WADE ST. ONGE

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Wednesday, October 6, 2010

TOB: Response to Dr. Janet Smith

Introduction.

I have followed the “Christopher West debate” from its beginning (Dr. Schindler’s critique) to the present (the most recent being the public release of Dawn Eden’s masters thesis and Dr. Janet Smith’s response). As someone who taught Theology of the Body for three years (at John Paul II Bible College in Radway, Alberta) and who made use of West’s work, I was very interested in arriving at the truth of this matter. For years, I had had my own criticisms of West, although that did not stop me from using him (and in fact, I still use him). However, as the debate unfolded, I found that many of my criticisms were justified, and I became consciously aware of other problems that I previously only had vague notions or impressions of.


When Dr. Michael Waldstein and Dr. Janet Smith issued their responses to Dr. Schindler’s critique, I was surprised to see that neither of them really responded to the actual substance of Schindler’s arguments (more about that later). As time went on and others entered the debate, I noticed that the critiques issued against West were not really being “engaged” by those defending West. Rather, they were largely responded to through
ad hominem attacks (“they are just ‘attacking’ him because they are ‘jealous’”), red herrings, and often enough, silence. This alone did more to convince me than the substance of any of the arguments made by either side.

When Ms. Eden publicly released her thesis, I read it and found it to be a solid though not flawless critique. I had my own issues with it which I mentioned briefly in my own critique of West (which can be found here:
http://wademichaelstonge.blogspot.com/2010/09/theology-of-body-debate-critique-and.html). I was aware that Dr. Janet Smith was planning on responding to it, and I was looking forward to reading it as I wanted to see if Ms. Eden’s thesis did have some serious problems that I did not see. As someone who falls more on the side of the “West critics” in this debate, I know that my bias might blind me to truths that “West supporters” may see clearly.

However, just like Dr. Smith’s response to Dr. Schindler, I believe that Dr. Smith, in her essay, “Engaging Dawn Eden’s Thesis”, once again largely failed to respond to the substance of Ms. Eden’s points. What follows is a point-by-point reply to Smith’s critique of Eden’s thesis (Smith’s revised critique, which is the one I decided to respond to, can be found here:
http://www.catholiceducation.org/articles/sexuality/se0207.htm). I have reprinted Dr. Smith’s subtitles to make it easier for the reader to cross-reference Smith’s essay as he goes along. I too will use Dr. Smith’s abbreviation “ET” as short for “Eden’s Thesis”).

A. Response to Smith’s Preliminary Comments.


Dr. Smith begins by speaking about how Mr. West has been open to critical response and has changed accordingly, and how Mr. West is a good Christian man whose teaching has done a great deal of good for a great many people. No doubt, Mr. West has over the years changed portions of his writings and presentations in response to critical feedback. I do not think anyone can deny this. In fact, Eden herself states this (ET, Preface, ix). No doubt, Mr. West’s teaching has done a great deal of good. It has resulted in many conversions and has led many to a purer life. Once again, no one can deny this – it is quite evident. However, Dr. Smith also praises Ms. Eden for her desire to protect the Catholic faithful from distortions of Theology of the Body, and I too laud her for that. Now, whether or not Mr. West is guilty of that we will set aside for now.


Dr. Smith begins by saying that Ms. Eden’s thesis is “seriously flawed and may potentially do much harm”. Will it do any harm? Perhaps. However, Dr. Smith does not seem to say it will do “much harm” due to the fact that it is “seriously flawed”, even though Smith believes it is. Rather, Dr. Smith’s concern is that “some people have taken a mere glance at her thesis, and since they are predisposed to accept her conclusions, they are dazzled by the number of quotations and footnotes into thinking that she has provided a worthy critique West's work.” It logically follows that those who are already “predisposed to accept her conclusions” have obviously decided, before this thesis was published, they did not like West’s approach or presentation(s). If such people are using Eden’s thesis to pressure priests and organizations not to use West’s material, Eden herself should not be blamed for that. She can be blamed for putting out a “seriously flawed” thesis, but if people who didn’t like West before are going to use Eden’s “star power” to carry out what they have presumably wanted to do for years now, is that not the fault of those who oppose West and those priests who are unable to sift truth from error?


B. Response to Various Points


1. The Importance of Fair Analysis and Accurate Representation.


Dr. Smith states that “I am going to assess only one criticism that Eden makes of West: the claim that West’s view of the Theology of the Body as causing a ‘revolution’ is not faithful to a ‘hermeneutic of continuity’.” When I read this, I thought back to Dr. Waldstein’s response to Dr. Schindler’s critique (
http://www.catholicity.com/commentary/waldstein/06117.html). Dr. Waldstein too said he would only respond to “one” of Schindler’s criticisms, and by doing so he would demonstrate that the rest of Schindler’s charges were unfounded. As I have said elsewhere regarding Waldstein’s response, “He did not really respond to the substance of Schindler's argument, and when he addressed the first of his four points (on concupiscence), he states simply that, on the contrary, West is in fact on the mark, then goes on to ‘prove’ this by writing ‘a clear outline of the Catholic position in this matter’ (as Schindler described it in his response to Waldstein: http://www.headlinebistro.com/hb/en/news/schindler_response.html, II.7), with a short discussion on Jansenistic tendencies in recent Catholic history. None of this Schindler would disagree with, except for Waldstein’s simple assertion that ‘No, West does not contradict the Catholic teaching’.”

