Christopher West ‘significantly’ misrepresents JP II’s thought, leading theologian says

Christopher West speaking on Theology of the Body
Christopher West speaking on Theology of the Body

.- 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, 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

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:


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