Faith, Reason, and today’s world! – Interview with Father Cosma, born Antonio Parisi, Primate of the Italian Autocephalous Orthodox Church
We publish The Interview with Father Cosma, born Antonio Parisi, Primate of the Italian Autocephalous Orthodox Church by Tudor Petcu, on one of the great themes that has always been the subject of theological and philosophical debate: the comparison between faith and reason.
First of all, thank you for accepting this dialogue, which gives me great pleasure. At the beginning of this interview, I would ask you to talk about yourself so that our readers can get to know your personality?
I am Father Cosma, born Antonio Parisi. I am the primate of the autocephalous Italian Orthodox Church and a journalist. I am 61 years old. I was born in Ginosa, near Taranto, and now I live in Rome. I have been dealing with information since the age of 16. I have always paid attention to the themes of faith and religiosity.
I was born a Catholic of the Latin rite, even if the Eastern Church in its various facets has always fascinated me. I have cultivated a true passion for patristic studies and for everything related to early Christianity.
At the age of 17, I collaborated with “I Giovani per la Famiglia” in the organization, in Rome, in the spaces annexed to the basilica of Santa Maria alla Minerva, of a major exhibition on the “Church of Silence”, or the persecuted Church in Eastern European countries.
In 1984, I approached the Russian Orthodox Church of Exile, which had its headquarters in Via Palestro in Rome. I wrote an article about this reality for a newspaper of the Corriere della Sera group, an article entitled: The Russia of Via Palestro. Since then, I have moved closer and closer to Orthodoxy.
Journalistically, I directed major Italian media, both paper and television. I made some scoops that made a lot of noise. One of a religious nature has traveled around the world. I found the documentation that proved Adolf Hitler’s appetite for the Holy Shroud, which he wanted to appropriate for blasphemous and perhaps satanic purposes.
In February 2016, I founded, with Professor Alessandro Meluzzi, Marzia Vicenzi, and others, before a notary in Turin, the Italian Autocephalous Orthodox Church. Today I am the Primate of this Church.
Talking about faith and reason is really difficult, even if we take into consideration the contemporary society characterized by the lack of God, a society in which mystical and metaphysical values are rejected. However, I would be interested if you let me know how you would define faith and reason and what the true relationship between them? I am asking you this question, thinking of some representatives of contemporary epistemology who consider that there are similarities between faith and reason, with faith itself not using a logical language.
One of the great themes that has always been the subject of theological and philosophical debate is that in which faith and reason confront each other. It is a question of a comparison that dates back to the mists of time and that has taken on particular features with the spread of Christianity, its conciliar choices and decisions, its truths of faith and dogmas.
When it comes to faith and reason, many immediately think of the debate between scholars—men who feed on science and knowledge every day. Speeches and theses were discussed between theologians, philosophers, and scientists in the pontifical academies and in the sacred vaults of some exclusive circles. No, that’s not always the case. Already at the time of the New Rome, a “legend” was circulating that in the market of Constantinople, if you asked the baker for bread, before giving you the loaf, he would ask you: But do you think the Son is the same substance as the Father? How can there be three people in one?” In reality, the man on the street occasionally wonders in his heart how it is possible that there is a “being” who created the universe. How is it possible that Christ was resurrected by defeating death? And gradually, many questions whose answers show the conflict between “reason” and “faith”.
The question is therefore very present. And the man, though gripped by the frenzy of a life that doesn’t seem to give room for reflection, is the problem if he poses it.
Here, modern society, which seems to have expelled God from his context and in which mystical and metaphysical values are marginalized, feels the need to rediscover a spiritual dimension that a haughty, proud, and perhaps sick reason seems to want to deny. To put it bluntly from the Age of Enlightenment, Reason seems to have transformed itself into a “goddess”, and her worshippers, creators of a new religion which, just like those who profess their belief in the God of the Holy Scriptures, place at the basis of their thinking axioms and categories not always demonstrable. The logic, with its stringent paths, seems to have cornered the Faith. Reason, having “logic” as its altar boy, poses as a secular religion. So, would Faith and Reason be the banners of two opposing “religions”? Perhaps. However, there is a third way.