So when I read Dr. Smith saying she has found in Eden’s thesis “a distortion of what West said, a misreading of texts, and numerous irrelevant claims”, I thought back to Waldstein’s response. I was not sure if she would reply to the substance of Eden’s thesis, or if this response would be similar to that of Waldstein’s. The following is my evaluation of Smith’s critique of Eden’s thesis.


2. The Hermeneutic of Continuity.


I agree with Dr. Smith that for something that Ms. Eden considered to be “the most serious flaw in West’s work”, she did not spend a great deal of space defending this charge. She probably now regrets that. She should have done something similar to what I did in my own critique of West as found on my blog.


As I said on Sr. Lorraine’s blog (http://thomasfortoday.blogspot.com/2010/09/putting-christopher-west-in-context.html), if before this thesis came out, someone was to give to those who have read or listened to Mr. West a true-false test that consisted of the “ten themes”, and if the question was, “according to Christopher West, [insert theme]”, most would answer “True” to most of them. In fact, I would have answered “True” to most if not all of them, and would still answer “True” to many if not most of them.


Dr. Smith criticises Ms. Eden for “bombard[ing] her readers with words that she seems to believe will shock them”, such as "all-encompassing," "recontextualize," "everything," "revolution," and "dramatic development." Two things must be said here. (1) West himself has used these or similar words to describe TOB, and once again, if this was a “true-false” question, I would answer “True” as well. He does give the impression that TOB is all this, even if he may not use these exact words. (2) West himself often “bombards [his] readers [or listeners] with words that [he believes] will shock them”. If he can be justified in doing so, I think Eden can as well.


West says it “isn’t just about sex and marriage”, but sometimes his inordinate focus on sexuality and marriage in his presentations can belie or contradict this. When we are told that St. Teresa of Avila appears as though she is experiencing orgasm in portraits depicting her in ecstasy, that the Easter candle is a phallic symbol of the sexual union between husband and wife, that the vagina is akin to “the holy of holies”, when the TOB Institute website features couples and families in 14 of its 15 pictures (only one of them is a picture of a priest; there are no religious sisters, no religious brothers, no single people), etc., many single people (actually, people in general, regardless of state) can think it really IS all about “sex and marriage”.


Certainly, Mr. West is better than most TOB presenters in that he makes it clear that TOB is for single people too, and that single people can live out TOB. However, this is heavily outweighed (and I would say “drowned out”) by his frequent exaltations of praise for sex and marriage. It is similar to what takes place at the annual “Family Life Conference” in Lac St. Anne, Alberta (which Mr. West spoke at a number of years ago, though that is beside the point). It is a difficult conference for single people because they see so many families and the teachings all focus on the beauty of marriage and parenthood. Religious and single life both get “short shrift”. Of course, the conference organizers stress that this is for everyone, and that happiness depends on holiness and not marital status, but that is not what most single people “experience” or what they “receive” and thus “take away” from it. It is quite possible – and in fact it happens frequently – that
the totality of the presentation does not line up with particular assertions that are made within those presentations.

In contrast to this, I spoke at length and very passionately about “single life” (I have actually developed a “theology of single life”) when I taught “Theology of the Body” at the Bible College. I found it interesting that the most common comment from students in the “most important thing I learned” section was that “single life is a ‘blessing’!” or similar such comments. This gave me a great deal of satisfaction, because most of my students were single, and I know how much young Catholics struggle with finding themselves single. I was very pleased that they were able to leave with this impression after I said so many glowing things about sex and marriage. Of course, it also helped that I spoke about celibacy in (even more) glowing terms, and that I stressed the superiority of celibacy (which West unfortunately does not “stress” even though he might at times “mention” it).


3. Recontextualize Everything.


On Sr. Lorraine’s blog, I also criticized Eden’s choice of words when she said “theologians and religious educators” would be “required” to “recontextualize” everything. However, I also pointed out that West often cites Weigel’s quote, and thus people do get the impression that in the future, this will be the case.


