They are the four postulates with which he continually inspires his governance of the Church, the first of which says that “time is greater than space.” The trouble is that they do not hold up. An erudite Benedictine monk explains why
by Sandro Magister
ROME, August 23, 2016 – That “Amoris Laetitia” has not resolved “all the doctrinal, moral, or pastoral discussions” on communion for the divorced and remarried is plain for all to see. On the contrary, it has reignited them more than ever.
But this is precisely what Francis wanted, according to what he himself wrote at the beginning of the post-synodal exhortation:
“Since ‘time is greater than space,’ I would make it clear that not all discussions of doctrinal, moral or pastoral issues need to be settled by interventions of the magisterium.”
Further on, in the same exhortation, Francis translated his assertion as follows: “It is more important to start processes than to dominate spaces.”
And with this he referred for the umpteenth time to what is the cornerstone of his thought: to the first of the four postulates that act as his compass, which he listed in the agenda-setting document of his pontificate, the apostolic exhortation “Evangelii Gaudium.”
It is the very same postulate that says that time is greater than space. While the other three are that unity prevails over conflict, the reality is more important than the idea, the whole is greater than the part.
Jorge Mario Bergoglio has clung to these four guiding thoughts for a lifetime, and above all to the first:
– time is greater than space;
– unity prevails over conflict
– realities are more important than ideas
– the whole is greater than the part.
And he continues to draw inspiration from them even as pope, in his magisterium. Without ever forcing himself to explain their reasonableness – which to an expert eye immediately appears highly fragile – but instead insisting each time on their practical purpose, which is mainly that of “starting processes.”
It therefore comes as no surprise that these postulates should be the object of critical analysis today, in part because they do not stem in any way from divine revelation nor have any foundation in the Sacred Scriptures, but are a mere product of the human mind, which Pope Francis however is audaciously elevating as driving principles of the life of the Church.
A first extensive critical analysis, philosophical in nature, of the four Bergoglian postulates was formulated last spring by Fr. Giovanni Scalese, 61, a Barnabite, since 2014 head of the “sui iuris” mission in Afghanistan, the only outpost of the Catholic Church in that country, and previously a professor of philosophy and rector of the Collegio alla Querce in Florence:
> I postulati di papa Francesco
But now comes a second analysis, no less acute. The work this time of Fr. Giulio Meiattini, of the order of St. Benedict, a monk at the Abbazia della Madonna della Scala in Noci and a professor at the Theological Faculty of Puglia and at the Pontifical Atheneum of Saint Anselm in Rome.
The complete text of the analysis, clear and well-written, is on this other webpage:
> Il tempo è superiore allo spazio? Intorno a una tesi di papa Bergoglio
In it, Fr. Meiattini lays bare above all the inconsistency of the postulate “time is greater than space” from the point of view not only of philosophy but also of linguistics, since Bergoglio systematically understands space as “space of power.”
And then he takes head on the purpose to which the pope bends his postulate: that of “generating processes.” Emphasizing its contradictions, including those inherent in “Amoris Laetitia.”
Which has certainly started “processes”: “debates, controversies, diametrically opposed interpretations, polarizations, perplexities of faithful and priests, uncertainties in the episcopal conferences.”
But “that this is a matter of virtuous processes is something no one can say for now.”
Below is reproduced an extract of this second and concluding part of the analysis.
“That this is a matter of virtuous processes is something no one can say for now”
by Giulio Meiattini OSB
One gets the impression that the affirmation of the superiority of time over space serves an interest: that of starting processes. [. . .] But in spite of appreciating the stimulus of Pope Francis, is starting processes truly so vital today, so much so as to become a priority? Is aiming at this objective and recalling it in a pressing way truly what man and society need today, and Catholics in particular? Is this what is most needed at this global juncture of the life of the Church?
Allow me to express a strong doubt in this regard. Today there is already a huge number of processes underway, and in addition to this they are overwhelming and often of gigantic proportions. The much-cited “fluidity” of our society and our cultures, the migrations from south to north, the displacement of geopolitical balances, the changes in values, and the transformations brought by technology to the sphere of ethics fully justify the apt expression of the pontiff himself: “We are living not in an epoch of changes, but in a change of epoch.”
