What? Just thinking out loud here.
My title for this post is meant to be provocative - but I have nothing to add to it, right now. Of course, many lay people love the Westian version of TOB, so my other question is: Is TOB THE conclusive, definitive, theological-dogmatic work on human sexuality? Is it infallible teaching? (Not exactly.) To be sure, I'm not at all trying to discredit the Holy Father's teaching, but I really have to question some of those who interpret it, and 'teach' it.
That said, a priest will always get my attention when it comes to teaching on faith and morals, much more so than a layman or even a deacon could. No offense to married deacons intended, just stating a fact - I'm much more interested in what a moral theologian who happens to be a priest has to say. A friend sent me a link to something Fr. Gregory Gresko, OSB, a monk/priest, moral theologian, wrote concerning "how a flawed interpretation of Blessed John Paul II's seminal work on human sexuality can lead to a fundamentally wrong understanding of sex." It's very good.
In his column, the avid blogger, scholar and chaplain of the Blessed John Paul II Shrine in Washington, D.C., examines Christopher West's newest book, “At the Heart of the Gospel: Reclaiming the Body for the New Evangelization.”
Fr. Gresko begins by calling West's definition of lust problematic, as the author describes it in his new book as a “disorder of the heart.”
While this is certainly true, Fr. Gresko says West falls short in his interpretation by failing to clearly define what is meant by “heart” and whether or not he fully takes into account human concupiscence – or “the tendency to sin.”
Fr. Gresko says West claims that “a more complete spousal understanding of the 'body' provides the key to rectifying the sinful diseases of the 'heart.'”"When the Church tells people publicly what sexual actions they can get away with without sinning, many people will push the envelope."
But such an attitude, he writes, overlooks a humans tendency towards sin, which is “objectively present in the body” even after Baptism.
The priest points out in his column that even the most virtuous saints “had to wage battle daily” against sin. Therefore, assuming that lust or other disorders of the heart can be completely removed from the spousal act, as West seems to suggest, is false. - CNA
In his CNA column, Fr. Gresko affirms the Holy Father's work, writing: "Among the greatest works of his Pontificate is his Catecheses on Human Love (Cat.), also known as “Theology of the Body”, profoundly beautiful but theologically complex teachings on human love that at times have been subject to misinterpretation." The column then goes on to critique the difficulties one encounters in Christopher West's interpretation. Some highlights:
Use of “Sexual” TerminologyGood stuff, huh?
West insists on using “sexual” language throughout his work in an attempt to communicate more easily the truths of John Paul II’s often complex teaching to his readers. To West’s credit, in a few places he emphasizes that his use of such terminology always is intended to mean an integrated sexuality, that is, one that respects the unitive and generative aspects of human sexuality within the confines of marriage. However, in his insistence of utilizing the language of “sex”, he risks both threatening the reverence that is due before the mystery of sexuality as well as reducing John Paul’s Catecheses to being solely about sexuality, evidencing a separation between John Paul II’s work and his own. The Catecheses are far broader in scope than sexuality in addressing numerous other themes of theological thought and inquiry.
John Paul II speaks of communion as interpersonal, that is, as person to person. This theological and anthropological approach springs from his great treatise on sexual ethics, Love and Responsibility, in which – writing as Karol Cardinal Wojtyla -- he explains how our regard for another human being always must value the other as a person, one who is a unity of body and soul, in a manner consistent with what he termed the personalistic norm. This argument is fundamental for understanding the full scope of the Catecheses. Such interpersonal communion by its nature is most intimately a face-to-face encounter. John Paul II, to my understanding, never refers to this communion as being merely between bodies. In West’s discussion, perhaps unintentionally, the body is overemphasized to the point that it appears idolized. It is crucial to highlight in discussions of bodiliness that we are talking about the body of a person. Indeed, the body manifests the person. John Paul’s use of such personalistic terminology is very specific, as was also clear in Love and Responsibility, protecting his theology from being reduced to the level of a mere bodily sexuality. Of course, sexuality is a main aspect of the Catecheses, that goes without saying. However, it is always the sexuality of persons, body and soul, never intended to be reduced to the bodily aspect alone. In conjugal union, the entire being of the person, body and soul, grows in communion and enters into the mystery of the Divine Communion of Persons.
Such purity involves one spouse’s ability to see the other spouse’s body in purity. Spouses certainly should not be seeking to look at other persons’ naked bodies (except when necessary to care for their children or when medically required, with the obvious complete respect for human dignity that is due). However, West argues that mature purity at a virtuous level signifies being able to look at any body and maintaining perfect chastity; if he has to look away, West states that he is merely continent but not virtuous, although admitting that the vast majority of persons would find themselves in such a position. If discussions on the virtue of chastity, or “mature purity”, attempt to look at any body with the hope of seeing the other with pure eyes, West’s theological presentation is under serious threat of becoming an apologia for pornography, which is precisely the separation of the body from the person. West spends much time talking about the importance of loving others’ bodies properly, but what is missing from the discussion is the greatest need to love other persons most, encountering them as integrated bodies and souls, with virginal innocence. Loving persons accordingly is consonant with Karol Cardinal Wojtyla’s articulation of the personalistic norm in Love and Responsibility, without reducing the person to mere bodiliness. - Full article here.