Regarding John Paul II’s quote: “Since our creation as male and female is the ‘fundamental fact of human existence’ (Feb. 13, 1980), the theology of the body affords ‘the rediscovery of the meaning of the whole of existence, the meaning of life’ (Oct. 29, 1980),” (from Christopher West’s article, “What is Theology of the Body and Why is it Changing So Many Lives?”
http://www.christopherwest.com/page.asp?ContentID=71), I would agree with this but would qualify it. Yes, the “theology of the body” does have this potential. But then again, so do many spiritual classics. So does Introduction to the Devout Life – which had me “reflecting [and praying] on the ‘three levels’” (original, historical, and eschatological man) and has personally helped me “rediscover the meaning of life” more than Theology of the Body has. So does the Catechism. So does the Bible. So does the Rosary. I am not saying Theology of the Body is not a great theological work, nor am I saying it has not had a great impact on the Church. What I am saying is that it is one of many works that have impacted, continue to impact, and have the potential to impact Christians. For some, it might be Theology of the Body. For others, it might be Scripture, or St. Augustine’s Confessions, or the Dialogues of St. Catherine, or the Little Flower’s Story of A Soul. As I said, some of these other works have done more for me than Theology of the Body. And in fact, it is not so much that “theology of the body” has done me wonders, but rather the Church’s centuries-old teachings on marriage, sexuality, and the human person that Theology of the Body presents. One can easily come away from West’s presentations believing that “Theology of the Body” is the most important Catholic work in the Church today, when in fact, that is not universally true, even if for some Catholics it might be.

4. Dramatic Development in the Creed.


Dr. Smith says that “West is hardly giving instructions to theologians and educators to ‘recontextualize everything’.” Dr. Smith is correct – in the particular quotation she is addressing here, he is not doing so. However, as I said, Weigel’s quotation is a staple in his presentation of Theology of the Body. It is quite easy to leave West’s presentations believing that the entire deposit of faith is going to be “recontextualized” in light of TOB.


I believe Eden cited the claim without indicating why she believes it is a false assessment
because the totality of her thesis seeks to make that case. It was not her purpose at this stage to make a point that she was attempting to make throughout her thesis and in a more direct way at other specific points in her thesis.

Dr. Smith says, “I am quite certain it doesn't mean that the Creed will change – it doesn't mean there will be a dramatic change in doctrine – or any change in doctrine, for that matter.” I do not think Ms. Eden, a Masters student in Theology, believes Weigel is saying this. This would clearly be heretical, and Ms. Eden knows Weigel is not a heretic, and she knows he is not ignorant enough to believe this could be possible. I think what Weigel means is clear, which is why Dr. Smith says that “careless readers” might misunderstand. With all due respect to Dr. Smith, it appears there was an attempt here to critique a point that should not have been critiqued, but that Dr. Smith believed needed to be critiqued, because the quotation is incriminating and must be dealt with. If a “careless reader” misconstrues anything, I would blame the “careless reader”. As for the rest of us “careful readers”, I do not see a problem here.


5. Imago Dei.


Dr. Smith says, “Eden seems to disapprove of West’s claim that it is a major development in Catholic thought to say that the
imago Dei is located ‘not only in the individual man or woman but also (in the pope's words) ‘through the communion…which man and woman form right from the beginning” (ET, 11). I do not think Eden disapproves of West’s claim that there has been a major development. I think Dr. Smith isolated this statement of hers from the broader context of her “first theme”. In that context, Eden’s concern is clear – she objects to what she perceives as an inordinate focus on this aspect. She expands on this later when she speaks about the primacy of the “filial” relationship with God over the “spousal” relationship in the section subtitled, “Nuptiality as key to sexual healing,” which begins on Page 32.

Once again, Dr. Smith, seeming to know that Eden may be making a solid point, qualifies her objection. This time, Smith’s criticism is that “it is difficult to know what point she is making.” She then goes back to speak of Eden’s “previous negative tone” and how that might confuse the reader. Smith goes on to set up a sort of “straw man” by showing that Cardinal Scola agrees with the idea that John Paul II’s locating the
Imago Dei in the communion of persons has been a major development in Catholic thought. But Eden would not disagree with Cardinal Scola – she would acknowledge that there has indeed been a development. Smith also uses somewhat of a red herring by stating that “a major development in ‘thought’ is not a major development in doctrine.” But Dr. Smith can “cover” these fallacies by saying that Eden has so confused the reader that Dr. Smith may have come to the wrong conclusion as to what Eden was actually trying to say! Let it be noted here that the substance of Eden’s point was not responded to by Smith.

6. Sex and Mystery.


Dr. Smith is correct in saying that Ms. Eden should have commented further on the texts she cited in her “ten themes”. As I said on Sr. Lorraine’s blog, “[Eden’s] middle section should evaluate the ‘ten themes’ [one by one] and show how West is wrong about them.” However, once again, the criticism of Eden is more about her style than the actual point she is attempting to make. Smith once again asks, “What does West mean?” In other words, Eden does not clearly lay out West’s position. However, Smith says nothing about whether or not that particular “theme” is wrong. Indeed, at the end of this paragraph, Smith admits that “Here, I would say is one place where West needs to continue to show caution in explaining how John Paul II uses the term ‘sex’” (Smith had explained earlier that John Paul II more often than not uses it as a “noun” and not as a “verb”).


