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FUMARE

Law, culture, and Catholicism...up in smoke!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

TOB Debate Revisited


Anybody remember Dr. Ruth Westheimer: the tiny German grandmother who went all around the world, on tv, radio as an evangelist preaching the gospel of the goodness of masturbation, anal sex and how to have the most explosive orgasm possible (safely of course), and the wrongs of religiously imposed sexual inhibitions?

She was perhaps the first professional sex-expert personality in the media age. Since then, the professional sex-experts have gotten a whole lot more crude, aggressive and damaging (for example see Sue Johanson, NSFW).  Where else in the media do we hear from old ladies, except talking graphically about sexual intercourse in the most base and reductively physiological manner? This is where the pornified culture is at. 

Which is why the current criticism of Christopher West by fellow orthodox Catholics is perplexing. The criticism has ranged from embarrassing (from Dr. Alice von Hildenbrand who admits to not having read the TOB), to unfortunate (from Dr. David L. Schindler who at best makes an academic criticism, yet leaves academic rigor aside when citing evidence other than singing a pansexualist litany of out-of-context quotes), to malicious (from Steve Kellmeyer on his CultureWarNotes site who has aggressively sought to stoke character assassination with headlines like "JP II Center Disowns Christopher West", and "Pansexualist Tendencies . . . promoted sodomite perversion in first book" - Kellmeyer's critique of Dr. Janet Smith's defense of West is shocking for its lack of charity and balance).

Thankfully, Dr. Janet Smith has come to West's defense, focusing on perhaps two of the most potentially damaging charges against West - the blessing of genitals and the issue of anal sex (on which he presents the Church's teaching and invites people to consider the meaning of the act and not to do it). People who criticise West's presentations as "immodest" or too graphic or being pansexualist, do not take into full account where the popular culture is at. They don't fully realize how deep the impact of the sex-experts is along with how pornography is shaping marital interactions.  How many "Catholic" couples are taking their cues in the bedroom from pornography? Some body has to be willing to address these souls who are worshiping the idols of American Babylon.

West is one of the few people out there, a David against the Goliath of the sex-experts, pornographers, media culture,  who is fighting the good fight and making in-roads. The commercial success of his materials and the numbers going to his talks is evidence of the fruit that his message is having to rescue people from the bondage of a reductive sexuality that effectively says the meaning of life is the pursuit of the mind-blowing-orgasm. 

The real on-fire orthodox Catholic young adults around today tend to have one thing in common - they have been transformed through hearing the message of the Theology of the Body.  The likes of Schindler and others who find fault with West's presentation should keep this in mind and redouble their own efforts in promoting the life-giving message of the Theology of the Body in their own spheres of influence, rather than attacking West for not being theologically balanced or sophisticated enough.  

West is a popularizer of the Theology of the Body in a pornified world. That is his call from God. Is he the last word on the Theology of the Body? No, and he wouldn't make that claim. 

People like Kellmeyer (who owns Bridegroom Press and has written Sex in the Sacred City) should realize that they will not sell more books by destroying the professional character of the competition. The fact of the matter is that West is the first wave that is introducing people to the Theology of the Body. We need thousands of people like West, who are more dynamic, educated, charismatic and effective to advance the Theology of the Body into the culture. 

Far from attacking West, Kellmeyer and Schindler should thank him for creating a larger market for their books (and for Mr. von Hildenbrand's work) and the JP II institute and recognize that they have nothing to gain by publicly attacking him. Is there room for debate about the nuances of the TOB - sure, so Schindler, Kellmeyer, et al. go to Ireland this June and debate it at the Theology of the Body International Conference.  But don't be an obstacle in the effort at trying to save what's left of American civilization by making perfection the enemy of the good. 

You don't see Dr. Ruth out there in the national media attacking Sue Johanson for promoting a skewed understanding of sexual liberation, or for not speaking enough on the benefits of sex toys and astroglide. They are all on the same team, and they know it.


UPDATE: Christopher West does not advocate anal sex (as claimed by Kellmeyer). For the record, in his book Good News about Sex & Marriage, he sums up his discussion of the issue with: What does anal penetration symbolize? Is this an act of beauty? Is it truly loving to subject one's wife to the health risks? Why would a couple wnat anal penetration to be part of their foreplay to normal intercourse on any kind of regular basis? What desire does it purport to satisfy? Since anal penetration is in so many ways a parody of vaginal intercourse, I'd pose the following question to those who are attracted to it as a form of foreplay: Why not just skip that step with all its health risks and uncleanlines and enjoy the real thing with your spouse as God designed it? (carrying nihil obstat and imprimatur from Chaput, 1st edition 2000).

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