Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Concupiscence and the two bishops

The story of the two bishops is the famous story that Christopher West often uses in talking about concupiscence. When he talks about it in Theology of the Body Explained, it is part of his commentary on John Paul's talks 38 and 39 (as numbered in the Waldstein translation.)

Before talking about the two bishops, it's important to understand what the Pope is saying in those talks (which appear in the section in TOB entitled “Whoever Looks to Desire…’). This section is part of chapter 2: "Christ Appeals to the Human Heart."

In this chapter, the pope speaks about Jesus' words in the Sermon on the Mount concerning adultery committed in the heart. Talks 38 and 39 are in a sub-section "Commandment and Ethos." There, John Paul compares and contrasts the Old Testament Wisdom tradition on purity of heart with the new ethos of the Gospel. John Paul makes the following important points:

1. Jesus’ words in the Sermon on the Mount are “a direct transition to the new ethos” p. 278 (TOB 38:1)

2. John Paul says that Jesus shifts the meaning of adultery from the body to the heart: “It [this shift] consists of words about desire.”

3. The man who “looks to desire” is the man of concupiscence p. 279 (TOB 38:2) “…because he shares in the concupiscence of the body, he ‘desires’ and ‘looks to desire.’”

4. John Paul says that in the Wisdom tradition, woman “appears more often as an occasion of sin” ie., the woman herself is seen as the occasion of sin. This is important as it will shape societal norms about modesty. (The ultimate expression of seeing woman herself as an occasion of sin is the burqua--not a Catholic concept.)

5. On the text, “Turn away your eyes from a shapely woman” (Sirach 9:8), John Paul comments: “We might say they [the Wisdom texts] develop a specific moral psychology, though without falling into psychologism” (TOB 38:5) This is interesting because on the previous page he had said that in regard to concupiscence, “we are concerned here not only with a psychological interpretation, but at the same time with a theological interpretation” (TOB 38:2); he seems to be saying that the Wisdom texts are concerned with the moral psychology, but we need to go deeper and that is what Jesus does in the Sermon on the Mount.

6. John Paul says that “They [the Wisdom texts] are in some way close to Christ’s appeal to the ‘heart’ reported by Matthew (see 5:27-28) though one cannot say that they show any tendency to transform ethos in a fundamental way. The authors of these books use their knowledge of human interiority to teach morals within the limits of the ethos that prevailed in their historical period and that was substantially confirmed by them” (TOB 38:5).

7. “Such a transformation of ethos had to await the Sermon on the Mount” TOB 38:6

8. In TOB 39 John Paul moves on to examine this more closely. He speaks of "looking with desire"; the desire is still an interior act of the heart expressed in the way of looking at the woman “The look expresses what is in the heart. The look, I would say, expresses man as a whole. If one assumes in general that man ‘acts in conformity with what he is,’ (operari sequitur esse [operation follows being]), in the present case Christ wants to show that man ‘looks’ in conformity with what he is: intueri sequitur esse [looking follows being.] Through the look, man shows himself on the outside and to others; above all he shows what he perceives in his ‘interior.” (TOB 39:4)

9. John Paul says: “Already in the look, ‘in the way one looks,’ it is possible to grasp fully what concupiscence is. Let us try to explain it. [Lustful] ‘desiring,’ ‘looking to desire,’ indicates an experience of the value of the body in which its spousal meaning ceases to be spousal precisely because of concupiscence.” (TOB 39:4)

10. When “Christ says, ‘Whoever looks at a woman to desire her,’ that is, whoever looks with concupiscence, ‘has already committed adultery with her in his heart.’… Does he not mean to say thereby that precisely concupiscence—like adultery—is an inner detachment from the spousal meaning of the body?” (TOB 39:5)

John Paul's thought here could be summed up as: Who we are is how we look.

Looking follows being.

This is the crucial point, that the look, and the way one looks, with concupiscent desire or not, comes from the heart.

The other crucial point is that John Paul is very clear that Jesus is speaking of a new ethos. This new ethos fundamentally transforms the way we need to understand the Wisdom texts of the Old Testament. The new ethos is only made possible through the grace of Christ.

Concupiscent desire violates the spousal meaning of the body.

All of this is important to keep in mind in thinking about and evaluating the story of the two bishops and concupiscence.

But more on that later.


ChristinaKing.com said...

