Thursday, September 30, 2010

Putting Christopher West in Context: A Critique of Dawn Eden's Thesis

This rather long post is also available in a PDF file here or here on Google docs if anyone wants to share it or here on docstoc)

In today’s media culture, people often find themselves afloat on a sea of information, carried here and there by currents they can’t control. All this makes it difficult to find the time and resources to investigate things they hear. For some time now criticisms of Christopher West and his presentation of Pope John Paul’s theology of the body (TOB) have been swirling among Catholic blogs, websites, and news outlets.

The latest waves started rolling in this last summer, when Dawn Eden released her master’s thesis critiquing West’s work: Towards a “Climate of Chastity:” Bringing Catechesis on the Theology of the Body into the Hermeneutic of Continuity. Believing that West’s presentation is skewed, Eden attempts to point out what she considers his errors, and to offer positive suggestions to catechists so that they may give a fuller and more accurate account of the Catholic Church’s teachings on marriage and sex.

Christopher West has been a pioneer in presenting TOB to audiences of ordinary, average Catholics, most of whom have never heard of John Paul II’s talks on the subject. The Pope spoke on the topic for about five years, using language that even theologians found difficult to understand. He brought to this work his long years of study in philosophy. John Paul drew on modern philosophical categories and used concepts drawn from personalistic ways of thinking. He wanted to use these ideas in support of Catholic teaching, to find a new language to talk to people of today. To take those ideas and present them to average Catholics, who often have no formal training in philosophy or theology, is quite a task. West deserves tremendous credit for being a pioneer in this field. Any pioneer will blaze some trails that may veer off course a bit. As his associates will testify, West has always been willing to consider a course correction or new route when this was indicated.

But not all advice is sound advice. It has to be weighed, considered, and sometimes even rejected. Sound advice comes from a solid knowledge of the territory, one that knows the obstacles as well as the opportunities the explorer faces. West has been forging ahead in this territory for over fifteen years. His work has comprised several books, many recorded presentations, and countless lectures, classes, courses, columns, and talks. In her thesis, Dawn Eden took on a large project in giving what she calls “a comprehensive overview of West’s presentation of TOB.” To fairly evaluate it would require her to follow the development of all his teaching as it has unfolded over the past decade. That’s quite a project. Does any fair-minded observer really think it’s possible to accomplish this project in a master's thesis of under 100 pages? Actually, she even says she carries out the comprehensive overview of his work in chapter one, a mere fifteen pages. To be fair to West, she would need to also contextualize his teachings so as to present them objectively without any distortion. Moreover, she cites his major work, Theology of the Body Explained rarely; surely that text should have been the primary text of her assessment.

The thesis gives little sense of how West’s work has developed. For example, as Michael Waldstein has attested, West changed some aspects of his presentation in view of the new translation of the Pope’s talks. Waldstein’s translation involved certain changes in structure and vocabulary that had an impact on the correct presentation of TOB. West spent much time communicating with Waldstein and tailored his presentation to reflect new insights gained. Yet Eden mentions nothing of this major development. A casual reader, not knowing this background, could easily come away with the impression that West has been doing the same thing for fifteen years. Instead, the constant feedback he gets, especially from his live audiences, has helped him tailor his presentation to better meet their needs.

Eden’s Overview of West’s Work

But on to Eden’s overview. First, she gives some background data and biographical info about West. Eden thinks that West excessively emphasizes that a certain repressive approach to sexual issues has troubled the Catholic Church for a long time, and still does. She says, “Because he uses his own experiences to support this point, it is relevant here to explore those aspects of his upbringing that informed his understanding of the attitudes he believes are ingrained in ‘most Christians.’” So Eden discusses the time that West’s family spent in the Mother of God community. Evidently this community was very strict, especially about sexual matters. In her thesis, Eden speculates about how this experience has affected West’s presentation of TOB. Essentially, she thinks that it gave him the idea that too many Catholics are affected by sexual repression and prudishness.

Even though West himself may have mentioned details of his experiences in that community, she doesn’t quote any statement where he himself states what impact these experiences had on him and how that may have affected his presentation of TOB. By venturing into this area, Eden goes outside the academic arena and tries to psychoanalyze West. This is shaky ground indeed. And by using this argument, Eden can’t object if attentive readers start to wonder if her critique of West has been shaped by her own life experiences. As she herself narrates in her book The Thrill of the Chaste, Eden was raised in a Jewish family, in an atmosphere free of any supposed Catholic prudishness. She fell into the unchaste lifestyle so common today, although she later embraced chastity when she converted to Christianity (and to Catholicism in 2006). Could it be that these experiences, so vastly different from West’s, have prevented her from realizing the extent to which Catholics have indeed been affected by a certain type of Jansenistic spirit and repressiveness? Even if this is not a universal problem, it does exist, and West speaks to it. Nonetheless, to spend so much time on West’s personal history and so little time on his major work is a strange focus for an academic work.


The Ten Major Themes


In her thesis, Eden lists ten themes that she says are the major themes in Christopher West's work. She also listed them in the talk she gave at her defense.

Her listing of these themes raises the question: how did she determine that these themes are in fact the major ones of West's work? She doesn't explain her criteria for selecting them. Do these ten themes actually represent the distillation of West's work? If West himself were to summarize his work in ten themes, would he choose these or something else? Do these themes really capture the essence of his work? Are there others that could have been included? West is basing his themes on John Paul, and several other important themes could be noted, such as the communion of persons, spousal meaning of the body, shame, receptivity, celibacy for the sake of the kingdom, the new evangelization and the culture of death, and most importantly, the theme of self-gift. It is also quite surprising that the subject of contraception is not included, since John Paul himself said one of his main purposes in presenting his TOB was to give a better support and defense of the teaching of Humanae Vitae. West has been a notable defender of this Church teaching.

If Eden wants to critique all of West's work, she needs to be absolutely sure that she is presenting his work accurately. Her synthesis is certainly open to debate. She seems to have selected themes that better suit her criticisms of West, while omitting others that are more fundamental but not so open to criticism. This leaves Eden's thesis vulnerable, since her critique assumes her reading of West corresponds to what he is actually saying, but it may not. Again, this relates to the difficulty already mentioned, that Eden has taken on such a broad project that she can't do it justice.

Eden treats each theme quite briefly. Just to reiterate, this is surprising in light of her claim that she is presenting a comprehensive overview. She simply states the themes without saying much else about them. Rather, she presents the themes in such a way that the reader tends to get a negative impression of West’s work. This is partly due to the use of selective quotes, many of which seem to have been picked for sounding somewhat provocative. This impression is reinforced by the use of quotes around many short words and phrases, and sometimes even just one word. This method of quoting raises some red flags that West is being taken out of context. In many cases, closer examination of these quotes shows that indeed he is.
Nor does Eden compare West’s treatment of these themes to what John Paul says in TOB, in order to assess if West’s presentation accords with John Paul’s.


The First Theme

Eden’s first theme is: “The TOB is an all-encompassing theology that requires theologians and religious educators to recontextualize ‘everything’ about Christian faith and life.” She adds: “It ‘isn’t just about sex and marriage”; it is a ‘revolution’ that ‘will lead to a dramatic development of thinking about the Creed.’”

First let me note that as Eden says in a footnote, “recontextualize” is her term, not West’s. She should have also noted that he never implied or said that theologians and religious educators should do anything concerning “everything about Christian faith and life.” At least Eden cites no passages to indicate that West thought that. She tells us we can find the “everything” quote in an essay by West entitled, “What is the Theology of the Body and Why is it Changing So Many Lives?” But the word “everything” does not appear in that column.



Here in fact is what he does say (which seems to be the source of her claim):

In short, through an in-depth reflection on the Scriptures, John Paul seeks to answer two of the most important, universal questions: (1) “What does it mean to be human?” and (2) “How do I live my life in a way that brings true happiness and fulfillment?” The Pope’s teaching, therefore, isn’t just about sex and marriage. Since our creation as male and female is the “fundamental fact of human existence” (Feb 13, 1980), the theology of the body affords “the rediscovery of the meaning of the whole of existence, the meaning of life” (Oct 29, 80).


The last part of that sentence is from Pope John Paul. The Pope does indeed indicate that TOB affects our whole existence-- but neither he nor West say that theologians and educators need to “recontextualize” (or do anything in regard to) “everything” about “faith and life.” What John Paul says and West follows is that TOB allows us to “rediscover” truths we have lost sight of. This view is truly in the context of a hermeneutic of continuity. There is no break. The very passage that Eden says shows that West wants to change “everything,” in fact says the opposite. Our understanding of TOB will change how we view reality, but there is no suggestion of a change in Church teaching. This mistake seriously vitiates her claim that West’s views violate a hermeneutic of continuity. The two questions that West raises in relation to this show that the “everything” TOB affects should be understood to primarily concern the way we live our own lives.

We’re barely into the first sentence of Eden’s first major theme, and already the way she quotes West takes him out of context and gives the reader a false impression of what he is really saying.

The point about TOB affecting the Creed is from a passage by George Weigel in Witness to Hope, discussing how TOB will shape theology in many areas. Surely it will. Does Eden doubt that? Neither Weigel nor West suggest there will be any changes in the Creed; rather it is clear they are referring to a deepening of our understanding of the Creed. Again, Eden just cites the claim almost as if it were ridiculous on the face of it; she does not tell us what Weigel means by this or how West uses Weigel’s statement or why it is objectionable.

Imago Dei

Eden then brings up the idea of locating the imago Dei not only in the individual person, but as John Paul said, “through the communion … which man and woman form right from the beginning” as a dramatic development. This important idea– and top scholars such as Cardinal Angelo Scola believe it is a new idea (“The Nuptial Mystery: A Perspective for Systematic Theology” Communio 30 (Spring 2003). -- says that we image God not just because we are rational, but through the communion of persons.

Eden says that “In West’s view, this [the imago Dei as communion] means that the male human body and the female human body, understood within the call to marital union, contain within themselves the entire content of the mysteries of the Christian faith.” That’s her interpretation of West. Notice she says that West places this content in the body itself. To illustrate this she quotes from West:

“This is to say that everything God wants to tell us on earth about who he is, the meaning of life, the reason he created us, how we are to live, as well as our ultimate destiny, is contained somehow in the meaning of the human body and the call of male and female to become ‘one body’ in marriage.”

Two points here. First, West says all this is contained in the meaning of the human body, not simply the body. This is an important distinction, but Eden is simply equating the two things.

Second, what West is actually referring to in this paragraph (“this is to say”) is not the imago Dei. Instead, he is referring to the call to nuptial love inscribed in our bodies. Eden doesn’t quote what he says immediately before the above paragraph, which places this quote in its proper context. Here it is:

“As John Paul shows us, the question of sexuality and marriage is not a peripheral issue. In fact, he says the call to "nuptial love" inscribed in our bodies is "the fundamental element of human existence in the world" (General Audience 1/16/80). In light of Ephesians 5, he even says that the ultimate truth about the "great mystery" of marriage "is in a certain sense the central theme of the whole of revelation, its central reality" (General Audience 9/8/82).”
"This is to say...." (as above).

So this is another example of how Eden does not always accurately represent West’s thought. By quoting him out of context, she’s suggesting that his ideas about the nuptial mystery actually refers to the imago Dei. And in an academic thesis, that's sloppy.
But there’s one more thing. What does Pope John Paul say about this issue? Referring to the spousal analogy in Ephesians 5, he says: “Given its importance, this mystery is great indeed: as God’s salvific plan for humanity, that mystery is in some sense the central theme of the whole of revelation, its central reality. It is what God as Creator and Father wishes above all to transmit to mankind in his Word” (TOB 93:2)

The claim to the centrality of this mystery (the spousal analogy) is actually coming from John Paul.

The Second Theme

Eden states the second theme as: “The ‘sexual revolution’ was a ‘happy fault.’”

Eden doesn’t explain why she considers this a major theme, although West does mention it at times. The index to Theology of the Body Explained has six entries for the sexual revolution, although not all of them speak of it as a happy fault (an obvious reference to the Easter liturgy speaking of original sin as a happy fault). It seems odd to consider this a major theme when other much more important ones are omitted. The index entry under contraception, for example, has 14 subheads, many with several references.

But the revolution theme does fit Eden’s critique of West in reference to the hermeneutic of discontinuity. In this is she carefully reading an author to determine what that author actually means, or is she reading him in order to find support for her own pre-determined view of his work? Is it possible that contraception is omitted from the ten major themes because West clearly supports Church teaching and tradition on this subject, thus countering Eden’s idea that West is so revolutionary that he is actually rupturing Catholic tradition?

The Third Theme

The third theme is “‘Dumpster’ vs. ‘banquet’—two contrasting means of satisfying ‘hunger.’”

West does refer to this theme often; whether often enough for it to constitute one of his ten major themes isn’t clear. But surely West’s critics will agree that he is right in consigning pornography to the dumpster—exactly where it belongs.

The Fourth Theme

The fourth theme is: “The nuptial analogy is the primary means by which the faithful should understand their relationship to God—and ‘nuptial’ is to be envisioned in sexual terms.”

She continues, quoting West, “With this image in mind, God’s action upon the human person should be understood as ‘impregnation,’ with the Virgin Mary as model: “[T]he spousal imagery throughout all of Scripture [teaches us] that God wants to ‘marry’ us. Furthermore, through this mystical marriage, the divine Bridegroom wants to fill us, ‘impregnate’ us with divine life. In the Virgin Mary, this becomes a living reality.’ This is true for men and women. ‘The key to authentic masculinity’ is seeing oneself as a bride of Christ. ‘Don’t worry, guys—it doesn’t mean we have to wear a wedding dress or anything. It means, essentially, that we, as creatures, have to learn how to open and ‘receive’ the love of the Creator.”

(I will use the word "spousal" instead of "nuptial," since Dr. Michael Waldstein indicates this is the better translation of the term John Paul uses.) Is West really saying that “‘spousal’ is to be envisioned in sexual terms”? On the basis of these brief quotes, it might seem so. But what happens when you look at the fuller context of the quotes from West?
He says: “The Song of Songs teaches us – as does the spousal imagery throughout all of Scripture – that God wants to "marry" us. Furthermore, through this mystical marriage, the divine Bridegroom wants to fill us, "impregnate" us with divine life. In the Virgin Mary, this becomes a living reality. And this, as the Catechism says, is why "Mary goes before us all in the holiness that is the Church’s mystery as ‘the bride without spot or wrinkle’" (CCC 773).”
Right before this paragraph he indicates he’s taking his basic idea from a passage in True Devotion to Mary by St. Louis de Montfort. The word “impregnate” might seem to give it a more sexual nuance. But if you look up that word on dictionary.com, you’ll find five meanings, only the first of which is directly related to procreation. The meaning West intends is from the third definition, “to cause to be infused or permeated throughout, as with a substance; saturate: to impregnate a handkerchief with cheap perfume.” West is stressing that God fills us with divine life. He uses the example of Mary in this particular article (with its relation to pregnancy) because he’s writing at Christmastime about the Incarnation. Context is important.

Men and receptivity

What about the second quote concerning men and receptivity? It might seem provocative because of the wedding dress. But here’s the whole passage:

“‘Spousal prayer’ means, very simply, to open oneself wholly and completely to Christ, surrendering to him in a union of love like a bride surrenders to the loving embrace of her bridegroom. And, yes, as uncomfortable as this might seem for men at first, this includes us too. As John Paul II wrote in Mulieris Dignitatem, "According to [the spousal analogy], all human beings - both women and men - are called through the Church, to be the 'Bride' of Christ, the Redeemer of the world. In this way 'being the bride,' and thus the 'feminine' element, becomes a symbol of all that is 'human" (MD 25). (Don't worry, guys - it doesn't mean we have to wear a wedding dress or anything. It means, essentially, that we, as creatures, have to learn how to open and "receive" the love of the Creator. This is not a threat to our masculinity, but the key to authentic masculinity.)”

Why did Eden leave out the quote West uses from John Paul, who is the real source of the idea? Omitting it gives the impression West is a bit more provocative than he really is. In fact, in that same paragraph of MD, the Pope adds: “In the Church every human being—male and female—is the ‘Bride,’ in that he or she accepts the gift of the love of Christ the Redeemer, and seeks to respond to it with the gift of his or her own person.”

In all of this, West's basic point is actually drawn from John Paul--something that Eden doesn't make clear. West is presenting John Paul's thought in a popular way. It may not appeal to everyone, and that’s fine. But many people have found it useful in better understanding what TOB is all about.