7. Maturation in Thinking vs. Doctrinal Development


Once again, this section begins with a criticism of Eden’s “sceptical and even mocking tone” rather than the precise point Eden is trying to make. Smith continues with a criticism not of the substance of Eden’s point (namely, that West says the Church is maturing through time and has only reached “puberty”; ET, 12), but of the fact that she once again quoted West without explaining the quotation for the reader. Smith’s problem is that “[Eden] comments not at all on the passage cited and thus the reader cannot know what she finds objectionable about it or, of course, if she does find it objectionable. Again, the previous tone of her thesis suggests that she does.” Once again, Eden’s point goes unaddressed. But to the “careless reader”, it may seem that Smith has refuted this particular “theme”, and said reader may not pick up that Smith’s argument about Eden accusing West of claiming “doctrinal development” again is a “red herring”. In reality, all Smith has demonstrated is that Eden committed errors in method and style rather than substance, and that her thesis directors did a mediocre job at best.


8. True Dangers?


Dr. Smith says, “I would suggest to Eden that her readers (and even West’s audiences) would not find it hard to distinguish what West is saying from the views of someone like [“liberal” Catholic Paul] McHugh”. Certainly, the teachings of McHugh and West are like night and day. But then again, isn’t it possible for two people who are diametrically opposed regarding their beliefs to have certain commonalities? After all, if Mr. West can find “profound historical connections” between Pope John Paul II and Hugh Hefner (as he said on the
Nightline piece, http://abcnews.go.com/print?id=7527380), could we not find similarities between McHugh and West? Perhaps McHugh came to the wrong conclusions, just as Hefner did, but just as both Hefner and John Paul II were both attempting to redeem authentic sexuality from prudish Victorian morality, so too is it possible for both West and McHugh to both be reacting to what they perceive to be a “prudish Catholic Church”.

This is followed by another straw man, which Smith answers by stating that “West has no expectation that Church doctrine will or should change. He is a fierce defender of Church teaching
as it is.” Eden was not concerned about West “changing doctrine”; rather, her concern was that West has the tendency to divorce TOB from its interpretive keys – namely, what the Church has taught through Her Fathers, Doctors, and Popes in the centuries preceding 1965. My blog article gives an extensive treatment of this very issue (which I wish Eden had done more of).

9. Revolution.


I too believe West is correct in his belief that preconciliar Catholics were “often repressive”, and that some still are. However, I believe Eden’s concern is that West may have the tendency to paint with his “prudish brush” a lot of Saints and Church Fathers and Doctors who were not in fact prudish. I spoke about this on my blog as well.


I also agree with Dr. Smith about the sections that were left in Latin. I remember being told when I was in seminary about the days when the priests would lecture exclusively in English, then switch to Latin when it came time to discuss the Sixth Commandments, then go back to English when they concluded and moved to the Seventh. Smith says this “suggests some ‘repression’ to me”, and I would concur.


Dr. Smith goes on to say, “West’s work in promoting the
Theology of the Body is doing a lot to redress that problem in a very effective fashion.” Once again, I agree. But as Fr. Granados said in his critique, “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’” (http://www.headlinebistro.com/en/news/granados_west.html). In other words, we have to take care that when correcting prudery, we do not swing the pendulum to the opposite extreme.

Citing ET, 63, Dr. Smith states, “Eden faults West with using ‘frustration’ at previous repressive ways of teaching as a ‘starting point’ for catechesis on marriage and sex.” I believe this is another example of how Ms. Eden was at times careless in her formulations and use of terms and choice of words. I would not have called it a “starting point”.


However, if you continue to read and thus take in the fuller context, I believe Eden makes a good point. Citing ET, 64, Dr. Smith asks, “What evidence does Eden have that West’s teachings cause people to ‘resent’ yesterday’s Church?” I think there is plenty of anecdotal evidence from those who have read or listened to West. Just visit some of the comboxes where supporters of West have posted defences of him and criticisms of those who have critiqued him. Dr. Alice von Hildebrand is certainly seen by many of them as a pre-Vatican “prude” who has not really read John Paul II’s Theology of the Body – which they see as the “antidote” to “Catholic prudishness”.


Dr. Smith asks, “Does all criticism of ‘yesterday's Church’ foster resentment and is it thus wrong to criticize yesterday’s Church?” Smith then goes on to make what I would consider a blunder. She says: “Who would deny that across the board, catechetical teaching in the US for several decades was seriously inadequate if not erroneous? Bishops have lamented how poor catechesis has been (e.g., “
Archbishop Hughes outlines Deficiencies and a Plan of Action” [http://catholicparents.org/NCCBontexts.html]). Are they guilty of fostering resentment and setting up a hermeneutic of discontinuity?” In Smith’s analogy, she is equating “yesterday’s Church” with the “deficiencies” outlined by Archbishop Hughes. However, Archbishop Hughes is lamenting deficiencies in catechesis since Vatican II, not before Vatican II. This does not set up a “hermeneutic of discontinuity” because the “discontinuity” as Pope Benedict has discussed has come from priests, theologians, and teachers divorcing conciliar and post-conciliar teaching from pre-conciliar teaching. To answer Dr. Smith’s question, I would say, “No, it is not always wrong to criticize certain things about ‘yesterday’s church’. However, it is wrong and even dangerous to leave the impression that John Paul II through his Theology of the Body is finally freeing the Church from a centuries-long prudery that is even reflected in the writings of the Church Doctors such as St. Francis de Sales.”

