By Nicolas de Cardenas
ROME, NOV. 13, 2009 (Zenit.org).- The journalist known for his interviews with Popes is himself a convert from secularism. But his conversion didn’t mean giving up on reason, as he explains here.
In his latest book, Vittorio Messori has himself become the subject of an interview, leading him to reveal his story of conversion.
Messori, author of “The Jesus Hypothesis” (1976), is the first journalist in history to publish a book-length interview with a Pope, the best-selling “Crossing the Threshold of Hope” (1994).
He also published “The Ratzinger Report” (1987), based on an interview with then prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger.
In this interview with ZENIT, Messori talks about his latest book, “Por qué creo” [Why I Believe] (published by LibrosLibres in Spain), in which he is interviewed by Vatican expert Andrea Tornielli.
Part 1 of this interview was published Thursday.
ZENIT: Let us now address a question of current importance. How to you evaluate the fact that the European Court of Human Rights has just decided that Italian schools must remove crucifixes from the walls of their classrooms because their presence might disturb the children who are not Christians?
Messori: The concordat between the Italian state and the Church states that the crucifix must be present in schools and courts and this is perfectly in tune with the Italian constitution.
I am saddened because these officials [the judges] don’t know anything, because for a long time the cross has been more than a religious symbol; it is a human symbol of justice, of suffering and of hope.
The position of laicism regarding the crucifix is absurd, because the denial of the Christian roots of Europe is not a sin against religion but against history. Without St. Benedict or the Medieval Popes, Europe wouldn’t exist. It is a sin against history.
I am not scandalized because I believe that mass Christianity is finished. Jesus says that his disciples will always be a small group. I am not nostalgic for mass Christianity, for the Spain at the [time of the] Inquisition, for [a world in which] 90% of people go to Mass on Sunday.
As Benedict XVI says, I believe that we Christians must discover our own vocation.
ZENIT: Very many of your answers end by making a defense of “et-et” (this and that), in contrast to “aut-aut” (either this or that), as an essential characteristic of Catholicism; it is the idea that “everything fits” in the Church, an explanation of its unfathomable richness. However, where is the limit between what fits within the Church in some interpretation, and what doesn’t fit because it is contrary to it?
Messori: The fundamental principle of Catholicism, to say it in Latin, is the “et-et,” as opposed to the principle of heresy “aut-aut.”
Let us think of Protestantism, which is an “aut-aut”: Either the Bible or Tradition. Either Jesus Christ or the Virgin and the saints. Either grace or free will. Either Christ or the Pope. The heresy of Protestantism chooses either this or that.
Whereas the motto of the Catholic is “I want all”: the Pope and the Bible, Jesus and his Mother, divine grace and man’s liberty, the Gospel and the Church.
Now, I believe that a Catholic must discover this synthesis, of accepting everything that is good. This is very important because today there is much Catholicism subscribing to “aut-aut.” The title of my next book will be “We Want All.”
ZENIT: You are a defender of the rationality of the faith, of the existence of solid, almost scientific reasons for credibility of the Church, and at the same time a defender of miracles, a promoter of the Virgin’s apparitions. A Catholic understands this well, but how do you explain it to an atheist?
Messori: There is no contradiction between faith and reason. There isn’t a battle.
Faith is the point of arrival of reason used to the end. I am very grateful for what my university teachers taught me, though they later denounced me. I have not denounced them, because they taught me to use reason, and to be a believer does not mean to give up reason but to use it to the maximum.
I blame these teachers, [though] I esteem them, for having converted reason to an ideology, rationalism, which says there is nothing beyond reason. They must understand that there are things beyond reason that aren’t against it, which encourages them to use it to the end.
I have written much on the apparitions of Lourdes and now I am finishing a volume on this subject. However, it isn’t a book of supernatural explanations, but research on the historical plane of apparitions. In the end, I must bow before the fact that history researched in depth leads to mystery.
Half of my readers in Italy are believers, and the other half are not. The majority of the latter are not in agreement with my conclusions, but they are pleased to follow my reasoning.
What I try to demonstrate is that the Christian is not a cretin, he isn’t someone who gives up the use of reason.
The Christian is one who using reason, breaks the walls of rationalism to come to a reality that is greater than our own reason.[Part 1 of this interview, revealing why Messori finally tells of his own conversion, was published Thursday.]
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