Sister Lorraine,

I am in the process of identifying 5 areas that I would like more definitive and technical language to comprehend facets of TOB more fully.

I will be expounding on my questions and observations on my own blog at:

One of the five is to address the 3 fold concupiscence. It was translated incorrectly in the 1997 Edition of Theology of The Body but the new translation of Theology of The Body 2006 by Dr. Waldstein has the more correct translation and therefore more accurate translation.

We can see how important this is when 3 forms of lust is now understood and translated as the 3 forms of concupiscence.
(TOB 46:6) JP2 shares:
1. Concupiscence of the heart and talks about Nietzschean hermeneutics
2. Concupiscence of the eyes and speaks of Marxist Hermeneutics
3. Concupiscence of the flesh (carnal concupiscence) much like what Freud's Id or Freudian Hermeneutics.
I will share more on my own blog as well, would love your thoughts on this.

Sr. Lorraine said...

Thank you, Christina, for sharing this. It is very important. I will check out your blog too.

When Dr Waldstein did the new translation, this was one of the areas that he said specifically needed to be corrected. The old translation just used "lust," which tended to put everything in a sexual light only. But concupiscence is more than that, and as you point out, has these three forms.

Kevin said...

Will be interested to see how you take this to apply to West engaging in historical revisionism. :)

That being said, show your interpretation of JP II's words to West. He thinks the "redeemed man" is not bound by Sirach.

You pointed out (with particular eloquence I might add) how John Paul took the words of Sirach, and showed how Christ, far from downplaying or setting them aside, gave them an even stronger meaning.

The only thing I would've wished in this section from the Pope was combatting the stereotype. He clearly rejects it, but there are solid contextual grounds for rejecting it as well. (The statement "turn away your eyes" is written within the context of the married individual, it ignores the hellenistic approach to modesty the greeks took [a sorely lacking one!], and much more.

But I understand at times there are certain constraints. Yet it really would've prevented West from imypling the wisdom literature is what the feminist critque says it is.

James said...

Thank you Sr. Lorraine for a nice and neat piece of work.

I'd like to address many of the comments from your "Putting Christopher West in Context:..." blog that referenced the 2 bishops story. I think that a new perspective may be helpful.

The first time I heard a talk by Christopher West was in November 1999 and I've heard well over 100 since then. I can assure you that Christopher did NOT get his story about the 2 bishops from St. Nonnus and St. Pelagia. Christopher was telling that story years before he ever heard of Nonnus or Pelagia. So any talk of his changing the story, and there was plenty of talk in the comments, is pure rubbish. I saw a video of one of Christopher's talks where he actually checked the names, Nonnus and Pelagia, with someone in the audience to make sure he had them right. I don't know where Christopher got his story about the bishops, but years before Christopher started speaking, a Franciscan retreat master was already telling the story of the 2 bishops. The priest referenced St. Nonnus and Pelagia in his story, and the gentleman in the audience, seeing the connection with Christopher's story, passed the info onto Christopher.

James said...

The second item is that anyone can do a google search for Nonus and Pelagia. You'll get around 4,350 results. Some of the stories say that all Pelagia was wearing was her jewelry and little else. The story that Christopher read and footnoted in his book, "Theology of the Body Explained," was from "The Desert Fathers," by Helen Waddell, Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.

(I think that if folks are going to accuse Christopher of changing the Nonnus-Pelagia story, the least they can do is to use the book West footnoted as their starting point and not provide a link to something else. Let's compare apples to apples, shall we?)

So what was Pelagia wearing that Christopher would refer to her as "half-naked?" I will quote: "with all fantastic graces did she ride, so decked that naught could be seen upon her but gold and pearls and precious stones: the very nakedness of her feet was hidden under gold and pearls." And later "And when the bishops saw her so shamelessly ride by, bare of head and shoulder and limb, in pomp so splendid, and not so much as a veil upon her head or about her shoulders, they groaned, and in silence turned away their heads as from great and grievous sin."

James said...

Another translation from Latin (and I'll include the Latin for you scholars out there) reads, " She was dressed in the height of fantasy, wearing nothing but gold, pearls, and precious stones, even her bare feet were covered with gold and pearls.

et processit cum summa phantasia, adornata ita, ut nihil videretur super ea nisi aurum et margaritae et lapides pretiosi; nuditas vero pedum ejus ex auro et margaritis erat cooperta

When the bishops saw her bare-headed and with all her limbs shamelessly exposed with such lavish display, there was not one who did not hide his face in his veil or his scapular, averting their eyes as if from a very great sin.

