Time is Greater than Space – A Review of Gerhard Höver


Dr Gerhard Höver, a Corresponding Member of the Pontifical Academy of Life since 25 July 2017[2], recently published an article called “Time is greater than space”: Moral-theological reflections on the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation[3].

This article, which has elicited some negative public commentary, argues in the words of its abstract that based on the teaching of Pope Francis in Evangelii Gaudium (“EG”) (i.e. time is greater than space) and Amoris Laetitia (“AL”):

“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”. [Emphasis added]

In the online criticism of this article, some who have rightly pointed to the very serious flaws in Dr. Höver’s proposal have unfortunately sought to characterise these errors as being affirmed by Pope Francis.

The purpose of this review is therefore to firstly demonstrate what indeed are the fatal flaws in Dr. Höver’s proposal, and secondly to show these errors arise precisely from their clear contradiction of the magisterium of Pope Francis.


At the risk of being reductive, it may be helpful to first briefly summarise how we may understand the basic premises and conclusions presented by Dr. Höver:

Premise 1 – Pope Francis has taught that “time is greater than space” (EG222-223 and AL3).

Premise 2 – St. Bonaventure provides an “anti-Aristotelian” theological understanding of time which can also be understood to affirm that “time is greater than space”.

Conclusion A (from P1 + P2) – St. Bonaventure’s theology of time can be read as a background commentary to Pope Francis’ affirmation of the principle that “time is greater than space”.

Premise 3 – St. Bonaventure’s theology of time, as implicitly approved by Pope Francis, is inconsistent with and shows deficiencies in with the traditional understanding of “intrinsic evil”.

Premise 4 – The approach of Pope Francis in AL, as suggested by the Dubia of the Four Cardinals and the contributions of conservative Catholic theologians John Finnis and Germain Grisez, questions “existence of absolute moral norms that prohibit intrinsically evil acts and that are binding without exceptions[4].

Conclusion B (from CA + P3 + P4) – The teaching of Pope Francis therefore corrects and develops the traditional doctrine of intrinsic evil.

However, before we address the validity of how Dr. Höver reaches these conclusions based on the aspects of Pope Francis’ magisterium with which he does engage, it is first necessary to address other aspects of Pope Francis’ teaching which are not mentioned by Dr. Höver which decisively rule out his proposal.


Dr. Höver, in relation to what I call his Premise 4, explicitly identifies his proposal with the doubts and questions of the second Dubia of the four Cardinal when he states:

“This makes it clear that the principle that “time is greater than space” takes on a moral-theological significance that refers to the level of norm structures and affects the previous teaching about “intrinsically evil actions.” It is not without reason that some have requested further clarification on this pointSee the second of the four dubia of Cardinals Brandmüller, Burke, Caffarra, and Meisner … see also the letter of J. Finnis and G. Grisez to Pope Francis …” [Emphasis added]

In this regard, the second of the (actually five) Dubia states that:

“After the publication of the Post-synodal Apostolic Exhortation “Amoris Laetitia” (cf. n. 304), does one still need to regard as valid the teaching of St. John Paul II’s Encyclical “Veritatis Splendor” n. 79, based on Sacred Scripture and on the Tradition of the Church, on the existence of absolute moral norms that prohibit intrinsically evil acts and that are binding without exceptions?” [Emphasis added]

Accordingly, if the answer of Pope Francis to this second Dubia is “yes”, then we equally have an answer to if Pope Francis teaches or accepts Dr. Höver’s conclusions, being certainly no.

It is therefore more than interesting to note that Dr. Höver, in his footnote 6, mentions with approval in respect of the interpretation of an aspect of AL that:

“This could even be pursued further on the individual level, if one follows the reflections by Cardinal Schönborn, whom the Pope himself has called an authentic interpreter of his Exhortation.” [Emphasis added]

And what does Cardinal Schönborn, whom both Pope Francis and Dr. Höver understand to be an authentic interpreter of AL, say in relation to the answers to the Dubia? Cardinal Schönborn has confirmed, during an address in Ireland on 13 July 2017, that as reported by Greg Daly[5]:

“On the Dubia, Cardinal Schoenborn says all the questions can be answered ‘yes’. Indeed, he says he’s told one of the Dubia cardinals so.” [Emphasis added]

Nor is it only Cardinal Schönborn who confirms that Pope Francis’ answer is thus. Putting aside my own contribution in favour of this position (Amoris Laetitia – An Apologia for its Orthodoxy), and even the theologians such as Rocco Buttiglione[6] and Stephen Walford[7] who have received various expressions of papal approval for similarly answering the Dubia with five yeses, we can also turn to Archbishop Víctor Manuel Fernández.

