Support for Christopher West from Cardinal Justin Rigali and Bishop Kevin Rhoades
Cardinal Justin Rigali, as Chairman of the Episcopal Advisory Board for the Theology of the Body Institute and as local ordinary of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia where the Institute is located, and Bishop Kevin Rhoades, Christopher West’s local ordinary in the Diocese of Harrisburg, have stated that they are pleased to express strong support for the important work of the Theology of the Body Institute and, in particular, that of Christopher West.
We are convinced that John Paul II’s Theology of the Body is a treasure for the Church, indeed a gift of the Holy Spirit for our time. Yet, its scholarly language needs to be “translated” into more accessible categories if the average person is to benefit from it. To do this is the specific mission of the Theology of the Body Institute, and we believe that Christopher West, the Institute’s popular lecturer and spokesman, has been given a particular charism to carry out this mission. With great skill as a presenter, with keen insight as a thinker, and with profound reverence for the mystery of human sexuality, he has been able to reach thousands in our sexually wounded culture with the Gospel of salvation in Christ.
In light of recent discussions, we are happy to state our full confidence in Christopher, who continues to show great responsibility and openness in listening carefully to various observations and reflections on his work and in taking them into account. He and the Theology of the Body Institute are in communication with us, their local ordinaries. They work with our episcopal blessing. In our view their programs, courses, and materials reflect strong fidelity to the teaching of the Church and to the thought of Pope John Paul II. As such, we consider them of superb value for promoting the New Evangelization.
We sincerely hope that Christopher will continue his much needed work in the Church. He does so with our enthusiastic encouragement. It is also or hope that more and more men and women — priests, deacons, religious and laity alike — will avail themselves of the valuable training and resources offered by the Theology of the Body Institute.
August 10, 2009
Cardinal Justin Rigali
Archbishop of Philadelphia
Most Reverend Kevin C. Rhoades
Bishop of Harrisburg
This is a real disappointment, but not a surprise. I wonder what someone like Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, Pope John Paul II’s secretary, would think of Christopher West.
I know a couple from Poland who have studied Pope John Paul’s Love and Responsibility and who are horrified by Christopher West’s interpretation.
The European perspective on TOB is entirely different. I will have more to say after I have had time to reflect.
For now I will just say that most of the criticism of West has been honest, serious and constructive, not condemnatory, nor has it essentially denied the value of West’s work. The letter above affirms that value but dismisses all the criticism out of hand, or at least that is the way the letter is sure to be read by vast majority of its readers.
I attended his Tier I parish outreach program back in
Feb 2009. I found the instruction very helpful. We’ve used the teaching in our marriage, instuction for our teenage son and I’ve taught portions of it overseas. If you can attend the instruction, take it.
As I have said so often before: The present interperetation of TOB reminds me of the “Spirit of the Council”.
I would not go near any of this stuff with a 10 foot pole… nor would I subject my kids to any of it.
If the Holy Father himself told me it was OK, I would still be duty bound to avoid it.
The bishops may be so happy to have someone who is popular with young people and opposes contraception, they don’t think much beyond that. Of course, this attitude is not a good thing, but it is somewhat understandable, considering the small numbers of Catholics faithful on the issue of contraception.
Oh God, come to our assistance!
Lord, stop the world. I want to get off.
You are so right!
Dave: God bless you for chiming in. I do not make comments like that easily, nor take it lightly. I say it with sadness and pain. But I am consoled that a good man like yourself sees this too. It can only mean that the priests in your life have taught you differently. THAT, is because the Woman in those priests lives had taught those holy men of God differently.
Mary, Mother of Sorrows hear us and help us… for we are like sheep scattered.
In addition to our Mother… who protects us, we have two things going for us Dave: 1.) Good priests, 2.) Catholic women (and now children too) who can smell counterfeit theology from a mile away.
Well, we’ll all have to increase our prayers for Father Angelo to get an even STRONGER backbone for when (not if) he writes his book on all of this. 😉 It will not be easy to go against some of these bishops and he’ll need to be very charitable as well as succinct in how he words things … from his title to his last paragraph.
The following was a Letter to Cardinal Rigali from a Pro-lifer in Ann Arbor, MI, that I just received as one who has written extensively on the problems posed Catholic parents by what passes for sexual education in our schools:
I and other Catholics involved in Pro-Life and Chastity Education were very disappointed with your ‘carte blanche’ affirmation of ‘Support for Christopher West”. I suspect you have not seen his immodest, indelicate, and even crude rants on TV which have alienated many Catholics who can not understand how a Catholic educator couold engage in such an irreverent treatment of human sexuality. Nor can they understand the manner in which he has treated the Church’s doctrine of the Mother of God’s ‘virginitas in partu’ (her delivery of her Divine Son was a bloody one !). What, moreover, should be thought of his understanding of what constitutes sodomy?
You discount too much the criticisms of such authorities on the ‘Theology of the Body’ as Dr.David Schindler and various priests who are concerned that Mr.West has violated elements of the Church’s teaching on Chastity found in the Church’s key document”The Truth and Meaning of Human Sexuality.’
The ‘Theology of the Body’ furthered by Pope John Paul II is indeed, as you write, ‘a treasure for the Church’, But Christopher West is no Pope John Paul II.
Bishops of the Church need to insist that his serious errors and seriously flawed presentations be addressed and corrected.May I add that for 40 years there has been too much of the same unchaste and irreverent approach characterizing ‘Sex Education’ in both public and parochial schools tolerated or even encouraged by our Catholic bishops. The sex scandals that have rabaged the Church are not disconnected with the immodest and unchaste Classroom sex education that has been fashionable in our Catholic Schools at every level and, indeed, in our seminaries. May Our Lord give all our Bishops discernment in these serious matters.”
Jim, nice to hear from you. Yes, it is frustrating. I have decided to focus on von Hildebrand.
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Amen! I too have stumbled onto West’s rants on TV and couldn’t believe my ears. I was amazed (read, horrified!) that EWTN would show such a thing. Pope John Paul II’s TOB is beautiful; I’ve only been studying it for a matter of months and have barely scratched the surface, so I’m not an expert. But rest assured, unless Mr. West transforms the way he’s been presenting it, I’ll continue steering folks away from it when they ask me to recommend TOB study material. (I much prefer the work being done by Fr. Richard Hogan, btw.)
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