Quam ut viderunt episcopi ita nudo capite et omni membrorum compage sic inverecunde transire cum tantis obsequiis ut nec velamen super caput positum, nec super scapulas, tacentes ingemuerunt, et quasi a peccato gravissimo averterunt facies suas.

In my opinion, I think that it would be fair to say that Pelagia was at least half-naked since all she had on was her jewelry.

James said...

What was Nonnus's response to Pelagia? Quoting Waddell,
"But the most blessed Nonnus did long and most intently regard her: and after she had passed by still he gazed and still his eyes went after her. Then, turning his head, he looked upon the bishops sitting round him. 'Did not,' said he, 'the sight of her great beauty delight you?'
"They answered him nothing. And he sank his face upon his knees, and the holy book that he held in his good hands, and his tears fell down upon his breast, and sighing heavily he said again to the bishops, 'Did not the sight of her great beauty delight you?'
But again they answered nothing. Then said he, 'Verily, it greatly delighted me, and well pleased was I with her beauty: whom God shall set in presence of His high and terrible seat, in judgment of ourselves and our episcopate.'
And again he spoke to the bishops. 'What think you, beloved? How many hours hath this woman spent in her chamber, bathing and adorning herself with all solicitude and all her mind on the stage, that there may be no stain or flaw in all that body's beauty and its wearing, that she may be a joy to all men's eyes...'"

Not only did Nonnus not look away, but he looked intently and delighted in Pelagia's beauty. (It is not a sin to delight in God's handiwork. It is a sin to lust. Lust is not what is outside, but what is in the heart. Let us purify our hearts.)

James said...

The last question about this piece that I'll address is whether or not it is reasonable to think that Pelagia saw Nonnus. First of all, the 8 bishops were sitting in front of the door of the basilica. Streets then (and now) were narrow. If the bishops could see Pelagia and her outfit in detail, is it unreasonable to think that she could see 8 bishops sitting in front of the basilica in equal detail? Do you really think that Pelagia would not notice Nonnus, especially when the other 7 bishops had their heads turned away? You can rest assured that they saw each other, and what she saw in the gaze of Nonnus was not lust.

As to her conversion, that was when she heard Nonnus preaching. And no one questions how stupid it would be for a bishop of the Church to meet alone with the most beautiful woman in Antioch. That just isn't prudent. And keep in mind that Nonnus had no problem looking at Pelagia.

Oh, and just for the record, even though some of what Christopher has said in some of his talks has caused me to wince from time to time and other stuff I strongly disagree with, I don't see the need for some to mount what appears to be an all-out campaign to wipe him off the face of the map.

James said...

I want to reflect on a quote from Julianus Pomerius (The Contemplative Life, Ancient Christian Writers, Volume 4, Chapter 6 “The vices into which concupiscence of the flesh breaks out when a corrupt mind consents to it,” Section 2, halfway down paragraph one) “Now, thought it is which, if it is decent, chastens the mind, the same as evil thought defiles it; or rather, if the condition of the mind does not come from thought but the quality of thought from the mind, sordid thought does not make a mind sordid, but from a sordid mind arise sordid thoughts. If this is so, the forms of beautiful bodies, stealing in through the eyes, do no trouble an incorrupt soul; and when they do excite a soul corruptibly, they do not corrupt a healthy soul but reveal one corrupt by its own choice.”

As a young student attending a Catholic grade school, I was taught not to lust. You’ve heard the joke about the fellow who went to confession and the priest asked him if entertained lustful thoughts, and the fellow responded, “No, Father, but lustful thoughts have entertained me.” Well, I was taught not to entertain a lustful thought for even one tenth of a second. The thought was to be out of my head the instant it entered. I took my instruction seriously and ended up with a severe case of spiritual pride as I later watched my high school classmates slide into every form of sexual immorality. I was the Pharisee in the temple telling God how great I was. I didn’t even look at porn. I think that the devil was OK with the fact that I didn’t have a problem with lust…. because my sin of spiritual pride was so very much worse.

James said...

But to the point of the quote, which I think supports what John Paul II was trying to communicate in his TOB and Christopher West in his story of the 2 bishops, lust is always a matter of the heart and not what a woman is wearing. Sexual attraction is affected by what a woman wears, but sexual attraction cannot be equated with lust.