Further, in his Theology of the Body Explained, West carefully considers the proper understanding of the spousal analogy (pp. 28-30). He quotes Cardinal Angelo Scola, writing in The Nuptial Mystery:
[An excessive or ‘maximalist’ interpretation] “ultimately tends toward an anthropomorphic deformation of our understanding of God, and even into introducing sexuality into God himself… Its underlying logic, whether its proponents intend it to or not, ultimately makes the claim that spousal categories are…the only categories fit to illuminate Christian dogma. To move in this direction is to engage in bad theology.” West continues, “For all the value of the spousal analogy, it is critical (lest we end in heresy!) to recognize its limits.” He continues for another two pages to consider both excessive and minimalistic interpretations of this analogy.

Since Eden’s criticism of West centers on this very idea, it is hard to understand why she omits citing this important discussion. Even if she thinks West has tended toward the maximalist side, in fairness to him she needs to alert readers to this passage in order to indicate his true thinking on the matter.

The Fifth Theme

The fifth theme is: “ ‘[T]he whole reality of the Church’s prayer and sacramental-liturgical life is modeled on the union of spouses.’”

This theme gets into the question of how we are to understand certain liturgical symbols and gestures in light of the spousal mystery. Eden thinks West goes too far in this direction, especially in citing his reference to the Easter candle as a phallic symbol. Later in the thesis, Eden offers some useful information on this topic and makes a good case that it should not be understood in this manner. Liturgists may disagree on this question, yet the liturgy certainly has spousal references in speaking of the baptismal font as the womb of the Church bringing forth new children. Again, it is hard to understand why Eden thinks this is a “theme” in West; he rarely speaks of the Easter Candle and speaks of liturgy in proportion to the way that John Paul II speaks of it.

The Sixth Theme

The sixth theme is: “‘The joy of sex—in all its orgasmic grandeur—is meant to be a foretaste in some way of the joys of heaven.’”

West does make some comparisons in this area, but it doesn’t qualify as a major theme of his work. Perhaps Eden chose it since it fits into her later criticism that West oversexualizes Church teaching.

West does discuss at greater length, however, the way that marriage and conjugal union foreshadows heavenly union. “Earthly marriage serves as the indispensable precursor to heavenly marriage. Of course, in order for marriage to prepare people for heaven, the earthly model must accurately image the divine prototype. John Paul describes marriage as ‘a sacrament of the human “beginning.”’ As man’s origin, marital intercourse enables man to have a future not merely in the historical dimensions but also in the eschatological. Thus John Paul observes that every man brings into the world his vocation to share in the future resurrection because his origin lies in the marriage (more specifically, the marital embrace) of his parents. In this way marriage fulfills an ‘irreplaceable service’ with regard to man’s ultimate destiny.” (TOB Explained, p. 448.)

The Seventh Theme

The seventh theme is: “‘God created sexual desire as the power to love as he loves.’”

Eden uses only a few quotations here. They could have been supplemented by an explanation of what West actually means by sexual desire: “…sexual desire as God intended it to be [is] the desire to make a free and sincere gift of self according to the true meaning of love and the spousal meaning of the body.” (TOB Explained, p. 566). It’s important to note that West does not see authentic sexual desire as selfish or oriented to lust in any way, but toward true love and self-sacrifice. Nor does West mean that “sexual desire” itself leads us to love as God loves – it is the understanding of “sexual love as it was meant to be” (my emphasis) that leads to God’s love. West says precisely this not only in the passage from TOB just cited but in a passage from Heaven’s Song that Eden cites later in her thesis (33). She routinely fails to acknowledge the precise meaning of West’s claims.

The Eighth Theme

The eighth theme is: “‘Mature purity’ enables ‘liberation from concupiscence.’”

This is indeed a major theme of West’s work, and probably the flashpoint that draws the most criticism—and the most misunderstanding. A thorough discussion would require a book-length thesis. Let me just say here that West is basing himself on John Paul’s explanation of Christ’s words in the Sermon on the Mount as the new ethos of the Gospel. This new ethos calls us to overcome lust in our hearts at a very deep level.
While we can never completely overcome concupiscence in this life, through grace we can achieve a significant victory over it. It doesn’t come easy; we have to struggle. Yet this very struggle is a way of holiness.

Aquinas and the virtues

A good explanation of this point comes from St. Thomas Aquinas, in an article where he explains why the virtue of temperance (a cardinal virtue) is superior to that of continence: In article 4 of question 155 of the Summa Theologiae (II-II), Thomas very clearly says that temperance is higher than continence (he states two meanings of continence and is speaking of its second meaning as “the resistance to strongly running wrongful lusts.” He says “…temperance is much fuller than continence, for the value of a virtue is admirable because it is charged with intelligence. Now intelligence burgeons more in the temperate than in the continent, because by temperance the sensory appetite itself is subordinated and as it were wholly possessed by mind, whereas with continence its low desires remain rebellious. To sum up, continence is to temperance as the unripe to the fully mature.” (emphasis added; Blackfriars edition)

That’s exactly what West intends to convey. Virtue reaches even to the well-ordering of our passions. St. Thomas did hold that it is possible to overcome the dominance of the sensory appetite even in this life—we call that ability the virtue of temperance. That doesn’t mean that we’re totally free of concupiscence, because that’s not possible this side of heaven. But with the help of grace we can certainly achieve a significant victory.

Also relevant to this question is the way Thomas views the relation of virtues to the passions (I-II, q. 59). He says, “the more perfect a virtue is, the more it causes passion” (a. 5). He means passions that are under the control of reason. One passion is joy, and the more perfect the virtue, the more it causes joy. A person who acts virtuously with joy is at a higher level than one who is still struggling in the purgative stage, finding it hard to give up sin. Those who struggle through with “white-knuckle chastity” (ie. The “unripe”) are acting virtuously (although they do not yet possess the fullness of virtue), but those who have grown beyond that to ease and joy in chastity truly possess virtue (ie, the “fully mature.”). It seems that St. Thomas was speaking of “mature purity” long before West ever did.

The Ninth Theme

The ninth theme is: “‘The Song of Songs is of great importance to a proper understanding of Christianity.’”

John Paul certainly devoted a great deal of attention to this book in his audiences, and West is following him in that. Many mystics and saints found this book to perfectly express their longing for deep union with God.

The great Scripture exegete Origen said in his commentary on this book:
“The Scripture before us, therefore, speaks of this love with which the blessed soul is kindled and inflamed toward the Word of God; it sings by the Spirit the song of the marriage whereby the Church is joined and allied to Christ the heavenly Bridegroom, desiring to be united to him through the Word, so that she may conceive by him and be saved through this chaste begetting of children, when they—conceived as they are indeed of the seed of the Word of God, and born and brought forth by the spotless Church, or by the soul that seeks nothing bodily, nothing material, but is aflame with the single love of the Word of God—shall have persevered in faith and holiness with sobriety. These are the considerations that have occurred to us thus far regarding the love or charity that is set forth in this marriage-hymn that is the Song of Songs.” (Song of Songs: Commentary, Prologue, 3).

The Tenth Theme

Finally, the last theme is: “The meaning of marriage is encapsulated in ‘intercourse.’”

Eden disposes of this important subject in three sentences.

I think it would be more accurate to say that West maintains that the sign of marriage is encapsulated in intercourse. He has an extended discussion of this topic on pages 463-467 of TOB Explained. He treats of the importance of conjugal union as the sacramental sign of marriage, but goes to great lengths to explain it is not limited to that:
“So, does the liturgical exchange of vows make up the sign? Do the man and woman themselves make up the sign? Does conjugal intercourse make up the sign? Does the whole of married life make up the sign? Yes, yes, yes, and yes. The entire reality of the gift of man and woman to each other ‘until death’ is the unrepeatable sign of marriage. And, as John Paul says, this is a “sign with …manifold contents” (TOB 105:6).

Just another example of how Eden’s incomplete treatment of West’s thought serves to distort it and to leave the wrong impression in the mind of the reader. A thorough treatment of just a few of these topics would have required lengthy discussions. As it is, we do not learn much about West; we learn more about how West can be misunderstood when he is not read carefully.

This brings us to the end of the ten themes, and I am going to stop here. In the final analysis, Eden fails to make a convincing case against West because she often takes him out of context, fails to thoroughly consider his complete position on various issues, and does not fully take into account his major work. The debate about TOB will surely continue. As it unfolds, may it do so in a spirit of charity and truth, for in the end “faith, hope, love remain, these three; but the greatest of these is love” (1 Cor 13:13). And ultimately, isn’t that what TOB is all about?

140 comments:

Wade St. Onge said...

Sister Lorraine,

Thank you for this excellent entry. It is a tall task to cover Dawn's entire thesis, and your critique of her "Ten Points" is only a small portion (about 11 out of 90 plus pages) of her work.

I agree with some points you make, but I disagree on others. When I get time, I would like to provide a rebuttal.

Dawn Eden said...

Sister Lorraine, thank you for directing readers to the text of my thesis so that they may read my research in context.

Thanks too for pointing out the erroneous footnote to the word "everything." The source should have been listed as West's article “The Pope’s Theology of the Body.” Catholic Education Resource Center, http://www.catholiceducation.org/articles/sexuality/se0058.html [accessed February 5, 2010].

Regarding my discussing West's time in the Mother of God Community, West himself has said in many of his books and most if not all his talks that he grew up believing that the Church was puritanical. He also spoke extensively to the Washington Post about his experiences in the puritanical Mother of God Community. So I do think it relevant to point out that West's understanding of the Church as "prudish" is informed by his experience of what he himself has described as a community where, in his words, who he was and what he was supposed to be was getting "crushed." (Source: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/local/longterm/library/mog/mgod3.htm.)

As for my own experiences, I have been quite open about them, and people are free to make their own conclusions based on what I have said in public. I do think it is relevant to take what a speaker has publicly revealed about his or her background into account when considering the speaker's motivations. St. Paul seemed to think so too--hence his repeated retelling of his story of conversion from Pharisee to apostle.

Anonymous said...

I think it is way to early to be critiquing the various approaches to the Theology of the Body; it almost seems as though there is a spirit of envy afoot, trying to undermine any and all attempts to bring this vitally important message to people whose lives are being destroyed daily for the simple fact that they have only the spirit of the age to guide them. Let the Dawn Edens and the Christopher Wests and anyone else out there who is convinced of the truth of TOB devote their attention and creativity to spreading the message. Just as cream rises to the top, the most authentic presentations will be known by their fruits, which future generations can analyze.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Sister, for this very articulate analysis. Only someone very familiar with the subject matter could have done such a good job with it.

Wade St. Onge said...

You say that the “ten themes” chosen by Ms. Eden do not always “correspond to what he is actually saying”. You say that she “fails to thoroughly consider his complete position on various issues, and does not fully take into account his major work”. Perhaps this is true. But on the flip side, the question could also be asked: Does Mr. West’s audience “consider his complete position on various issues” by “fully taking into account his major work?” I will tell you why this is a problem:

You go through Dawn’s “points” and show how she is misrepresenting West on each one of them. However, I would bet that before this thesis was published, if you were to give a “true and false” quiz to every person who has listened to or read West, a quiz which consisted of ten questions, and those ten questions were word-for-word Dawn’s “ten points”, and the question to all of them was, “True or False. Christopher West teaches ...”, I believe many people would answer “True” to many if not all the questions. In fact, I would have answered “true” to most of them and still would.

You went through and clarified these “misunderstandings” through quotations from Theology of the Body Explained. But how many of our hypothetical quiz-takers have read or will ever read this work? And if they do not, how are they going to avoid these misunderstandings? You refer at times to the original Theology of the Body to clear up these confusions. But how many of our quiz-takers do that or will do that? The original has been untouched and will remain untouched by most. You yourself say that until West came along, it was practically a dead letter, because as you say, he “used language that even theologians found difficult”. Do you believe most people are going to leave those lectures any more capable of understanding this “language” that “even theologians find difficult?” They might be a little more equipped, but not to a degree they will be able to read and understand, and what is more common, they will put it down in a short amount of time out of sheer frustration.

So although you have gone through all his works (including his magnum opus, his “big one”) to clarify it, most who have listened to or read West are, to quote you, “ordinary, average Catholics” who have “no formal training in philosophy or theology”. These are most likely going to come away (and have come away) believing that Dawn’s ten points are indeed what West is teaching.

Wade St. Onge said...

Sorry, Sr. Lorraine, I forgot to introduce this series of posts by thanking you for your response to this very key part of Ms. Eden's thesis. Now I will continue ...

Wade St. Onge said...

I find that much of what you say in reference to Ms. Eden acts as a double-edged sword in that it can be said in reference to Mr. West as well. I will mention four of them.

1. So you say, “In today’s media culture, people often find themselves afloat on a sea of information, carried here and there by currents they can’t control. All this makes it difficult to find the time and resources to investigate things they hear.” But aren’t West’s presentations part of that “media culture”? And can’t “a little learning be a dangerous thing”? Isn’t it “difficult” to “find the time and resources” to “investigate” possible misunderstandings they have derived from West (ie. going to his Theology of the Body Explained to ensure they are properly understanding him)? Isn’t it also difficult to “find the time and resources” to immerse themselves in what the Church has taught about sex and marriage in the 1950 years before Theology of the Body – which is the indispensible context from which every Catholic must interpret that work in order to ensure its proper interpretation and keep from a skewed understanding of the Church’s teaching regarding sex and marriage (as I spoke about in my critique on my blog).

Wade St. Onge said...

2. You say about Dawn’s thesis, “But not all advice is sound advice. It has to be weighed, considered, and sometimes even rejected. Sound advice comes from a solid knowledge of the territory, one that knows the obstacles as well as the opportunities the explorer faces.” This could also be said of certain pieces of advice West gives in his presentations, if you consider “explorers” to be Christians in his audience who are on their journey throughout this world. Not all “teachings” or “presentations” or “attempts at catechesis” are “sound”. Such things have to be “weighed, considered, and sometimes even rejected”. This is what Dr. Schindler did. But Dr. Waldstein, on the other hand, “weighed and considered” and came out with a different conclusion. So how is our average “quiz-taker” supposed to know? And what about Mr. West? A “solid knowledge of the territory” includes what the Church has taught on the subjects of sex and marriage long before John Paul II held his Wednesday audiences. As I submitted in my blog piece, it seems that Mr. West may have some deficiencies in his grasp and knowledge of the sources of Tradition on various issues. Now, if one of the “obstacles” that the “explorer” (the “average Catholic” or even non-Catholic or non-believer who listens to West) faces is the fact that he is not rooted in the Tradition, if he is unable to apply a “hermeneutic of continuity” to what is being taught, could we not say that West has to some of his “teachings”, his “presentations, his “catecheses” are not completely “sound”?

Wade St. Onge said...

3. You say regarding the manner in which she posted her “ten themes”: “A casual reader, not knowing this background [West making adjustments based on feedback over time], could easily come away with the impression that West has been doing the same thing for fifteen years.” However, could it not also be said that a “casual” reader or viewer of some of West’s work, especially one who does not have a good grasp of the Catholic Tradition and teaching on sex and marriage, could also come away with faulty “impressions” – including some of the ten points Ms. Eden raised?

Wade St. Onge said...

4. You say, “Eden has taken on such a broad project that she can't do it justice.” But could it not also be said that West has done the same in his attempt to take these profound ideas of the Pope and “present them to average Catholics” – a work that many TOB commentators have said is still “not fully understood” and will take “centuries” to unpack? Eden has taken on a “broad project”, but so has West. The latter may have greater “quantity”, but the former has a deeper and more complicated “quality”. You say it is “quite a task” for Mr. West to present all this, and I would say the same for Ms. Eden. But I do not think you can say that she “can’t do [it] justice” without saying the same about Mr. West and what he has attempted to do.

Wade St. Onge said...

Actually, I will mention a fifth.

5. You say: “She simply states the themes without saying much else about them. Rather, she presents the themes in such a way that the reader tends to get a negative impression of West’s work. This is partly due to the use of selective quotes, many of which seem to have been picked for sounding somewhat provocative. This impression is reinforced by the use of quotes around many short words and phrases, and sometimes even just one word. This method of quoting raises some red flags that West is being taken out of context.” Mr. West sometimes does the same in his presentations. He presents certain “themes” in ways that give the wrong “impression”. He “selectively quotes” from the Tradition, as I showed in my blog piece. They too are chosen to “sound somewhat provocative”, such as his oft-used quote from “Love and Responsibility” in which the Pope said couples should try to achieve climax at the same time. He also uses “short words and phrases” and sometimes “even just one word”. It should not surprise us, then, that just as Dawn’s method has “raised red flags”, so has West’s method raised “red flags” with his critics.

Wade St. Onge said...

You say: “Christopher West has been a pioneer in presenting TOB to audiences of ordinary, average Catholics, most of whom have never heard of John Paul II’s talks on the subject.” The problem, as I have said, is when he attempts to give those same presentations to “extraordinary, above-average Catholics”, some who have “formal training in philosophy and theology” or at least have read a fair bit of it on their own, and who are “well immersed” in the Catholic Tradition on this issue – including what Church Fathers, Doctors, Popes, and Councils have said. This is where the problems begin, as I stated in my thesis. I agree, however, that he “deserves tremendous credit for being a pioneer”, and that such a pioneer may “veer off course a bit”. He has been willing to change, and hopefully he will continue to show that willingness.

