Dawn Eden has written her master's thesis critiquing the work of Christopher West. She was kind enough to send me a free copy and I read through it carefully. I admire Dawn and thank God for the grace of her conversion to the Catholic faith and the wonderful work she has been doing to promote chastity. She is the author of The Thrill of the Chaste and has had the courage to speak out for chastity even in a debate at a bar in NY.
I sent her some lengthy feedback that was more critical than favorable. Since discussion of this is going on in the Catholic blogosphere, I'd like to say something about it without revealing details of her thesis. (It can be obtained from her as she indicates: "In response to requests, I am making a revised edition of my master's thesis available as an eBook, as a gift to those who donate to support my doctoral studies. At the same time, it is available for free to priests, deacons, seminarians, and lay catechists who work in an official capacity for the Church (e.g. for a parish, diocese, or religious order)." Here's some intro:
My background in this area is as follows: For the past 16 years, I've been working in our apostolate as a developmental editor. I edited Christopher West's book Theology of the Body Explained (Pauline Books & Media). I also collaborated with Dr Michael Waldstein when we published his translation of the Pope's TOB talks. It was a privilege for me to have carried out this work. Both West and Waldstein are outstanding, dedicated Catholics who are working tirelessly to promote Catholic teaching.
My general impression of Dawn's thesis is that she took on a large project in giving “a comprehensive overview of West’s presentation of TOB.” Since much of West’s work has been in his speaking presentations, to fairly evaluate it would require her to follow the development of his teaching as it has unfolded over the past decade. That’s quite a project. It's so broad that I don't think it's even possible to do it in a master's thesis. To be fair to West, she would need to also contextualize his teachings so as to present them objectively without any distortion. In my opinion, the thesis does not accomplish this objective.
Since West is actively engaged in developing his work continually, her thesis may become dated quite quickly. This point also touches on the question of how West has responded to criticisms. I believe that he has made changes to his presentations in response to various types of feedback. In my personal work with him on his book, he was very open to constructive suggestions and willing to make edits when needed. I mention this because Dawn does not document how West has in fact made changes to his presentations after getting constructive criticism. If her goal is to give a comprehensive overview of West's presentations of TOB, that's a necessary part of the picture.
More to follow