For example, when I was 18 years old, I stumbled upon a nude beach while taking a long walk along the seashore. It was a novel experience for me and I was curious as to what sort of person would enjoy being naked at the beach, so I engaged a couple in conversation. The sight of the naked body did not lead to lust, and if it had, I was well prepared to throw out any sinful thoughts. But there were none and I was able to spend part of an afternoon in pleasant conversation. The following day I made sure that I went to a public beach with lots of clothed people.

The contrast was instructive. At the nude beach, I had seen no strutting, prancing about, parading, or grinding of hips. At the clothed beach, I saw lots of strutting, prancing about, parading and grinding of hips. At the nude beach, those I saw seemed modest while those at the clothed beach did not seem modest at all. I saw and spoke with whole persons at the nude beach, but saw only flirtation at the clothed.

James said...

Since that time, I’ve traveled from the South Pacific to Western and Eastern Europe. I’ve seen hundreds of naked women and have not had a problem with lust, and I don’t think it has all that much to do with any great virtue on my part. I credit my grade school nuns who taught me zero tolerance for lust. They helped form my interior orientation towards God. They helped create a desire in me for purity of heart. But that said, I’ve talked to men who don’t seem all that religious and they aren’t bothered by lust either, at least not at a nude beach. Maybe lust would be a problem for them at a clothed beach where the women are dressed immodestly.

OK, got to put this disclaimer in here before the guys become totally unglued. I don’t like nude beaches in this country or in some other countries either. I don’t think that it’s a smart thing for women to go to nude beaches because there are too many clothed perverts there. At least when the guys are nude, you know what is on their mind. You’ve got to watch out for the guys who hide behind their clothes. Bottom line: Nude beaches are mostly a bad idea. Avoid them.

James said...

I think that men are attacking Christopher because they don’t believe that it’s possible for a man not to lust. But even Christopher writes in his book, TOB Explained, “I am not suggesting the average man should look for opportunities to ‘test’ his purity by gazing upon scantily clad women. Indeed, the large majority of men must heed the Old Testament admonition to ‘turn away your eyes.’ But John Paul II is calling men to so much more.

This argument over lust is the difference between life and death and it seems that there is a life and death battle going on here. What is at stake is a life of freedom or a life of slavery to sin, and women will be the winners or losers in this battle. John Paul II showed us that the notion that men can’t avoid lusting is a flat out lie. JPII called men who believe and promote this lie, the “masters of suspicion.” They can’t master lust in their own lives and they refuse to believe that anyone else can either.

James said...

Why would a man be so stupid to try living in a way that he doesn’t think possible? If it is normal and natural to lust, why try fighting it? That leaves men with only one of 2 options when they see an attractive woman. They can see her as an object for their pleasure, or they can see her as an object of temptation and look away. Either way the woman loses, as she remains an object in the mind of her viewer. There is no love when a man sees a woman as an object, even as an object to avoid. He is focused only on himself and his pleasures or his desire to avoid evil. He and his concerns are the focus of his attention. The man who loves sees the woman as a person, an equal, a daughter of the most high God, a sister in Christ Jesus and someone whose dignity he must uphold.

James said...

If a godly man believes that it is impossible not to lust, then he will live a life enslaved to the fear that he might lust. He won’t be able to really enjoy God’s creation, especially the beauty of women. For the man who buys the lie, every other man, who believes that something more is possible, is his enemy because he is a threat. A threat to a belief system that tells him that he can’t do anything about the way he believes God made him, and that his real problem is not his fault. It is the fault of women and what they wear or don’t wear. He is Adam in the Garden blaming Eve, and ultimately God, for his sin. He remains a boy who has yet to enter into the battle for true manhood.

John Paul II is calling all men to shake off the shackles of sin, believe that freedom is possible, and then strive to live their lives with purity of heart. Then women will win because they will have brothers who will finally see them and truly love and care for them as persons and not as objects to be used or avoided.

Sr. Lorraine said...

Thank you, James, for all of your comments and contributions. They are quite interesting! The last paragraph in your last comment expresses so well the freedom of heart that Christ calls us to. If we don't even believe that purity of heart is possible, how can we strive for it?

Wade St. Onge said...

James, you explain your point well. My only concern is really that you have heard Christopher West over 100 times. Is that necessary? Or do you work for the Institute, perhaps (which would be understandable).