Wade St. Onge said...

Now, for some agreement on your critiques:

Ms. Eden was sometimes irresponsible in the use of her language, such as when she speaks about giving “a comprehensive overview of West’s presentation of TOB.” To do what she stated she was going to do, yes, she would have had to evaluate 15 years worth of his work. However, to pinpoint certain problems in his presentations and teachings merely requires that she review his most recent material. To what extent she did this, I do not know. She should have instead stated, and attempted, that she would “identify some points in his presentations that are problematic”. The word “comprehensive” must be used with extreme caution.

Ms. Eden also made the serious error of not using “Theology of the Body Explained” more than she did (as her “primary text”, as you say). She should have brought this work to bear on every one of her ten points.

I have no problem with Eden speculating on how Mr. West’s time in the Mother of God could have contributed to his belief that prudishness has long been a problem in the Church. However, she should state this as a possibility, and as you say, this opens herself up to the same charge.

Wade St. Onge said...

Now, for your point which I cannot agree with more: "The debate about TOB will surely continue. As it unfolds, may it do so in a spirit of charity and truth, for in the end “faith, hope, love remain, these three; but the greatest of these is love” (1 Cor 13:13). And ultimately, isn’t that what TOB is all about?"

Bingo! As long as we keep this straight, then I say "let the debate continue!" "In necessariis unitas, In dubiis libertas, In omnibus autem caritas" (In essentials unity; In doubtful things liberty; In all things charity) [St. Augustine].

Wade St. Onge said...

Sr. Lorraine, I will respond to the Ten Themes next ... but it may take a little time.

Tommy G said...

I was very interested to read this critique of Eden's work. I was wondering if you had any response to her claim about West's interpretation of the story of the Two Bishops?
I am attempting to grapple with the Eden defines as the eighth theme of West's work and in his presentation of these ideas he often cites this example.
Eden, in her thesis makes the claim that West in some way distorts or misrepresents that story.
Would you care to comment.

Thank you.
Ave Maria!

Sr. Lorraine said...

Thanks for all the comments, in particular Dawn's and also Wade's fine analysis (as he always does!)

In regard to Wade's first point, I agree absolutely that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing, and it is a large task to learn about TOB.

But there are really two different tasks involved here.
One is learning about a subject. We have to start somewhere and gradually build on knowledge. We'll never know it perfectly.

The second task, the one which Dawn Eden is doing, is an academic paper in which she critiques the work of another. That is a very different task. To do that properly absolutely requires that the position of the person being critiqued is presented fairly, in such a way that that person can say, "Yes, that's exactly what I mean." St. Thomas Aquinas always did that; he presented objections in the best possible way, sometimes even better than their proponents.

My main point that I hoped to make clear is that Dawn's critique is not a fair and impartial one. It is incomplete and her bias is obvious from the way she writes in her thesis.

Sr. Lorraine said...

About Wade's second point: Yes, I agree it's entirely possible that a person like West presenting the faith may have deficiencies in his approach. Again, though, that has to be shown to be true. And that's where the careful analysis has to come in.

Please note that what I'm actually doing here is critiquing Dawn's thesis, not defending West, although it may seem like it. I'm saying that if there is a case to be made against West, the case has to be made well. In my opinion, Dawn's case should be thrown out of court, so to speak, because it is a superficial case based on a misreading and misunderstanding of West's work, as I pointed out in the long post.

Sr. Lorraine said...

About Wade's third point: Again, Wade, I entirely agree that it is certainly possible, and has probably happened, that a casual reader of West's work has come away with a wrong impression. But this speaks to the point I made above, that there are two different tasks here. The task of one who writes an academic paper differs from that of the one who is learning about a subject.

In fact, people can read the Gospels and come away with the wrong impression, and that has certainly happened too. Jesus has been misunderstood and his teachings used in the wrong way. Is that the fault of Jesus? Obviously, no.

Sr. Lorraine said...

About Wade's fourth point: (I'm starting to feel like this is resembling a disputed question in the format St. Thomas used!)

Again, I agree that no one can do justice to the task of presenting TOB; it is an immense task that could easily take a lifetime of study. Even then we could always learn more.

I know I'm starting to sound like a broken record, but West's task is different from Eden's. An academic paper written to defend a thesis has to be limited in scope. If it's not, the thesis can't be dealt with adequately. That's really all I'm saying. Dawn should have picked a more limited topic, possibly exploring only one question concerning the TOB debate.
For example, probably a whole thesis could be written just on the subject of the symbolism of the Easter candle and other liturgical things.

There's one more thing I could add, which is that this is not just an academic exercise. It is not just exploring some theoretical question. By putting West's whole work on the line, she has put him under a cloud of doubt in such a way that could do harm to him personally as he pursues his work. If she had treated a particular question, say about concupiscence, she could have critiqued West's position on it and done a thorough job. But that would have quite a different effect than in effect putting his whole work under a cloud.

Academics dispute questions all the time, in a way that does not really affect their reputation or their work. The way that this debate has unfolded on the internet, and now in Dawn's going on the speaking circuit about it, has framed the debate in such a way that it centers on West. That's really not good. The debate should be framed on the underlying questions. Then, if something West says is shown to be lacking, it would be a simple matter to correct it. But once his reputation is beclouded and people don't trust him anymore, quite a different situation has developed.

Sr. Lorraine said...

About Wade's fifth point: Again I agree that this could very well be true. Perhaps West does use provocative quotes at times, and this could be a legitimate criticism.
Although I've heard him speak only a few times, at least in the talks I heard he didn't seem to do that.

Sr. Lorraine said...

Thanks, Dawn, for the clarification about the footnote.

About the Mother of God community, it is one thing for a speaker to mention his experiences, as West did to some extent in the WP article. But as I read that, I didn't see him making any connections between those experiences and his understanding of TOB. If he has actually made that connection explicit in other talks, I don't know.

Two people going through the same experiences can react quite differently. As psychologists know, it is very difficult for us to come to understand even our own motivations at times; we all have a blind spot where our own actions can be a mystery to us.

My real point is that this is out of place in an academic paper, because such a paper deals with ideas. Several times in the thesis you speculate about how West's time in the MoG community affected his understanding of an issue. But ultimately that is irrelevant, since it is the ideas themselves that are at issue.

dcs said...

@Tommy G,

You can see how Christopher West misrepresents the story of the two bishops and the prostitute at the following link:

http://culturewarnotes.com/forum/content/beautiful-woman-and-bishops

We see that while St. Nonnus calls attention to the beauty of St. Pelagia, he later refuses to receive her alone because "he was only a weak man, liable to temptation." And the historical account says nothing about St. Pelagia being half-naked -- that seems to be a detail added by West.

Sr. Lorraine said...

Thanks also, Tommy, for your comment about the concupiscence issue. That is a main issue and I am hoping to write about that more. It needs a little more development though since it's such an important theme.
For now I'll just say that I do think Dawn is misinterpreting that story. Also what needs to be done is to look carefully at what Pope John Paul said about the new ethos of the Gospel and attaining purity of heart.

The Pope is clear that in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus calls the heart to a new level of purity. I was hoping that the quotation from Aquinas about temperance might clarify this a bit. He is saying that temperance is the higher virtue because it reaches even to the point of well-ordering our emotions (or passions). Continence, instead, reaches only to the will. It doesn't get to the point of well-ordering our emotions. So when we struggle with something by our will power, we are being continent and that's virtuous and good. But as we grow, it becomes less of a struggle because even our passions follow a more virtuous path. Not that they can be completely controlled, but that we can get to the point where they don't always dominate us in a way we can't control.

I'll give you an example. On another blog, a Protestant pastor gave a beautiful testimony. He said that for 30 years he was addicted to pornography (while he was a pastor). It had a hold on him he just couldn't shake, despite prayers, etc. But then he started meditating on Genesis, on the exact texts the Pope used in his talks. As the pastor realized our bodies are holy because we are made in the image and likeness of God, something started to change inside him. That realization, aided by prayer and grace, transformed him to the point where he no longer felt pulled to pornography and his addiction to it disappeared. That's the kind of victory I think West is talking about. As Pastor Ed's testimony so beautifully illustrated, it is possible.

Sr. Lorraine said...

DCS, the story about the two bishops is essentially a parable. Its point doesn't depend on historical details, and West himself says in TOB Explained that the details are sketchy and accounts of it differ.

To focus on its historical details is like thinking we can't draw a spiritual lesson from the parable of the Good Samaritan unless we're sure it really happened, know the identify of the Samaritan, and how he acted later. The point of the parable doesn't depend on those things.

Kevin said...

Geez, long walls of text all around. :)

Will give it a read hopefully over the next few days haha.

Sister, I think this is more than a "historical parable." (On your last comment.) The actual truth of what happened is 100% different than what West reports in his book.

Even with "sketchy" details, it is clear West is engaging in a bit of anachronistic interpretation. He reads into historical events (as well as Scripture) what he wants to find. When the record contradicts it, he attempts some massive exegetical gymnastics to try to save face, but I would say it doesn't work.

Okay, enough from the peanut gallery, time to read the entirety of your work. :)

Mary said...

Sr. Lorraine,
Thank you so much for such a well done and well written blog. I have been following this debate with great interest, but like most people involved in Church ministry I don't have the time to write out extensive answers to academic accusations. Dawn wants an answer to every single point of her thesis and all I can come up with is, "you didn't make your case." I have read and listened to Christopher West's works, and, frankly, they have been nothing but wonderful. And the changes I have seen in people who have gone through his DVD series "Introduction to Theology of the Body" is a beautiful thing to see. Marcel LeJeune also wrote a great piece about all this at marysaggies.blogspot.com
This feels like one of those discussions that will keep getting argued and never answered. It will be "Only words, words; to be led out to battle against other words," to quote C.S. Lewis. No matter what Christopher does now, I doubt it will be enough for Dawn or Wade. He will write an article, and they will trash it...over and over again.
Meanwhile, we would all be better off following Mother Teresa's advice and simply sweeping the floor. I personally have a 40 Days for Life Campaign to run and 5 children to homeschool, three of whom have dyslexia. And somewhere in there the laundry has to get done. So, thank you, sister, for doing such a good job at something many of us are unable to do. But, ultimately, we all need to make sure we don't neglect the real work of the Church: administering to souls.

dcs said...

DCS, the story about the two bishops is essentially a parable. Its point doesn't depend on historical details, and West himself says in TOB Explained that the details are sketchy and accounts of it differ.

So West is just telling a story? If the story is without an historical basis, then what good is it? It isn't a story about the saints, then, it is a story about how West believes the saints ought to have behaved.

I agree that we can draw a lesson from the story; I just don't think it is appropriate for West to change the details of the story in order for his listeners to draw the lesson he wants them to draw. If, for example, we call attention to the detail that St. Nonnus refused to receive St. Pelagia except in the company of his brother bishops, then West's point in relating the story (that we can be so pure that we needn't worry about looking at half-naked people or being alone in their company) is lost. So in that sense, yes, it's point does depend on historical details.

And for those interested in seeing "Pastor Ed"'s testimony and how it is not Catholic at all, the blog post to which Sr. Lorraine refers can be found here:

http://maryvictrix.wordpress.com/2010/08/05/theology-of-the-body-and-the-mystical-magical-train/

ChristinaKing.com said...

Thank you Sister Lorraine for the incredible gift of time and energy you have dedicated to uncovering errors as well as revealing a better language for those of us who are trying to bring Theology of The Body to the world as well as learn to live through our own fiat.

I am so very grateful for you providing a forum on your blog for those of us who are looking for worthwhile discussion on this subject and I am sure that our labor will bear fruit for ages to come.

It seems there are many who, no matter how you try to encourage them to see truth, will refuse to see it. For those readers that are truly interested in discovering truth and helping others to discern where there is either error or confusion in all of this, I would like to make an observation. I have seen on many blogs that people are taking Ms. Dawn Eden's thesis at face value. The end result is that Mr. Christopher West's work is being impugned as well as the work of the Theology of The Body Institute.

ChristinaKing.com said...

It seems that the reason this is occurring is that people are not evaluating what they are reading critically. One way this can be remedied is by printing out Ms. Dawn Eden's thesis and then reading through her points line by line. If they use a copy of “Theology of The Body Explained” by Mr. Christopher West to read his words in full context as well as “Theology of The Body” Pope John Paul II (the revised edition has the necessary citations to make looking up exact areas referenced an option). In doing this, the reader will be able to see where Mr. West was or was not in error in his teaching on TOB based on JP2's original masterpiece.

It is a slower process than just reading something, making assumptions and then blogging about it but I believe it makes for more worthwhile discussions that are rooted in truth. For those dedicated to the truth and not merely slandering one another, it is worth it. I have actually found some areas where Mr. West could have used different words to express himself which I will provide later on.

ChristinaKing.com said...

In regard to your statement “My main point that I hoped to make clear is that Dawn's critique is not a fair and impartial one. It is incomplete and her bias is obvious from the way she writes in her thesis”. Is well substantiated. In fact, for anyone who looks up the footnotes will notice right away that many sentences quoting West are taken from multiple sources strung together. There has also been instances where her own opinion within the footnote which re-contextualizes the footnoted statement. The result is the addition of her bias, her comments are threaded throughout the thesis but they come across as if she is bringing to light errors in West's presentation.

Since I have already shared these with Ms. Eden personally and since I have also told her that I will continue to dialogue with her, let me share some examples;

ChristinaKing.com said...

FALSE: "The Theology of the Body Institute was founded to promote West's presentation".(see it here: http://dawneden.blogspot.com/)

TRUTH: The Theology of The Body was founded in 2004 by David Savage,with the cooperation of speaker and author Christopher West and Matthew Pinto, founder of Ascension Press and CatholicExchange.com.

 FALSE: "The Theology of the Body Institute was founded to promote West's presentation".(see it here: http://dawneden.blogspot.com/)

TRUTH: The mission of Theology of the Body Institute is to educate and train men and women to understand, live and promote the Theology of the Body. http://www.tobinstitute.org/page.asp?ContentID=2
 
FALSE:"At the time I wrote my thesis, West and the Theology of the Body Institute, which was founded to promote his presentation of the theology of the body” (emphasis mine) shared as fact by Dawn Eden's in her thesis "Toward a Climate of Chastity" 3rd paragraph under"Preface to the Third Edition
 
FALSE ACCUSATION: "..the Theology of the Body Institute, which West founded and directs" (emphasis mine) page four of Dawn's Thesis. She actually uses afoot note from a Zenit article (found here: http://www.zenit.org/article-26894?l=english) to support this claim.

ChristinaKing.com said...

TRUTH: Dawn Eden sites the above article as a foot note to prove the validity of her statement. When I went to the actual article and read what it said, this is the quote I found from Cardinal Justin Rigali:
"We are convinced that John Paul II's Theology of the Body is a treasure for the Church, indeed a gift of the Holy Spirit for our time."Yet, its scholarly language needs to be 'translated' into more accessible categories if the average person is to benefit from it."To do this is the specific mission of the Theology of the Body Institute, and we believe that Christopher West, the Institute's popular lecturer and spokesman, has been given a particular charism to carry out this mission." No where in the article is there a reference that the Theology of The Body Institute was founded by West and under the direction of West.
 
TRUTH: Christopher West is simply the Institute's popular lecturer and spokesman, not the founder and director who founded the Institute to promote "his" interpretations of TOB to priest and layperson. This is an untrue statement in the thesis, the footnoted source used to prove this statement as a truth does not support the statement and it should be rephrased or retracted.

ChristinaKing.com said...

FALSE ACCUSATION: "you just have to know Christopher West to understand him" from Dawn Eden's thesis.
 
TRUTH: If Ms. Eden is going to write a Thesis which equates the Theology of The Body Institute and it's teachings with Mr. West and his teachings as well as say that Mr. West teaches a different Theology of The Body than that of what is presented in John Paul II's writings, then she must have accurate knowledge and proof of this.
Ms. Eden would have had to attended or viewed lectures, writings or video presentations from the Institute in which to base her material on. This is not the case. Ms. Dawn Eden has not attended any courses taught at the Theology of The Body Institute.
Ms. Eden has not viewed any video or listened to any taped presentations from the Institute as they are not recorded.

