquisitor comes to review the transcript. Seeing Virginia in the room, he talks with her at some length regarding her own religious practices, her relationship with her father (whom he calls a great man), and her understanding of astrology. He is pleased to hear that Virginia knows almost nothing of Galileo’s theories and instead parrots back the teachings of the Church to him.
As before, Virginia’s role in the story remains uncertain. She truly believes her father to be a great man, but she also believes him to be a deeply flawed one. Whether she would sell Galileo out to the Inquisition isn’t obvious, but it certainly becomes understandable why Galileo has been so mindful about Virginia’s knowledge of his work.