With all respect, I am not sure it is good to spend so much time on Theology of the Body, and more specifically, one man's presentation of Theology of the Body. Our Faith is much broader than that.

I spoke about this inordinate focus on my blog article.

Wade St. Onge said...

You say: "I was the Pharisee in the temple telling God how great I was. I didn’t even look at porn. I think that the devil was OK with the fact that I didn’t have a problem with lust…. because my sin of spiritual pride was so very much worse."

And as Solomon said, "pride goes before a fall". St. Paul says, "let he who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall". You are correct about the danger in your spiritual pride.

However, it is also true that when we think we have "conquered" lust and our subtle pride gives us the confidence that if our eyes happen to fall upon a beautiful woman, we can keep looking upon her with the gaze of love because "we are pure", that is when the Lord will take that grace away (because it is only grace that allows us to be pure in the first place), and it is then that we will fall. The Bible also says, "do not put the Lord your God to the test". God has admonished us not to look too long upon a beautiful woman. To do so because we believe we are "redeemed enough" that we "can" disregard this admonition is a form of testing God.

This is the point Dr. Scott Hahn was trying to make when he and Mr. West got into an argument on the set of "Franciscan University Presents". It is also the critique of Dr. Schindler, who said that concupiscence dwells "objectively" in the person and thus it will always be a danger.

Kevin said...


Nice story, but you overlook a few key facts:

1.) The bishop specifically states "tempt not my weakness."

2.) To even display such weaknesses is not virtue, but mere continence in West's eyes. We are to move beyond "custody of the eyes." Remember, those who were tempted, according to West, we "continent, not virtous"

3.) The fact that the Bishop specifically told Pelagia "tempt not my weakness" by refusing to meet with her alone (implicit is the issue of scandal, but he was specifically referring to his weaknesses), West's defenders MUST answer this.

4.) Using different sources is not wrong. For example, when I write upon a certain historical figure, I mention numerous biographies. You want to bring a full perspective to view. Every author doesn't have the chance to cover everything.

Kevin said...

If the story of the "Two bishops" accurately reflects West's ideas, why change it? Under his standard, St. Nonnus was not virtuous, lacked a "mature purity."

Nobody is wanting to read West a damnatio memorae . The specific intent has been that of correction. Every "critic" has so far acknowledged the good he does. For the record, I find his "recapitulation" of the Our Father fascinating, and his exegesis on "celibacy for the kingdom" to be spot on, and very helpful, amongst other things. Yet this doesn't negate the serious problems he presents elsewhere in his thought.

dcs said...

with all fantastic graces did she ride, so decked that naught could be seen upon her but gold and pearls and precious stones: the very nakedness of her feet was hidden under gold and pearls

Yes, this means that she wore so much jewelry that her clothes could not be seen, not that she was necessarily half-naked (even her feet are covered with precious stones). Was she immodestly dressed? I have no doubt. But half-naked?

The last question about this piece that I'll address is whether or not it is reasonable to think that Pelagia saw Nonnus.

The fact that it might be reasonable does not at all imply that we can assert that she did, or that her conversion was effected by it.

As far as St. Nonnus' refusal to meet with St. Pelagia alone, what Kevin said.

Kevin said...

And third,

Can we please stop questioning the interior motives of people we disagree with? James, you don't know what I think or don't think about lust.

You say "because they don’t believe that it’s possible for a man not to lust."

Christopher West disagrees with you. Mr. West himself points out that total victory of lust is not possible this side of the eschaton!

Ironically enough, I'm going to side with Mr. West on this one. Yet it doesn't surprise me that people ignore those few statements he makes about it.

Kevin said...

Finally :)

Putting aside my modesty for a moment, I am something of an expert on attractive Catholic women. For all my friends comment how it seems every Catholic female I know is strikingly attractive. (Amazing what women who live virtuously and with modesty can do!)

That being said, when I saw them, I never viewed them with lust, or as an occasion to sin. I recognize their beauty as a gift from God, but it's ultimately not something that penetrates my conscience. I have a short attention span. A woman who has nothing but looks I will not pay attention to longer than 5 seconds I joke.

That being said, I would never fixate on their beauty. If I focused so much on their beauty, they would slap me, and rightly so. The key to their beauty is not from their physical aspects, but what their outward appearances represent, a child of God growing in virtue and holiness. To give an inordinate focus on physical beauty is not becoming for a Christian, and can certainly lead to sin.