Ms. Eden has not read through the course materials as the manuals are not available to the public. They are available to course attendees only if she had some how gotten a hold of a manual, most of the course is lecture form with references to the manuals so this view would be incomplete.
Therefore Ms. Eden would not know what is or is not being taught there unless she has attended the courses. It is my assertion that Ms. Eden did not have any of this information to use when compiling her thesis and therefore her thesis would be lacking necessary information to prove most of her points.
I have attended 4 of the 5 courses given by the Theology of The Body Institute and Ms. Eden was not present in any of them. I have contacted past course attendees and facilitators and have confirmation that Ms. Eden has never attended a course taught at the Institute. Therefore, Ms. Eden can not know what is being taught there.
I purpose that in her 4th edition to her thesis that she exclude any references to the Theology of The Body Institute until she attends a course. Until then, she does not have sufficient knowledge to substantiate her claims. The courses are very inexpensive and there are scholarships available. Food and shelter, which is a cost of the retreat center and unrelated to the Institute in any way, are the most substantial cost but still very inexpensive for what you receive.

ChristinaKing.com said...

TRUTH: If Ms. Eden is going to write a Thesis which equates the Theology of The Body Institute and it's teachings with Mr. West and his teachings as well as say that Mr. West teaches a different Theology of The Body than that of what is presented in John Paul II's writings, then she must have accurate knowledge and proof of this.
Ms. Eden would have had to attended or viewed lectures, writings or video presentations from the Institute in which to base her material on. This is not the case. Ms. Dawn Eden has not attended any courses taught at the Theology of The Body Institute.
Ms. Eden has not viewed any video or listened to any taped presentations from the Institute as they are not recorded.

Ms. Eden has not read through the course materials as the manuals are not available to the public. They are available to course attendees only if she had some how gotten a hold of a manual, most of the course is lecture form with references to the manuals so this view would be incomplete.
Therefore Ms. Eden would not know what is or is not being taught there unless she has attended the courses. It is my assertion that Ms. Eden did not have any of this information to use when compiling her thesis and therefore her thesis would be lacking necessary information to prove most of her points.
I have attended 4 of the 5 courses given by the Theology of The Body Institute and Ms. Eden was not present in any of them. I have contacted past course attendees and facilitators and have confirmation that Ms. Eden has never attended a course taught at the Institute. Therefore, Ms. Eden can not know what is being taught there.

ChristinaKing.com said...

FALSE; “West condemns those who seek to avoid occasions of sin”. Ms. Eden states on page 43 of her thesis: "At a time when Catholic young adults overwhelmingly ignore Church teachings on premarital chastity (if they are aware of them at all), West's urging engaged couples to "accept the risk" rather than "lock up (their) freedom"107 lends credence to Schindler's concern that his "ambiguity" could lead to "dangerous imprudence in matters of sexuality."
 
TRUTH: Mr. West is merely stating that occasions of being alone do not and should not all be occasions of sin just because a couple would be alone.  If being alone always equates an occasion of sin, then the couple may not have their desires properly ordered. They may not love one another but merely desire one another.  (This will be part of my argument of lust in the heart later).

FALSE: Footnote 107 is used to support Ms. Eden's comment that West condemns those who seek occasions of sin and encourages engaged couples to “accept risk”.

ChristinaKing.com said...

TRUTH: Footnote #107 refers to TOB Explained, revised edition, 275 and reads as follows: "A couple who choose not to be alone together in order to avoid sexual temptation should be commended.  (This does not sound like West is condemning them.)  They should also be aware that they are called by Christ to a much deeper freedom". 

As for the comment of "accepting the risk" or "locking up freedom" West was not talking about risking sexual purity, rather this is the proper quote:

 "We are called to set our eyes on Christ, get out of the boat, and walk on water.  Many Christians, it seems, stay in the boat for fear of sinking if they were to get out.  This may seem like a "safer" approach.  We can't sink if we never leave the boat.  But neither can we walk on water. The truth of human life does not reside in the boat! It can only be found on the water amidst the wind and the waves-in the drama of putting faith to the test and learning to walk with our eyes set on the Lord.  Learning to love always involves risk.  (notice West is referring to love when he says risk is involved).  "There is nothing "safe" about it.  But it is better to get out of the boat and accept the risk of sinking than to lock up our freedom and throw away the key.  As with Peter, Christ says, "Come!" Yes, we might sink.  If we do, we have a merciful Savior ready to save us, as did Peter."
 
Clearly West was talking about Love, he was talking about growing in faith and true charity, not about placing our selves into occasions of sinful temptation.  Surely West did not mean that Christ was saying "Come!, go ahead and tempt sin.  West was referring to the risk of our hearts, the risk that we open them to love more purely. Her quote of "West's urging engaged couples to "accept the risk" is unfounded and the footnote used there seems to site her own opinion, rather than actual facts of what West was writing as the source in which to back up her claim.

 Her source is not a sound source. Anyone not taking the time to look up these things would believe them at their face value and this is the danger in her thesis.

If someone can provide a direct quote, in context please, in which West is urging engaged couples to accept the risk of occasions that they know would be sinful for them, please send them over to me as I would like to see evidence to this false accusation.

ChristinaKing.com said...

To see my rebuttal in it's entirety please go to my blog
http://embracingyourgreatness.blogspot.com/2010/09/point-by-point-rebuttal-to-dawn-edens.html

Wade St. Onge said...

Sr. Lorraine, thank you for replying to my many posts. I will return to these soon.

But I must disagree with your take on the "parable of the two bishops".

Certainly, we can draw spiritual lessons when historical details are not accurate. However, when we begin to change the details on these long-standing parables, it can happen that we skew the message the parable intends to convey, and in fact, convey something that is spiritually misleading, erroneous, or dangerous.

I believe West, in changing certain details (that she was half-naked), and especially in omitting the part where the bishop would not be alone with her for fear of succumbing to temptation (something carefully placed in the parable to avoid giving the very impression West gives), has erred.

Wade St. Onge said...

I agree with you when you say that "as we grow, it becomes less of a struggle because even our passions follow a more virtuous path". However, as I pointed out in my blog article, in "reality", this degree of sanctity and transformation hardly ever happens. The Saints themselves struggled and struggled (hours of prayer a day, serious penances, etc) for years and years to reach this level. It is too "idealistic" to expect all Catholics to get to this point. Granted, we should all strive towards it. But we should not think that it is just a matter of time and it will inevitably happen for us.

Kevin said...

Sister,

Sending a rather lengthy thing your way tonight, as I would simply take up way too much space.

And not sure if the comboxes had problems, but the "two bishops" story is a little more than meets the eye.

The facts of the story are pretty well established. We know from direct quotes what happened. West gives a very novel spin, and omits certain facts. (Such as that the Bishop refused to meet St. Pelagia alone.) Now do I think this was done out of malice? Not at all.

I do think it was done out of ignorance of Church history, and the larger point, of what has actually been taught traditionally about purity and chastity.

It is almost as if West takes all the caricatures about Christian teaching on sexuality and says 'well yeah, but it's different now. We have TOB!'

Sr. Lorraine said...

Thanks for all of these comments! They all add to the discussion. I'll try to respond as I have more time.

DCS, Kevin and Wade have all pointed out that they think the historical details of the story of the two bishops are important. And in thinking it over, I do agree that if it's presented as a story from the lives of the saints it should agree with the historical details. So you all have a valid point there. I was looking at it more as a parable in which historical details aren't the point. Perhaps if West uses it he should just tell it as a parable, since the historical details seem a little obscure anyway.

I was wondering, though, DCS, about the Protestant pastor. I mentioned he was Protestant in order to indicate that he isn't Catholic and naturally we will have doctrinal differences. But my focus there was on the power of grace to heal. If anyone who is addicted to pornography for 30 years finds freedom from that addiction, isn't that a great thing? Doesn't that testify to the power of grace? From your comment it almost sounds like you're saying the release from pornography doesn't matter because he's Protestant, but I find it hard to believe you actually mean that. Am I missing something?

frangelo said...

Sr. Lorraine,

Pastor Ed, whose understanding of chastity you count so highly, does not believe that God intended the sight of the naked human body to cause the stimulation of the sexual appetite.  So for him, sexual arousal via sight of the body of one's spouse is ungodly.

Just for you information.  See this and other comments from Pastor Ed to my post.

The comment sections in the blogs are very interesting, insofar as one can see that the way Dawn Eden understands Christopher West is the way many, many of his consumers understand Christopher West. I think they understand him pretty accurately.

Sr. Lorraine said...

Thank you, Fr. Angelo, for your contribution here. I did follow the discussion in that thread on your blog, which was quite interesting.

The only point I was intending to make in my earlier comment was a simple one: here is someone who was chained to pornography for 30 years, and he found freedom. That's a work of grace. Shouldn't we praise God for that, no matter if the person involved is Catholic or not? His experience stands as a powerful testimony. Would that the many Catholics who are still addicted to pornography find the freedom that Pastor Ed has! And they too can, with grace.

ChristinaKing.com said...

FALSE: On page 42 of Ms. Eden's thesis says in regard of the account of Nonnus and Pelagia in The Desert Fathers, that the original story counters West's implications that casting a look of “mature purity” upon a “scantily clad prostitute” may cause her to notice the loving gaze and so discover God's love. Ms. Eden states in her thesis that not only does Pelagia not notice that Nonnus “looks” at her, but her conversion comes after wards.

TRUTH: John Paul II writes in TOB that “looking with the eyes” translates as “lust in the heart”. He goes into great detail educating us all that adultery or use of another person can happen in the heart without a physical action. When West shares that Pelagia does not notice that Nonnus “looks” at her, we must understand that is because Nonnus did NOT “look” at her. To “look” means in this parable and in the writings of concupiscence by John Paul II , of an objectification. “Look” in this context, means to transfer a “look” from the eyes to the heart. Nonnus did not “look” lustfully and in not “looking” thus, he did not allow lust to transfer to his heart. This is the whole point of the story.

ChristinaKing.com said...

FALSE: Ms. Eden goes on to say: “Most significantly, when Pelagia then writes to the Bishop and asks to see him, she agrees only on the condition that there be other Bishops present.” This is offers, is deliberately omitted by West because it would mean that St. Nonnus was insufficiently virtuous.
TRUTH: This demonstrates that one can, through mature purity, grow in love so that lust of the eyes, transferred to the heart, which is concupiscence from original sin, is different than carnal concupiscence or concupiscence of the flesh. The Bishop realized that “looking” upon her as he meets her on the street, and “looking” upon her in love is much different, then agreeing to meet her alone. He is acknowledging carnal concupiscence, something that West has never taught can be overcome.


FALSE: Ms. Eden also says that Nonnus's tears are not because “such beauty is being sold to the lusts of men, bur rather the bishop feels ashamed that the prostitute puts more efforts into her physical appearance than he puts into his spiritual appearance (soul) for God (this para-phrasing is mine).
TRUTH: This points to how beautifully this story relates to Theology of The Body. The Bishop is understanding the connection between the body and the soul! He weeps because he sees the connection between them. He is “seeing” her person in the moment that he discovers that her physical should match his spiritual. He is seeing a nugget of truth that is revealed in Theology of The Body.

Wade St. Onge said...

First, let me say straight off that I believe both Sr. Lorraine and Mrs. King have done an excellent job in showing that Ms. Eden’s thesis has its share of problems. I believe (1) Ms. Eden has failed at times to represent West accurately, and that (2) she was at times irresponsible and reckless in her formulations, phrases, and choice of words. This I acknowledge and agree with (and in fact I pointed out some of them on my blog article, II.4.).

Of course, Ms. Eden also makes a number of excellent points in her thesis. But whereas Sr. Lorraine is pointing out the errors in Eden’s thesis, I am pointing out areas of concern in West’s, and these are both necessary to arrive at the truth in this matter.

Wade St. Onge said...

1. Point 1. Sr. Lorraine: “There are really two different tasks involved here. One [West] is learning about a subject. The second task ... is an academic paper in which she critiques the work of another. That is a very different task”.

Rebuttal: I agree that the tasks are different, but there are similarities in both tasks. West also “requires” that the “person being [read and explained to others] is presented [accurately], in such a way that John Paul II can say, ‘Yes, that’s exactly what I mean’”. It can then happen that just as Dawn’s critique is “not a fair and impartial one” because she holds a “bias”, West too holds his own “biases” (as I suggested in my blog article, especially IV.C.9-10 and IV.F.31), which I think is also evident from how he presents TOB.

Wade St. Onge said...

2. Point 2. Sr. Lorraine: “I agree it's entirely possible that a person like West presenting the faith may have deficiencies in his approach. Again, though, that has to be shown to be true. And that's where the careful analysis has to come in.”

Rebuttal: I believe that a distinction must be made between West’s “Theology of the Body Explained” and his “popular” presentations. I believe there are fewer deficiencies and problems in the former than in the latter. In fact, I thought he did admirably on one issue I spoke about in my blog article – namely, the superiority of celibacy. But he does not do as well in his “popular” presentations. The former was written for a more “advanced” audience; the latter is geared towards those who are either “on the fringe” or “on the outside looking in”. Once again this goes to my thesis – namely, that these presentations are not appropriate or best for all audiences.

Wade St. Onge said...

3. Point 3: “People can read the Gospels and come away with the wrong impression, and that has certainly happened too. Jesus has been misunderstood and his teachings used in the wrong way. Is that the fault of Jesus? Obviously, no.”

Rebuttal: But people can also get the wrong impression because things are perhaps not presented as properly or as accurately as they could and should be. This is not the reason that Jesus’s listeners or readers misunderstood him; but it sometimes has been the reason some of West’s listeners have come away with misunderstandings. At other times, yes, West has done a great job and the listeners have come away with misunderstandings for the same reason Christ’s followers have.

Wade St. Onge said...

4. Point 4. Sr. Lorraine: “The debate should be framed on the underlying questions.”

Rebuttal: I agree, which is why supporters of West should not respond to the points we raise with “oh, they are just envious” and leave it at that, or “quit picking on your brother Catholics and go after the ‘real enemies’.” These are fallacies and red herrings, but it is quite common to see the replies limited to such remarks.

Wade St. Onge said...

5. Response to Dawn. Sr. Lorraine: I didn't see him making any connections between those experiences and his understanding of TOB.

Rebuttal: I believe that this can be inferred. It logically follows based on what he said (as Dawn explained here earlier). But as you say, two people can react differently to the same situation. However, given enough information, we can usually tell that they have reacted differently and how they reacted differently.

Wade St. Onge said...

6. What I agree with:

Sr. Lorraine: “An academic paper written to defend a thesis has to be limited in scope. If it's not, the thesis can't be dealt with adequately. Dawn should have picked a more limited topic, possibly exploring only one question concerning the TOB debate.”

Sr. Lorraine. “By putting West's whole work on the line, she has put him under a cloud of doubt in such a way that could do harm to him personally as he pursues his work.”

Wade St. Onge said...

7. Christina: “Christopher West is simply the Institute's popular lecturer and spokesman, not the founder and director who founded the Institute to promote ‘his’ interpretations of TOB to priest and layperson.”

Rebuttal: And yet, it is his interpretation that does predominate, and I would think that TOB Institute would not hire Dr. Schindler or Fr. Jose Granados because the TOB Institute as a whole is more on board with Mr. West’s presentations (they are “defenders” and “supporters” of his work), than they are Schindler and Granados.

Wade St. Onge said...

8. Christina: “Ms. Dawn Eden has not attended any courses taught at the Theology of The Body Institute. Ms. Eden has not viewed any video or listened to any taped presentations from the Institute as they are not recorded. “

Rebuttal: Most of the people Mr. West “reaches” also have not attended courses taught at TOB Institute. My point is that even if his TOB Institute courses like to his Theology of the Body Explained, have fewer deficiencies and are less problematic, this is not what most people are exposed to, but rather, his “popular” presentations. Therefore, our concern would not be as much in regards to the people who attend the Institute (the minority), but rather those who have listened to his “popular” presentations (by far the majority). So if Ms. Eden simply focuses on the latter, and thus listens to “Naked Without Shame” and watches “Introduction to Theology of the Body” (as I have), I do not have a huge problem with this.

Wade St. Onge said...

However, I would agree that what she said she was going to attempt to do in her thesis she did not do.

9. Sr. Lorraine: “I'm saying that if there is a case to be made against West, the case has to be made well. In my opinion, Dawn's case should be thrown out of court, so to speak, because it is a superficial case based on a misreading and misunderstanding of West's work, as I pointed out in the long post.

Rebuttal: Sr. Lorraine, once it gets “thrown out of court”, I have another case to bring to the court, as laid out in my blog article!

Kevin said...

Miss King (or is it Mrs, my apologies),

The stuff you put up here was basically the material Catholic Exchange refused to run. There's a reason for that, and it's not that they are chummy with Miss Eden. :)

How about we just not impute bad motives to people? I myself have read TOB explained. For all the good it explains, on some areas I would dare to say it says things that are very problematic, that Miss Eden didn't even mention in her thesis. (the biggest of them I pointed out to her privately, and she was surprised she forgot to include it for example.)

On another note, Sister, sorry if my two remarks seem a lil odd. For some reason, blogger's comments weren't updating earlier,and I wasn't sure if their comments were down, you finally had enough of me and banned me, etc etc. :)

Either way, email on its way tonight.

