Christopher West presents ‘profoundly troubling’ idea of Christian freedom, Catholic writer says

Christopher West presents ‘profoundly troubling’ idea of Christian freedom, Catholic writer says

Christopher West
Christopher West

.- Adding another voice to the discussion over Christopher West’s presentation of the Theology of the Body, writer James Likoudis writes that West has ignored criticisms of his irreverent style and has advocated the “profoundly troubling” idea that Christian freedom rejects fears about the “dangers of sexuality.”

Controversy over West came to the forefront after his appearance on ABC’s “Nightline.” West remarked that the segment, which showed him saying he loved Hugh Hefner, took some of his remarks out of context.

West responded to his critics in an October essay, saying he has read some “thoughtful” critiques but others simply repeated rumors. He acknowledged that he failed to emphasize man’s struggle with a tendency to sin. However, he said the pivotal question for him was what the grace of redemption offers “with regard to our disordered sexual tendencies.”

Likoudis, past president of Catholics United for the Faith, discussed West’s response via e-mail with CNA.

He said the response was “quite disappointing” because West ignored criticisms of “his irreverent style of vulgar and offensive sexually explicit ‘street language’” in his discussions of human sexuality. He has also failed to repudiate his approval of certain unnatural sexual practices, Likoudis charged.

West continues to distort the teachings of Pope John Paul II on sexual concupiscence and the “freedom of the redeemed person,” he added before noting that West’s ideas of “sexual liberation from concupiscence,” in Likoudis’ view, remains “profoundly troubling.” West’s praise for a kind of freedom in which one is “devoid of fear and sin,” Likoudis warned, ignores the “dangers of sexuality.”

“He has muddied the waters of ‘Christian freedom’,” Likoudis told CNA, arguing that West forgets that “mature purity” has not freed the Christian from carnal desires that prevent “the complete victory of the soul over the body.”

In support of his criticism of West, Likoudis quoted theologian Jean Mouroux.

“Even when redeemed, we are all too aware that the body remains profoundly sensible to pleasure, and shamefully weak in the face of sexual seduction. However, there can occur the progressive repossession of the body by the soul sanctified by the Eucharist and this can lead to a progressive spiritualization of the body,” Mouroux wrote.

“It is important to stress that the married are not liberated automatically from surrendering to carnal desires. If they are in the state of sanctifying grace, they are in union with God and their marital intimacy blessed if conducted according to God's Law. Even for them, it must be said that the body is redeemed in hope alone, that is to say, it remains unsubmissive, a trial, a temptation, and under one of its aspects the wound of a rebellious concupiscence inflicted by original sin is always open,” continued Mouroux.

Mouroux said that the “full subjection of flesh to spirit” is a Christian ideal to be pursued without end, but it is “not a state that is normally realized.”

“Even redeemed, the body resists the spirit; it subjects it to grievous temptations, it brings suffering and death. All the misery the person encounters in this life still hangs around it even when the body becomes Christian,” the theologian added.

While the sacraments deliver the Christian from the flesh, it is “the height of spiritual realism” to realize that the body is redeemed only “in germ” and will come to fruition “only when time is no more and there is the glorious resurrection of the body.”

Likoudis, summarizing his own opinion, said that the “fatal flaw” in West’s version of the Theology of the Body is a “dangerous illusion” for presenting Christians as so liberated from “the domination of concupiscence” that “they need no longer to seriously fear the ‘dangers of sexuality’ and can thus enjoy themselves in sexual indulgence.”

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