Do you believe that Pope John Paul II’s encyclical is a correct model of approach to the relationship between faith and reason in the Christian world? How important would this encyclical be for the correct attitude of the Church in contemporary society?
An interpretation of the Faith-Reason reality comes to us from the Encyclical Fides and Ratio wanted by the Roman Pontiff, John Paul II, who in the prologue to the encyclical tells us with a beautiful rhetorical figure: «Faith and reason are like two wings with which the human spirit rises towards the contemplation of truth. It is God who has placed in man’s heart the desire to know the truth and, ultimately, to know him so that, by knowing and loving him, he can also arrive at the full truth about himself”.
Already in these few lines, John Paul II sets out some “principles” of synthesis that are clarifying, offering modern man a path in which Faith and Reason no longer experience an “ideological” opposition but are both life-giving components of the reality of being human.
Faith and Reason are compared by John Paul II to the two wings that support the human spirit and lift it up in the contemplation of the “Truth”. Desire to know the truth that has been placed in the hearts of men by God himself. This is why men long for the truth.
Faith and truth are allies, not enemies, as they have been and are seen on many occasions. And metaphorically speaking, the investigation of truth that leads us to want to investigate the secrets of creation and of matter itself is leading to surprising conclusions from researchers: the study of microparticles and their characteristics suggests answers that coincide with those of faith. Prayer, often mocked and mistreated by yesterday’s science, turns out to be able to act on reality through the positive influences on subatomic particles… It’s not a fantasy film. However, we must be careful so that the Church does not renounce her role and instead finds herself enlisted and enthusiastically participating in the prevailing atheism.
One cannot speak of faith without reason, but neither can one speak of reason without faith because such reason is founded on the human mind, which is always lying. However, how can we explain the contemporary refusal to understand this reality?
In the light of what John Paul II writes, there can be no faith without reason, and there can be no reason without faith, as has already been identified by other doctors of the Church.
Who will then be the new “priests” who will assist the spiritual and rational dimensions of man, the frontier scientists? What will be the temples in which to pray – the Cern laboratories in Geneva and the National Laboratories located under the Gran Sasso massif in Abruzzo? No, it won’t be them. They, the scientists, need the help of the doctors of faith in order to not lose their way and be able to govern reason.
Let us remember that reason can be lost and give birth to monsters. In the name of science, man is continually risking annihilation. The Apocalypse could be unleashed by the man himself, haughty and proud, who manipulates in laboratories what he should never touch.
And in all this, he asked, What can they do? What role can Christians and the doctors of their faith play? The possible role is immense. To achieve this, however, a great condition is necessary: the possession of FAITH. And this is a problem, because many ecclesial realities risk turning into NGOs with presbyters and bishops who believe in nothing: blind people who claim to lead other blind people.
How should the Orthodox Church act in today’s society when it comes to the relationship between faith and reason? In other words, how could or should the Orthodox Church handle the drama of atheistic humanism?
Orthodoxy can play a role, but it takes theological and spiritual preparation. Orthodoxy, firmly anchored to some cardinal principles of faith, can represent a “safe haven” in which to anchor one’s spirit.
In Europe and also here in Italy, there are dozens of experiences that, like the one I directed, refer to Orthodoxy. Some of these churches, however, are only simulacra of non-Christian interests, in some cases even demonic, and at best simoniac.
If the preparation can somehow be lacking—think of St. Francis and some anchorites of the past—the faith must however be firm, and instead the majority of these orthodox realities and other acronyms that refer to Catholicism, Anglicanism, and Lutheranism are actually goliardic circles, which must be fought and denounced.
In the 80s of the last Century, I had the honor of being considered a friend and, in some ways, a disciple of the professor of theoretical philosophy at the University of Bari, Nicola Petruzzellis, who, in his “Critique of the Inauthentic,” wanted to bring back to the light of critical thought the ambiguities, the false motivations, and the latent aporias of some philosophical and pseudo-philosophical currents that affect private and public life. As Petruzzellis said, if on the one hand we have to denounce the illusions of scientism, we must also courageously point out the deterioration of the values of some churches and some of their representatives who represent serious flaws for the lost man of today’s world.
Source: Bottega Di Nazareth