Wade St. Onge said...

Whew! I have to go back to preparing dinner - I have invited some friends over for homemade lasagna, garlic bread, caesar salad and chocolate pudding.

You are all invited if you can make it here by 5:30pm Saskatchewan time (which will probably require bilocation, and since this is an extremely rare gift, I guess you'll probably have to take a rain check lol).

Sr. Lorraine said...

Kevin, I will await your email with great interest! Sometimes the comment function on this acts up, so that was probably the problem. I would never ban you! Even if we have some different perspectives on things, your comments are well thought out and instructive.

Sr. Lorraine said...

Wade, thanks for all your comments! I have to go through and read them more carefully now.

Sr. Lorraine said...

Wade, I'm sorry that I can't make it to dinner at your house tonight. But it sure sounds like you're having a great meal! Enjoy!

Were you ever on a debating team? I am impressed at the logical way you set out your points and respond point by point. I love logic, and even though I sometimes fail in it, it's refreshing to have a discussion with a clear thinker like you. I agree with your point when you said those who argue "it's just jealousy" or something similar are off the mark.

Actually, I think we have more points of agreement than it might seem like at first. Your points 3 and 4 I totally agree with.

In regard to point 2, that is a good distinction between the popular presentations and others like "TOB Explained." As I mentioned to you before, I think you're on to something in your own thesis where you make a distinction between West as an evangelist suitable for popular audiences, but perhaps not as suitable for Catholics who have a deeper level of knowledge about the faith.

And in point 1, it is true as you say that West has to accurately present Pope John Paul and that West may have his own bias, as we all do. It would have been useful if Dawn in her thesis had spent more time comparing West's teaching with John Paul's. I do think it's pretty consistent overall, but perhaps there is some area where a better interpretation could be had. She does have a few quotes from John Paul here and there, but it's not a sustained comparison.

We will have to continue the discussion about your own case in court!

ChristinaKing.com said...

Kevin,

My article was not banned on Catholic Exchange. And yes, it was pulled because of Dawn Eden.

Just ask Dawn if she contacted my editor and if I was cc'd on all her emails. She will say, and would have to say, yes.

If you dont' believe this, then contact CE yourself. I am not sure if you all realize what is going on here.

When Ms. Eden heard from one of the other editors at CE whom I will not name, because they had leaked my article by sending her part 2 before it went to print, Ms. Eden contacted CE the weekend before Part 2 was to run demanding it be pulled.

She told my editor that he could not run my article because she had never publicly stated whether she had or had not attended the Institute and so therefore I could not know and so I was spreading gossip and he could not print gossip.

My editor, knowing it was not gossip, told her that he would gladly print a retraction if it proved to be untrue and Ms. Eden threatened to sue if the article ran, on grounds of extortion saying that she was being forced to prove she attended the courses.

My editor did not back down, but when Ms. Eden went higher up with her threats, it was then that my article was pulled.

ChristinaKing.com said...

Wade,

Two issues. One; The first error is saying that it is not significant that Ms. Eden never attended the Institute. If you read the very first page of her thesis or if you read through her speach she says right off the bat that she intends to expose the Theology of The Body Institute as well as Mr. West for teaching something other than JP2's TOB.
That makes it very relevant since the Thesis is about the Institute.

2: CWest does not have his own version of TOB.

ChristinaKing.com said...

Sr. Lorraine, if you think the comment defending myself should not be posted I will defer to you in this. I am just tired of my good name being slandered by those who way my writings are pulled because they are either false or that I gossip or are not professional. It is obvious that my article was pulled because of threats and not because of my content being any of the above. It is odd that others can critisize West but when I pose a credible critisizm of Eden, mine get's pulled.

Sr. Lorraine said...

Hi Christina,
I wasn't aware of that; I don't have any problem with your comments.

I did think it strange that in the third edition of the thesis, Dawn talks about the charge she never attended a course at the TOB Institute, but she never actually says if she did or not. Why not just set the record straight? By being so cagey about it, it sounds like she's pleading the fifth. And that's a tacit admission that if she didn't attend the courses, her criticism of West is less credible than if she had.

Wade St. Onge said...

Christina,

1. I agree with you here insofar as attending the Institute was necessary "for Dawn to prove her thesis". However, her thesis is not my thesis, so the fact that I am critiquing his popular presentations is proper.

2. I did "Not" say Christopher West had his "own version of TOB". You "put those words in my mouth", so to speak. I am generally more careful with my words than that. I said his "interpretations", not his "version". I could also add his "understandings" and/or "conclusions" and/or "applications". But I would "Never" say "his own 'Version'".

Wade St. Onge said...

Well, Sister, I could mail you some lasagna, but I don't think it would keep too well in the mail (especially since it takes forever to get mail across the border!)

I was never on a debating team but wish I had been. I was exceptionally good at math, though - I think there is a connection between these two.

I too think we have many points of agreement, as this exchange and these most recent replies show.

I am looking forward to my "day in court" (lol).

Kevin said...

Yes Miss King, your article was pulled.

It was pulled (or banned whatever you will) because it was full of character assassination, ad hominem, and red herrings. It was not a highlight of Catholic Exchange. (They should've pulled your first as well, where you unannounced go after traditionalists as basically full of the Manichean spirit)

I think I can give an example of the (I feel rather subpar) work right here. When mentioning the two bishops, you say that Dawn was false about the bishop not "looking" at St. Pelagia.

You nowhere show however in your response that the Bishop actually "looked" at her and she noticed it. The issue is different than what West states. The bishop didn't have a "mature purity" that allowed him to stare at her scantily clad body without feelings of lust. The Bishop wasn't even focused on that. What he was focused on was how she adorned her body for sin with devotion to sin, far more than he adorned his heart with devotion to God.

She never met him or noticed him until she heard him preach in Church, at which point she wished to meet with him, but he refused to meet alone, saying "tempt not my weakness." After she converted, this same Bishop sent her off to a monastery.

I agree the story is of worth for TOB, but not how West interprets it. He completely spins the facts to fit his own view, namely that the one "bound by lust" was the one bishop (quite a serious charge) and the saintly bishop, not bound by lust, had a proper fascination with her body. Likewise, we Christians should not fear occasions of sin, but be willing to "risk" it, else we will never grow to a mature purity, since it is "Safe", but not virtuous.

West completely misses the point of the story. He says the one who "turned his eyes" wasn't virtuous. Yet later in the story, St. Nonnus "turned his eyes" by refusing to meet with the saint. Why did West leave that out? Two reasons. Either he isn't doing his homework, or he is dishonestly spinning the truth to make an agenda. I am inclined to be charitable this morning and say he did this in ignorance.

Kevin said...

Sister,

It might have been an unforced error on her part, but the entire argument about whether she attended the TOB institute's classes or not is the biggest red herring I've ever seen.

It's quasi-gnostic. You can't really understand until you ascend to the hidden knowledge of our courses. :)

Besides, when people think of the TOB Institute, is it not fair to say they think of West, their champion? Have they ever rebuked him for his views? Has he rebuked them?

This was an attempt at hairsplitting. Why? I submit it's because Miss King (and others) have nothing else to go on, so we've gotta bring up a few red herrings, throw out enough, and hope the dogs get off the track. Long as I'm around, I'm going to do my best to stick to the evidence presented, and it's weaknesses or strengths.

Been a few months, and nobody has touched the body of the work yet. For some of it's shortcomings, I still submit the majority of her charges cannot be answered.

Sr. Lorraine said...

Well. Kevin, I don't see the matter of the TOB Institute's classes as a matter of some kind of gnostic knowledge. While it may be possible to give a certain critique without having gone to them, this is the issue:

Dawn set out to critique the work of C. West.
This means she needs to know exactly what he is teaching.
Going to the classes would give her a chance to interact with him in person, argue points, etc., and also clarify possible misunderstandings.
When we disagree with others, speaking in person is often more effective at getting to the bottom of things.

So the bottom line is that if she had done that (and she still doesn't say if she did or not), her critique would have more credibility insofar as it would have been based on a more thorough understanding of what West is saying.

This is really only an elemental rule of research. In setting out to prove a thesis, any writer needs to thoroughly investigate the topic under discussion and find out all he or she can about the topic before analyzing it. This is not a gnostic claim, it's just a basic requirement of good research.

Kevin said...

Sister,

Is this standard really applied? People have their works critqued all the time, even in academia. How much knowledge is sufficient?

If I counted the various different sources that Miss Eden used, how many more sources until we can say "okay, she did her homework, give her the gold star."

I'm going to turn the tables again.

Sister, have YOU attended the TOB Institute classes? I really don't know, I'm just curious. If you haven't, why try to uphold someone to a standard you have not upheld? If you have, can you present, with citation, the course material that people should take so we can know what a sufficient understanding is?

Miss King, can you likewise do the same? Don't just give personal interpretation. Let's see chapter and verse from the courses, lectures at the TOB Institute that demonstrate Miss Eden, Fr. Angelo, myself (to a far lesser degree of importance!) are misrepresenting the thought?

Ironically enough, whenever I've tried to reason with those of the West crowd, I cite TOB explained copiously. As a matter of fact, I leave out the Nightline interview and a lot of the sensationalist stuff open to misinterpretation. I focus on the written works of Mr. West. Ironically enough I am then told "well TOB explained is for those just starting out."

I find it ironic a work over 600 pages is for "beginners", but which is it?

Miss King, have you interviewed Dawn Eden extensively? Have you read her published book and her blog extensively? If not, aren't you lacking the background to critque her works? Or is it a matter of "I can analyze what she has put out there, and I expect her to follow a standard of intellectual integrity that she means what she says in that work, and it is incumbent upon her to show I am reading her wrong."

I think some people are moving the goalposts back here. For the longest time, the criticism was "Well you guys haven't really read West or TOB, that is why you misunderstand him." So people come out with a long list of citations from his online writing and his books, and now it's "Well you need to attend the TOB Institute so you can have a truly well-rounded experience before criticizing."

If I manage to get enough money and free time to go there, and then write something equally if not even more critical, what is the next hoop those like myself will have to clear before we can have a seat at the table? ;)

I know I might be a bit frustrating, but I just want a fair and consistent standard applied to all sides, so we can get back to what matters: the evidence presented, and Mr. West's own words.

While the standard might be satisfied for you Sister, you would be one out of 10,000. I dare say most would not have your consistency.

dcs said...

All,

I don't see how it is necessary for Miss Eden to attend TOB Institute classes to know what Christopher West is teaching. Is it not enough to read his books and articles and listen to his tapes? Are these not representative of his work? What does he teach in TOB Institute classes that he does not teach in his popular works? And if his classes are nuanced in a way that his popular works are not, is he then not bound to issue clarifications and (possibly) retractions? Otherwise people might get the wrong idea about his popular works. I don't think that one can argue that West has simply been misunderstood as his critics are intelligent people. So I agree with Mr. Tierney that the whole issue of whether or not Miss Eden took classes with the TOB institute is a red herring. If Christopher West's work is not represented in his popular materials then he ought to revise them or withdraw them entirely.

Allow me to make an analogy. Suppose I take my time machine back to 1988 and read Stephen Hawking's A Brief History of Time. If I have criticisms of Hawking based upon what he wrote, do I then have to attend his lectures before I make those criticisms public? Isn't it enough to read what he writes in his works for public consumption? Now if I want to do more than give an "overview" of what he teaches then yes, it is necessary for me to go further. But then I also risk losing focus as my criticisms get bogged down in technical details, etc.

If I could make one further point on the story of St. Nonnus and St. Pelagia, I would like to point out that the idea that the latter was "scantily clad" or "half-naked" (West's term) seems to be a detail that is not found in the historical account. St. Nonnus and his brother bishops recognized her as a courtesan not necessarily because she was scantily clad (I think this is an example of projecting modern notions about prostitution on the past), but perhaps because her reputation preceded her (we know from the historical account that she "was well known in the city") or because she was bedecked with jewelry and wearing heavy perfume. And it seems to me that St. Nonnus colleagues turned away not out of fear of lust, but rather because she was a sinner.

ChristinaKing.com said...

Was I wrong in thinking that he was being puritanical in this directive? My husband did. For 2 years I did not wear any pants only long skirts, to my ankles, like everyone else wore there. Most of the women at this church wore jean jumper dresses, never cut their hair and did not wear make-up or jewelery. It was frowned upon if you did. So, is this prudish, if not what is it then?

The Manichean heresy is alive and well among many conservative groups which can be found outside of the Catholic church as well as inside. This particular group that I became associated with did have issues with puritanism. As for "traditionalists" I have a great love for them and consider myself one. I also consider myself "orthodox"

As for my work being "subpar" I would agree. I am not a brilliant theologian or writer. I am just a mother of 8 children that loves God and the Catholic Church. I believe that this is the one true faith. I believe the enemy is using us to divide one another. My articles are for simple people, not experts like yourselves.

Thank you for humbling me with your words. I will re-read what I wrote to try and see where it is "full of character assasinations" perhaps you can point them out so I can see what you are speaking of.

If the purpose of Ms. Eden's thesis was to provide an opportunity for growth then let's do that together. Let's all try to focus on cleaning up this mess and making something beautiful out of it. I for one would love for persons to help clarify how we can teach mature purity to others in a way that makes it clear they do not have to be completely sexually healed before marriage, but that also allows a language to understand that complete healing in terms of lust of the heart, can be healed and sometimes marriage can be a vehicle to heal this. Any takers?

ChristinaKing.com said...

Was I wrong in thinking that he was being puritanical in this directive? My husband did. For 2 years I did not wear any pants only long skirts, to my ankles, like everyone else wore there. Most of the women at this church wore jean jumper dresses, never cut their hair and did not wear make-up or jewelery. It was frowned upon if you did. So, is this prudish, if not what is it then?

The Manichean heresy is alive and well among many conservative groups which can be found outside of the Catholic church as well as inside. This particular group that I became associated with did have issues with puritanism. As for "traditionalists" I have a great love for them and consider myself one. I also consider myself "orthodox"

As for my work being "subpar" I would agree. I am not a brilliant theologian or writer. I am just a mother of 8 children that loves God and the Catholic Church. I believe that this is the one true faith. I believe the enemy is using us to divide one another. My articles are for simple people, not experts like yourselves.

Thank you for humbling me with your words. I will re-read what I wrote to try and see where it is "full of character assasinations" perhaps you can point them out so I can see what you are speaking of.

ChristinaKing.com said...

If the purpose of Ms. Eden's thesis was to provide an opportunity for growth then let's do that together. Let's all try to focus on cleaning up this mess and making something beautiful out of it. I for one would love for persons to help clarify how we can teach mature purity to others in a way that makes it clear they do not have to be completely sexually healed before marriage, but that also allows a language to understand that complete healing in terms of lust of the heart, can be healed and sometimes marriage can be a vehicle to heal this. Any takers?

dcs said...

Miss King,

TRUTH: Mr. West is merely stating that occasions of being alone do not and should not all be occasions of sin just because a couple would be alone. If being alone always equates an occasion of sin, then the couple may not have their desires properly ordered. They may not love one another but merely desire one another. (This will be part of my argument of lust in the heart later).

In fact it is an occasion of sin for a couple to be alone. In fact the entire process of courtship (or dating, if you prefer) is a proximate necessary occasion of sin. This is why an unmarried couple must be especially on their guard. Speculating that an unmarried couple who views being alone as a near occasion of sin "may not have their desires properly ordered" is misunderstanding what ordered means. Man's desire for woman (and vice versa) is ordered. Now one might say that a desire is immoderate (though a chaste couple wouldn't find that out until after they were married, I think), but it is properly ordered.

Sr. Lorraine said...

Kevin asked: "Sister, have YOU attended the TOB Institute classes? I really don't know, I'm just curious. If you haven't, why try to uphold someone to a standard you have not upheld?"

No, I have not attended classes at the TOB Institute. But there is no need for me to have done that in order to critique Dawn's thesis. About the same standard, here is the difference between me and Dawn:

Dawn wrote a thesis attempting to do a comprehensive overview of West's work. That calls for a thorough knowledge of his work. This is especially crucial in that it is not just an academic exercise. The cloud of suspicion this is putting him under can damage his reputation and actually harm him.

I am simply a reader of her thesis, reading it critically and pointing out places where it is flawed and her arguments are lacking. That is not the same thing as defending C. West, although some people might think it is. If I were trying to put out a complete defense of CW, then yes, I think it would be important to have attended his courses at the Institute.

But for what I'm doing as a critical reader, my background is sufficient. I edited his book "TOB Explained," so I have more than a passing familiarity with his work.
In that light, if anyone thinks that book is meant for beginners, they are wrong. It is not. It is a more advanced text for those studying the Pope's audiences more in depth.

dcs said...

The Manichean heresy is alive and well among many conservative groups which can be found outside of the Catholic church as well as inside.

