Friday, May 29, 2009

Dr. Janet Smith chimes in on the Christopher West discussion

"Christopher West’s interview on ABC’s Nightline has sparked some terrific discussion on the Internet. An impressive amount of the interaction is intelligent and illuminating, even some of that which is seriously wrong. One of the better responses is that by Jimmy Akin of Catholic Answers and the follow-up comments to his blog.

Here, I want to offer a brief, partial, response to Prof. David Schindler’s assessment of West’s work. The fact that Nightline got a lot wrong about West’s work is not surprising. In fact, it is surprising how much it got right. Those of us who work with the media know that potential martyrdom awaits us at the hands of an editor. West has likely been suffering a kind of crucifixion over the past week. What is puzzling is that an influential scholar chose this moment to issue a sweeping, negative critique of West in such a public forum. I have great respect for the work and thought of Schindler and realize that it must be difficult to be on the receiving end of criticisms of the work of one of their most high profile graduates. I wish, however, he had found another occasion to express his reservations about West’s work.

I think we should be very careful in our evaluation of the work of someone who is on the front lines and who is doing pioneer work. Virtually every pioneering author and presenter has had severe detractors in his own time. Some of them have been disciplined by the Church and eventually exonerated. I would like to give examples and mention names, but I don’t want to ignite a firestorm of "how can you compare Christopher West to X, Y or Z?"!

I want to add my voice to those who are enthusiastic about the West/Theology of the Body phenomenon. I think it is important to keep in mind, as Akin does, who West’s audience is. It is largely the sexually wounded and confused who have been shaped by our..." (Continued here)


Roxane B. Salonen said...

Donna, thanks so much for posting the various sides of this controversy. I tried clicking on the link the other day from West's Twitter update but it wouldn't go through, so I am grateful now to read what Janet Smith has offered. I am relieved to hear her thoughtful words. Having heard Christopher West in person and read at least one of his books, I think he is an amazing person who is truly bringing many people to an appreciation of the Catholic Church's teaching on and respect for the body. I hope that, if nothing else, this controversy will be a healthy discussion that will bring about even more good, and eliminate any temptations to the contrary. Thanks again!

elena maria vidal said...

Hi,, Donna. I don't think anyone has ever seriously questioned Mr. West's Catholicity or devotion to God and the Church. Of course, he is a wonderful person, a nice guy, and has helped many, many people with their hang-ups. He is obviously a good man and sincerely committed to his mission. I have heard his talks on EWTN and enjoyed them, although I did not care for the book of his that I read. But to each his own.

What bothers me about this whole episode is that anyone who dares point out the potential flaws in his presentation is vehemently attacked and accused of being puritanical and any number of awful things. Those are the people who have been crucified this week. It is as if Mr West's writings and sayings have been raised to the level of magisterial teachings.

I know, that is an exaggeration, but that is how people act about it. I think that we should be free to offer an opinion, in charity, that a Catholic celebrity may not always be 100% accurate in their methodology, without being demonized.