Here is the original ABC news program that caused the controversy: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hli9xccpPBg&feature=player_embedded
Make no doubt about it. Christopher West is definitely an oustanding Catholic, helping to promote John Paul’s theology of the body, popularizing the message to the ends of the earth, bringing hope, happiness and healing to thousands upon thousands of people. He can’t but avoid being controversial given that sexuality is a fairly delicate area to be discussing and it’s impossible not to offend at least someone from either end of the sensitivity spectrum.
Personally, I consider Christopher West is an outstanding labourer in the vineyard. I’m sure this controversy is in fact getting more people interested in the theology of the body. Sometimes we need others to criticize us just to make sure that actually we are still saying the truth. The then Cardinal Ratzinger used to say that he would have to examine his conscience if he did not read anything critical about himself on a regular basis!
News comes today that some Bishops in America are supporting Christopher West in his work, after the recent controversy following the ABC interview. David Schindler, Dean at the JP2 institute in Washington, criticized West for, “misonstruing the meaning of concupiscence, stressing purity of intention one-sidedly when talking about problems of lust.”
Christopher West writes in his book Theology of the body explained, “If Christ wants all men and women to realize they are subject to concupiscence, he also wants them to realize that he makes the grace of redemption available to them with real power to transform their hearts.” (p365). Earlier he says that the Church’s teachings on sexual morality are a call for men and women to embrace their own greatness. The body reveals the dignity of mankind. That sounds fairly balanced to me!
In my opinion, West is a legend who has helped to transform the lives of thousands of people, bringing them to a fuller relationship with Jesus Christ by unpacking the teachings of theology of the body.
Matthew Pinto has written a great article recently defending Christopher West from some attacks. He puts the debate back in perspective once more and shows us what is really going on. The debate erupted after West’s appearance on ABC News.
Pinto states that West has done a tremendous job popularizing the message of the theology of the body and this is “stimulating vocations to consecrated life, strengthening youth, saving marriages, and saving babies worldwide.”
He mentions a bishop who told West, “They will expect perfection of you.” Also, he recognizes that by the sheer nature of the work that he is doing, there will undeniably be contraversy and statement will need further clarification.
In the most brilliant passage, Pinto states, “But while millions are drowning in a sea of filth advanced by our sexually-twisted media culture, Christopher is one of very few hazarding a high seas rescue mission and giving people a hand into the boat. Never has such a mission been so badly needed. Within the next 10 years, probably half the states in the U.S. will have embraced same-sex marriage. Already, most Catholics of child-bearing age have rejected Church teaching on contraception. And on this very day, more than 3,600 children will be killed in their mother’s womb. Yet some of our fellow Catholics have felt it important to spend their energies publicly lancing one of their own.”
This is a very accurate and blunt description of what is happening in our topsy turvy world. God willing, I’ll work as a chastity speaker to promote the good news about sex and marriage.
Christopher West responded to some of his critics with a new article for LSN (LifeSiteNews). The main question that he asked is what help grace does in this life against disordered sexual tendencies. That is where the controversy lies. He does not deny that we have to battle with concupiscence (see the Catechism 405, 978, 1264, 1426), and John Paul says that Christ has set us free from the domination of concupiscence (Veritatis Splendour n. 103). Liberation from concupiscence is not only a possibility, but a necessity if we are to live our lives in the truth according to John Paul II.
A selection of articles: (courtesy of Witnesstolove.blogspot.com).
Christopher West, Hugh Hefner and the “Theology of the Body” (Alice von Hildebrand/Mary Shivanandan critique West)
Christopher West and Theology of the Body (again) (David Schindler’s critique of West)
Christopher West, the Pill and the cost of family breakdown(Janet Smith defends West)
Michael Waldstein on Christopher West and Theology of the Body (Michael Waldstein defends West)
Theology of the Body debate widens (Fr. Jose Granados critiques West)
The Marian mystery: Theology of the Body updates (David Schindler responds to Janet Smith and Michael Waldstein)
The Christopher West controversy: Further defenders and critics (Matthew Pinto of Ascension Press defends West/The Personalist Project commentaries)
Christopher West: Not a ‘tame’ lion (Janet Smith and Michael Healy respond to David Schindler and defend West)
Michael Waldstein: West is compelling and Christ-centred(Michael Waldstein strongly defends West)
One body, many gifts: More criticism for West (Fr. Maurizio Faggioni criticises West and offers cautions on approaching TOB)
What Pope John Paul II said about sex
Pope John Paul (a.k.a. JP2) sought to address the misunderstandings and errors over sexuality like no Pope ever before. He inaugurated a study of God as revealed through our bodies. This is known as the Theology of the body. It revealed some stark insights into the nature of the human person.
John Paul said that pornography was wrong not because it showed too much, but because it showed to little. It reduced the human person to only the physical dimension as a form of gratification. This reduced the human person to a thing, with no reference to the spiritual dimension.
JP2 said that it was possible for a man to commit adultery against his own wife. This was far outside the traditional understanding of adultery. This is in line with Jesus, who said that anyone who looked at a woman lustfully committed adultery with his own heart.
JP2 decided with the restoration of the Sistine Chapel that the original version of naked Adam should be shown as Michelangelo intended. Several hundred years ago a Vatican official had decided to cover up Adam’s nakedness with by the use of a painted leaf. JP2 decided to return to the original as purity is the glory of the human body before God.
Before he was Pope, the then Karol Wojtyla said in the book, Love and responsibility that men must take into account that sexual climax should be reached in harmony, rather than just the man alone. As arousal in a woman rises and falls more slowly, a man must take this into account to avoid selfishness (!).