Archbishop Fernández, who as the theologian widely credited with assisting Pope Francis with drafting Chapter VIII of AL can undoubtedly speak authoritatively as to its intended meaning, goes even further in refuting the doubt of the second Dubia in his article Chapter VIII of Amoris Laetitia: What is left after the storm[8]:


The Pope, faithful to the real and limited possibilities which the Synod opened – and even against the proposals of progressive moralists – has preferred to maintain the distinction between objective sin and subjective guilt. Therefore, although it can be held with all clarity and forcefulness that sexual relations for the divorced in a new union constitute an objective situation of habitual grave sin, this does not imply that there necessarily exists grave sin in a subjective sense, that is to say, grave guilt that takes away the life of the sanctifying grace:

The Church possesses a solid body of reflection concerning mitigating factors and situations. Hence it is can no longer simply be said that all those in any “irregular” situation are living in a state of mortal sin and are deprived of sanctifying grace. (AL 301).

It is already widely accepted – even in the Catechism – that “imputability and responsibility for an action can be diminished or even nullified by ignorance, inadvertence, duress, fear, habit, inordinate attachments, and other psychological or social factors” (CCC 1735).

For Francis, however, it is not the concrete circumstances that determine objective morality. That forms of conditioning can diminish culpability does not mean that what is objectively evil may become objectively good. Suffice it to read the following sentence: “Because of forms of conditioning and mitigating factors, it is possible that in an objective situation of sin – which may not be subjectively culpable, or fully such – a person can be living in God’s grace” (AL 305). That is to say, it remains an “objective situation of sin”, because there remains the Gospel’s clear proposal on marriage, and this concrete situation does not objectively reflect that. Francis, like the Synod, maintains the existence of objective truths and universal norms, and has never defended subjectivism or relativism. God’s plan is a marriage understood as an indissoluble union, and this point was not placed in doubt either in the Synod or in his pontificate.” [Emphasis added]

And finally of course we can turn to Pope Francis himself, who strongly echoing Pope Venerable Pius XII in his series of addresses in 1952 on the errors of situational ethics[9], similarly taught during a Dialogue with Jesuits on October 24 2016[10]:

“In the field of morality we must advance without falling into situationalism: but, rather, it is necessary to bring forward again the great wealth contained in the dimension of discernment; this is characteristic of the great scholasticism.

We should note something: St. Thomas and St. Bonaventure affirm that the general principle holds for all but — they say it explicitly — as one moves to the particular, the question becomes diversified and many nuances arise without changing the principle. This scholastic method has its validity. It is the moral method used by the Catechism of the Catholic Church. And it is the method that was used in the last apostolic exhortation, Amoris laetitia … The morality used in Amoris laetitia is Thomistic, but that of the great St. Thomas himself.” [Emphasis added]

Therefore, it is clear that we can say with some certainty that the answer of Pope Francis to the second Dubia is “yes”, and thus it is equally clear that Pope Francis neither holds nor accept the conclusions which Dr. Höver associates with these now magisterially dismissed doubts.


One further point needs to be made in relation to Premise 4, being in respect of the interpretation of AL. Dr. Höver places great stock in the fact that Pope Francis places the word irregular in inverted commas (i.e. “irregular” situations), from which he concludes the concept of intrinsic evil can no longer be treated as an absolute binary (i.e. no longer black and white, but rather shades of grey).

However, we can again turn to Archbishop Fernández for correction of this mistaken inference[11]:

In any event, the specific and principal proposal of Francis, in line with the Synod, is not concerning the considerations on the formulation of the norm. Why then is this question part of his proposal? Because he calls for much attention to the language that is used to describe weak persons. For him, offensive expressions such as “adulterer” or “fornicator” should not necessarily be deduced from the general norms when referring to concrete persons.