In conclusion, facts are stubborn things. The facts are as I have presented above. West omits those facts, whether by ignorance or malice it is irrelevant. They do grave damage to his views when they are included.

Kevin said...

A brief aside,

Sister, can you see why some people get a little peeved with West when he dismisses his critics as "of the religious right?"


Apparently, disagreement with him is akin to being a bunch of prudes, young earth creationists, and general nutjobs who are all shouting and no substance. (The popular critiques of the so called "religious right".)

Perhaps West might not realize it, but his opposition to abortion, contraception, etc puts him as part of the "religious right." Or maybe he doesn't view faithful Catholics as "on the same team?"

Apparently in his six month sabbatical West learned nothing of charity or the fact that, as his defenders scream from the mountaintops "we are all on the same team."

West is lucky his opponents are proceeding from a worldview of charity and fraternal correction even if he is not.

ChristinaKing.com said...

Well Sister, It is not a big surprise that once again there seems to be more interest in picking on a person than to make a valuable contribution.

However, James has stepped up and given us all something extremely valuable, the original text that West is accused of distorting so that we can see for ourselves what is true and what is not true.

He also gives a first hand account of West sharing the story, much better than "I heard" or just giving an opinion. At least in terms of journalism it is.

All of this is valuable in allowing us to make up our own minds. Thank you James, I for one will be printing out your comments, your Latin translated and reading it through. Remember James, some do not want to see, they do not want to relent or concede, but your contribution will allow those interested in finding a way to teach this material with a language we can all agree on and understand, to go forward.

Thank You James.

Wade St. Onge said...

Christina says: "Remember James, some do not want to see, they do not want to relent or concede, but your contribution will allow those interested in finding a way to teach this material with a language we can all agree on and understand, to go forward."

I find this to be somewhat condescending. I do not think you should ever disagree with your opponent by saying "they just don't want to see it". That's what West says when those who object to him are told, "you need to pray about why you are reacting the way you are and disagreeing to this" (in other words, "you need God to remove the scales from your eyes and heart").

Not to mention you are not really addressing James here, but addressing your opponents under the guise of addressing James.

I do not find this charitable or helpful, and it does not make me want to continue this discussion.

Wade St. Onge said...

And for the record, I conceded to James that he made his point well, and thus I agree with him.

And I do not want to hear that "I was not referring to you Wade but Kevin", because your statement is sweeping enough that it offends anyone who might be more decidedly on the "other side" of this issue. The implication is: "anyone who objects in any way to what James said instead of simply agreeing with him has scales over your eyes".

Kevin said...

I second what Wade says, this kind of discussion is not helpful.

James did the same. Let us reason together, not question our interior motives, hidden spiritual defects, etc. Let us leave that for our confessors shall we?

There is evidence, and I'm going to once again call everyone, participants and readers, back to it.

We are here to discuss if West is telling accurately the story of the "two bishops." The defects and shortcomings of myself, James, Wade, and Mrs. King are irrelevant to what the facts are.

Kevin said...

I was going to give you a response that tried to answer everything in a rational and logical way.....

But then you just kept posting.

Mrs. King, stop it, that's enough. You are committing detraction here. And you are essentially slandering anyone that comes across your path to settle your vendetta.

I sincerely hope Sister deletes these foul comments. Or better yet, leave them up to your eternal shame Mrs. King.

Shame on you.

ChristinaKing.com said...

Thank you Kevin, I am grateful that someone wants to discuss the facts. Let's get back to it shall we?

Can you tell me what you mean when you say that you want me to apply it to West's historical revisionism?

I get that you are saying that West got some of his facts wrong...but forgive my lack of intellectual ability to express what I am trying to say here, but it seems people are just ticked he got some facts wrong. Are you saying this is wrong because the facts show the Bishop was worse of a man than West portrays him or is the contention that West makes the woman out to be better than she was? Obviously this Bishop ultimately acted virtuously. The woman was also converted. Her conversion would not have happened through this Bishop if he A. Lusted after her B. Judged and Admonished her as beneath him or C. Ignored her altogether with custody of the eyes.

