theologian Alice von Hildebrand

Dietrich von Hildebrand, Catholic Philosopher, and Christopher West, Modern Enthusiast:
Two Very Different Approaches to Love, Marriage and Sex
By Alice von Hildebrand

This article by Alice von Hildebrand compares the thought of her late husband Dietrich to the thought of Christopher West, and offers some insightful criticism of West's work.

The article includes a number of good insights into the Theology of the Body (TOB), in its proper form as presented by Pope John Paul II, and a number of good criticisms of various popular distortions of TOB.

I like this line from the article…

“Pleasure in itself is not evil; it is the Creator himself who has linked pleasure to certain bodily activities. But the great task of a truly Christian education is to baptize pleasure, to receive it gratefully as a gift, and not to claim it as a right. There are legitimate pleasures, calling for gratitude, but also illegitimate ones: gluttony and drunkenness, and alas, inherently perverse ones”

Kind of helps me out a bit. :slight_smile:

This is the best article I’ve partially read in years. Thanks a million for posting it. Many of theconcepts can also be applied to other spheres, for instance “the dictatorship of relativism”. I didn’t have time to read the whole thing, but will be soon. I think I read about half of it, and was completely struck by its clarity and sanity. Thanks again!

Dr. Alice von Hildebrand is a brilliant person. For years I had her speak at an annual conference I host.

I would definitely trust her to have good insight into Mr. West’s presentation.

Some quotes from her article:

"My general criticism of Christopher West is that he does not seem to grasp the delicacy, reverence, privacy, and sacredness of the sexual sphere. He also underestimates the effects of Original Sin on the human condition."

"Sex enthusiasts in the Church like West often speak about the 'raging hormones' many feel growing up, but the solution they propose to cure it -- stimulate people even more, with a hyper-sexualized presentation of Catholic teaching -- can easily aggravate the situation. Moreover, they consistently ignore the one successful remedy the Church has always called upon to address this malady: asceticism, the spirit of renunciation and sacrifice."

"For another, Dietrich would have vigorously opposed Popcak's so-called 'one rule' -- that married couples 'may do whatever they wish,' as long as they don't use contraception, 'both feel loved and respected,' and the marital act culminates within the woman."

"These ideas would have struck Dietrich von Hildebrand as abhorrent. It is precisely because the marital bed is sacred that one should approach acts within it with enormous reverence. Degrading and perverse sexual behavior -- even it is it done by a married couple, who do not practice contraception -- should be condemned, as an assault on human dignity. The 'pornification' of marriage should be resisted as vigorously as the pornification of our culture."

"It is in this context, that we should judge Popcak's shocking suggestion (p. 248) that 'as Christopher West has noted in his book, Good News About Sex and Marriage, there is nothing technically forbidding a couple from engaging' in sodomy (provided the husband culminates the normal sex act within his wife); and that, while he discourages the practice of marital sodomy, 'nevertheless, following Augustine's dictum and in the absence of greater clarification from the Church, couples are free to exercise prudential judgment' in this regard. That a Catholic author would cite 'Augustine's dictum' (presumably the much-misinterpreted 'Love, and do what you will') as a justification for sodomy would have broken my husband's heart."

"In this context, it is important for couples to avoid what Canon Jacques Leclerc calls 'any corruption of love' in the marital bed. He writes: 'There are many who believe that once they are married, they may do whatever they like.' But 'they do not understand,' he continues, that 'the search for every means of increasing pleasure can be a perversion.' ... It is thus a good thing to remember that the morality of conjugal relations does not allow that pleasure should be sought by every means, but calls for a sexual life that is at the same time healthy, simple and normal.' (Marriage: A Great Sacrament, 1951, p. 88)."

I’ve read The Privilege of Being a Woman - highly recommend this book! :thumbsup:

A very close friend of mine has met with her a number of times and says she is a very brilliant and wonderful woman.


I'm taking a graduate class on the philosophy of love (The Nature of Love, Ronda Chervin) this fall. Dietrich von Hildebrand's books are required reading- I'm really looking forward to it. :)

I finished reading it! It’s great. She appreciates West’s good contributions while heeding the Gospel request of “brotherly correction”. When watching some of his presentations on TV, I too had some uneasiness, it just didn’t sit well.

