Vatican Promotes Article Claiming ‘Intrinsically Evil’ Is Too Restrictive

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by Rodney Pelletier  •  ChurchMilitant.com  •  January 29, 2018   

Member of Pontifical Academy for Life claims current moral teaching doesn't address the "seriousness of the person"

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VATICAN CITY (ChurchMilitant.com) - A Vatican theologian is using Pope Francis' expression "time is greater than space" to claim "intrinsically evil" is too restrictive for immoral acts.

The Pontifical Academy for Life is publishing an article by one of its members, Prof. Gerhard Höver, a German moral theologian who teaches at the University of Bonn, claiming there is "a weak point in the traditional moral-theological doctrine of the 'intrinsically evil action.'"

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In his article, "Time is Greater than Space: Moral-Theological Reflections on the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia," Höver claims the Church's use of the term "intrinsically evil" is too restricting and does not allow for "time" and the process of accompaniment.

He attempts to apply certain concepts of St. Bonaventure and Card. Joseph Ratzinger to Pope Francis's concept that "time is greater than space."

Höver quotes Pope Francis:

This principle enables us to work slowly but surely, without being obsessed with immediate results. ... It invites us to accept the tension between fullness and limitation and to give a priority to time.

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 is to crystallize processes and presume to hold them back.

Giving priority to time means being concerned about initiating processes rather than possessing spaces. Time governs spaces, illumines them and makes them links in a constantly expanding chain, with no possibility of return.

What we need, then, is to give priority to actions which generate new processes in society and engage other persons and groups who can develop them to the point where they bear fruit in significant historical events.

Höver claims, "The positing of the principle that 'time is greater than space' thus expresses a change in the basic forms of perception, namely, space and time." He goes on, "This change not only has an effect on specific theologies, such as the theological view of marriage and the family but also influences fundamental ethical concepts and modes of ethical evaluation."

Human actions like contraception, direct abortion, same-sex genital acts, adultery, murder and others have always been defined by the Church as intrinsically evil, meaning they can never be justified by a person's intention, circumstances or by other acts.

Saint John Paul II explained in his encyclical Veritatis Splendor, "Reason attests that there are objects of the human act which are by their nature 'incapable of being ordered' to God because they radically contradict the good of the person made in His image."

If acts are intrinsically evil, a good intention or particular circumstances can diminish their evil, but they cannot remove it.

He further explained, "If acts are intrinsically evil, a good intention or particular circumstances can diminish their evil, but they cannot remove it," adding, "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." The saint finishes, "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."

A Vatican spokesman claims Höver's comments in the article "[do] not necessarily correspond to the position of the academy," claiming it's common for the academy to publish members' works even if they don't correspond to Catholic teaching.

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