But his emphasis is rather on the question of the possible diminution of responsibility and culpability. Forms of conditioning can attenuate or nullify responsibility and culpability against any norm, even against negative precepts and absolute moral norms. This makes it possible not always to lose the life of sanctifying grace in a “more uxorio” cohabitation.” [Emphasis added]

In other words, Dr. Höver is correct to identify that Pope Francis is referring to a moral continuum rather than a binary, but it is the continuum of culpability which is already an integral part of the Church’s doctrine, and thus in no way corrects the Church’s teaching on intrinsic evil.

Indeed, this continuum is not absent even in Veritatis Splendor, Pope St. John Paul II’s great encyclical confirming the doctrine of intrinsic evil[12]:

“It is possible that the evil done as the result of invincible ignorance or a non-culpable error of judgment may not be imputable to the agent; but even in this case it does not cease to be an evil, a disorder in relation to the truth about the good … If acts are intrinsically evil, a good intention or particular circumstances can diminish their evil, but they cannot remove it”. [Emphasis added]

And this continuum, with the morally significant thresholds within it, has perhaps been extoled by no one with more eloquence than that great defender of the doctrine of intrinsic evil, particularly in its application to artificial contraception in Humanae Vitae, Fr. John Cuthbert Ford, SJ[13]:

“Even in the criminal law of the Church, criminal imputability admits of an indefinite number of degrees. It is spoken of as being augmented (in a few cases) and diminished (in a great many cases) by such things as fear, passion, age, drunkenness, mental illness, and the rest. Since in modern canon law there can be no crime at all without grave subjective guilt to begin with, that is, without a subjectively imputable moral sin, and since the degrees of criminal imputability attempt to follow as closely as possible the norms of moral imputability, it is evident that canon law takes it for granted that within the limits of mortal guilt there are many degrees of imputability. In other words, granted sufficient freedom for grave culpability, the criminal law raises the further question of degrees of this grave culpability.

In moral theology it is common teaching that given a sufficient diminution in the degree of freedom, the subjective guilt of what is objectively a grave sin can be changed from grave culpability to venial culpability propter imperfectionem actus. We speak of semideliberate acts, and of imperfectly voluntary acts. These expressions mean that the acts referred to, though they are human acts, and ex objecto gravely sinful acts, are so lacking in deliberation or so imperfectly consented to that subjectively they cannot be more than venial sins.

Therefore the scale of imputability ranges all the way from the minimum that is compatible at all with the concept of a free, human act, up through all the degrees of venial culpability, across the dread threshold of mortal sin, through all the indefinite gradations of mortal guilt, to the highest point of the very limit of human malice. The two critical points on this scale are the point at the very bottom which distinguishes a free actus humanus from a nonfree actus hominis, and the point, surely very much higher on the scale, that distinguishes mortal guilt from venial guilt”. [Emphasis added]

Accordingly, again with some certainty, it is clear it cannot be accepted that Pope Francis’ reference to “irregular” situations” or the fact that not “everything is black or white” constitutes a correction of the doctrine of intrinsic evil.


Having demonstrated that Dr. Höver’s proposal does clearly contradict the magisterium of Pope Francis, we can now return to the validity of Dr. Höver’s premises and conclusions summarized above.

In the first instance, we can accept Premise 1 as uncontroversial, and if only for the sake of argument accept that Premise 2 is not unreasonable.

However, in terms of Conclusion A, while it is undoubtedly a speculative possibility based on these premises, they are not sufficient to require other reasonable people to accept Conclusion A as necessary or even probable. The practical definitions Pope Francis gives for his maxim are in many ways very far removed from the dense philosophy of St. Bonaventure, such that an identification between them seems far from certain, particularly given there are a great many ideas (not a few mutually exclusive) which could be said to affirm that time is greater than space.

That is not to say Dr. Höver’s approach in seeking a more extensive theological background to Pope Francis’ idea that “time is greater than space” is without merit. The principle for discerning where this background might be found given by Dr. Höver seems sound:

“The identification of an adequate framework for understanding the principle that “time is greater than space” can only take the form of a forensic inquiry that relies on individual clues and locates these within a larger theological tradition.”