10. The Importance of Tone.


I too noted in my blog one particular “put-down” in Ms. Eden’s thesis, and I agree that it seems to reveal a bias.


11. Refusal to Admit Error.


I too believe Ms. Eden is a bit hesitant to admit error when they are pointed out to her. However, as I said elsewhere, she may be concerned that if she admitted so much as one error, people might take that as “proof” that her whole thesis is incorrect.


12. Definitive Interpreter.


Smith quotes Eden as saying, “Christopher West presents himself as the definitive interpreter of the teachings of John Paul II.” Once again, Eden chooses her words poorly. However, even though “West has never claimed to be such”, as Smith rightly points out, it is practically true that at least in this country, Christopher West has become the
de facto interpreter or John Paul II’s “Theology of the Body”. What most people in this country know about TOB they have learned from West. Few of these have ever read John Paul II’s “Theology of the Body” for themselves.

13. Teaching Authority.


Dr. Smith says that West’s “writings and presentations have been favourably reviewed both by bishops and top scholars.” However, what she fails to mention is that some “top scholars”, including many professors at his
alma mater, have not given him “favourable reviews” but rather the opposite. It must also be asked if there are some dioceses in which bishops have privately refused to allow Mr. West to speak in their dioceses?

Although I would agree with Dr. Smith that we must “be very cautious about questioning the judgment of loyal bishops”, I do not believe caution should absolutely keep us from questioning their judgment. For instance, a little more questioning of the “loyal bishop” who used to head the Archdiocese of Boston may have saved some children there from being victimized by pedophile priests. I said in my own blog piece that I did not fully trust the judgment of Cardinal Rigali myself, even though I recognized his gifts as a pastor and leader. Certainly, it is sometimes true that “to assert that one has found serious errors (Eden’s Thesis, 63, “ET”) that have escaped the notice of bishops who have a legitimate claim to be judges of the fidelity of an author’s work suggests that one is lacking in docility and humility.” But this is not always the case.


And once again, this is another fallacy. By saying Eden “lacks humility”, the issue is being deflected from the substance of her argument – namely, that some bishops may have been ignorant of some of these “finer theological points” that theologians such as Dr. Schindler are aware of because theological insight is the charism of theologians and not always that of bishops. It has been a long time, at least in this country, since bishops were chosen on the basis of their theological prowess or aptitude. And in fact, Dr. Smith seems to concede this when she says, “I would advise those with master’s degrees (really anyone) to be very cautious about questioning the judgment of loyal bishops” and to approach them privately rather than make it public. Yet, Smith still wants to leave the impression that by pitting herself against a number of “loyal bishops”, Eden has demonstrated that she is wrong and they are necessarily right. Once again, this is the impression the “careless reader” may take away from it.


Smith says, “Some may find that it smacks of real chutzpah that Eden took the opportunity of Cardinal Rigali’s address to the Theology of the Body conference calling for promotion of the Theology of the Body to ‘release’ a thesis accusing West of making errors in his presentation of Church teaching.” First of all, I think it is interesting that Smith said “some may find” rather than “I find”. It is as though she is accusing Eden of “chutzpah” but allowing herself the “out” of defending herself by saying, “
I didn’t say she had chutzpah; I said some might think that”. Secondly, and more to the point, although it is a bit audacious, Eden is indeed helping fulfill Rigali’s desire to see TOB “mined and proclaimed” (ET, Preface, xi).

14. Faulty Evidence.


I agree with Dr. Smith here. However, I believe that West has been responsible for some “strange ideas”, if for no other reason than he sometimes does not issue the proper caveats and clarifications.


15. Too Much Information.


Dr. Smith says that “Scholars need to respect the intelligence of their readers and not give them information they can be presumed to know.” Smith goes on to quote Eden’s clarification on what an episcopal blessing and an
imprimatur is and is not. Smith states that “it is doubtful that any of Eden’s readers ... need instruction ... that an imprimatur does not imply agreement with everything a presenter says.” I disagree with Dr. Smith here. There is a great deal of confusion with regards to what an imprimatur is and is not. One of the most common responses against West’s critics is that “his books have imprimaturs, so we shouldn’t question anything in them”. On one of Eden’s articles on “Headline Bistro” in which she critiqued West, Eden, Kevin Tierney, and Myself had to correct numerous misunderstandings regarding imprimaturs as given by West supporters. In fact, the conversation became a discussion of imprimaturs rather than Ms. Eden’s article. It can be found here: http://www.headlinebistro.com/hb/en/columnists/eden/082610.html.