The changes are already underway, they are numerous, of enormous impact and planetary extension. [. . .] So much so that to me it seems possible to say that the main problem of contemporary man is not so much that of immobility as it is that of no longer having markers and measurements for the processes underway. The movements in course are highly self-referential: that is, they have no relatively stable externalities that could measure or orient them to some extent. They have no purpose or meaning. [. . .] If everything is in motion, and if “change” as an end in itself seems to be the only thing that remains, everything is made equivalent. [. . .] The very word “process,” which the pope uses, appears so neutral that in and of itself any change can be defined as a process. But if the important thing is to processualize and change, and I am not told the where and the how to which the process-change must lead, nor its wherefore, then in the multiplication of changes everything is equivalent. [. . .]
My opinion is that today the word to be expected from the Church is not: begin processes. These, as I have said, are already underway to the nth degree, both positive and negative, and are not waiting for us Christians to continue their course or to regulate themselves.
The processes begun at the time of the fall of the Roman empire and of the invasions of the new Eurasian peoples were not begun by Christianity: but this was able to make them less devastating and gradually to channel them thanks to an oriented vision of the world.
Today as well one would expect that in the transience and impermanence of social and cultural, economic, political and ethical configurations, criteria of evaluation and discernment should be offered, references and topographies that could serve to understand whereabouts we are and where we may be going. In short, compasses and maps to orient the faithful and the men of our time.
Contemporary humanity, above all in countries that have their origins in Western culture and its influence, does not suffer from immobility, but from disorientation because of excessive mobility. Even the great lobbies of power not rarely use the strategy of destabilization – starting processes, would you look at that! – to obtain specific reactions in their favor. Starting processes is not innocent in principle, doing so can also be in the interest of the power toward which the pope rightly warns us we should be on guard. [. . .]
The conclusion to which I come personally is that magisterial statements should be expected to display more guarded language and greater lucidity of thought. For the good of all, since a correct exercise of reason is a good service not only for the theology and life of the Church, but also for a virtuous communication with the world of culture. Because more than a greater importance of reality over the idea, it should be remembered that the idea is part of reality, since thought is a mode of being and the “medium” through which being is knowable to us and becomes “verum.”
Not caring about the idea and the process of ideation (which is also a process!), meaning thought, would risk estranging us from the being that comes to the idea. Imprecision in the use of concepts and in the exercise of thought does not create understanding, but uncertainty and confusion. The conciliar constitution “Dei Verbum,” the expression of a rich theology of salvation history and in full conformity with the sacramental nature of the Church, reminds us of the inseparability of actions and words, facts and language. There is no superiority of actions over words, or vice versa.
It concerns me to point out that the principle-postulate examined here is also used enigmatically in the context of a document like “Amoris Laetitia”:
“Since ‘time is greater than space,’ I would make it clear that not all discussions of doctrinal, moral or pastoral issues need to be settled by interventions of the magisterium” (no. 3).
I wonder: what connection is there between the principle recalled and the consequence drawn? Perhaps what is meant is that the statements of the magisterium (including of “Amoris Laetitia”?) are a symptom of immobilist fixation or the preservation of “spaces of power”? The implication sincerely escapes me.
In any case we can say that, under the banner of this principle, the effect has taken hold: there has begun, following the post-synodal exhortation on the family, a series of “processes”: debates, controversies, diametrically opposed interpretations, polarizations, perplexities of faithful and priests, uncertainties in the episcopal conferences.
That this is a matter of virtuous processes is something no one can say for now. Personally I dare to say that perhaps this was not what was needed most on the issue of the family today.
Why, after no fewer than two synods, was not even a page expended in this exhortation on preparation and formation for Christian marriage? And to say that the “relatio finalis” of the second synod had dedicated significant attention to it, even if not yet entirely sufficient, in my view. Are we really sure that today the sacraments are being given to “Christians”?
I am convinced that this is the true process that the Church has urgent need of starting: generating to Christian faith and life authentic believers through baptism and Christian initiation. Then comes the rest, including marriage, including the construction of social peace and the common good.
But is there anyone left who still thinks seriously about baptism and the catechumenate? Baptism is not a postulate, nor is it an abstract idea. Baptizing and making disciples of the peoples is the heart of the Church’s mission, it is the mandate of Jesus.