Washington D.C., May 23, 2009 (CNA) - Continuing the reaction to Catholic speaker Christopher West’s ABC interview on the Theology of the Body, prominent theologian David L. Schindler has said that despite West’s fidelity to the Church and his positive results for many Catholics, his approach significantly misrepresents Pope John Paul II’s thought and is “too much about sex and too romantic.”
Schindler recommended West subject his theology to “renewed reflection.”
On May 7 ABC News presented a story and a seven-minute interview segment with Christopher West on his interpretation of Pope John Paul II’s Theology of the Body. ABC claimed West declared both John Paul II and Hugh Hefner to be his “two big heroes.” It also showed him saying that Christians “must complete what the sexual revolution began” and must bring God and sex “back together.”
In response to the story, West said that ABC tried to make his points understandable but “'sensationalized’ misrepresentations and distortions of his views and presentations.”
The story prompted several critical examinations of West’s views.
David L. Schindler, a provost, dean and professor at the Pontifical Institute for Studies on Marriage and the Family, presented his own criticism of West in an essay published Friday at HeadlineBistro.com, a Knights of Columbus news site.
Schindler, who is also an editor of the international Catholic review “Communio,” emphasized that he agreed West intends to be a faithful Catholic. In fact, Schindler said he believes the speaker “would throw himself in front of a bus for the Church.”
Though remarking that West has had “positive results” in drawing many Catholics, Schindler said good will is not synonymous with sound thought.
“West’s work seems to me to misrepresent in significant ways the thought of John Paul II,” he wrote at HeadlineBistro.com.
Schindler cited several instances where he said West was not only “vulgar and in bad taste” but also suggestive of “a disordered approach to human sexuality.”
He claimed that West has suggested spouses bless their genitals before making love, has blessed the ovaries of women in his classes, and has advised young men in college and the seminary to look at their naked bodies in the mirror daily “in order to overcome shame.”
Schindler also claimed that West has used “phallic symbolism” to describe the Easter candle, has criticized “flat-chested” images of Mary in art, and has claimed there is nothing wrong with an unnatural act as marital foreplay.
An “objective distortion” in approaching sexuality is not eliminated simply because of theological overtones, Schindler wrote.
He said West misconstrues the meaning of concupiscence and stresses “purity of intention” in a one-sided way when talking about lust.
Schindler charged that West presents love in a “reductive bodily-sexual sense” and treats the Christian mysteries as “more perfect realizations” of sex.
“But sex is not even the most important part of human love, let alone the key to the Christian mysteries–the Eucharist, for example,” he wrote, adding that West misses the “radical discontinuity” between divine love revealed by God and sexual love or intercourse.
Schindler charged that West promotes a “pansexualist tendency” that ties all important human and supernatural activity back to sex without making necessary distinctions.
“If we could just get over our prudishness and sin-induced guilt, he seems to think, we would be ready simply to dispense with clothes and look at others in their nakedness,” Schindler reckoned.
He added that West treats shame and reverence with “a too-male vision” that is “distorted.” This misses the differences between men and women’s different experiences of modesty and shame, he explained.
The theologian also remarked that styles of preaching are not simply differences in personality or taste but have theological consequences. He argued that West tends to treat resistance to his lectures as if it was resistance to the Holy Spirit and urges questioners to overcome the “fear” generated by their poor formation.
“Well-balanced persons have spoken of how West makes them feel a sense of guilt, of resistance to the Holy Spirit, if they experience uneasiness about what he is saying,” he continued.
Schindler then charged that West’s interpretation of the Theology of the Body is “too much about sex and too romantic,” warning that his “unquestionably orthodox intensions” make his theology appear more credible than it is.
“His work often deflects people from the beauty and depth of what is the authentic meaning of John Paul II's anthropology of love, and thus of what was wrought in and through the Second Vatican Council.”
