Why Those Who Publicly Attack Bishops Are Wrong

There is reason to be ambivalent about Michael Voris’ resolution not to publically criticize the Holy Father.  Mark Shea has shown good example for having been quick and firm in his commendation of Voris.  I certainly could have been more gracious in the matter, especially considering that Voris has refused to back down in the face of the reactionary backlash. But even Mark Shea, as gracious as he is, acknowledges the same defect that I have found necessary to emphasize, namely, that Voris’ “gospel of anger” has created the reactionary “Frankenstein” that now wishes to eat him.  In my estimation this is because his argument for his silence about the Holy Father is on shaky ground.

Voris has worked hard to distinguish between his jihad against the bishops and his reverent silence concerning the Pope. He says the Pope is different, but to my mind does not really show how. And his reactionary friends along side of whom he used to fight have now pointed their weapons at him. Still, I do commend him sincerely for having drawn this line, and I do not want this post to be perceived as fundamentally polemical.  Voris is sincerely trying to work his way through the quagmire of modern Church life and it is not easy. Continue reading

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What the Fisher More Situation Teaches Us

The current situation with Fisher More College is the new handle on the radical traditionalist axe.  As though an indisputable fact, it is being compared with the restrictions placed on the use of the Extraordinary Form of the Liturgy within the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate.  The story goes that whatever the problems might have been in these institutions there simply can be no legitimate reasons, or motivations of pastoral charity, that would justify a moratorium on the use of the old Missal.  But I believe a more apt comparison is to be drawn between the way in which the two situations have been used for propaganda purposes by these traditionalists.

In both cases there has been a leaking of documentation to Internet blogger/journalists, whose credentials show them to be, not just advocates for the full implementation of Summorum Pontificum, but also mouthpieces for the extreme side of traditionalism (end of the reform of the reform, the horror of Pope Francis, the impossibility of a hermeneutic of continuity, etc.).  Likewise, in both cases there has been a great deal of prejudicial conjecture, placing the worst possible interpretation on the decisions made by the Church.  In the case of the FI, the problem has been fire-bombed with conspiracy theory and the wholesale destruction of reputations.  It needs to be clear that is has been the traditionalist sources that have made a public spectacle of these ecclesiastical problems.  If any reputations have been damaged on either side, it has been due to the fact that they chose to fight this problem out in the public square. Continue reading

War in the Bubble

It is really hard to know how to be charitable in these instances.

We have gone from The Shire to Mordor in two posts.

Back when I was writing on Christopher West’s interpretation of the Theology of the Body, I experienced something similar.  People who were inclined to agree with me egged me on, while those who disagreed largely objected to the very fact that I had something critical to say at all.  It was a lack of charity on my part to criticize someone so committed to the work of God, so I was told.

My response was to say that it was not personal or an attack on Christopher West, but a critique of his ideas and methods.  When someone decides to use an authoritative voice and say controversial things in public, they implicitly agree to accept criticism.  It is the nature of the public forum and the free exchange of ideas.  They have made an argument in public about something important to them.  It begs for a response. Continue reading

Behind the Looking Glass, and It Ain’t Pretty

I feel like I am caught in a bad fairytale.

I am publishing in-full Rorate Caeli’s follow-up on their Tolkien post and linking to it in my original rebuttal of Father X.

Follow-up: on Tolkien

The post including transcripts of the conferences first posted on Audio Sancto with a somewhat critical view of the value as Catholic literature of the mythological world created by traditional Catholic author J. R. R. Tolkien generated quite a bit of heat.

The reaction from many quarters was stronger than might have been expected if we had posted a denial of an article of the Creed!… In a sense, even though I personally disagreed with much of what Father had to say, it seems to me that this bizarre overreaction validates much of his concern over a sacralization of texts which, as loved as they may be by many, are just a modern piece of entertaining fiction, and, let us be quite honest about it, regardless of the academic brilliance of the author, are not part of the canon of great literature of Christian Civilization.

In any event, precisely because this does not involve an article of the faith, but a prudential judgment on which Catholics may reasonably disagree, we would be more than happy to post a rebuttal of the conferences from a traditional Catholic perspective, in case it is also authored by a traditional priest and is, of course, respectful towards his fellow man of the cloth.

Rorate Caeli (exactly who from RC, I don’t know) made a request yesterday in the comments section of my rebuttal that I provide a link to the above follow-up.  I asked him to provide a link on RC to my post in return, but he declined, saying Continue reading

Caught in the Vortex of His Own Making

Michael Voris twirls his pencil at the beginning of each of his vortex videos as a visual aid to his tagline: “where lies and falsehoods are trapped and exposed.”  One might argue that he should point the pencil downward instead of upward as a visualization of perhaps a more accurate tagline:  “where I stir the pot everyday in the Cathlolic blogosphere.”  But actually, I am okay with the vortex metaphor.  Vortices tend to suck all that surrounds them into themselves and create a great deal of destruction.