However, the actual path taken by Dr. Höver in applying this principle, following sources from EG 224 from Romano Guardini through to St. Bonaventure, does not seem promising in light of other evidence which is available. For example, Tracey Rowland, in her Chapter Liberation Theology and the Papacy of Francis from her 2017 book Catholic Theology, notes that[14]:

“Nonetheless, it has been suggested by several academics and papal commentators that if Pope Francis has sympathy for any particular approach to Catholic theology, it is that of ‘People’s Theology’. One of the most extensive articles on this subject is Juan Carlos Scannone’s ‘El papa Francisco y la teologia del pueblo’ published in the journal Razón y Fe. In this paper Scannone claims that not only is Pope Francis a practitioner of ‘People’s Theology’ but also that Francis extracted his favourite four principles – time is greater than space, unity prevails over conflict, reality is more important than ideas, and the whole is greater than the parts – from a letter of the nineteenth-century Argentinian dictator, Juan Manuel de Rosas (1793– 1877) sent to another Argentinian caudillo, Facundo Quiroga (1788– 1835), in 1834.” [Emphasis added]

At the very least it would seem necessary for Dr. Höver to also consider other potential theological backgrounds for Pope Francis’ maxim, such as Rosas, prior to asserting with any degree of probability that St. Bonaventure provides the appropriate framework.


Moving on to Premise 3, which Dr. Höver summarises as follows, even stronger objections can be raised:

“The doctrine in Thomas and Thomism about “intrinsically evil actions” contains the axiom bonum ex causa integra, malum ex quocumque defectu, that is to say, “goodness” and (in this sense) also “regularity” exist only when all the factors that constitute the ethical quality of an action form an integral unity; if even only one element is defective, the consequence is “badness” and (in this sense) also “irregularity.” If one looks more closely at the Aristotelian background, one sees that the theorem is based on the contrary opposition between form and lack (privatio, “absence”) as a model for the explanation of movements of change in space. According to Bonaventure’s conception of time, however, this means that the theorem is based on a coarctata temporis acceptio [i.e. a “restricted definition”], and this means that the definition of that which is “intrinsically evil” is also affected.” [Emphasis added]

In the first instance, before we deal directly with the thought of St. Bonaventure, the flaws with this premise can be shown with reference to St. Augustine of Hippo, whose own theory of time in the eleventh book of his Confessions can never be neglected by any serious Catholic study of time’s theology.

Similar to that provided by St. Bonaventure, the theology of time found in the Confessions is widely acknowledged to move beyond the limits of the approach of Aristotle, in order to develop a more properly Christian theology of time[15].

Indeed, no less a personage than St. Bonaventure, in his Letter to an Unknown Master, confirms that[16]:

“After all, no one describes the nature of time and of matter better than Augustine as he probes and discusses them in his Confessions; no one has explained the origins of forms and the development of things better than he in his Literal Commentary on Genesis; no one has better treated questions on the soul and on God than he in his book On the Trinity; and no one has better explained the nature of the angels and of the creation of the world than he in The City of God. To put it briefly, our masters of theology have set down little or nothing in their writings that you will not find in the books of Augustine himself.” [Emphasis added]

And yet is St. Augustine, whom St. Bonaventure clearly does not believe holds a “restricted definition” of time, forced to reject the traditional understanding of intrinsic evil? Certainly not!

On the contrary, the thought of St. Augustine is the very basis of the doctrine of St. Thomas Aquinas and the magisterium on intrinsic evil, as can be seen in Veritatis Splendor[17]:

If acts are intrinsically evil, a good intention or particular circumstances can diminish their evil, but they cannot remove it. They remain “irremediably” evil acts; per se and in themselves they are not capable of being ordered to God and to the good of the person. “As for acts which are themselves sins (cum iam opera ipsa peccata sunt), Saint Augustine writes, like theft, fornication, blasphemy, who would dare affirm that, by doing them for good motives (causis bonis), they would no longer be sins, or, what is even more absurd, that they would be sins that are justified?”. Consequently, circumstances or intentions can never transform an act intrinsically evil by virtue of its object into an act “subjectively” good or defensible as a choice.” [Emphasis added]

And not less in St. Thomas Aquinas’ own discussion of intrinsic evil[18]:

“I answer that, An action that is naturally evil in respect of its genus can by no means be good and lawful, since in order for an action to be good it must be right in every respect: because good results from a complete cause, while evil results from any single defect, as Dionysius asserts (Div. Nom. iv). Now a lie is evil in respect of its genus, since it is an action bearing on undue matter. For as words are naturally signs of intellectual acts, it is unnatural and undue for anyone to signify by words something that is not in his mind. Hence the Philosopher says (Ethic. iv, 7) that “lying is in itself evil and to be shunned, while truthfulness is good and worthy of praise.” Therefore every lie is a sin, as also Augustine declares (Contra Mend. i).” [Emphasis added]

In light of this, it is clear that it cannot be said that the doctrine of intrinsic evil is based on a “restricted definition” of time in the view of St. Bonaventure, nor that this doctrine requires correction if one holds a theology of time which is more than Aristotelian.


