In a Monday interview CNA spoke about West with Dr. Alice von Hildebrand, a Catholic philosopher and theologian who is professor emerita of Hunter College of the City University of New York.
Dr. von Hildebrand said she knew the “gist” of Pope John Paul II’s Theology of the Body and believed it was “very indebted” to her husband Dietrich von Hildebrand’s 1927 book “In Defense of Purity.” She said there is obviously an “abysmal difference” between the views shared by her husband and John Paul II and those presented by Christopher West.
Reporting that she had seen CNA’s follow-up interview with West, Dr. Von Hildebrand was very critical of the speaker.
“My feeling is that Christopher West has become famous because he started discussing the Theology of the Body, which is extremely appealing topic. The difficulty is that, in the meantime, he became so famous that I do believe he has become much too self-assured and has lost sight of the extreme sensitivity of the topic.”
This is “very troubling” because what she calls the “intimate sphere” is something “very mysterious, very profound, something that has a direct relationship with God.”
“My feeling is that his vocabulary and his way of approaching it totally lacks reverence.”
“Reverence is the key to purity,” she told CNA.” The intimate sphere “is not a topic of public discussion” but is “extremely serious.”
“It seems to me that his presentation, his vocabulary, the vulgarity of things that he uses are things that simply indicate that even though he might have good intentions he has derailed and is doing a lot of harm.”
She said people should not forget that we have been “profoundly affected” by original sin.
“In paradise there was perfect harmony between Adam and Eve. There was no concupiscence.”
“After original sin, not only were we separated from God and condemned to losing eternity. On top of it, every single human faculty was affected. Our intelligence was darkened. Our will was weakened. And all of a sudden, we had the dreadful experience of something called concupiscence.
Before the Fall, there was no inner temptation to impurity between Adam and Eve even though they were naked, she explained. After they sinned, the two started to look at one another with concupiscence.
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The Fall had consequences that are “so serious” that it was only the Redemption and the grace of God could remedy.
The fight against concupiscence is “not an easy process,” Dr. von Hildebrand continued. “It is something that calls for holiness, which very few of us achieve. It is a sheer illusion to believe that by some sort of new technique we can find the solution to the problem.”
While one can lead a holy life in marriage, she said to become a saint is “a long and difficult process that calls for a spirit of penance, a readiness to sacrifice.”
“The tragedy of original sin is that all the beautiful male qualities of strength, courage, objectivity, nobility, a chivalrous attitude towards women, degenerated. The danger created by original sin is that many men use their strength and become brutal and abuse women or look at women as mere objects of pleasure.
“Eve was also profoundly affected by original sin,” she added.
“To my mind the conflict between man and woman can only be healed by striving for holiness,” she said. “There are many things Christopher West does not mention.”