The Golden Compass
How we cite our quotes:
Ever since Pope John Calvin had moved the seat of the Papacy to Geneva and set up the Consistorial Court of Discipline, the Church's power over every aspect of life had been absolute. The Papacy itself had been abolished after Calvin's death, and a tangle of courts, colleges, and councils, collectively known as the Magisterium, had grown up in its place. These agencies were not always united; sometimes a bitter rivalry grew up between them. For a large part of the previous century, the most powerful had been the College of Bishops, but in recent years the Consistorial Court of Discipline had taken its place as the most active and the most feared of all the Church's bodies. (2.132)
From this description we get a sense of how powerful and political the Church is in this world. While the Papacy (the office of the Pope) has been abolished, there still exist a number of competing groups and factions that make up the Church. Together these are known as the Magisterium.
"As I understand it, the Holy Church teaches that there are two worlds: the world of everything we can see and hear and touch, and another world, the spiritual world of heaven and hell. Barnard and Stokes were two – how shall I put it – renegade theologians who postulated the existence of numerous other worlds like this one, neither heaven nor hell, but material and sinful. They are there, close by, but invisible and unreachable. The Holy Church naturally disapproved of this abominable heresy, and Barnard and Stokes were silenced." (2.135)
Barnard and Stokes were radical experimental theologists who discovered that there were worlds beyond our own. What is the significance of the church's reaction?
As for what experimental theology was, Lyra had no more idea than the urchins. She had formed the notion that it was concerned with magic, with the movements of the stars and planets, with tiny particles of matter, but that was guesswork, really. Probably the stars had daemons just as humans did, and experimental theology involved talking to them. Lyra imagined the Chaplain speaking loftily, listening to the star daemons' remarks, and then nodding judiciously or shaking his head in regret. But what might be passing between them, she couldn't conceive. (3.4)
Though Lyra has an important role to play, it's clear that she is no expert in experimental theology. She's only a child after all.