Turning back to deal directly with the thought of St. Bonaventure, it is not this intent of this review to engage deeply with precisely how best to understand the various strands of his thought, on the basis the flaws in Dr. Höver proposals can be more succinctly demonstrated by the other means above.

It would however be remiss not to mention briefly that there is arguably a better way to understand these aspects of St. Bonaventure.

It has been suggested to me for instance that it should be noted that it is directly from Pseudo-Dionysius (and only indirectly from Aristotle) that we have the maxim “good results from a cause that is one and integral, and evil from any single defect[19]. And further that by no means should it be assumed that St. Bonaventure would question Pseudo-Dionysius on evil, particularly given even a cursory reading of his chapter on evil in the Breviloquium shows that it defines evil as having defect and contrasts it with the indefectible Good[20].

Additionally, and more seriously from a philosophical standpoint, it has also been suggested to me that Dr. Höver is making a category confusion in assuming that St. Bonaventure, in expanding upon Aristotle’s understanding of time, would necessarily reject Aristotelian concepts of “form” and “lack” with respect to evil.

On the contrary, Bonaventure applies hylomorphism more radically than St. Thomas does. For St. Bonaventure, even the angels have matter, and he creates a category of “spiritual matter” for them.[21]


Pope Francis has been criticised by the more traditional for abandoning the doctrine of intrinsic evil on one side and praised by the more progressive on the other side for the same thing. But in truth, as he himself has assured us, in fact all he has done is reemphasised a facet of traditional Thomistic Catholic moral doctrine.

The attempt to suggest otherwise with reference Pope Francis’ maxim that “time is greater than space”, while perhaps novel, is no more successful than that of the Dubia Cardinals.

The weight of evidence suggests that it is more likely that the background to this maxim is far closer to home for Pope Francis than St Bonaventure, and even if we turn to Doctor Seraphicus, the interrelationship between him and the Doctor Gratiae on time demonstrate his theology does not correct the doctrine of the Church, and Pope Francis, on intrinsic evil.


[1] I would like to thank Dr. Dawn Eden Goldstein, S.T.D., for her encouragement and suggestions in preparing this review. Any errors which remain are, of course, my own.

[2] Pontifical Academy for Life, The Academics – Corresponding Members [website], 2018, http://www.academyforlife.va/content/pav/en/the-academics/corresponding.html (Accessed 24 January 2018).

[3] First published in German in: Marriage, Families & Spirituality Vol. 1 – 2017, 3-18. An English translation is available from http://www.academyforlife.va/content/dam/pav/documenti%20pdf/2018/01_Hoever_pdf.pdf (Accessed 24 January 2018). My review is based on the English version of this article, without recourse to the original German, or to any other publications of Dr. Höver.

[4] Found, as noted in footnote 43 of Dr. Höver’s article, as follows “See the second of the four dubia of Cardinals Brandmüller, Burke, Caffarra, and Meisner (readily available: e.g., http://catholicism.org/the-five-dubia-of-the-four-cardinals.html, retrieved 12.10.2017); see also the letter of J. Finnis and G. Grisez to Pope Francis: “The Misuse of Amoris Laetitia to Support Errors against the Catholic Faith,” 21.11.2016, http://www.twotlj.org/OW-MisuseAL.pdf (retrieved 27.01.2017), esp. 8-10”.

[5] Steve Skojec, Cardinal Schönborn: “All the [Dubia] Questions Can Be Answered ‘Yes’” [website], 2017, https://onepeterfive.com/cardinal-schonborn-dubia-questions-can-answered-yes/ (Accessed 24 January 2018).

[6] Rocco Buttiglione, Prominent Italian philosopher explains his response to doubts surrounding the Amoris Laetitia [website], 2016, http://www.lastampa.it/2016/11/22/vaticaninsider/eng/comment/prominent-italian-philosopher-explains-his-response-to-doubts-surrounding-the-amoris-laetitia-PlkfDOSNRNHs8XoErKA5XJ/pagina.html (Accessed 24 January 2018).