Might I ask what exactly you mean when you refer to the "Manichean heresy" among "many conservative groups"? When I read about Manichaeism, I don't see much that I recognize as being held by conservative or traditional Catholics. Are you reducing Manichaeism to the hatred of matter? I don't think it is the Manichaean dualism to which you're referring (I know people who, for example, won't let their children watch Star Wars because it is dualistic). But the idea of matter's being evil is not unique to Manichaeism; it is also found in Buddhism -- in fact, some have noted historical and doctrinal connections between Manichaeism and Buddhism:

http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Nicene_and_Post-Nicene_Fathers:_Series_I/Volume_IV/Manichaean_Controversy/Introductory_Essay/The_Relation_of_Manichaeism_to_Buddhism

Also, the Gnostics believed matter to be evil as well (and Manichaeism is a Gnostic heresy).

I don't think it is helpful to equate puritannical attitudes with Manichaeism.

ChristinaKing.com said...

This is where language has been an issue. It seems so many people are so focused on a single word they do not get the message in the sentence the word is written in.

I notice the more academic a person is, the more they can not hear a message in a common person's words because they can't see the forest they only see the tree.

Ok, I will play along. An occasion, can be a moment, a time or a situation, so technically, yes, being alone, heck sitting on the potty can be an occasion of sin for crying in the night, but my point was greater than the word of "occasion". Can we make a little progress here people?>?

The point is a person's heart. If a man or woman, can only see their future spouse as an object of lust then a marriage ceremony will not magically change that lust into something holy and something more than a desire to use the other as an object.

Through time perhaps, the grace that comes through a sacramental marriage could provide a "healing remedy" to this lust, but that would only be the case if their exists on some level, a desire to not use the other person exists on some level within that individual.

ChristinaKing.com said...

”Whew.... boy am I glad I was mistaken. I thought Ms. Eden said on page 5 of her 3rd edition to her thesis (page 19 of the PDF) that, and I quote “By “West’s presentation,” I mean not only his own lectures and writings, but also the presentation he promotes through his training programs at the Theology of the Body Institute, as well as the programs he has developed for parishes, marriage-prep programs, and study groups.”

Oh, I also thought she said in a speech delivered when defending her thesis at the Pontifical Faculty of the Immaculate Conception at Dominican House of Studies, Washington, D.C., on May 19, 2010, and I quote “Good evening. I am here tonight to defend my master's thesis, which is a critique of Christopher West's presentation of Pope John Paul II's theology of the body. By "Christopher West's presentation," I mean not only his own personal presentation, but also, more generally, the presentation he promotes through the Theology of the Body Institute, which trains priests and lay catechists to teach his particular interpretation of John Paul II.

I thought Ms. Eden not only acknowledged that she was critiquing the presentations that he promotes through the Theology of The Body. So am I the only one reading her own words in this context?

Someone needs to share with me how it is irrelevant then that she has not attended a course at the Institute, has not heard a single talk of Mr. West presented there, has not read any of the materials he has written for it yadda yadda....

ChristinaKing.com said...

As for this; "Well you need to attend the TOB Institute so you can have a truly well-rounded experience before criticizing." I absolutely do not think a person has to attend the Institute before knowing what West believes or teaches. However, if you are going to write a thesis about the Theology of The Body Institute, you better research it first. I am fine with her making arguments about West however, many many many people in the blogosphere now believe that the Theology of The Body Institute, is West's own center to promote his views and under his own direction because of Ms. Eden saying this, and I quote: "At the time I wrote my thesis, West and the Theology of the Body Institute, which was founded to promote his presentation of the theology of the body” (emphasis mine) shared as fact by Dawn Eden's in her thesis "Toward a Climate of Chastity" 3rd paragraph under"Preface to the Third Edition.
So my only issue with her having not attended courses, is that she has lumped this into one category. For those of us who are taking the courses taught there for College Credit through Creighton or for certification in Theology of The Body, her thesis serves to discredit the time, energy and money invested there and that is why I have a dog in this fight. It is not just about defending West, it is about defending my own education, which she knows absolutely nothing about and has no business critiquing.

dcs said...

Mrs. King,

I apologize for referring to you as "Miss King" above. I was ignorant of your marital status.

Kevin said...

Hello Christina,

Let's do one example. In your writing, you state in your recent blog post that Dawn Eden is of the belief that "marriage legitimizes a man's desire to use his wife for pleasure"

This is what we call Grade A Character Assasination. Nowhere do you verify this. It certainly hasn't come from her public works. I highly doubt it comes from her private works either. I've had a few lengthy discussions with her about the thesis and her views, and that view is absent. Unless you know something I don't.

Being perfectly honest, i've never heard anyone who criticizes West say this.

I'll ignore the snide remark that your work is not for "experts like yourselves." There is no need to channel Mark Antony here, let's just stick with the facts. :)

I'm more than willing to have a dancer partner at the dialogue ball, but I wanna make sure she doesn't impute the worst of motives to myself and others like me. How about it?

Kevin said...

The fault I would argue is in the end not Dawn Eden's if Christopher West suffers here, it is his own for the statements he has made. If he were innocent, this would be a different story. However, such innocence must be proven. A charge has been raised, can nobody take the defense? You yourself stated you limited yourself to a mere overview of Dawn's overview, which in itself might be as simplistic a reading as you allege.

I keep hearing how attendance at these classes will allow a better understanding, and how we would "get it." Can we be educated on this? What courses? Which material? Is TOB Explained, Heaven's Song, public talks, lectures, and his online column insufficient somewhere?

If the reading of those works is sufficient for West's defenders to have a well-rounded knowledge of the situation, so it is for his critics. The weight of evidence not formally introduced to the "court" cannot decide the case.

By the way sister, the fish sandwich was magnificient!

Wade St. Onge said...

Christina,

You say, "It seems so many people are so focused on a single word they do not get the message in the sentence the word is written in."

I defend my reacting to your implying that my position was that West had his own "version" of TOB.

I am reminded of that part in the movie "The Interpreter", where Nicole Kidd's character told Sean Penn's character, "nations have gone to war over the mistranslation of a single word".

That is all it takes sometimes for misunderstandings. That is the power that even a single word possesses - and reinforces how careful we must be in exactly how we formulate our arguments.

Wade St. Onge said...

Kevin, glad to hear the fish sandwich was excellent. So was my lasagna last night :-?

ChristinaKing.com said...

Forgive me for not wording my blog correctly, which is also found in a previous post on Sr. Lorraines blog.

I have corrected my words for it was wrong of me to assume that Ms. Eden believes what I have found to be true for others who support Dawn's thesis. I thank Kevin for pointing this error out as he graciously did, for it was definitely worded to seem I was intending an attack on Miss Eden's character and I certainly did not mean to do this.

I apologize with all my heart publicly and I will do so again privately to Ms. Eden.

And Kevin, I was serious when I made the comment that of "experts as yourselves" it was not meant to be snide. I seriously would consider anyone who could "cite TOB explained copiously" an expert. Not to mention the other wealth of knowledge of tradition, encyclicals, and other sources you have brought to the table here. It's hard to get a read on a person's demeanor while blogging, but let me assure you, I was being genuine.

ChristinaKing.com said...

Wade,

I am definitely agreeing with you that words are important, my frustration is that I am a person who lacks the ability to articulate myself with your same decree of eloquence, my frustration, is that I feel as if people know what I am asking or trying to say but rather than address my question they spend time cutting down how I ask something.

I feel like no progress is made when the dialogue is back and forth over a word. I was not speaking of your word....you were right to correct me.

ChristinaKing.com said...

dcs,

it's all good, but thanks for the the Mrs. I have tried to give honor to that title over the past 18 years and hope to continue to do so.

dcs said...

what I have found to be true for others who support Dawn's thesis.

Well, I suppose it depends on what you mean. For example, a wife is bound to honor her husband's reasonable request for the marriage debt, just as he is bound to honor her reasonable request. Now some people view this as a husband using his wife for pleasure because, they reason, the husband will want the marital embrace more than the wife.

Kevin said...

Christina,

Sometimes words are very important, and we gotta be careful using them.

When you said that "conservatives" were many times guilty of being Manichean, it makes people question:

The "conservatives" in this case are actually traditionalists. Now I knew what you were saying, as did others. That part sure is a nitpick, but I'd suggest being careful defining your terms.

Now with Manichean, this is something a little more troubling. The Manichean heresy is just that, a heresy. When you talk about the Manichean influences, taken at face value, you are asserting that otherwise faithful Catholics are essentially heretics. Outside of Arianism, this may have been one of the most problematic heresies the Church has faced throughout the ages.

You may disagree with them on how far they take modesty. (believe me, I do when they start saying it's automatically sinful if a woman wears pants in some traditionalist circles, though they are typically outside the Church anyways, so who cares!)

Yet I would recommend trying to understand why they think that way. In the case of modesty, they like to emphasize the positive aspect of modesty, where one's choice of clothing best reflects the dignity of the human person and the human body. This isn't Manichean. The Manicheans taught the body was evil, that the good spirit was trapped in an evil prison, and the goal of the faithful Manichean was to exercise self-denial as a way of conquering the evil body so the soul could be set free. Whatever one thinks of traditionalists, THEY DO NOT BELIEVE THIS.

You will gain no allies in "my camp" with that language, and you will probably turn a lot of them off. And I would say that is tragic, because some of them could certainly learn a lot from Theology of the Body, especially when it is read in light of those like Dietrich Von Hildebrand (one of the most influential early traditionalists who never backed away from his defense of the Latin Mass, the need to synthesize the past and present, and yet still remained a loyal son of the Church to his dying breath.)

Just like Steve Kellmeyer. Any good points he makes, they will not convince the fence sitter because of his wild polemics. They will convince the choir. Every movement has those individuals. I would just say, ask yourself, do you want to be "that" person?

Please take my criticism to heart. You say you want to build bridges, and I believe you. And trust me, I know how frustrating it is dealing with those you disagree with who are pretty dug in. Yet we gotta have that charity that is essential to any dialogue. Even when we speak harshly (as we sometimes must), it must always have the proper end.

And Wade, epic as the sandwich was, feel bad now. Whole gym and working out thing, fast food doesn't sit well in the stomach when you are lifting weights haha.

Wade St. Onge said...

Christina, no worries. :)

Wade St. Onge said...

I am going to attempt a response to "The Ten Themes".

A. Once again, I believe Ms. Eden ought to have been more careful with her language. The implication is that these are THE “ten major themes” of West’s presentation of TOB. In reality, these are ten particular ideas found in Christopher West’s presentations that she finds problematic. These are only ten ideas out of hundreds that West teaches, and these ten are not necessarily “inventions” but perhaps misinterpretations or misunderstandings of John Paul II and various Saints from our Tradition who have spoken on these subjects. Granted, some of these themes are central to West’s presentation and understanding of TOB; others, however, are not. So I have no problem with her “selecting certain themes that better suit her criticisms of West” IF her thesis was to focus on that which was problematic in his presentations rather than his work as a whole. So at the outset, this is a fundamental error – namely, that since he has but “ten major themes”, and since he is wrong about all of these “themes”, his work is to be completely discarded.

Wade St. Onge said...

B. And again, Ms. Eden was careless in attempting to critique his work at the TOB Institute and state she was doing so when she had never attended a course there. Perhaps this is not essential (because, after all, I do not believe West’s popular presentations differ substantially from his course instruction), but at the very least, one loses moral authority in the eyes of others, indicates that one was perhaps not thorough or “comprehensive” enough in one’s research, and indicates there may be a bias (a desire to “believe the worst” rather than giving every opportunity to be shown that one is perhaps just misunderstanding the other).

C. I see a certain problem with your critique of Eden’s thesis that tends to run throughout. You seek to demonstrate how she is “wrong” about certain points by showing how it is “not” one of Christopher West’s “top ten key points”. By doing so, you commit somewhat of a “red herring”. Readers sympathetic to your overall views will take your proving that this or that “theme” is not as central as other themes Eden did not mention, and either conclude that “there is nothing wrong with this theme” or that “this is not a theme of West’s at all”. Sometimes, she does mischaracterize his view in her “themes”; but sometimes she explains it accurately.

Wade St. Onge said...

1a. First Theme. I believe Eden is justified in stating this. Perhaps “recontextualize” is too strong a word, but this is certainly a theme of West’s. West quoted Weigel in Part II of his “Introduction to Theology of the Body” DVD as saying that JP2’s TOB: “has ramifications for all of theology. ... Virtually every thesis in theology – God, Christ, the Trinity, grace, the Church, the sacraments – could be seen in a new light if theologians explored in depth the rich personalism implied in [this] theology of the body” (pg. 343). West paraphrases this by saying TOB will compel a dramatic development regarding every article of the Creed. Notice they do not say it will “affect many areas”; rather, they say “every article” will be seen “in a new light”.

No, religious educators don’t “have to” do anything (there is no compulsion); but inevitably, the Church will be lead in a direction in which this will happen. But I think Weigel and West say more than merely that TOB allows us to “rediscover” truths we have lost sight of. And I do not believe Eden is saying it is going to “change” the articles of our Creed, as though we will be reciting something differently at Mass in the future.

Wade St. Onge said...

1b. Imago Dei. You say this is her interpretation of West. I believe you are splitting hairs here. You make a distinction between “the body” and “the meaning of the body”; but implicit in saying “the body” as Eden does is the idea that it is “the meaning of the body”. But once again, she should be more careful about her formulations. You go on to say that West was referring to the call to nuptial love rather than the “imago Dei”. But his quotation began with “everything God wants to tell us on earth about who he is ...”. “Who he is” is a communion of life and love between Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (the “Imago Dei”). In other words, West is saying in this quote more than what John Paul II said in the paragraph immediately previous. So when you say: “She’s suggesting that his ideas about the nuptial mystery actually refers to the imago Dei”, I am not sure that is a valid criticism of Eden, nor do I think this misrepresents West all that much. West said in Part VIII of his DVD series that understanding God’s plan for the body and sexuality plunges us into the teaching of the whole Gospel and of Jesus Christ. The teaching of Jesus Christ includes the teaching about the “Imago Dei”.

Wade St. Onge said...

2. The Second Theme. No, this is not necessarily a “major theme” of TOB, but West does frequently mention it. Your main critique here is not against the substance of the theme, but rather that Eden gives the impression that it is more important to West than contraception, which you show is not true. Once again, this is the fault of Eden, who by not laying out her intent in listing these “themes”, and her implication that these are THE “top ten themes” in West`s presentation, opens herself up to these responses. However, I gather from your response, then, that you agree this is something West does teach, though perhaps not in those same words.

Wade St. Onge said...

3. The Third Theme. You say that West does not refer to this theme often. However, it is something that his listeners clearly remember – probably more clearly than anything he says about contraception. West has some vivid analogies, and simply by using it once, people can come away from even one audience where this has been mentioned once and remember it for years. And it is one of the last things they will forget from his presentations. So I would say it is quite “central” in his presentation.

He also makes some provocative statements that “stick with a person”. When I read his description of heaven as the “eternal orgasm” for the first time, this idea was branded into my memory. I have re-read this since then, but even without any re-readings, I would remember this one until I die. Therefore, to say he does not mention it often is not to say it is not central or key.

Wade St. Onge said...

4. The Fourth Theme. I think what you argue here is a stretch. You say that West intends to use the “third” of the “five” definitions found in the dictionary. West might be stressing that God fills us with divine life, but his use of “impregnate” is once again to show how the sexual is a sign of the divine. He may have had the third meaning in mind as it concerned the infusion of grace, but I think he certainly had the first definition in mind when he decided to use that word. He was essentially saying, “just as the man impregnates the woman with life-giving seed, so God fills us with life-giving grace”. I am sure he was taking this from St. Louis de Montfort, but that does not mean he did not read this analogy into him rather than actually getting it from him. Furthermore, usually when a person uses a word, it is the first definition they have in mind (because the first definition is the most common). I doubt in his “popular presentations” that he would use a word that most in his audience understand only in one way (the marital/sexual) to indicate something that is foreign to his audience. I think at least on this theme you should have given Ms. Eden this one.

Wade St. Onge said...

4b. Men and receptivity. I am not sure Eden’s omission of what John Paul II said gives the impression that West is more provocative than he is. I believe her reason for omitting what John Paul II said is that one only has so much room in a thesis. She believes it was not important to reprint what John Paul II wrote, and most of the time that is the case. What West says in commenting on what John Paul II wrote is not necessarily completely faithful to what JP2 said (and did not say). JP2 said each man and woman are in a sense “Bride” (after all, the Church is “Bride” and “we are Church”). West, however, makes a sexual reference by saying men of the Church “surrender to him in a union of love like a bride surrenders to the loving embrace of her bridegroom”. “Loving embrace”, I would argue, is sexual (i.e. “marital embrace), and if it is not intended to be that way, most listeners will still make that connection. Most listeners, it should be added, will also not have this “clarified” by reading pages 28-30 of his magnum opus (most will not read it). However, for the sake of Ms. Eden’s thesis, she should have certainly referenced TOB Explained and grappled with what he said there.

