Schindler criticizes Christopher West

this article by David L. Schindler:
is the best critique of Christopher West’s work that I’ve read so far.

Here is “a brief, partial, response to Prof. David Schindler’s assessment of West’s work” from Jimmy Akin of Catholic Answers & Dr. Janet Smith:

…and its relevant thread:

I’m rather inclined to agree with Dr. Smith.

Christopher West’s writings (Theology of the Body Explained) have an Imprimatur from Archbishop Chaput.

Ron Conte’s writings do not.

'Nuf said.

Some points from Schindler’s article:

he cites a number of intemperate and very immodest expressions used by West, then he states: “I offer these examples not merely because they are vulgar and in bad taste, not to mention sometimes bordering on the just plain silly, but because they indicate a disordered approach to human sexuality.”

he then goes on to raise a number of serious theological objections to the substance of West’s work: “First, West misconstrues the meaning of concupiscence, stressing purity of intention one-sidedly when talking about problems of lust.”

his next criticism is also a fundamental problem with West’s work, that West “conceives love in a reductive bodily-sexual sense, then reads the Christian mysteries as though they were somehow ever-greater and more perfect realizations of what he emphasizes as key in our own experience, namely, sex.” In other words, West exalts sexuality to be not only equal to spirituality, but as if it were the key to unlocking spirituality: “But sex is not even the most important part of human love, let alone the key to the Christian mysteries–the Eucharist, for example. Missing in West’s work is an adequate idea of the radical discontinuity (maior dissimilitudo ) between the divine love revealed by God–and indeed the (supernatural) love to which we are called–and sexual love or intercourse.”

From what I’ve read of West’s work, Schindler’s criticism is accurate and insightful. West has a tendency to spiritualize sex as if the Sacrament of Matrimony were the Sacrament of Sex; the whole becomes subject to the part.

Schindler then goes on two make two points: that West " has no discernible sense of the difference between what might be a feminine as distinct from masculine sense of unveiling." In other words, his work does not contain the distinction in Genesis, where Adam is created from the earth, and Eve is created from the side of Adam; where Eve is the helper to Adam; where the husband is the head of his wife (which then affects the sexual dimention of the marital relationship). He also criticizes West for lacking a sense of shame in the sense of modesty (verecundia), in that West sees shame as only a disorder to be entirely eliminated, with the effect that the husband and wife have no modesty between themselves.

Most disturbingly, when anyone criticizes or objects to these excesses and this thorough immodesty, “West makes them feel a sense of guilt, of resistance to the Holy Spirit, if they experience uneasiness about what he is saying.”

Schindler’s criticism are valid theological points. Whereas, the response from Janet Smith is basically rhetorical, and does not really address any of these criticisms with a substantial theological argument.

Michael Waldstein Translator of John Paul II’s Original Work Defends Christopher West at Inside Catholic.

I know that David Schindler is a careful scholar, but I was surprised and taken aback by his recent blanket negative statement about Christopher West in reaction to West’s Nightline interview. He cites a few anecdotes, quotes some snippets of texts, recalls some discussions he had with West in the past, and then makes a number of sweeping, massive accusations against West’s work as a whole. His West is not the Christopher West I know from studying West’s commentary on the Theology of the Body**.****
Because of my close work with West during the writing of the new translation of John Paul II’s original work, I know he has a deep and faithful understanding of the late pope. West’s work is uncompromisingly in line with the Church’s faith. **Perhaps most striking is his humility in approaching the Theology of the Body and the great desire he has to reach broken humanity with this liberating message. . . .

No theologian’s work is above scholarly criticism.

Schindler makes some important theological points, but the only response has been in the form of rhetorical arguments and ad hominem (or pro hominem) arguments.

Why is West’s work to be treated as above criticism?

Why does Schindler criticize without referring to Church documents or giving any reason why he’s to be trusted more than West?

Certainly scholar’s work can be criticized, but it can also be praised. You seem intent on **only **criticism and not on scholars (Dr. Janet Smith certainly is a respected scholar) who hold another view of his works-- not to mention Archbishop Chaput who gave his work an Imprimatur.

No authority of the Church has taken any action or indicated in any way that West’s work teach contrary to the Church. Until such time as the Church withdraws it’s approval of his work, criticism of the sort that Schindler dishes out are opinions that are out of the mainstream.

Schindler says West has the “the intention of orthodoxy” as if he (Schindler) is the arbiter of what is orthodox and what is not. The imprimatur, while not infallible, certainly is a high standard and Archbishop Chaput is certainly qualified to state whether or not West’s work is orthodox or merely intends to be.

I have read many of Christopher West’s books including The Love That Satisfies. I have read Theology of the Body for Beginners and Theology of the Body Explained as well as John Paul the Great’s actual radio addresses about Theology of the Body. I could see nothing that Christopher West said that would be contrary to what the Pope said. I think that Mr. Schindler misunderstood what Christopher West was saying about being ashamed of nakedness. West explains that being ashamed of nakedness came about as a result of Original Sin. He said that because of the fall, men lust after woman. He said the women became fearful because sex was no longer viewed as an expression of love, creation and unity. It had become a source of pleasure for men. Thus it is important for women and men to dress modestly to protect themselves in our fallen society. He said between a man and wife, there should be no shame about nakedness. He said that if a wife or husband feel ashamed to be naked before their spouse, then there is a possibility that the spouse is using the wife or husband like an object for pleasure. He talked about how God created our bodies and that we are both body and spirit and should not be ashamed of them. That does not mean we should go out to a nudist camp and hang out. He said what it means is that we should accept our spouse, both body and soul. He also said that there were some people who were married and their spouse had never seen their bodies.

I have never read or heard him say or imply that we should galavant around the neighborhood nude.

I know women who are married who have never allowed their spouses to see them unclothed because they are afraid their bodies do not measure up to society’s standards.

If I understood Christopher West correctly, these were the people who he was addressing.

I am not a scholar or a great theologist are you?

If Christopher West addresses his lectures and teachings toward married love, it’s because there is a desperate need for it. You can’t turn around in our culture without seeing something that has been sexualized. Christopher West is trying to direct people who have to be immersed in this culture to a more Godly point of view about it.

West’s work isn’t a scholarly work, its an outreach to catholics who don’t understand or accept church teaching on sexuality.

I think the big question is WHY you would want to criticise him, when he has done so much to lead so many catholics back to following the church’s moral teachings. How many catholics have had a change in heart due to your approach? I doubt its comparable to the number West has helped.

originally posted by Neil_Anthony
I think the big question is WHY you would want to criticise him, when he has done so much to lead so many catholics back to following the church’s moral teachings. How many catholics have had a change in heart due to your approach? I doubt its comparable to the number West has helped.

Numbers in the church are never the issue but correct teaching is essential to the faith. Many don’t like the way that Christopher West teaches the subject and there is nothing wrong in questioning whether it is accurate or not… . I prefer to read John Paul II own “Theology of the Body”

Everybody is an expert but who are the real experts of Theology of the Body?

I think Christopher West handled the interview real badly by the mere mention of Hugh Hefner. Surely he should have known that it would be manipulated. However that doesn’t mean he should be thrown under the bus like a lot of people here are doing.

To his critics, explain away the imprimatur by a Catholic Bishop who cares what the Church ACTUALLY teaches? That carries a lot of weight!

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