16. Range of a Thesis.


I agree that Ms. Eden has bitten off more than she could chew in her thesis. Nonetheless, she does make many excellent and valid points.


However, Dr. Smith states that “it would have been best had [Eden] confined herself to critiquing West’s
Theology of the Body Explained. ... authors generally speak more freely in columns and with less precision. Their most considered thought is to be found in their more formal presentations.” However, as I pointed out on Sr. Lorraine’s blog, the problem with West is generally in his “popular presentations” where he “speaks freely” and with “less precision” and not in his more “considered thought” as found in TOB Explained. Most who listen to West will never read his TOB Explained and thus have their “misunderstandings” clarified.

C. Response to Smith’s Concluding Remarks.


Dr. Smith states that in her opinion, “nothing in Eden's thesis, gives me any reason to believe that West is claiming some discontinuity of the TOB with Church teaching.” I do not think West is “claiming” a discontinuity either – in fact, he often quotes St. Augustine, St. Bernard, St. Louis de Montfort, St. Teresa, and other Saints from our Tradition. However, as I stated on my blog, West “cherry-picks” these Saints as well as the Tradition as a whole. West certainly believes his teaching is in “continuity” with our Tradition. However, as I stated on my blog, his thinking does not seem to be permeated by the preconciliar sources, even if he uses a number of “proof-texts” from our Tradition.


Dr. Smith says that “Those who have concerns with the work of Christopher West should publish in respectable journals so that there is some hope that the work will need to respect standards of fairness.” And yet, when Dr. Schindler offered “Communio” as a forum with which to discuss this issue, West refused.


Conclusion


Following the release of Dr. Smith’s initial essay (
http://tob.catholicexchange.com/2010/09/29/2345/), Dr. Gerard Nadal of “Coming Home” responded in the combox by asking, “is it at all possible to put together a day, or weekend of reconciliation, both academic and personal, to discuss openly and academically the differences and seek consensus, as well as take time to break bread with one another?” I think this is an excellent suggestion and is really the only way I see this issue getting resolved.

Dr. Janet Smith and I have exchanged private emails regarding this debate over the past month or so, ever since I contacted her and referred her to my blog article that I had just published. All of our exchanges have been very cordial, respectful, and fruitful – we found much common ground. In our exchanges, my previous impression of Dr. Smith as a beautiful woman of God who had a profound gift for teaching and a sharp mind was confirmed. Although we are on “opposite sides” of this debate, our ability to approach each other charitably has enabled us to do some bridge-building. We need more of this. And I believe Dr. Nadal’s suggestion is a way to achieve this.


In his next comment, Dr. Nadal went on to give his reasoning for his suggestion: “I’m a firm believer that once you sit down to a table filled with pasta, great meats, good wine and followed by great coffee and italian pastry, you can’t quite go at someone in print with anything sharper than a butter knife. ... I honestly believe that the TOB community’s scholars and speakers need to come together over good food and wine, as a family, and look one another in the eye. ... Harsh words are easily written when we have no personal relationship with the object of our ire. Telephone calls and private emails tend to become the means of communication when airing differences between people who fellowship regularly, and tend to be characterized more by loving forbearance.”


One of the things I said to Dr. Smith when her critique was still “in the works” was that this was going to be a never-ending cycle. Eden would not be the last to critique West, I said. And when another critique is inevitably published, she or others will feel compelled to respond. After the response, the “critics” would reply. After this, another critique would be issued, and the cycle will continue. However, I said, these exchanges would not bring the two sides together but rather continue to reinforce the chasm or even further polarize the two sides. What would help bring the two sides closer together is the suggestion made by Dr. Nadal and for the excellent reasons he gives.


We have in the Church “principles for dialogue”. Vatican II, in its “Decree on Ecumenism”,
Unitatis Redintegratio, gives three chief principles for ecumenical dialogue. Although the Council had in mind “Catholics” and “Protestants” or “Catholics” and “Orthodox”, these principles also hold true for any two groups, including “West supporters” and “West critics”. We have seen the excellent progress made by certain ecumenical dialogue groups over the past 45 years. Catholics and various Protestant bodies have come together to issue “joint agreements”, such as “Catholics and Evangelicals Together” and the “Catholic-Lutheran Joint Declaration on Justification”. Could we not do the same with this Theology of the Body debate?

I would recommend a five-day “mini-conference” between the key members in this debate. It would be held in a retreat-type atmosphere where they would gather at times for common prayer, for meals, and for socials. They would have certain “committees” with representatives from both sides working together on certain issues that have been sources of disagreement. They would also gather as a “large group” (with all present) to deliberate upon the agreements, disagreements, and resolutions arrived at in the committees. After the conference, I would recommend that the group be reconvened after all members had time to reflect upon what was discussed at the conference. There can be a second conference, shorter in length, where some final resolutions are made and a statement of agreement (and areas of continued disagreement) is issued. After this, I believe Dr. Nadal makes another excellent suggestion: “ perhaps a regular meeting of the principal members of the field could facilitate minor corrections as the need should arise, and also serve as a forum for ideas, encouragement, and renewed strength.” And get this: Dr. Nadal has even offered to send the wine!