Wade St. Onge said...

5. The Fifth Theme. Once again, I do not like her choice of terms. “Modeled upon” makes it sound as though sexual union was the blueprint from which the early Church’s liturgists designed the Mass. Certainly, the liturgy has spousal references and is analogous in some ways to marriage / sexuality. However, once again, on a point where you do not find much disagreement with her, you seem to want to make sure you evaluate this theme negatively as well, and thus you go back to how this is “not a central theme”. I would humbly submit, Sister, that this may indicate a bit of a bias (against Ms. Eden) on your part as well.

6. The Sixth Theme. West does say this, but what confuses me is that I do not think he needs to be defended for saying this. I think it is true and thus legitimate. Every joy on earth is meant to be a foretaste “in some way” of the joys of heaven.

Wade St. Onge said...

7. The Seventh Theme. I think this is where West gets into trouble, and I think it speaks to Dr. Schindler’s critique, who addresses this in Point 8 of his Response to Drs. Waldstein and Smith. I will quote him at length:

“Love has its roots most basically in the soul, and ultimately in God. Sex and gender do not, properly speaking, exist in persons who are not embodied – angels and God – but rather indicate the new form that love takes when it takes form in the human-embodied person. ... In a word, what is proper to the love that begins in the spirit and ultimately in God is revealed in the body in a new and different way, in the sexual difference. ... Regardindg the human body itself. John Paul II says that the body in its “original solitude” is “substantially prior” to the body in its “original unity” and hence in its sexual difference (see Man and Woman He Created Them, p. 157; General Audience, 7 November 1979). This means that the body in its most original sense is made for God. The body, we may say, bears what is first a filial relation to God. As a creature (hence child) of God, I bear a basic relation to or capacity for God, and only consequently, though simultaneously, inside this relation, do I bear a capacity for another human being. Indeed, this filial relation is rightly understood as a “virginal” relation – bearing a different shape in the celibate and married states – because it involves the whole of my being in relation to the whole God. It is crucial to understand that this original filial relation to God retains its priority within the relation between spouses, though the filial and spousal relations ... each illuminate the inner meaning of the other, in their own distinct ways. In the terms of Joseph Ratzinger, filial love is the “content” (Inhalt), and spousal love the “consequence” (Folge) of the imago Dei. ... Sexual-spousal love participates in this more original filial relation to God as its sign and expression, but does so only as consequent to and distinct from this more original filial relation. The filial love proper to the body in its original solitude establishes the primacy of the virginal state already in the natural order, and thus indicates that there is a virginal fruitfulness that takes priority over marital-sexual fruitfulness. ... One must always be clear that the theology of the body is not synonymous with a theology of sexuality.”

Wade St. Onge said...

[Continued] "It is crucial to understand that this original filial relation to God retains its priority within the relation between spouses, though the filial and spousal relations ... each illuminate the inner meaning of the other, in their own distinct ways. In the terms of Joseph Ratzinger, filial love is the “content” (Inhalt), and spousal love the “consequence” (Folge) of the imago Dei. ... Sexual-spousal love participates in this more original filial relation to God as its sign and expression, but does so only as consequent to and distinct from this more original filial relation. The filial love proper to the body in its original solitude establishes the primacy of the virginal state already in the natural order, and thus indicates that there is a virginal fruitfulness that takes priority over marital-sexual fruitfulness. ... One must always be clear that the theology of the body is not synonymous with a theology of sexuality.”

So for West to say “God created sexual desire as the power to love as [God] loves” is erroneous. Man, when in the state of “original unity” (before the creation of Eve), already had the power to love as God loved! Thus, this is a poorly worded phrase by Mr. West. The truth he is trying to elucidate is fine, but he must word this better.

Wade St. Onge said...

[7 Continued] Once again, I am not sure we can draw such a sharp distinction between “sexual desire itself” and “the understanding of sexual love as it was meant to be”. West seems to indicate that the “desire” itself is the “power” to love; however, of course West would say that desire has to be properly ordered and fully realized. I do not think he had in mind merely “understanding” sexual love, because a mere understanding is not sufficient to ensure that “sexual love” will be “as it was meant to be”. One must put that understanding into practice.

8. The Eighth Theme. I agree with you here.

9. The Ninth Theme. Regarding your quote from Origen, I think it is important to note that besides writing a commentary on Song of Songs, he also wrote an equally-long commentary on Leviticus (the least-read book in the Bible). So I do not think what Origen says here speaks to his belief in the importance of Song of Songs, any more than his work on Leviticus speaks to his belief in the centrality of that book to our Christian Faith. The only other thing I would like to add here is that I have addressed the issue of Song of Songs in my blog article.

Wade St. Onge said...

10. The Tenth Theme. I do not think the quote you gave from TOB Explained disagrees with the “tenth theme” as stated by Eden. She states that marriage is “encapsulated” in intercourse; or in other words, that the essence of marriage is expressed in sexual union. What is the “meaning” of marriage? I think it is similar to the nuptial “meaning” of the body, which is “the body’s capacity of expressing love: that love precisely in which the person becomes a gift and – by means of this gift – fulfills the very meaning of his being and existence”. (John Paul II, as quoted in Good News, p.22). In other words, the “meaning” of marriage is to give oneself to another and thus fulfill the very meaning of his existence (which is to love). This loving as God loves is the essence of marriage, and nothing expresses this more profoundly, or as West would say it, more “specifically”, than sexual union. Going back to your quote, West would no doubt say that sexual union is meant to be an expression of the love they are to show each other throughout “the whole of married life”, and also that it is in sexual union that the meaning of masculinity and femininity is expressed and even achieved in the most profound way.

ChristinaKing.com said...

Kevin,

Your correction was refreshingly wonderful and I thank you for taking the time to do it.

No, I most certainly do not want to be "that" person. I do not think God has called me to be "that" person and my only desire in life is to be the person that He calls me to be. So thank you.

As for the Manichean heresy, it was my understanding that a person does not have to embrace the Manichean Religion, to embrace the manichean heresy. Here is a quote I found:

"Some modern scholars have suggested that Manichaean ways of thinking influenced the development of some of Augustine's ideas, such as the nature of good and evil, the idea of hell, the separation of groups into elect, hearers, and sinners, and the hostility to the flesh and sexual activity."[14]

Sr. Lorraine said...

Thanks, Wade, for your comments on all the themes. I will look at them more closely when I have the time to do so. I appreciate your careful analysis of everything.

For now I will just say that a good part of the problem with the themes is that Eden doesn't explain her criteria for selecting them, and she also doesn't offer her own commentary on them. I find that a little strange in a thesis. When I did my own master's thesis (on the Marian teaching of Pope John Paul), my adviser told me to use abundant quotes from John Paul, but then to delve into them, analyze them, and get to the bottom of exactly what he was saying.

Eden doesn't do that when she presents these themes. She just states them and doesn't analyze if she thinks they're true or not. Part of the problem here is also her tone. She states things in a way that leads the reader to think what West is saying is a bit ridiculous on the face of it. It has a polemical tone that doesn't fit an academic paper. Since the themes are important in evaluating his work, it's odd that after stating them she doesn't do much else with them.

About your point that there's only so much room in a thesis, I agree. That's also another reason why she shouldn't have spent space devoted to his time in the Mother of God community. If she had omitted that it would have given her more space for the important things. As I noted, Eden only devotes three sentences to theme ten.

Also, the way that she quotes just a few words, sometimes even only one, in a sentence, and strings them together from different sources is problematic.

I believe you are correct in saying she believes it was not important to quote what JP wrote. But I think that should have been done; since West is promoting TOB as John Paul taught it, it is crucial to see if West is presenting him accurately or not. That is another omission of the thesis that I think is important.

Kevin said...

Couple points:

Christina,

I was referring mainly to the Manichean heresy that was within Christendom, not the religion that started in Asia under Mani here.

There is no doubt that there have been those in Christian history who have been infected with the Manichean bug (from the Cathars, Albigensians, to a lesser degree Jansenists, etc.) Yet this must be proven, not simply asserted as West, Loya, and to a lesser degree you yourself did. Speaking personally, I am tired of being told that my attempts to uphold the dignity of the human person are equated to a belief that holds the human person as evil. An example in my next

Kevin said...

I had a discussion awhile back with a girl my age, one who professed to be quite into TOB, and especially Christopher West. We discussed the topic of modesty, in relation to girls wearing bikinis. She quoted copiously about how with modesty, she believes TOB relegates modesty entirely to the role of a man, and hence there is no problem with a girl wearing a bikini. This is a clear misreading of JPII, and I hate to say it, but I see little to no evidence that West tries to correct it.

When I pointed out the positive aspects of modesty (there's more to modesty than protection against lust), I was being told "you just think the body is evil and an automatic incitement to lust." It fails to take into account that one of the aspects of our redeemed nature is we adorn ourselves with clothing fitting of that redeemed body. The constant talk (I would say an obsession) about nudity by those like Fr. Loya and Christopher West I think obscure (if not outright ignore), this supremely important dimension on modesty. Those in heaven aren't portrayed in Scripture as once again naked without shame, but rather clothed in grace, symbolized by the white robes. In heaven, this is something even better than Adam and Eve had in Eden. When Lowery accused West of wanting to return to the Garden, it was a valid criticism.

Kevin said...

Wade,

I think as far as St. De Montfort goes, a little clarity is needed. West only got his interpretation that he did by taking something way out of context: the quotes he used to refer to the Incarnation had nothing to do with the Incarnation, but rather the recitation of the Hail Mary.

Wade St. Onge said...

Sr. Lorraine,

Yes, I agree with you regarding the themes as they are laid out and the content (or lack thereof).

I also agree that she should have returned to them. She should have done what your friend Aquinas did and issued "responses" to the "themes" at the end.

If I was to make suggestions on how she should revise this thesis, I would offer the following:

1. (a) Opening with her "Ten Themes" is fine, but she should speak of them as being "ten themes which seem to have originated with West rather than John Paul II" instead of "the ten main themes of his presentation of TOB". (b) And she should take care to "prove" this.

2. I believe the "Ten Themes" can be shortened to perhaps Six themes. I would combine 2/3, 4/5/10, and 6/7. For instance, "marriage is encapsulated in intercourse" can be discussed under the nuptial analogy being envisioned in sexual terms. This will save her space.

3. The biographical information should be shortened and moved to her discussion of "the prudish Church".

4. (a) Her account of the Nightline appearance and the fallout from that should be excised. (b) The only thing relevant here is the substance of Dr. Schindler's critique, and the fact that his arguments were never directly and properly responded to.

5. (a) Her middle section should evaluate the "ten themes" and show how West is wrong about them. (b) She does not need to begin this section with Lowery; rather, he can be cited when his critiques speak to the particular theme she is addressing.

6. The final section should once again take each theme and issue "correctives".

7. She should also do as I did and focus more on the discord that exists between some of these teachings and the pre-Vatican II sources (many of which I cited).

8. She should also be more careful about her choice of terms as well as her arguments (she must do a better job anticipating possible objections).

9. She should ensure she reads the relevant passages in "Theology of the Body Explained" before issuing any kind of critique in case West clears up the matter in his "magnum opus".

10. She should attend and actively participate in his courses at TOB Institute, if nothing else to counter the objection that until she does, she has no moral authority to speak on the issue.

Wade St. Onge said...
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Wade St. Onge said...
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ChristinaKing.com said...

Kevin,

In regard to this comment; "She quoted copiously about how with modesty, she believes TOB relegates modesty entirely to the role of a man, and hence there is no problem with a girl wearing a bikini."

Sounds like this is her error in understanding TOB not West's and he has worked to correct peoples thinking in this area.

I have heard him teach on many occasions both in class lectures and in his professional talks in which he says that the woman must be modest in that she does not detract from others being able to see or recognize her "person" when they look at her. If she is dressed in a manner that distracts someone from being able to see the "person" she is then she would not be dressed modestly.

He says she should not have to wear a burlap sack, for the feminine form (I am paraphrasing here)does not have to be hidden, however, a bikini would definitely cause someone to see her body and not see her person.

We must be careful not to judge Mr. West on what others experienced him to be, but we should judge him for what and who he actually is. I know he has never taught what this woman felt she learned. I base that on personal experience with his materials over the past 12 years.

Do I think he needs to develop this area better so there are less misunderstandings? Clearly yes if this is what she took away from him. I also think he needs to develop his teaching on mature purity and concupiscence since so many people are misquoting and misunderstanding him. That only happens when something is not being communicated well. I will share this with him. I and I encourage others to do the same.

Sr. Lorraine said...

Those are very helpful suggestions, Wade. Perhaps Dawn will take note!

On another note, this week my community is having the apostolic visitation (the one from Rome). They're visiting a cross section of communities to get a sense of how religious life is faring in the US overall. So I'm not sure how much this will affect my schedule and I may not be able to respond as much to comments.

Wade St. Onge said...

I hope all goes well regarding the Visitation, Sister! Our prayers will be with all concerned.

I might be "taking a week off" too (I'm beginning to suffer the effects of so much writing in so little time), so we might have to return to this next week after a little "hiatus".

dcs said...

I think as far as St. De Montfort goes, a little clarity is needed.

Yes, I think Fr. Angelo Mary showed definitively that West was quoting St. Louis de Montfort out of context (scroll about 1/2 way down, although I think the whole essay is valuable):

http://dawneden.blogspot.com/2009/06/virgo-redacta-christopher-west-and.html

dcs said...

The last part of that sentence is from Pope John Paul. The Pope does indeed indicate that TOB affects our whole existence

Here's the sentence from Pope John Paul II in context:

Rereading it, this appeal contained in Christ's words in the Sermon on the Mount cannot be an act detached from the context of concrete existence. It always means—though only in the dimension of the act to which it referred—the rediscovery of the meaning of the whole of existence, the meaning of life, which also contains that meaning of the body which here we call "nuptial."

It is not at all clear here that the Pope says that "the theology of the body affords “the rediscovery of the meaning of the whole of existence, the meaning of life”" as West writes. The Pope is referring to Christ's words in the Sermon on the Mount, not to the Theology of the Body itself. It seems rather that West is projecting his own beliefs about the Theology of the Body on the Pope's words here.

Sr. Lorraine said...

Hello DCS,
Yes, JP is referring to Christ's words in the sermon on the mount about looking to desire. But JP's reflection on those words takes up a huge chunk of the TOB talks--from TOB 23 through talk 63 (which includes the appendix on art and ethos).
So it's not like by saying he's referring to Christ's words, it's just a little thing. In a sense, the reflection on those words gets to the very heart of TOB. It's the key to the whole issue of concupiscence, etc.

In the wider context of talk 46 where the quote you use is from, JP is talking about the "masters of suspicion" (Freud, Marx, and Nietzsche) because they each offer a whole system of thought about man and morality that competes with that of Christ. Christ offers an appeal to the human heart that fundamentally contrasts with the worldview of Freud, Marx, and Nietzsche.

So when you look at the wider context, I think West is right in considering it as affecting the meaning of our whole existence.

But as far as my critique goes, I was trying to point out that this worldview based on Christ's words in the Sermon on the Mount is not a break from the continuity of Church tradition, as Eden claims West is doing. That's really my main point in that paragraph.

dcs said...

Sr. Lorraine,

So when you look at the wider context, I think West is right in considering it as affecting the meaning of our whole existence.

I wasn't debating that. I think it is true that Christ's words in the Sermon on the Mount affect the meaning of our whole existence. But that is not what West said -- he wrote that it is the theology of the body, not Christ's words, that affect the meaning of our whole existence. Now this might be true insofar as the Theology of the Body is a reflection of Christ's words in the Sermon on the Mount; however, it is stating something that the Pope did not say, but surrounding it with quotes from the Pope to imply that he did. In this way West is projecting his own beliefs about the Theology of the Body onto the Pope's words. And I don't think Miss Eden is wrong to point this out.

Sr. Lorraine said...

DCS, when you look at the entire general audience (#46) it is abundantly clear that JP is in fact talking about the theology of the body in relation to the words of Christ. Just two paragraphs prior to the one West quotes from we find:

"He must become aware of this call also through Christ's words according to Mt 5:27-28, reread in the full context of the revelation of the body. Man must feel himself called to rediscover, or even better, to realize, the spousal meaning of the body and to express in this way the interior freedom of the gift, that is, the freedom of that spiritual state and power that derive from mastery over the concupiscence of the flesh."

The key words here are "reread in the full context of the revelation of the body."

