Hoever, Moral-theological reflections on Amoris Laetitia

Print Pdf

The text is first published in German in the journal: Marriage, Families & Spirituality Vol. 1 - 2017, 3-18 (under the title: „Die Zeit ist mehr wert als der Raum“ – Moraltheologische Überlegungen zum Nachsynodalen Apostolischen Schreiben „Amoris laetitia“)


„In view of the increasing controversies about the interpretation of Amoris laetitia, it is necessary to indicate frameworks of understanding that can lead to a better comprehension of this text. One essential hermeneutical premise is formulated in the principle that 'Time is greater than space', which Pope Francis had already elaborated in his Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii gaudium. If one follows the reference there to Romano Guardini’s essay Das Ende der Neuzeit, one very quickly encounters the Franciscan theologian Bonaventure. Joseph Ratzinger’s writings have made clear the significance of Bonaventure’s theology of history in contradistinction to the Aristotelianism of his age. When this is complemented by modern investigations of  Bonaventure’s understanding of time, there emerges a nexus that can be read as a kind of background commentary to the principle that 'Time is greater than space'. The classical Aristotelian definition of time as the measurement of movement in terms of a before and an after bears the imprint of the idea of the movement of change in space; in this framework, time is merely an accident of movement. No theology of history can be developed on this basis; this becomes possible only when time is brought into a relationship with the creation of heaven and earth. As one of the first realities to be created, time possess a special dignity vis-à-vis physical space. From the perspective of creation theology, therefore, time encompasses not only the temporal sphere, which is subject to change, but also the sphere of abiding being, which does indeed have a beginning, but also possesses permanence (the so-called aevum). It is only in the tension between abiding and transient being, between aevum and tempus, that we find an understanding of time that does justice to the reality of the human being and to his/her substantial forms of life, to marriage and the family. At the same time, this leads to a better understanding of the 'frailty' of which Amoris laetitia speaks, since the reality of aevum is 'discrete', that is to say, not necessarily continuous in the sense of a movement in space. This must be borne in mind in the 'pastoral discernment' that Amoris laetitia demands; but the goal of every accompaniment is to lead people to Christ, who is himself the healing 'fullness of time'. The expanded concept of time, which is theological in the truest sense of the term, also shows us a weak point in the traditional moral-theological doctrine of the 'intrinsically evil action', which has its background in the Aristotelian concept of movement and is thus based on a restricted concept of time. Accordingly, the principle that 'Time is greater than space' demands both a correction and a constructive development.“

The article we publish does not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Pontifical Academy for Life. The responsibility of the individual statements is the author. We propose this text as a contribution to dialogue in the scientific field