“Galileo’s Sons” is a competent if somewhat forgettable documentary which charts the Vatican’s pursuit of astronomical research. Yes, the Vatican has an interest in astronomy. In fact, the Vatican Observatory (run by the Jesuits since 1891) is headquartered in Castel Gandolfo, the papal summer castle.
Pope Benny doesn’t show up here, but the film has plenty of priests who are involved in peering through a telescope and passing along their knowledge of the stars to anyone who will listen. In fact, the church runs an informal astronomy class at Castel Gandolfo (complete with an al fresco luncheon) – and, in a tribute to bridging theological gaps, there is no question of the students’ religions when they sign up.
Oh yeah, there was that nasty business with Galileo back in the 17th century. But that gets covered in a fairly rapid manner, as if the unpleasantness of the Church’s attempt at silencing the Copernican findings was just a distant mistake not worth dwelling on.
The film hums along at a pleasant if undramatic pace, which is appropriate enough since the film is pleasant if undramatic. It’s basically a bunch of older Jesuit astronomers talking about studying the stars with plenty of rah-rah on how enlightened the Church is when it comes to peering through telescopes. If that’s your bag, more power to ya!