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The Ratzinger Report: An Exclusive Interview on the State of the Church Paperback – August 1, 1987
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About the Author
Vittorio Messori is an acclaimed Italian journalist and author. Besides this exclusive interview with Cardinal Ratzinger, he also conducted the first book-length interview with Pope John Paul II, published under the pope's authorship and the title Crossing the Threshold of Hope. He is also the author of Kidnapped by the Vatican? The Unpublished Memoirs of Edgardo Mortara
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The interviewer asked, "Can then a 'modern' Catholic again begin to read the Bible without bothering himself too much over complicated exegetical questions?'
"Certainly," [ Cardinal Ratzinger replies.]." Every Catholic must have the courage to believe that his faith (in communion with that of the Church) surpasses every 'new magisterium' of the experts, of the intellectuals."
"Exegetical" means "explanatory," and "magisterium" means "teaching authority, especially of the Catholic Church." The meanings of these words are implicit in Cardinal Ratzinger's prose, beautifully translated as it is, and I only used a dictionary to be sure that my reading was absolutely correct for this review.
My recommendation of this book extends not only to Catholics, but to all Christians.
I wanted to know something about Pope Benedict before he became Pope.
For example, at the time this was written, LeFevbre and his followers were not yet in schism, there was no Tridentine Indult, the charismatic movement was just fully coming to the attention of Rome (how quickly it faded!) the neo-traditionalist movement (which included many of the people who tried charismatic worship and declined it) was not even acknowledged, there is no discussion of World Youth Day, the Soviet Union still controlled much of Eastern Europe, and Liberation Theology was still ardently discussed in Latin America. Vatican II was only 20 years old when this document was written; it is now 40 years old.
That so many things have changed since 1984 radically affects the relevancy of this book. An entire chapter is dedicated to Liberation Theology, but John Paul II, espeically with his silencing of Leonardo Boff, pretty much eliminated LT from relevancy. Each of the other issues I listed above significantly affect the content of this book.
The result is that this book is useful for understanding HOW the current Pope thinks about things, but of very little use to understand WHAT he thinks about the church today. The church today is very different, in relation to the issues discussed in this book, than it was in 1984.
The format of the book is a little puzzling to American readers. We are accustomed to a certain dispassion among journalist, and clear categories of reporting, analysis, and opinion among journalistic works. This book takes a much more Italian approach to journalism, with the author reordering many of Ratzinger's responses in order to construct post-hoc themes that were not so well developed during the interview. The reporter regularly mixes in reporting of what Ratzinger said, his own analysis of those statements, and his own opinions. As a result, is not always clear whether Ratzinger or the reporter is speaking, as they are often in great agreement.
There are many other books by and about Ratzinger available. Few of them have such a catchy title, but it seems likely that just about any of them will provide a better view into who the new Pope is, and what he thinks.