“Time is greater than space” as an illustration of the intellectual vacuity of today’s clerical culture

Is being a priest a hard job?  Catholic laymen get different impressions, because it can be as hard as one wants it to be.  Priests with initiative find limitless opportunities for projects relevant to their duties and work themselves to exhaustion.  On the other hand, lazy priests will have little to prod them.  Is theology a difficult subject?  As difficult as you want it to be.  There are problems of formidable intricacy and subtlety waiting for those who find them, but if you want to stick with slogans, virtue-signaling, and post-modern nonsense, you can do that instead.

The pro-Francis theologians are entering Sokal hoax territory.  Behold, the new and improved Pontifical Academy for Life.

A reflection on Amoris Laetitia has been posted on the website of the Pontifical Academy for Life in which its author, a new member of the academy, proposes that the term “intrinsically evil” is outdated.

Hypothesizing on the moral theology of Amoris Laetitia and Pope Francis’ principle that “time is greater than space” mentioned in his 2013 apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, Professor Gerhard Höver argues that changes in perception, “namely, space and time,” have an “effect on specific theologies, such as the theological view of marriage and the family.”

One might wonder whether anything can be evil if nothing is intrinsically evil.  Things that are accidentally evil are evil in virtue of some combination of their accidents, and if that combination is not intrinsically evil, well, the question “What’s wrong with that?” has to terminate somewhere.  But let’s leave that to the side and just marvel at how our shepherds go around speaking as if Pope Francis’ bit of silly, pretentious, postmodern gibberish “time is greater than space” is some profound insight.

What the hell is “time is greater than space” even supposed to mean?  Deacon Jim Russell gathers Pope Francis’ invocations of this phrase together with relevant context and tries to make sense of them here.  In some contexts, it’s just a warning against short-term thinking.  Usually, though, Francis explains his slogan to mean that “initiating processes” is more important than “controlling spaces”.  At the most generous, one could treat this like a folk proverb such as “the best things come to those who wait” or “birds of a feather flock together”, a bit of folk wisdom pithily expressed and not meant to provide a general principle or even to explain the extent of its own validity.  In emergencies, “space control” can be more important than initiating “processes” that will only bear fruit far in the future, and only provided the immediate space control is successful.  As I said, the slogan “time is greater than space” could at best serve as a reminder that the pursuit of some type of control at the current time is sometimes counterproductive.  However, this slogan lacks the distinct excellence of a proverb; proverbs are memorable and easily understood by everyone, and Francis’ use of language is neither colloquial nor precise.

In general, “time is greater than space” is a false dichotomy.  Processes can’t proceed unless there is some “space” in which they are allowed to operate, and power over social spaces is sought precisely in order to initiate or protect the operation of some “process” that one favors.  This dichotomy is also an inaccurate description of the real disputes.  Traditionalist Catholics don’t object to the neo-modernists’ processes simply for being processes.  They object to them because they judge them to be processes toward the normalization of sin and heresy.  Similarly, one has no trouble finding traditionalists grumbling about Francis or liberal bishops using their power over Catholic spaces to suppress “processes” that traditionalists approve of.  “Space” and “time” in the senses used here are morally neutral in themselves.  What matters is to what ends they are being used.

As usual, Francis doesn’t argue for his silly principle; he just attaches negative but logically unrelated descriptions to those who perform the behavior he doesn’t like.  For example “Giving priority to space means madly attempting to keep everything together in the present, trying to possess all the spaces of power and of self-assertion…”  It might, or it might not.  What if I prioritize maintaining order in a region of space but do so calmly and methodically rather than madly?  What if my priority is not to possess all the spaces of power but just one that is key to my purposes?  Francis seems to be a slave to his mental associations, making it difficult for him to think logically.  It’s the same reason we always see him attributing negative spiritual qualities (e.g. rigidity or pride) to his critics.

“Time is greater than space” is just in every way a mind-bogglingly stupid thing to say.  Yes, I know I’m being rude.  I’m angry that a religious body with a two thousand year theological tradition can be reduced to such flimflam.  We should expect better.

8 Responses

  1. Airheads used to feign profundity with talk about “becoming” and “being,” saying that the former is decidedly superior. I think this came out of existentialism. As a practical matter, such talk was just a worthless promissory note, so that no matter how crappy things are, we must have faith that they are becoming better. Smelly hippies were for obvious reasons all about becoming. Their being smelly hippies was (they would have you believe) entirely beside the point. Focus on the future, man!

    I wonder if Herr Höver has really thought his doctrine through. If we discard the notion of intrinsic evil, it will certainly be easier to edit the seven deadly sins, but it will also make it impossible to accuse the past of sins it did not know. If the sin of adultery can fade out of existence in time, then the sin of racism must have faded in. Without the notion of “intrinsic evils,” there can be no moral growth, just moral change or moral adjustments. Sin is just maladjustment.

    I’m angry, too.

  2. I second that emotion. What a load of nonsense. I have not read theology journals in years. Back in the day, they were usually pretty careful. I suppose that by now they must all have been subject to invasion of the pomos with their gibberish.

    Invasion of the pomos: that’s Invasion of the Mind Snatchers.

  3. I’m actually spending some time reading some of this “being” vs. “becoming” literature now to see if there’s anything there. I can’t say that I’ve come across anything both profound and comprehensible to me yet, but I’m just starting.

  4. Honestly, I think you are giving this too much thought. PF said it because he probably thought it sounded cool and profound. Like a college sophomore after a couple tokes.

  5. On the becoming v. being thing there is a little more substance to it, most of which seems to go way above my head. Been reading James Larson’s site, and I think I understand most of it. If I understand correctly, the big issue is that Catholic teaching says reality is based upon that which is – being; vs. the modernists who hold that reality or the essence of things (to the extent they exist at all) are processes, thus things constantly change or are in flux – becoming. But that’s about as far as I can understand it.

  6. The modernists look upon reality from a temporal viewpoint. However, our being, as opposed to our temporal existence which we perceive as being in motion, is in Eternity and an entire known unity, in the Eterrnal Now from God’s eye-view.

    Pope Francis’ catch-phrase is nonsense, but its importance is that others are using it as a justification to dissolve Truth and Morality.

  7. Sorry, but this phrase is just warmed over Hegelianism. Francis is a Progressive.

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