We all know that the blogosphere can be a pretty toxic environment.  It is easy to depersonalize others or even to depersonalize oneself in the isolation of the virtual world. Professional communicators as a species are particularly susceptible to the love of hearing their own voices, of being clever and eloquent and of getting one up on an adversary.  I have done it many times.  The internet provides endless opportunities to indulge oneself.

Continue reading

Where I Am at Right Now with Theology of the Body


Well,  I have to admit that I have just about run out of steam with the Theology of the Body debate, which, God help us, is not preventing me from posting once again.  I suppose I should say something about the end of Christopher’s West’s sabbatical.  He has returned.

I don’t know that we are getting anywhere, unfortunately.  Christopher West, for example, says he is always learning from his critics, but he still maintains that we have misrepresented him in a number of “serious” ways.  And I am still waiting to find out what he considers we were right about.  Just to remind everyone: the objections were not all about style and presentation.  Well, at least he admits he lacked balance.  I am not sure what that means, but look forward to finding out what his new approach will be.

Unfortunately, this debate runs the risk of turning into a propaganda war.  Much of the criticism of one of my most recent pieces was that I was not nice.  But I already knew that.  Mea culpa.  Pray for me.  But also, please tell me why I am wrong about the doctrines contained (or not contained) in John Paul II’s Theology of the Body.

Well, anyway.  I have said just about all I have to say for now.  I am not making any promises though.  Christopher West says he will be addressing the criticisms he has received in a number of articles.  He thanked his critics in that context, but then went on to speak of how his ideas have been misrepresented.  Again, I look forward to finding out both the reasons he has to thank his critics and the reason why he thinks they are wrong.  I do not plan to comment on each of his articles.  What interests me in view of avoiding a propaganda war is patterns verified by facts.

I will just leave you all with several thoughts.  One thing that neither side has talked about in all this is the element of the diabolical, and especially the way in which the evil one uses sexuality as a snare.  I only know of one article aside from the ones in which I have linked to it which comments on this phenomenon. I would be interested in what Christopher West has to say about this.

Another point to consider is it is absolutely incontrovertible that Christopher West’s version of Theology of the Body, along with that of Father Loya’s, minimizes the role of modesty.  In this view, modesty is relative and primarily interior, necessitated by a lack of domination over concupiscence, but not fitting in itself.  Where it does not fall away in the interests of a Christian regard for the body acquired by a growth in virtue it turns into prudery.  Think about diabolical influence in this context.  (In this vein, take a look at Father Loya’s defense of the paschal candle-as-phallus assertion and compare with my essay and the thesis of Dawn Eden.  You decide.)

You should all take a look at Sr. Marianne Lorraine Trouve’s critique of Dawn Eden’s thesis.  From Sister’s essay, one gets the impression that the critics of Christopher West have completely misunderstood his work, and would not be able to properly assess it unless they had followed all his circumlocutions over the last fifteen years and more.  Sister Lorraine asks:

Does any fair-minded observer really think it’s possible to accomplish this project in a master’s thesis of under 100 pages?

Huh?  No one could possible critique West in a master’s thesis of less than 100 pages?  I guess that means no one could possibly understand him at all unless they were capable of writing more than a 100 pages on what they had learned from him.  People have brought up the same issues with West since the beginning. See West’s Open Letter answering an early critic who had approached him privately.  Dawn Eden has not catalogued all the changes West has made over the years because she is interested in the positions West currently holds with which she disagrees.  Or is Sister Lorraine claiming that at this point West and Eden have nothing really to disagree about?

This is like arguing that no one can really say anything intelligent on the matter unless they have read everything West has ever done and then attended all his public appearances and have done a textual analysis of all the content from a strictly technical point of view before one decides to agree or disagree with him.  Until then, we should just all be obedient sheep and rely on episcopal approbations.  West’s work has been effectively canonized.  I have been a part of this debate for some time.  I know how West’s disciples interpret him.  Dawn Eden is not putting an adversarial spin on West’s work.  She is criticizing West on the basis of the way he is being understood by those who support him.  I cannot tell you how many times I have heard from disciples of West something to the effect that “we shouldn’t cover women up because that is to treat the female body as evil.”  That is just one example.

Sr. Lorraine’s critique covers the whole of Dawn Eden’s thesis.  I will let you compare and contrast.  I would just suggest that before you accept anyone’s interpretation of John Paul’s text, that you read it for yourself.  Whenever someone quotes one sentence, or paraphrases, or includes multiple incomplete sentences as quotes in a single paragraph, or inserts the telltale ellipsis (. . .), read the whole paragraph in the pope’s writings carefully, or better, read the whole general audience.  I submit that what you will find is that the Westians are often hyper-sexualizing the text, making it do work for which it was never intended.