“West has worked tirelessly on behalf of the Church,” Schindler’s essay concluded. “However, if his work is to bear the Catholic fruit he so ardently desires, he needs to subject basic aspects of his theology to renewed reflection.”
To read Schindler's full critique of West's theology visit: http://www.headlinebistro.com/hb/en/news/west_schindler2.html
Washington D.C., May 23, 2009 (CNA) - Yesterday Cardinal Francis George, the president of the U.S. Bishops' Conference, released a statement commending President Barack Obama’s promise to “honor the conscience of those who disagree with abortion.”
Cardinal George expressed his gratitude on Friday afternoon for the President’s comments on the importance of conscience clauses which were made May 17 as he spoke to graduates of the University of Notre Dame.
In his address Obama said: “Let's honor the conscience of those who disagree with abortion, and draft a sensible conscience clause, and make sure that all of our health care policies are grounded not only in sound science, but also in clear ethics…”
In his statement, Cardinal George explained that laws have protected the conscience rights of health care works since 1973. “These laws should be fully implemented and enforced,” he continued. “Caring health professionals and institutions should know that their deeply held religious or moral convictions will be respected as they exercise their right to serve patients in need.”
Looking specifically at Catholic health professionals, the cardinal noted that taking steps to protect their “conscience rights will strengthen our health care system and enhance many patients’ access to necessary life-affirming care.”
He added: “A government that wants to reduce the tragic number of abortions in our society will also work to ensure that no one is forced to support or participate in abortion, whether through directly providing or referring for abortions or being forced to subsidize them with their tax dollars.”
The prelate closed his statement saying that he looks forward to working with the President and his Administration to ensure conscience protection.
An April poll conducted on behalf of the Christian Medical Association found that nearly 87% of Americans support conscience protections for health care providers.
The Department of Health and Human Services, headed by Kathleen Sebelius, is currently considering changes to regulations implemented by the Bush administration.
Madison, Wis., May 23, 2009 (CNA) - The Wisconsin Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee is scheduled to vote today on Gov. Jim Doyle’s proposal to expand a confidential “family planning” program to boys aged 15 to 17. Critics charged that the proposal further encourages teens to go behind their parents’ backs and neglects their moral development.
At present, Wisconsin’s Medicaid Family Planning Waiver Program provides taxpayer-funded birth control without charge to teen girls in the same age range without their parents’ knowledge or consent.
Federal and state law prohibits parents from being notified that their minor daughters are receiving free contraceptives under the program, a press release from Pro-Life Wisconsin reports.
“Providing free, taxpayer-funded birth control to 15-year-old boys and girls behind parents’ backs is horrible public policy, and we urge the finance committee to block expansion of this offensive program,” commented Matt Sande, Pro-Life Wisconsin’s director of legislation. “Parents are naturally concerned about the sexual health of their teen children, not only to protect them physically but to guide them morally.”
Sande argued the state should reinforce the parent-child relationship.
“Who do we want to be the confidants of our sons and daughters – parents, or Planned Parenthood? That is the question parents in this state should be asking themselves, including parents on the committee,” he continued.
At present the Medicaid program provides family planning services and supplies for women aged 15 to 44 who are at or below 200% of the federal poverty level. While women applying for the program are considered presumptively eligible for services and exempted from co-payments, family income is disregarded for women under 19 who are unmarried and childless.
“Therefore almost every teen girl in the state is financially eligible,” Pro-Life Wisconsin said.
Gov. Doyle’s proposal expands the program to men aged 15 to 44.
“Not only is the Family Planning Waiver Program offensive to parents, but it contributes to an increase in underage pregnancies, abortions, and sexually transmitted diseases by encouraging sexual promiscuity,” Sande remarked. “Every day, 8,000 teens become infected with an STD. It’s time the state reexamines the so-called benefits of ‘family planning’ for Wisconsin’s children.”
Eight states prevent minor girls from enrolling in family planning waiver programs by limiting the programs to women who are at least 19 years of age. Three states limit their programs to women who are at least 18 years of age.