Christopher West responds to the Criticism


This past summer Christopher West came under quite a bit of criticism after an appearance on Nightline talking about Theology of the Body.  We had a good conversation here on Fallible Blogma about some of his teaching approaches in the context of his comparing Hugh Hefner and the Pope.

But now West, after much reflection and consultation, is finally speaking out about the issue:

When the public conversation about my work unfolded following my appearance on Nightline last May, I did not think it was wise for me to respond until I had submitted the matter to my local bishops. Now that Cardinal Justin Rigali and Bishop Kevin Rhoades have issued a statement, it seems appropriate for me to offer some reflections as well.

First, I want to thank the many men and women – former students, married couples, catechists, theologians, seminarians, priests, deacons, religious, and bishops – who contacted me to offer their encouragement during this time. Your prayers and support were a tremendous gift to me. I would also like to thank those scholars and teachers of the faith who wrote in support of me, especially Janet Smith, Michael Waldstein, Michael Healy, Father Thomas Loya, Matthew Pinto, and, of course, Cardinal Rigali and Bishop Rhoades. Your willingness to speak out on my behalf remains a profound consolation.

Second, I want to thank those of you who offered thoughtful critiques of my work and helpful suggestions on how to improve it. I have taken them to heart. Indeed, I have always weighed my critics’ observations carefully and prayerfully. They have helped me refine my approach a great deal over the years and I remain very grateful for that.

Read the rest of his response here.

From everything I’ve seen West teach, I’m a supporter.  I think his sometimes provocative approach has been, and continues to be, very effective in getting this important message through to a world grown numb to many of the traditional voices in the Church.

4 comments Add comment

Maureen October 26, 2009 at 10:19 am

Dr. Alice VonHildebrand is dead-on correct in her critique.

Matthew Warner October 26, 2009 at 10:46 am

Maureen – can you sum up Dr. VonHildebrand’s critique here for our readers? Thanks so much!

L October 26, 2009 at 5:06 pm

From the Catholic News Agency:

Denver, Colo., May 12, 2009 / 12:48 am (CNA).- Renowned Catholic thinker Dr. Alice von Hildebrand has criticized Theology of the Body speaker Christopher West, saying his approach has become too self-assured. She criticized his presentations as irreverent and insensitive to the “tremendous dangers” of concupiscence.

A few of her comments:

“My feeling is that Christopher West has become famous because he started discussing the Theology of the Body, which is extremely appealing topic. The difficulty is that, in the meantime, he became so famous that I do believe he has become much too self-assured and has lost sight of the extreme sensitivity of the topic.”

This is “very troubling” because what she calls the “intimate sphere” is something “very mysterious, very profound, something that has a direct relationship with God.”

“My feeling is that his vocabulary and his way of approaching it totally lacks reverence.”

“Reverence is the key to purity,” she told CNA.” The intimate sphere “is not a topic of public discussion” but is “extremely serious.”

“It seems to me that his presentation, his vocabulary, the vulgarity of things that he uses are things that simply indicate that even though he might have good intentions he has derailed and is doing a lot of harm.”

See more here:

Blaise Alleyne November 4, 2009 at 11:32 am

I”m with Matthew. I saw West speak for the third time a couple weeks back, at a theology of the body conference in Toronto. Even in light of the ABC interview, reading Alice von Hildebrand’s criticisms as well as David Schindler’s, and other criticisms through blogs, I simply found that they didn’t bear resemblance to West’s true presentation when taken in context. I don’t believe most would attend a Christopher West lecture and leave with those misconceptions, especially as he redefines his presentation further in response to criticism.

Have you read Michael Healy’s article? Christopher West: A Von Hildebrandian Perspective

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