In his long-awaited reply to his critics, West honestly admits that he did not want to say anything until he had received the all clear from the bishops, a boon given in abundance by Cardinal Rigali and Bishop Rhoades. While the bishops’ endorsement is significant, it does not mean that West’s teaching is magisterial or that it is on the level of those who themselves hold the teaching office of the Church. Even a theologian who has gained the endorsement of a pope, such as Hans Urs von Balthasar or Cardinal Walter Kasper, is not considered above respectful criticism when he articulates views that may legitimately be shown to be difficult to reconcile with the Church Fathers and Doctors.
West is gracious for thanking his supporters, but his reference to the “profound consolation” proffered by the faithful is a bit off-putting. He has chosen the path of controversy of his own volition, and for him that it is a matter of truth. Speaking the truth has its consequences, as does making mistakes as a teacher. It must be difficult to the focus of so much criticism, so I do pray for him. Nevertheless, he is considered, the authority on Theology of the Body, even more so now that he has been so strenuously defended. Constructive criticism is in order.
The Pivotal Obfuscation
In my opinion, his concentration on the question of concupiscence is, for the most part, a straw man. It seems evident that since Cardinal Rigali has blessed his entire work without qualification, West considers it is sufficient to reply to what he considers the central issue of contention. Thus, he conspicuously omits any discussion his crusade against prudery or of any of the practical matters that have been dealt with at length by the critics (e.g. the phallic symbolism of the paschal candle, his treatment of interlocutors, his interpretation of his writings of the saints). I will even grant that the question of concupiscence is central to the discussion. However, West mischaracterizes the objections of his critics. Continue reading