Isn't the point of the story what West was trying to say? Which is that when we dare to see with the eyes of Christ, we can see the person and not the object and in this "looking" people will know if our desire is to use them or to love them. Her conversion came about because this was a Holy Bishop and didn't his first "seeing" her establish the fact that he wanted to love her not use her? She might have not been aware of that then but surely she was later when she ultimately met him because she then was converted right? How much of doctrinal importance is the exact order of events here? It is not infallible teaching right so why are we so upset? I guess I don't get why it is such a large part of the dialogue and would love to understand why it's a hot topic.

ChristinaKing.com said...

Well, I will leave that up to Sr. Lorraine. I will email her directly and ask her. Perhaps I said too much, however none of it was untrue. It is terribly sad, it angers me, it grieves me, but it is true.

Kevin said...

The reason people object to Mr. West's historical telling is for several reasons:

1.) Some of us flat out don't like the twisting of history to suit this or that agenda or argument.

2.) His entire argument about "mature purity" rests on a historical fabrication. West, in his attacks on alleged prudery, thinks "turning your eyes" is just for one bound by lust.

3.) The Bishop was not so much as fascinated with her body as the fact that she spent more time adorning herself for sin than his heart did in adoring God. There wasn't some fixation on the body here.

3.) West states that this example of "mature purity" moved Pelagia, and she later converted because of it. So we must be like that good bishop, throw off the prudery, not turn our eyes, but instead "trust in the power of the cross."

4.) The very historical evidence says the Bishop did the exact opposite in saying "tempt not my weakness" in refusing to meet alone with her. In West's definition, this was not an example "mature purity."

West's teaching really pays no attention to what is traditionally called "occasions of sin." In his eyes, avoiding it might be "playing it safe", but it isn't virtuous. The Catholic spiritual tradition resoundingly disagrees with him on this.

Kevin said...

You talk about those out with an agenda to bury West. How are you doing any different with those you disagree with?

Revealing personal and private info (or anything attempting to scandalize) unless there is a genuine reason to do so is the sin of detraction.

Your argument boils down to "this woman has a checkered past. She committed X, Y, and Z. Even if God forgave her in the confessional, we must reject her testimony!"

ChristinaKing.com said...

No, that is not what I meant, usually God uses the smallest to do the biggest work. I would say that anyone coming from a background that is checkered would have more ability to share what they have learned from something like TOB and share that with others, but it does not make them an expert, a doctor nor a theologian make.

ChristinaKing.com said...

Perhaps I should take your advice and stop. I am reactionary, type A personality. I need to get back to more important things like the language issues I was working on. I will take your advice to heart and ask Sr. to decide if I lacked prudence and if so to remove my comments. Although people never go back and look, I have always changed by blog when someone has pointed out an area that I may not have been charitable.

Kevin said...

And last time I checked, nobody is saying "hey, I used to be terrible, but now I'm not, and this gives me authority."

There's no reason to go there, not in this type of forum. Stick to the arguments presented.

Personally, I'd just say when you write something, ask yourself "how does this contribute to the discussion" after having that answer, wait 5 minutes before posting. :)

Annie Anomous said...

Actually Wade, I did mean Kevin. I apologize for putting your name on that, I was commenting on his "scales" comment in the blog post he dedicated to me. Actually Wade you have been the most charitable, besides Sr. Lorraine out of everyone so far.

Kevin said...

Well at least Mr. Kellmeyer knows who you are now. :)

Sr. Lorraine said...

I was out this evening at a book launch event and came back to find this long string of comments.
Thank you all for contributing to the discussion. I know that everyone here has a valuable contribution to make and I appreciate that.

I do agree as some have noted that it is important to focus on a charitable discussion of the issues. I'm sure everyone intends to do that, and to keep to a discussion of the ideas. It isn't helpful to focus on other people's motives, since we can't know what they are and even if we did, their ideas could be right or wrong regardless of their motives.

I don't want to sound "preachy" here and please forgive me if I do, but I would like just to encourage everybody to always comment in a spirit of charity by sticking to the ideas discussed and not the people.

Thanks for your understanding and God bless you all!

Wade St. Onge said...

No problem, "Annie" :) Thanks for your compliment!

Kevin said...

Sister, I was personally expecting you to develop the persona of an old school nun and threaten everyone involved with some good ol corporal punishment if we couldn't play nicely during recess. :)

That being said, thanks for trying to keep things civil here Sister. Sometimes passions get the best of people, and it is good for those with moderation authority, in a spirit of charity, to bring things back on topic.