Friday, May 29, 2009

From the Dawn Patrol...

"In the last couple of days, Professor David L Schindler’s critique of Christopher West as come under attack by some heavy guns, namely, Professor Janet Smith and Professor Michael Waldstein. I would like to comment only relative to the main point I made here on The Dawn Patrol last week. That point is that the very effective popularization of the theology of the body (TOB) by West has a severe liability insofar as it promises too much: it is supposed to be the bombshell that will delivered us from the death-grip of that nasty Catholic Puritanism.

I am not a scholar; while my argument with West is theological, it is not academic. West is a popularizer. He is targeting the sex-saturated masses with arguments that are largely apologetical in style and substance. It seems to me that Schindler, dean of the John Paul II Institute, is addressing West on an academic level, and he does so fairly and accurately.

That being said, it is not true, as both Smith and Waldstein claim, that Schindler does not offer sources for his arguments. He gives precise instances of remarks made by West, which he documents, and then he summarizes the problem as follows (emphasis mine}:

I offer these examples not merely because they are vulgar and in bad taste, not to mention sometimes bordering on the just plain silly, but because they indicate a disordered approach to human sexuality. An objective distortion in approaching sexuality does not cease to be such simply because it is theologized. West to be sure will point toward the “orthodox” intentions and context of the examples, but my criticism bears on the substance of his preoccupation as reflected in the examples.
It seems that Schindler is arguing that to do things like advising young men to look at their naked bodies in a mirror in order to overcome shame is an example of a “disordered approach to sexuality.” Taken together with the other examples of West's teachings, Schindler indicates a “preoccupation” West holds which, from the many blog comments I have read over the last week, seems to be a common complaint about his approach. West justifies all he says on the basis of his knowledge of the corpus of John Paul II’s TOB, including the above advice. Schindler does not seem to be impressed by this extrapolation of the pope’s teaching--this theologizing that really has nothing to do with the John Paul’s corpus of writing..." (Continued here)

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