I wish all my Christian brothers and sisters on both sides of this debate Godspeed and many blessings as we move forward, hopefully in Christian charity. I pray that we all keep the end in mind: for all eternity, we will all be in heaven together feasting at the “Marriage Supper of the Lamb”, and this present argument will all be water under the bridge.


In Cordibus Iesus et Mariae,


Wade St. Onge

88 comments:

  1. Wade, good work, even though there is a point or two on which I would disagree (for example, the "repression" suggested by parts of a moral manual's being left untranslated -- as I wrote on Kevin Tierney's blog, I think it is an example of prudence as opposed to prudery). Nevertheless, it is good to see you return to the debate.

    I have to say that I am not optimistic about this particular "chasm" being bridged since (as you have repeatedly pointed out) West's defenders have not addressed the substance of the criticisms made of his work. Let us say that Dr. Schindler has misinterpreted West, or that Dawn Eden has. Is it too much to ask for West's defenders to show how West has been misinterpreted?

    For myself, I think that some of the criticisms made of West's work are unanswerable. For example, in Fr. Angelo Mary's essay "Virgo Redacta," he shows how West quotes St. Louis de Montfort wildly out of context in order to give a sexual "spin" to the Incarnation. I don't believe that anyone can give a valid defense of this; and the only option, in my opinion, is for West to retract.

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  2. Congratulations, Wade, as always, for a well thought out and charitable essay. You have a real gift for speaking about these issues in a constructive and non-polemical way. I'm glad you're back in the debate!

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  3. AS I mentioned in the email to you Wade, such a "conference" I think would be fruitless.

    First, who do you invite? Fr. Angelo I think had some of the best criticisms. Yet he's not one of the "experts." This has moved well beyond academia.

    And well it should. Even if there were some sort of "agreement" in academia on this, there's still the matter of the general presentation at large with the everyday person.

    I think the only way this will end is if those of West's critics take the next step: an aggressive pushing of TOB, yet strongly buttressed by the principles they believe West omits. Once people are given the alternative, I predict you'd see everyone flee from Mr. West's thought.

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  4. Thank you for the compliments, Sr. Lorraine! The same could be said (and has been said) of you. It is nice to BE back!

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  5. dcs, yes these have been points of disagreement between us, and I admit I could very well be wrong about them.

    Kevin likewise has taken a pessimistic view regarding a possible rapprochement or resolution. I am still hopeful and optimistic, however, as I see good will on both sides, at least in my own experience of participating in this debate. Nonetheless, there is still a ways to go in that department.

    I do not believe West's defenders can continue to argue that West has been misinterpreted, or continue to use red herrings and the like. First of all, this is so because they know when they do they will be reminded to stick to the issues. Secondly, they are intelligent and honest enough to know that for the sake of the truth, (a) they must respond to the substance of the criticisms, and (b) they realize that for the most part they have not done so.

    I too believe West needs to issue some retractions. But for that to happen, he has to be convinced that some of these teachings are in error, and I am not sure he acknowledges or believes that. Remember, he has been passionately presenting this for years. I know how difficult it is to part with portions of one's theology and presentations - it feels as though you are "losing" a part of yourself or losing something you value. It is what I am currently doing in one of my manuscripts as I revise - something that I refused to do for years because I didn't want to "lose" it.

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  6. Kevin, when I spoke about a conference, I did not have in mind merely (or even primarily) the "academic elites".

    I actually had all of us who are debating this in the blogosphere in mind. That would include Fr. Angelo, as well as Ms. Eden, yourself, Sr. Lorraine, and of course Dr. Smith, Dr. Waldstein, Dr. Smith, and last but certainly not least, Christopher West.

    I think it would be beneficial for us to interact with flesh and blood rather than a computer screen. Let's "personalize" it a bit and "warm up" to each other. Actual physical interaction has the tendency to do that.

    I think it would help if West was not "the only gig in town". Competition would be good for him too - it would motivate him to make the necessary changes. That is the problem with "monopolies" - one can do as one pleases.

    If someone offered to re-record my teachings from JP2 Bible College, I would be more than happy to provide an alternative to Mr. West's popular recordings. So far, I have had no such offer ... and to be honest, I am not sure I would want to do so anyway (desire for it is not really there).

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  7. I, too, Wade, have been following this debate from the beginning, not with the wisdom of most of the scholars who are posting but from the position of a blue collar person who has been trying to open the eyes of the young to the beauty of the Church's teaching on sexuality and the person as a whole that is given through TOB.

