What Hugh Hefner and the Pope have in Common


There are some very confused views of the human person in our world today – even just within Christianity. Pope John Paul II has articulated perhaps the most profound, and true, view to date.

I never thought it had much in common with Hugh Hefner, though. This beautiful, concise talk by Christopher West tells us how.

12 comments Add comment

Blaise Alleyne May 9, 2009 at 2:31 am

Brilliant. Heard him give this talk at WYD2008 in Sydney last summer.

Jen Haganey May 9, 2009 at 10:28 am

Thanks Matt – I’ve been asking folks for a better source to point to explaining Christopher Wests real view on Hugh Hefner …I was disturbed by the way Nightline preseented Hefner as a co equal hero of the sexual revolution with Pope John Paul 2 – I knew it was being misrepresented and wanted a source I could point to and say …noooo this is the rest of what Christopher West is saying!

Dawn Hunt May 9, 2009 at 12:24 pm
Robin Myers May 9, 2009 at 1:43 pm

Have you read the following blog from Mary Victrix.


It is a little differant take on the West interview. I would be interested on your thoughts after reading this article.

Blaise Alleyne May 9, 2009 at 4:29 pm

Chris West posted his own response to the interview:

Matthew Warner May 9, 2009 at 4:35 pm

Dawn – I think that person is drawing false conclusions about one particular thing Christopher West said. I would imagine Christopher West would agree that it is about that “overall guiding principle” this writer is talking about. West is just giving a concrete example of how to live that out.

Matthew Warner May 10, 2009 at 12:20 am

Robin – that’s a good link with some good thoughts. but again, I think that writer is reading far more into what Christopher West says than he should.

Ex. from that article: When West says we are in need of “serious transformation” he’s stating a fact as compared to how humans were made “in the beginning.” He’s not making an “arrogant” personal judgment about when “spiritual faculties of an individual are fully developed.” That writer seems like a very smart guy. But he is jumping to some conclusions that are just plain wrong. Again, I think West would likely agree with most all of the points he is making while also finding it consistent with what West teaches.

In no way does West point to “Hefner as a savior.” That’s ridiculous for this writer to suggest that – in my opinion.

On the contrary, I think it’s a neat comparison that West makes. It goes along the same lines as the great quote from G.K.Chesterton: “Every man who knocks on the door of a brothel is looking for God.” It gets to our deepest yearning for God and Love. But then West clearly points out that how Hefner and many others fill that yearning is counterfeit. Whereas what the TOB shows us is the real deal.

I haven’t seen the actual interview yet – only the video above. But I’ll check it out soon.

frangelo May 10, 2009 at 7:55 am


My use of the word “savior” in reference to West’s comments is admittedly a caricature of his position. Nevertheless, in my opinion, to say Hugh Hefner “rescued sex from prudish Victorian morality,” is like saying communist totalitarians rescue men from right wing fascists. Hefner is a pervert who has managed to mainstream lust, not only by way of his literature but also by way of his example. He didn’t rescue sex from anything.

Blaise Alleyne May 10, 2009 at 1:21 pm

Fr. Angelo,

From attending a couple of Christopher West’s lectures in the past, I don’t think it’s fair to say that he really believes Hefner “rescued sex from prudish Victorian morality,” though it’s certainly correct to criticize that presentation on ABC. I’m much more inclined to believe that’s another example of ABC sensationalizing his perspective, however, and taking comments out of context.

Have you listened to the lecture embedded in this post?

West certainly argues that Hefner tried to rescue sex from prudish Victorian morality, but he makes a point of illustrating the way in which Hefner failed, by describing Hefner’s attempts as merely rescuing it from the trash bin without uncrumpling it. JPII’s Theology of the Body is what not only rescues sex from the trash bin, but also restores it to its beauty and proper place.

I think that’s the comparison West is trying to make.

Matthew Warner May 10, 2009 at 11:33 pm

I completely agree, Blaise.

I think recognizing that Hefner’s dis-satisfaction with his “prude” upbringing is healthy and honest. His struggle to fulfill what he never received from his family is honest and true. It’s just that he was so hungry he ate the garbage…and then started a garbage buffet. Which of course West is not condoning in any way.

I think Hefner rescued sex from prudish Victorian mentality like the protestant “reformers” saved the Church from scandal and abuse going on at the time. They had legit gripes about some of the abuses going on in the Church. And it is healthy and honest for us to recognize those. And there is no question that their “protesting” was a big wake up call that did a lot for the Church. I think we can admit that while still ultimately recognizing (of COURSE!) that HOW the protestants handled it ultimately caused the worst division in the Body of Christ in History – and it continues to this day.

They used a legit gripe to rationalize throwing the baby out with the bathwater. We’ll give Hefner (and really the entire culture and our human nature) credit for noticing something wrong with the bathwater. JPII and the Church gets the credit for finding the baby.

Fr. Angelo – I understand your concern with the way this language may be construed (or mis-construed) to a non-Catholic audience. I think it can be very effective – but I admit there’s room for argument there. I LOVE your website, by the way. Thanks for all you’re doing!

Mickey May 11, 2009 at 10:10 pm

Matthew and Blaise,

I think the video above justifies the criticisms against West for using ambiguous premises to come up with his conclusion that: “Hefner rescued sex from prudish Victorian mentality” in a different way among many things.

Hefner’s reasoning for being where he is today is a classic reductio ad absurdium (reduction to absurdity)argument. To state that I started a soft porn business because I didn’t get hugs and affections in my youth is ABSURD. Such a line of thinking is a text book DARKENING OF THE INTELLECT incident. Hefner’s reason is clearly a pretext to justify lust, but it is also pure sophistry. To use this reasoning as an apologia for placing Hefner alongside JPII with the intent for saving sex from pruddish Victorian morality is not only misleading but erroneous by rules of logic. I dont see how one could conclude that this was Hefner’s intention. He was simply rationalizing to justify sex without moral constraints. West is confusing the causes and effects. It is like saying, as another blogger puts it “completing the culture of death via the culture of life”.

frangelo May 12, 2009 at 9:03 am


Thank you very much.


At best West’s comparison is just plain silly, and he did, as a point of fact, make the comparison. That was his work, not ABC’s. I understand the difference between Victorian morals and those of the sexual revolution and their relationship of action-reaction. By all means, lets point that out. But the pope-playboy comparison is ridiculous.

I give West credit where credit is due, but there are also liabilities to this popularization of a very sophisticated corpus of magisterial teaching. You can say all you want that West’s approach is nuanced, but it is also easily misunderstood and, also as a point of fact, is expressed is such a way that it lends itself to misinterpretation. Generalizations about what a “mature Christian purity” ought to look like does not take into account the workings of divine providence and individual characteristics.

I still say that the average man needs to think about sex much less frequently than he needs to think about it in a more high-minded way. Forget about dreaming for the day when we will be naked without shame and buck up and mortify yourself like a man. (Please take that in the context of the remarks I made in my post).

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