[7] Stephen Walford, Amoris Laetitia: Where Truth and Mercy Embrace [website], 2017, http://www.lastampa.it/2017/01/22/vaticaninsider/eng/documents/amoris-laetitia-where-truth-and-mercy-embrace-j7Wra0gHXbMppRm8A7CsRL/pagina.html (Accessed 24 January 2018).

[8] Victor Manuel Fernandez, ‘El capítulo VIII de Amoris Laetitia: lo que queda después de la tormenta’, Medellin, volume XLIII No. 168 Mayo – Agosto (2017) pp. 449-468, https://web.archive.org/web/20170903011043/http://documental.celam.org/medellin/index.php/medellin/article/viewFile/182/182 (Accessed 24 January 2018). An English translation, which has been relied upon by this review, is available from https://rorate-caeli.blogspot.com/2017/08/full-text-pope-francis-ghostwriter-of.html (Accessed 24 January 2018).

[9] 44 Acta Apostolicae Sedis 417 – 418 (1952), http://www.vatican.va/archive/aas/documents/AAS-44-1952-ocr.pdf (Accessed 24 January 2018).

[10] Pope Francis, To Have Courage and Prophetic Audacity – Dialogue of Pope Francis with the Jesuits gathered in the 36th general Congregation [website], 2016, https://docs.google.com/document/d/1SgXq5gjVxSGLlU9ezR1VjIqG4ieXLTRF2u-8JfOVu-4/edit (Accessed 24 January 2018).

[11] Fernandez, loc. cit.

[12] At 61 and 81 (http://w2.vatican.va/content/john-paul-ii/en/encyclicals/documents/hf_jp-ii_enc_06081993_veritatis-splendor.html). Also see Canon 1324 of the 1983 Code of Canon Law (http://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG1104/__P4W.HTM); Reconciliatio et Paenitentia 16 and 17 (http://w2.vatican.va/content/john-paul-ii/en/apost_exhortations/documents/hf_jp-ii_exh_02121984_reconciliatio-et-paenitentia.html); Catechism of the Catholic Church 1754 (http://www.vatican.va/archive/ccc_css/archive/catechism/p3s1c1a4.htm) (Accessed 24 January 2018).

[13] John C. Ford and Gerald Kelly, Contemporary Moral Theology Volume 1 – Questions in Fundamental Moral Theology, Westminster, MD, The Newman Press, 1959, Chapter 11 (https://reducedculpability.blog/2018/01/14/chapters-8-to-11-extracts-on-reduced-culpability/) (Accessed 24 January 2018).

[14] Tracey Rowland, Catholic Theology, London, UK, Bloomsbury T&T Clark, 2017, Chapter 5 (https://books.google.com.au/books?id=Tk2jDQAAQBAJ&pg=PT180&lpg=PT180&dq=%22In+this+paper+Scannone+claims%22&source=bl&ots=2MMB_uY_a1&sig=3VY3uYqbhxnCqyFBC1LZQfQAQMg&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwifzdnq0vDYAhWJVbwKHU6YD60Q6AEIKTAA#v=onepage&q=%22In%20this%20paper%20Scannone%20claims%22&f=false) (Accessed 26 January 2018).

[15] H. James Birx (ed.), Encyclopedia of Time: Science, Philosophy, Theology, & Culture, Volume 1, Thousand Oaks, CA, Sage Publications, Inc, 2009, p. 35 (https://books.google.com.au/books?id=b3ddWSxmi9cC&pg=PA35&lpg=PA35&dq=%22aristotle+and+augustine+on+time%22&source=bl&ots=fKEaIwOuxd&sig=9nXelN2tPH9W0MQd_Wu9C-UKBOQ&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjS2-2jmfXYAhVR22MKHQZPDwwQ6AEIKTAA#v=onepage&q=%22aristotle%20and%20augustine%20on%20time%22&f=false) (Accessed 24 January 2018).

[16] St. Bonaventure, ‘Letter to an Unknown Master’, in trans. Dominic Monti, St. Bonaventure’s Writings Concerning the Franciscan Order, St. Bonaventure, NY, Franciscan Institute, 1994, p. 53.

[17] At 81. (http://w2.vatican.va/content/john-paul-ii/en/encyclicals/documents/hf_jp-ii_enc_06081993_veritatis-splendor.html) (Accessed 24 January 2018).

