Thursday, May 14, 2009

Go ask Alice...

When she's ten feet taller than Christopher West...
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Seriously. Dr. Alice von Hildebrand has leveled a reasonable criticism of Christopher West's popularization of John Paul II's Theology of the Body.
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Renowned Catholic thinker Dr. Alice von Hildebrand has criticized Theology of the Body speaker Christopher West, saying his approach has become too self-assured. She criticized his presentations as irreverent and insensitive to the “tremendous dangers” of concupiscence.
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“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.” - Source
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The doctor is in - and she nailed it. I have to wonder what Dr. von Hildebrand would say to the Polish priest who recently published his treatise on the joy of Catholic sex. "Sex in marriage, the Franciscan friar explains, should not be boring but "saucy, surprising and fantasy packed". Right - remember the news story about the Baptist minister who was murdered by his wife because he forced her to dress up like a whore, engage in sex acts that violated her sense of proprietry (sodomy), and forced her to have sex against her will?
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Christopher West’s approach makes him forget that sex is “an extreme danger.” Though sex can be sanctified, that sanctification implies “a humility, a spirit of reverence, and totally avoiding the vulgarity that he uses in his language.”
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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.
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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.”
- Source

16 comments:

  1. I understand what she is saying but I've heard both Dr. H and Mr. West speak and I don't think she would appeal to the masses that Mr. West does (those of us who grew up in vulgar times.) She is very much a lady and honestly - I don't know a lot of ladies. I am not saying she is irrelevant - I am just saying that Mr. West is perhaps more accessible.

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  2. I'm not against the Holy Father's catechesis, but I question some of the language used in promoting it, and especially those who use it to promote their agenda - not speaking of West here BTW. The exaggerated emphasis upon sex in our culture as well as all the effort towards presenting the marital act as a sort of playground to achieve the greatest possible pleasure, is no different than what the pagans do and promote.

    I have married friends who have revealed to me that their wife was not satisfied with their performance, or she was bored with sex, subsequently the marriage was in danger of falling apart. So come on - that is placing far too much emphasis and power upon the sexual act - where the hell is the love? Believe it or not, even in marriage or partnerships, sex can become an obsession. Fortunately these guys and their wives intensified their spiritual life and their marriages improved.

    Alice isn't alone in her criticism, this from Fr. José Granados, a theologian who co-authored with Supreme Knight of Columbus Carl Andersen a book on John Paul II’s Theology of the Body titled “Called to Love.”


    “The Pope’s proposal is not just about sexuality, but about the truth of love as the foundation of the person’s dignity and the meaning of reality; and about the family as the place where the person finds himself and his way towards happiness.

    “Moreover, one of the results of the sexual revolution is precisely the pansexualism that surrounds our society. We cannot respond with a different kind of pansexualism, with a sort of ‘Catholic sexual revolution,’ which in the end promotes a similar obsession with sex, even if ‘holy’.”

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  3. You left me quite a batch of words to google. :0

    I remember the marriage vow (before God) saying, "for better or for worse", and nothing was mentioned about the quality of sex.

    This subject - like many subjects is about smoke, and mirrors. With the goal to make us look away from Christ, and to preoccupy our minds with ourselves, and our bodies.

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  4. THANK YOU, Dr. Alice von Hildebrand!

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  5. Recommend for reading: "Purity" by Dietrich von Hildebrand.

    Once you read this beauty of Catholic thought, you will know why Alice has reacted to West and very rightly so.....

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  6. I have a book by Christopher West which I haven't read yet; the time and inclination have never been there at the same time. I have a lot of books like that (I think I'll borrow your phrase, I "have a new project. It will never be finished."). From what little I have read of Pope JP II's writings on TOB on my own, I don't get where people are saying that it's a new teaching. It all seems very based in scripture. Which is a good thing. The trouble is that as a society we are emotionally stuck in junior high. I don't know if Christopher West has lately descended into vulgarity; for sure a lot of minds were there already.

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  7. In Christopher's defense, he should have known better than to go on ABC and try to promote Catholic teaching on sexual matters on a SoundBite Network.

    But like you said, this isn't about CW.

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  8. I have a couple of West's books too. I "get" it. Dr. Hildebrand is correct however.

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  9. I love Alice von Hildebrand, I think she is right on about most things. And I do not know anything at all about this Christopher West's teachings.

    I just find the topic curious, knowing that Alice and Dietrich von Hildebrand had a celibate marriage. Initially she was his secretary and since they worked so closely and for such long hours, to avoid any sort of scandal, they married, but lived as brother and sister. Her perspective of conjugal love would be different from other married people's.

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  10. Gette - and that could very well play into the idea that a celibate clergy and a male dominated hierarchy knows nothing about marital love.

    No disrespect intended.

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  11. Goergette, You are wrong about the nature of Dietrich and Alice von Hildebrand's marriage. She is still alive and has refuted this rumor, which is a falsehood. It apparently began when Bud McFarlane (sp?)wrongly used her name in one of his novels, instead of Jacques and Raissa Maritain---she contacted him and the current and future printings of this novel show the appropriate changes.

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  12. Susan - I had heard that as well - and that may explain why she so frequently refers to "my husband" when she references him. Her critics sometimes mock her for that. She has a jewel of a book entitled "Letters To a Young Bride".

    I'm always impressed by Dr. Hildebrand - she has great style and elegance in the classical sense, which may account for the average woman's inability to relate to her. Her esteem, respect, and deep love for her husband is her greatest attribute - and I am sure her husband cherished her just as much.

    To suggest she is out of touch with contemporary mores and old fashioned borders on arrogance.

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  13. I like, Letters, too, but even more: "The Privilege of Being a Woman"---my copy is so filled with underlined passages I should have never started underlining in it...I could have dunked the whole thing in a vat of highlighting fluid. :>

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  14. Also, Terry, I think you'd like this first hand account of a meeting with Dietrich von Hildebrand and letters from his war diary are fascinating, on the same web site:

    http://www.hildebrandlegacy.org/main.cfm?EID=85#ACMember

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  15. Susan, my memory is not all that great any more, so I won't refute what you say about their marriage not being celibate. But what I thought I once knew about it had nothing to do with Bud McFarlane's novels -- ugh. I do reiterate that I think Alice is great, and I usually find myself agreeing with most of what she writes and speaks on.

    Terry, true, it could be construed that I'm using the same logic that many use when they claim that a celibate priesthood knows nothing of marital love. This is not entirely true, as they know the reality of Love at its very essense--dying to self for the other. But it is not entirely false to say this either. Celibates do not know everythign about marital life just as marrieds know very little about the priestly vocation--except from observing and reading and imagining--as it is for celibates, regarding married life.

    This post here was teh first I heard about this Christopher West guy, and now it seems the story is everywhere. Now that I know what he has said, I am grossed out, shocked and appalled. I mean, likening JPII to Hugh Heffner? He obviously does not understand Catholic teachings on marital love and respect for the human person -- or he's promoting an agenda. Good article at "4 Marks" here: http://www.4marks.com/articles/details.html?article_id=3420

    Anyway, this should definitely teach me to keep mum.:-X

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  16. If Dr. Alice von Hildebrand gave advice--I would be listening!

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