John Paul II emphasized the fact that lust can exist even within the bond of marriage,
and is just as much a sin there as it is elsewhere.

Do we know when this essay is dated/posted? I don't see anything denoting that.

That’s definitely the best critique of Christopher West I’ve ever read. Not that I’ve read that many.

It was just published this week, I believe.

Is the content of the talks given by Jason and Christalina Evert similar in nature to that
of Christopher West?

I'm a little bit confused about why this thread is listed under Apologetics instead of Moral Theology.:confused:

[quote="snowlake, post:13, topic:206222"]
I'm a little bit confused about why this thread is listed under Apologetics instead of Moral Theology.:confused:


It's a bit fuzzy as to where it belongs, but I think it's fine where it is. Bump.

They run the website The content there is unlike West’s work.

Dr. Alice Von Hildebrand once remarked, “If little girls were made aware of the great mystery confided to them, their purity would be guaranteed. The very reverence which they would have toward their own bodies would inevitably be perceived by the other sex. Men are talented at reading women’s body language, and they are not likely to risk being humiliated when a refusal is certain. Perceiving women’s modesty, they would take their cue and, in return, approach the female sex with reverence.”

The site is focused mainly on speaking to persons who are not yet married, and on promoting strict ideas about chastity and purity. Marriage and marial relations is treated with reverence and modesty.

My main criticism of that site, though, is that they offer little or no theology to support their assertions. Their explanations are somewhat secular in language and in argument, even though their conclusions are generally faithful to Christianity. Perhaps there is some usefullness in speaking to a generation that is immersed in secular thinking and secular ideas in this manner. But they should have included more references to magisterial documents, more quotes from Scripture and Saints, and a sound theological argument with each major point. But otherwise it is a very good and useful site.

Christopher West is with the team of Jason Everette.

Christopher West is now teamed up with Jason and Crystalina Evert

I hope Ron Conte heard what you just said.

I’m not anxious for Alice to hasten her promotion - as she is doing so much good work here still.

I do think though, that when she passes on - a case for sainthood for Dietrich and Alice ought to be looked into. It’d be nice to have a married couple held up as “saints” together.

I know we’ve had saints who were married people. But not a married couple as such, with a common feast day like (say) Sts. Cosmas and Damien. < I will look that up to see if I’m right. Suddenly St. Therese’s parents, the Martin’s came to mind - they raised a houseful of girls who all became nuns!*

Though Alice has long been a widow … it does seem as though she has taken the baton of theology passed to her by her late husband and carried it forth admirably … adding her own genius to the mix as well. To see an elderly woman still honoring her long lost partner so many years after his death puts a lump in my throat.

As accomplished and acknowledged a writer as she is – she may have destroyed her chances to be a guest speaker at a feminist convention for good though. :wink:

Barring a sudden taste for wild drinking parties or an astonishing scandal of some sort - I don’t think I am overrating Alice von Hildebrand’s chances for a happy landing in Paradise. Not that we should rate such things. :smiley:

I do find her inspirational on the religious insights front. And will look forward to giving her book a gander in the near future.

Carry on Alice! Listen up everyone. IMO. :thumbsup:

ALICE’S (the author’s) picture is the BIG one.

  • re: Married Saints. The Martins.

Progress toward canonization[edit source | editbeta]

The cause of Blessed Louis and Zélie Martin has progressed significantly since 2008. On January 7, 2013, Archbishop Carlos Osoro Serra of Valencia, Spain presided at the opening of the canonical process to inquire into the healing in 2008 of a little girl named Carmen who was born in Valencia four days before Louis and Zelie were beatified. Eight doctors testified that there was no scientific explanation for her cure. The diocesan tribunal held its closing session on May 21, 2013, and the file was sent to Rome for review by the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, who may recommend to the Pope that Louis and Zélie Martin be canonized.

I wonder that, too. The article reads a lot like one published in The Catholic Register from like 3-4 years ago. And it seems about that long since West announced he was taking a sabbatical.

I wish I could link that article from the Register and the letters to the editor regarding it. Not everyone is fond of Mrs. von Hildebrand’s approach. My problem is that she seem critical of West’s approach in large part because it differs from her late husband’s. Of course she appreciates her husband’s approach better. That doesn’t mean that West’s doesn’t have value. The von Hildebrand’s seem a bit dainty and that doesn’t speak to me.

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