[18] Summa Theologica, II-II, Q. 110, A. 3 (http://www.newadvent.org/summa/3110.htm#article3) (Accessed 24 January 2018).

[19] On the Divine Names 4.30. I thank Dr. Goldstein for bringing the points in this paragraph to my attention.

[20] Part III, Chapter 1 (http://agnuz.info/app/webroot/library/7/13/page04.htm) (Accessed 24 January 2018).

[21] This fact, as Dr. Goldstein has pointed out to me, has implications for the appeal that Dr. Höver makes to Bonaventure’s understanding of the aevum. While I cannot speak with certainty as to how hylomorphisum applies to the aevum for St. Bonaventure, it would not be unreasonable to suggest that for him Aristotelian laws of time and space could apply more to the aevum, not less. From this it might even be possible to say that the fact that the angels have form and matter increases their culpability for evil acts in time and does not decrease it, and that mutatis mutanda the fact that “time is greater than space” for St. Bonaventure would likewise increase culpability for human beings as well.

7 thoughts on “Time is Greater than Space – A Review of Gerhard Höver

  1. Pingback: Morning Catholic must-reads: 31/01/18 | WTLM Autodesk

  2. What this article ignores completely is that while a divorced-remarried person may commit the intrinsically evil act of fornication with their illicit spouse without subjective culpability (e.g. because they’re ignorant of Church teaching), there is no way the Church can provide a licit pastoral process of discernment that does not tell the person that their actions are contrary to the moral law and that they must therefore firmly resolve to sin no more and must seek absolution if they fall back into that sin in future. The supposed pastoral solutions being advanced since AL miss this problem entirely and jump straight from a lack of subjective culpability to arguing that such persons can be formally reintegrated into the sacramental life of the Church without resolving to refrain from their adulterous relations in future – this is a circle that just cannot be squared with the Church’s de fide teachings on sacraments and the moral law.


    • Asher,

      The point which needs to be remembered here is that it isn’t ignorance of the moral law which AL is positing reduces culpability. You shall not commit adultery is part of the law written on our heart, and thus we can’t be inculpably ignorant of it.

      The cases of reduced culpability AL is talking about are 1) subjective certainty of nullity (ie. at worst an inculpable mistake of fact) and 2) lack of consent due to external evils coercing action (ie. not ignorance).


  3. I invite you to provide a source for your claim that inculpable ignorance is impossible for such offences against the sixth commandment – I have read prominent orthodox Catholic ethicists even argue for the possible invincible ignorance of those who commit mass murder through the use of atomic weapons, so I find it hard to imagine such a strict presumption of guilt when it comes to adultery, but I am open to correction.

    Secondly, AL, which I did not criticise, obfuscates when it comes to specifics of both the pastoral solution and its applicability, but even when Buttiglione and (the usually less orthodox) others offer concrete examples of sacramentally-open solutions, I maintain that the arguments do not hold. To take your examples, even if a person is subjectively certain of nullity, they cannot as a Catholic remarry – post-Tridentine canon law holds that such marriages are null and void, so even if the original marriage was null, to live more uxorio in a second union is de facto fornication and a priest accompanying such a person would have to inform them of this fact. Then, when it comes to your second claim, you are arguing that one can purposely commit evil in order to avoid ‘external evils’ – this is just situational ethics. If a prostitute asks for absolution but maintains that they plan to continue to act as a prostitute either because they are desperately poor or fearful of their violent pimp, a priest may offer them sympathy, shelter and security but they cannot offer them absolution until they resolve to sin no more – the same goes for the divorced-remarried.


    • Asher,

      The basic references for inculpability not being available for ignorance of law (rather than fact) in respect of adultery are CCC 1860 and the Summa Theologica his ST I-II, q. 19, a. 6.

      For further on the fornication point, see section 1.4 Internal Forum and Nullity in my piece on AL here (https://reducedculpability.blog/2017/01/19/1-0-mortal-sin/).

      In terms of situation ethics, the point is AL doesn’t allow us to say adultery is ever good or neutral – It is intrinsically always evil and thus always at least venial sin, and even venial sin is never permissible (though subjective venial sin doesn’t prevent Communion). For further information on this point, see Section 2.3 Consequences as Mitigating Circumstances from my piece on AL here (https://reducedculpability.blog/2017/01/19/2-0-intrinsic-evil/).

      I hope this helps clarify!


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