.- Theologian David Schindler has expanded upon his criticisms of Christopher West, saying the speakerâs views can encourage a âdangerous imprudenceâ and arguing that those not at ease with his presentation have some ground for concern. He suggested that Westâs work merits âpatient reflectionâ in light of its critics.
Last month Christopher West, a Catholic speaker on the Theology of the Body, was the topic of an ABC interview broadcast he later said was âsensationalized.â The ABC story claimed West saw John Paul II and pornography propagandist Hugh Hefner as his âtwo big heroesâ and depicted Westâs call for Christians to âcomplete what the sexual revolution began.â West's interview drew responses from critics such as Prof. David Schindler, a theologian who is dean of the John Paul II Institute in Washington, D.C., and defenders.
Prof. Janet Smith, a professor of moral theology at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit, and Dr. Michael Waldstein, an Ave Maria University theology professor and translator of Pope John Paul IIâs work, defended West's teachings. Waldstein spoke of West as an effective communicator and popularizer whose works should not be harmed by a critical âspin,â while Smith said Westâs informal style was a response to âthe sexually wounded and confusedâ and dismissed many criticisms of him as âwithout foundation.â
Writing on the Knights of Columbus site HeadlineBistro.com, Schindler explained on Friday that he was not reacting only to Westâs comments on ABC Nightline. He also drew on his own personal experience with his former student and his own examination of Westâs tapes, videos, and his writings. Further, he said he had been approached by people who had attended West's lectures and workshops.
Schindler said that many people respond to Westâs presentations with âuneasiness,â and in his view this has foundation in Westâs work. The uneasiness is ânot only or alwaysâ a consequence of âPuritanism,â but often simply a reaction of their âspontaneous and authentic human and Catholic instincts,â he wrote.
Aspects of Westâs thought and focus warrant that âuneasiness,â Schindler said, explaining that his own criticisms of the speaker were intended to establish discussion and not meant to cause West to fail.
Addressing his concern about Westâs alleged vulgarity, Schindler said âsome things just ought not to be talked about in a public setting, on the grounds not of prudishness but of simple human decorum and respect for others.â
âThis is not a matter simply of identifying euphemisms to replace vulgar language, nor simply of avoiding mention of acts that may be immoral,â he said. Rather, the dominant cultureâs indiscretion and its intolerance of mystery is âprecisely what needs to be called into question.â
Schindler again voiced his concern that West does not adequately treat the Catholic position on concupiscence. Granting that West stresses âpurity of heart,â he questioned whether the speaker gives âsufficient weightâ to the tendency to sin.
He also questioned whether West adequately weighs modesty and shame. Schindler said there was a âreverenceâ in the mystery of the body which requires a âsensitivityâ which is not a simply a matter of sin and shame.
Faults on such points can encourage a âdangerous imprudenceâ on sexual matters, he warned.
Schindler then voiced the concern that Christopher West does not place marriage in the proper order of love. First is Godâs love, infinitely different from manâs but revealed in Jesus Christ and the Eucharist. Next is the âvirginal fruitfulnessâ of the single human beingâs love for God and for all Godâs creatures. Marital-sexual love is only a subset of this, he explained.
Citing Pope John Paul II, Schindler wrote that the body is âmade for Godâ and it is only because of that orientation that man has a âcapacityâ for another human being.
âOne must always be clear that the theology of the body is not synonymous with a theology of sexuality,â he said in his HeadlineBistro.com essay.
He then repeated an earlier charge that Westâs approach is one-sidedly male and does not consider womenâs ânaturally more profound sense of mysteryâ as in the example of the Virgin Mary.
âNone of those involved in this discussion, myself emphatically included, question the depth of Westâs faithful love for the Church and indeed for humanity,â he said. However, he advised that âpatient reflectionâ on Westâs work is necessary.
Schindler also offered Christopher West space to print his reflections in Communio, the prestigious international theological journal which he edits.
To read Dr. Schindler's full response visit: http://www.headlinebistro.com/hb/en/news/schindler_response.html