The words of Christ here are integral to TOB, as JP says. You obviously disagree on this point, but again I say that West is not wrong to make the point he does. Besides, that article Eden refers to is an introductory article. In his TOB Explained, West goes into much more detail. It's too bad Eden ignored that, because it makes the account she gives of his work a superficial one.

dcs said...

The words of Christ here are integral to TOB, as JP says. You obviously disagree on this point

No, actually I don't disagree. However, we can say that (a) the words of Christ affect the meaning of life and (b) the words of Christ are integral to the meaning of TOB, but (a) and (b) taken together do not imply that the Theology of the Body affects the meaning of life which is what West is saying. Now it may well be that we can conclude this from other statements, but I still aver that West is wrong to project this on the Pope's words.

ChristinaKing.com said...

http://tob.catholicexchange.com/2010/09/29/2345/

Lauretta said...

I have just rapidly read through this whole thread, which has caused my head to spin and I certainly don't have a full grasp of all that everyone has said. Will have to read it a couple more times and take a few notes to get everything straight. However, I would like to make a few comments about some things that struck me.

First of all, thank you Sister for persevering in this discussion. I believe you are being very helpful in guiding this debate to a positive end.

I agree that Ms. Eden's thesis and the manner in which several of Mr. West's critics have approached the subject have the tendency to discount the totality of the man and his teaching. This I believe is very important since he is reaching the secular man and turning him from sin in a way that is not often seen in these days.

I do, however, tend to think that trying to present TOB in small soundbites of talks encompassing merely an hour or two or even a day are going to open up the real possibility of misunderstanding the teaching. In my experience it is necessary to meet with most people for a period of several weeks in order to repeatedly clarify people's misunderstandings of what is being said as well as giving the heart time for conversion. We have such a distorted understanding of sexuality, one way or the other, that it takes time to accurately understand what TOB is trying to tell us.

As far as Mr. West's background having an influence on him, yes, I'm sure it did, as does the background of all of us. From the perspective of one entering the Church as an adult, I can say that most Catholics and Christians that I know were given a very deficient understanding of sexuality, usually tending toward the puritanical. Most parents were quite uncomfortable discussing this topic with their children and so avoided it or tended to give it a negative cast. I know some who have a positive perception of sexuality but that is not the norm, in my experience.

Someone commented on whether or not a spouse's nakedness should spark sexual arousal. Yes, when it is appropriate but there are many times in married life when a spouse's nakedness should not spark arousal. I will go from the everyday to the more serious. If my husband happens to walk in on me when I am showering, that should not be a cause for arousal. If that were the case, I would have to lock the door to ban him from entering and that to me is a barrier that should not be present in our relationship. I should be able to trust him enough to have mastery over his urges that I do not have to protect myself from him in these most casual and everyday of circumstances. That would reduce my husband to the level of an animal in heat and I believe he is capable of much more than that.

The more serious of circumstances would be in the case of illness or other extraordinary cases. I am very familiar with this since my husband had cancer and went through ten months of debilitating chemotherapy when we were in our twenties. It would have been terribly uncharitable of me to request that the "marriage debt" be paid under those circumstances since he was barely capable of functioning during that time. I learned mastery of self in a very concrete way during that time and it was all for love of my spouse. I know he will show the same love for me if the roles are ever reversed.

Lauretta said...

I have yet to understand why the idea of the Paschal candle having a phallic character is scandalous if the baptismal font has the character of a womb. Both are sexual organs, are they not? Why is one OK and the other not? I personally don't believe that is the context in which the Church understands this symbolism anyhow. If one looks at the meaning of phallic and womb, it would seem to me that the Church is using the terms for what the actual organs symbolize rather that as parts of the human reproductive system. The womb is a place of holding, protecting, nourishing and the phallus is a sign(dictionary definition)of the male generative capacity. So, what is being said in the Easter vigil ritual, in my opinion, is that the baptismal font is a womb holding and protecting the waters of baptism which are being given spiritual life(a phallic act) by the light of Christ symbolized by the Paschal candle. It made the ritual much more meaningful to me from the view of symbolism since in my mind, fire(the candle) and water are somewhat incompatible!

These are just a few thoughts that went through my mind as I read this commentary and will be interested on your opinions of my ideas.

Sr. Lorraine said...

Thank you, Lauretta, for your thoughtful comments. The point you made about your husband's cancer is a really beautiful one. That is true love, being able to love the person in such a way as not to make demands that are inappropriate.

I like the points you made about the Paschal candle. I think you're right that it's not so much that it's symbolizing a sexual organ as such, which would seem to be too physical. But the deeper meaning is the fecundity of Christ's love for the Church.
Liturgists may disagree about this symbolism. That was actually one part of Dawn's thesis where I thought she did some good research. However there is also an interesting interview on Zenit with Msgr. Nicola Bux, a consultor to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. He speaks of this symbolism in a way that is similar to what you were saying:

"In the baptismal liturgy, the priest, standing before the font, blesses the water singing the prayer: Oh God, through the sacramental signs; while he invokes: Descend, Father, on this water. He can submerge the Paschal candle in the water once or three times. The meaning is profound: the priest is the fertilizing organ of the ecclesial womb, symbolized by the baptismal pool. Truly in the person of Christ Head he engenders children that, as father, he fortifies with the chrism and nourishes with the Eucharist. Also by reason of the marital functions to the Church Bride, the priest must be a man. All the mystical meaning of Easter is manifested in the priestly identity, coming to fullness, the pleroma, as the East says. With him sacramental initiation reaches its culmination and Christian life the center.”?
http://www.zenit.org/rssenglish-28767

Lauretta said...

Sister, that quote was beautiful. Thank you so much for posting that. Seems to be quite in conformity with what Mr. West, Fr. Loya and others have been saying.

Kevin said...

Okay, call me crazy, but I don't see anywhere in that quote where they state the candle is a phallic symbol.

While one might quibble with the words, it is the priest who "fertilizes." How does this happen? With the blessing he calls forth, not through the paschal candle I would say.

It is indeed in conformity with what Mr. West and Fr. Loya state, with one caveat. It doesn't say the paschal candle is phallic. Other than the central contention being false, the story is accurate. :)

Lauretta said...

Kevin, it has a phallic character because of what it does. It, as a symbol of Christ, gives life, spiritual life, to the baptismal water. That is one meaning of phallic--a symbol of the male generative power.

There are going to be those who will object to the use of the term fertilize as well. I am just happy that someone of such stature is using this "sexual" language. It is not just crazy TOB people!

ChristinaKing.com said...

Lauretta,

Thank you for joining in the discussion. This is the first dialogue in regard to the Phallic or non phallic symbolism that I have actually felt was on the money.

Sister Lorraine, your quote was beautiful. I think there are some that are very uncomfortable with calling it phallic because they think this is sexualizing the image (as a verb) when in fact the beauty is in seeing the sexual symbolism or imagery as a noun. Do you think this is why people are so troubled?

ChristinaKing.com said...

Sr. Lorraine, did you catch Steve P's comment on CE? It is worth repeating here:
"..this is one of the main problems with D. Eden’s thesis. She is making a errant claim that the TOB Institute was created to promote West’s view of TOB. There is no written evidence of this, and Dawn herself has never attended one of the courses. She is painting the picture that if West is so wrong, then so is everyone who teaches at the TOB Institute, and any of the education that is received there is faulty. To have a problem with one person’s teaching is one thing, but to cast a shadow on an institution of which there is no direct evidence of being errant, and put that in print, is at best, problematic, and at worst, libel. The fact that those who shaped Eden’s Master’s Thesis did not call her on this point and have her correct her work does weaken their credibility."

Kevin said...

Lauretta and Mrs. King (doesn't that sound like a cheesy TV show? LOL),

I think part of the apprehension people have over an alleged phallic nature of the candle is what they believe it says about God. God is not sexual. The union of Christ and the Church is not sexual. They are quite asexual. The act of a phallic symbol penetrating implies a sexual nature. Even if symbollicaly, this cannot contradict what God is.

As I noted before, it is not the candle which "fertilizes" in that quote. Rather, it is the blessing the priest performs when calling down the Spirit on the waters. The candle being plunged into the waters, far from phallic, is represenative of Christ himself being plunged 3 times into the Jordan, and the Spirit moving over those waters.

It is also symbolic of His death and rising, and our own death and rising to new life in baptism. Since this regeneration occurs through a non-sexual manner (whether a noun or a verb), the symbolism would have to be non-sexual as well.

Furthermore, just as Christ came forth from the womb of the Virgin in a way that was not sexual (not of the will of man, or the will of the flesh, or as Fulton Sheen would say not of the will of sex, but of the will of God), so we also come forth from the virginal power of the baptismal font to bring Christ to the world, and in a certain sense, be Christ-like (taking into account of course our fallen human nature as a result of sin which Christ did not have. Christ's humanity was not tainted by sin.)

Lauretta said...

Kevin, I have to say that, unfortunately, I disagree with quite a lot of what you are saying, but I will try to explain why. If we look at the quote from Fr. Bux we see that the relationship between Christ and the Church is quite sexual. He says that the priest must be male, a sexual term, because the Church is Bride, female, another sexual term.

Now maybe you are giving sexual a different meaning than I am. If by sexual you mean engaging in physical intercourse, then no the relationship is not sexual in that sense. But that is not how we use the term sex in formal language. In slang terms, yes, we mean intercourse. In formal language, legal language, and theological language, the terms sex and sexual denote masculinity and femininity.

You said that God is not sexual. But don't the terms Father and Son denote sexuality, masculinity? Genesis says, "God created man in his image; in the divine image he created him; male and female he created them." Now if we don't read anything into, or take anything away from that sentence, does it not say that in some way "male and female" is how we image God? God is love and isn't our sexuality the primary way in which we love? Again, I mean male and female. I love in a feminine way by being receptive and nurturing, etc. Men love by generating, giving life, protecting, etc. God, in His relationship to us, is male--he gives us life.

Father Bux uses the term fertilize. That is an inherently sexual term. I cannot think of any living thing that is not fertilized by male and female means. Flowers are male and female, animals are male and female, even those things, like some flowers, that are self-fertile, have both male and females components in order to be fertile.

Now as far as liturgy is concerned, does not the Church make it a sexual thing? Why do priests need to be men? Is not the Mass saying something sexual? Is there not something masculine and feminine going on there which is bringing forth new life?

Well, I've gone on long enough. I am anxious to hear what you think of my comments. God bless.

Kevin said...

The issue of "sexual" being a noun, for the most part, nobody will find any trouble with that, outside your liberal feminazis.

When I say God the Father is not "sexual", I simply mean it in the fact that the Father does not have a body, nor is God male or female. Just as God does not get "angry" in the sense this would imply God can change moods. These are human concepts that we use to portray God in an imperfect way.

Hence why women are made in God's image, which would be impossible if God were a male.

Now in the Incarnation, Christ was indeed "infleshed" (as Fulton Sheen says) as a male. Why? Original sin passes through Adam. This is why the Immaculate Conception and Virgin Birth were neccessary. Mary had to be preserved from the stain of sin to bear the Redeemer, and she could not "know" a man, otherwise her conception would still be tainted by original sin.

While men and women indeed love God and in a very imperfect sense "image" God through their bodies, the analogy doesn't work both ways. Just because we image the Father and the Paraclete as male for example, does not mean they are men in heaven. I think for the most part we can agree on this, as this is Christology 101.

Only men can be priests because only Christ was a man. It hearkens back to the fact that Adam was a man, and through Adam sin entered the world. Christ likewise was a man to take away sin, and priests are men acting "in persona Christi"

You are using human actions and concepts to describe those things which are divine in origin. The Incarnation came about not through the will of man, or flesh, but of God. Likewise, our supernatural birth in baptism comes about not through a sexual (noun or verb) connotation. The sprinkling of the water is not sexual in ANY sense.

The paschal candle, the baptismal font, all of these describe things relating to our re-birth. If our re-birth in baptism (through which we become children of God) is not sexual, neither are those things which are symbols of it.

So to say that the paschal candle symbolizes the male genatalia, and the plunging of the candle implies coitus, that really strethes using human concepts to describe divine actions.

Now if you want to say that the baptismal font is a "virignal womb", yes, the ancient Church has described it as such. Fr. Loya and Christopher West err greatly when they say "what is a womb without a man that impregnates it?" I don't see how this thinking is able to be reconciled with the Virgin Birth, unless one wants to imply that the Holy Spirit "impregnated" Mary as Christopher West argues. Sister herself recognized that is really a bad idea to say that, for a host of reasons.

Lauretta said...

Kevin, I will try to respond to your comments in order. The first one is:
Mary had to be preserved from the stain of sin to bear the Redeemer, and she could not "know" a man, otherwise her conception would still be tainted by original sin.

I am not a theologian but will have to talk merely from "common sense" so to speak. I don't understand I guess why this would be the case since I have always understood that Mary was conceived through normal means by her parents. So, then the sexual act was a part of her Immaculate Conception, was it not? I never understood Original Sin to come to us from the sexual act which is what you are seeming to imply. If that were the case, then would those children conceived in vitro not have Original Sin?

Next:
Only men can be priests because only Christ was a man. It hearkens back to the fact that Adam was a man, and through Adam sin entered the world. Christ likewise was a man to take away sin, and priests are men acting "in persona Christi"

Aren't you leaving out the whole fact of the Bridegroom and Bride imagery? I heard a talk about the Mass from a very orthodox and well-known Jesuit and that was one of the main things he spoke about. He informed us that we are attending a wedding and that we are the brides, consummating the union in the Eucharist. Those are all very "sexual" terms and he freely used them at a conference. From what I have heard the baldacchino(sp?) over many altars is to represent a marriage bed. Revelation tells us that heaven is where we wil particpate in the Wedding Feast of the Lamb. Marriage bed, wedding feast, bridegroom, bride, these are all terms that denote "sexual" things. To ignore all of that is I believe a great deprivation for understanding what we are participating in.

God gave us masculinity and femininity and the sexual act and children to all reveal something of Himself to us. Yes, He is more that all of those things but they tell us much about Him. Those are the ways in which we humans, with physical bodies, come to experience love as God Himself loves. We are to make a gift of self through our masculinity and femininity resulting in life. That is a very beautiful PHYSICAL way to manifest God's love to the world.

Sr. Lorraine said...

I think you make some good points here, Kevin. As I've said before, the part of Dawn's thesis about the paschal candle seems to me a good one.
If some people do see some spousal imagery there, it really doesn't bother me. But I think it might be a good idea for TOB presenters to drop the paschal candle reference, since it does seem to be a big point of contention, and there's really no point in continuing to stress it. Valid points about the spousal analogy can be made in other ways.

Sr. Lorraine said...

Thanks, Lauretta, for your comments too.
When Kevin said this:
"Mary had to be preserved from the stain of sin to bear the Redeemer, and she could not "know" a man, otherwise her conception would still be tainted by original sin."

I think he means Mary's conception of Jesus would still be tainted by original sin.
But I don't think that necessarily follows, for as you correctly point out, Lauretta, Mary was conceived without original sin through the power of God, even though her parents conceived her through sexual relations.

My understanding of the need for Jesus to be born of a virgin is for the sake of Christology. It shows that Jesus has only God for his Father.
In fact, throughout history, those mostly Protestant groups who have not retained the doctrine of the Virgin Birth, have also tended to let go of the truth of Christ's divinity.
So the Virgin Birth is really to show that Christ is divine, (both divine and human.)

Lauretta said...

Your comment:
Likewise, our supernatural birth in baptism comes about not through a sexual (noun or verb) connotation. The sprinkling of the water is not sexual in ANY sense.

I guess I disagree with this statement. I believe that it is a very "sexual" connotation. God in the Sacrament is pouring his Divine life--sanctifying grace--into us resulting in new birth. To me that is a very masculine act of giving life.

As far as the Paschal candle goes, it seems strange to me that the Church would use the terms womb and fertilize without intending some sort of "sexual" connotation. Our divine life comes to us through God's "male", life-giving, loving initiative, just as Christ's physical life came about in the womb of his mother through this same initiative. No, it is not the result of physical sexual intercourse but it is from God's masculine, life-giving, loving action. God is more than just masculine for sure, but every time He gives life, He is manifesting a masculine initiative.

On the impregnate subject, did Sister email you a response? I didn't hear the end of that discussion and was always curious as to what her friend thought. I would much appreciate the conclusion to that discussion if someone could inform me.

Once again, thank you for the discussion, Kevin. My TOB has gotten rusty from being put on the back burner for a few years and these discussions are causing me to have to recall and reflect on what I had learned.

Sr. Lorraine said...

Lauretta, I never heard back from her. I could try emailing again. I would like to get more input on that point.
Thanks again for all your contributions to this discussion! I'm sorry I'm not responding more to the points you are making, but right now I'm in the middle of doing some other work. I hope to get back to this.
God bless you!

Sr. Lorraine said...

My apologies--I accidentally deleted some comments at the end of this thread. It was unintentional.

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