Here is an example from Sr. Lorraine’s critique.  The first paragraph a quote from Christopher West, quoting the Holy Father.  The second is Sr. Lorraine quoting directly the Holy Father:

“As John Paul shows us, the question of sexuality and marriage is not a peripheral issue. In fact, he says the call to “nuptial love” inscribed in our bodies is “the fundamental element of human existence in the world” (General Audience 1/16/80). In light of Ephesians 5, he even says that the ultimate truth about the “great mystery” of marriage “is in a certain sense the central theme of the whole of revelation, its central reality” (General Audience 9/8/82).” . . . . [Yes, please check out the text to see what I am leaving out with the ellipsis.]

But there’s one more thing. What does Pope John Paul say about this issue? Referring to the spousal analogy in Ephesians 5, he says: “Given its importance, this mystery is great indeed: as God’s salvific plan for humanity, that mystery is in some sense the central theme of the whole of revelation, its central reality. It is what God as Creator and Father wishes above all to transmit to mankind in his Word” (TOB 93:2)

I will now provide you with the actual texts of the Holy Father:

For the present we are remaining on the threshold of this historical perspective. On the basis of Genesis 2:23-25, we clearly realize the connection that exists between the revelation and the discovery of the nuptial meaning of the body, and man’s original happiness. This nuptial meaning is also beatifying. As such, it manifests in a word the whole reality of that donation which the first pages of Genesis speak to us of. Reading them, we are convinced of the fact that the awareness of the meaning of the body that is derived from them—in particular of its nuptial meaning—is the fundamental element of human existence in the world.

This nuptial meaning of the human body can be understood only in the context of the person. The body has a nuptial meaning because the human person, as the Council says, is a creature that God willed for his own sake. At the same time, he can fully discover his true self only in a sincere giving of himself (General Audience 1/16/80).

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In the overall context of the Letter to the Ephesians and likewise in the wider context of the words of the Sacred Scriptures, which reveal God’s salvific plan “from the beginning,” one must admit that here the term mystérion signifies the mystery, first of all hidden in God’s mind, and later revealed in the history of man. Indeed, it is a question of a “great” mystery, given its importance. That mystery, as God’s salvific plan in regard to humanity, is in a certain sense the central theme of all revelation, its central reality. God, as Creator and Father, wishes above all to transmit this to mankind in his Word (General Audience 9/8/82).

It seems to me that the sense of these texts is that the nuptial meaning of the body points to the fact that God created us for Himself and that we find our true identity in self-giving.  This self-giving of Christ is the central theme of all revelation and is expressed in the language body.  It is the “nuptial meaning” of the body, not the body itself or sexuality that constitutes the “great mystery.”  In other words, God gives us the body in order to point to Christ, He does not give us the body in order to point to itself.  There is a real difference.  And the difference is expressed, for example, in one’s willingness or unwillingness to simulate a sex act in the Easter Liturgy.  For those who see the nuptial meaning of the body as central, such a thing is pornography.  For those who see bodily sexuality itself as central, such is liturgical prayer.

I am not sure whether West still holds the following position, but I do remember that in the first edition of the “Naked without Shame” tape series, he claimed that it was important to understand the “revelation” of the nakedness of Christ on the cross.  I am not here going to take up the question as to whether the loin cloth is historical.  I remember West claiming that it was not.  What is important to me is that he stated that while most people would not be able “to handle” the nakedness of Jesus, they miss out because of it.  To me this is theological madness.

Yes, West may have “evolved,” but the tenor of his work has not.

And this leads me to Mark Shea’s latest piece on theology of the body.  Shea sees what everyone else with open eyes sees, namely, that the TOB team USA is presenting TOB as a theory of everything.  He sums up his points in the following way:

If you do smell something amiss, don’t panic or declare it to be the fruit of somebody’s monstrous will to subvert and destroy the Faith. Assume “blunder” before “diabolical plot.” Conversely, if you find something fruitful, good, and beautiful in the TOB, don’t run off and declare it a revolution in Catholic thought that will provide an All-Explaining Paradigm of Everything in Time, Space, and Eternity. It’s a human school of thought, not the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Faith.

In a word, relax. It’s just somebody’s opinion, not the End of the World or the Consummation of All Things.

Earlier in the essay he makes the point that the corpus of TOB is not magisterial because it is only a series of general audiences, and not an encyclical.  I am not sure I would refer to it as “not magisterial,” but I certainly agree that it is essential to place this single corpus of general audiences in the context of the whole teaching of the Church, and give to it a relative importance and not an absolute authority.  The problem with so much of this TOB enthusiasm is that  it is being presented as a theory of everything and the absolute trump card for every possible objection.

I would just say that I find it odd that Mark Shea hovers over the controversy and declares it to be relatively unimportant, when in fact West, Father Loya and others are presenting TOB as the theory-of-everthing-trump-card.  That is not a small matter because it is the sexualization of Christianity and more akin to the pagan religions that Christianity replaced than to the historical reality of Christian faith.

I imagine this game of theological ping-pong will continue until Rome intervenes.  I had hoped that would not be necessary.  What I see in this unwillingness to place the Theology of the Body in the larger context of Church teaching looks more like the pagan worship of sex than it does the Christianization of marriage and sexuality.  It is time to abandon the sex-obssession and to stop trying to baptize it.