.- Cardinal Justin Rigali and Bishop Kevin Rhoades of Harrisburg have issued a statement affirming their âstrong supportâ for the âimportant workâ of the Theology of the Body Institute, saying its founder Christopher West has a âcharismâ to popularize the work of Pope John Paul II.
The cardinal, who is Archbishop of Philadelphia, is chairman of the instituteâs episcopal advisory board. Bishop Rhoades heads the diocese that West lives in.
Their August 10 statement, released on September 17, reported that West is in communication with them as his local ordinaries and has their blessing.
âWe are convinced that John Paul II's Theology of the Body is a treasure for the Church, indeed a gift of the Holy Spirit for our time,â the two prelates wrote.
"Yet, its scholarly language needs to be 'translated' into more accessible categories if the average person is to benefit from it,â they continued. "To do this is the specific mission of the Theology of the Body Institute, and we believe that Christopher West, the Institute's popular lecturer and spokesman, has been given a particular charism to carry out this mission."
Cardinal Rigali and Bishop Rhoades said the Theology of the Body Instituteâs programs, courses and materials show âstrong fidelityâ to the teaching of the Church and to the thought of Pope John Paul II.
Referring to ârecent discussions,â the two bishops said they were happy to express their âfull confidenceâ in West, saying he continues to show âGreat responsibility and opennessâ in listening to and considering observations and reflections on his work.
Westâs May interview with ABC, which he claimed âsensationalizedâ his views, sparked a controversy about the truth and the propriety of Westâs approach to teaching Pope John Paul IIâs Theology of the Body.
Theologian David S. Schindler was critical of West, saying he sometimes shows a âdangerous imprudence.â Writer Alice von Hildebrand charged that Westâs presentations are irreverent and insensitive to the âtremendous dangersâ of concupiscence.
West was defended by other Catholic thinkers like Janet Smith, who said criticisms were unfair and based on âout of contextâ examples. In Smithâs view, Westâs work is a response to âthe sexually wounded and confused.â
Christopher West, writing in a brief Friday entry on his Twitter page, thanked Cardinal Rigali and Bishop Rhoades for their support.