    I have to mention that I receive the same treatment from those opposed to Mr. West as you claim from his supporters. I have quoted to some of the commenters here as well as to others directly from TOB on mastering concupiscence. In addition I quoted from Casti Connubii concerning other issues. After giving direct quotes I was usually met with silence or on occasion told that TOB was wrong--the Pope's actual words, that is.

    I also have concern that people would use writings of the saints as being superior to the ordinary teaching authority of a pope. Maybe I am wrong but it seems to me that a Wednesday audience would carry the charism of infallibility to a greater degree than a writing of a saint who was not a pope.

    I also believe that a lot of the disagreement is going to come down to a misunderstanding of terminology. That is what would be helped by people coming together to discuss things rather than slinging mud back and forth at each other.

    I also think that the lived experience of people needs to be taken into account in some areas of discussion. For example, the issue of unmarried couples spending time alone together. I know many young couples who were able to do that without any problems, even those who had been unchaste in the past. Once they had the truth explained to them and they made the decision to live by that truth, they did not need those harsh parameters to guide their courtship. To say the other is necessary is just wrong since so many couples just in my own experience have been able to prove that such stringent guidelines are not needed.

    I do appreciate your restrained approach to this subject even though you do make your position clear. We would all do well to follow your example.

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  8. http://www.ldysinger.com/@texts/0400_apophth/06_pelagia1.htm

    I found the story on this website quite interesting. Sounds very similar to the story that Mr. West gives about the subject.

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  9. Thank you, Lauretta, for your response and for your compliments.

    Be careful not to leave the impression of using the theology of spiritual childhood in Matthew 11:25 to give "blue collar Catholics" a superiority in understanding over "scholars". If scholars and "Joe 6-pack Catholics" are both faithful to their respective charisms, they will both arrive at the truth; and if both are not faithful to their charisms, neither will find the truth.

    I have no doubt you have received the same treatment from West critics. My question is, "who are you speaking of when you mention West critics?" I am guessing you mean your average parishioner or commenter. But I am not talking about the "average parishioner" or "commenter". I am talking about the key figures in this debate! These points you mention stumping West critics with: have you brought them up to Dawn Eden, Kevin Tierney, Kevin Symonds, Fr. Angelo Geiger, or Steve Kellmeyer? I do not think they would be so easily stumped. Hitherto, I have seen them answer almost everything that they have been confronted with.

    As for comparing the "weight" of a Saint's writings to the "weight" of a Pope's writings:

    (1) First of all, the two generally have different purposes for writing and so it would be a case of comparing apples and oranges;

    (2) As I stated in my critique of West, Theology of the Body is not an infallible document and was not even written by the Pope (but by Cardinal Wojtyla before he became Pope);

    (3) Of those saints who have been proclaimed "Doctors", their writings generally have a superiority to that of Papal writings in that they are generally more profound. Of course, they are also more prone to error, considering they were theologians (and theologians "speculate") while the Pope as universal Shepherd generally sticks with what has been defined by the Church. However, considering John Paul II will probably be proclaimed a Church Doctor one day, his "Theology of the Body" will have the status of that of a Church Doctor. However, John Paul II was rare in that he was a Pope who was also an incredible theologian. Therefore, some "speculative theology" ends up in his Papal documents, thus making this particular Pope's theological writings (remember, most of what John Paul II wrote was not infallible or even authoritative per se) more prone to error; and

    (4) Wednesday audiences are not infallible.

    Perhaps the disagreement in part comes down to a misunderstanding of terminology, although I do not see it. The reason I say that is because West is not using complex terms that are prone to misunderstanding. Perhaps Waldstein and Schindler are, but not West, and West is the one being criticized. Perhaps you can cite a couple examples? That would help me to figure out whether or not I think this might be true.

    But I do agree that it would be very helpful for people on both sides to come together. It is through dialogue that we discover that our opponent may not have meant what we think they meant when they said what they said, or are using terms differently than us, etc.

    Lived experience is essential - it is amazing how much our perspectives change when we talk to those who are "on the front lines" rather than just stay in our ivory towers and come up with things that are brilliant in theory but that in practice don't really work or do not line up with reality.

    Regarding those dating or engaged couples who were able to spend time together, I would caution them to make sure they do not fall into "presumption". Dr. David Delaney of "Cosmos-Liturgy-Sex" has come out with an excellent piece on this recently.

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  10. Regarding the story of Pelagia, it really depends on the source.

    Personally, I felt that West critics made too much of it all.

    The problem with West's use of the story is really omitting the part where the "virtuous bishop" refused to be left alone with Pelagia because he did not want to submit himself to temptation, knowing he was still a fallen human being.

    Once again, Delaney's article on "Cosmos-Liturgy-Sex" reinforces what I just said, although he says it much more eloquently than I did here.

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  11. http://www.ldysinger.com/@texts/0400_apophth/06_pelagia1.htm

    I found the story on this website quite interesting. Sounds very similar to the story that Mr. West gives about the subject.


    I don't believe it does, since it says that St. Pelagia was converted by St. Nonnus's preaching, not his intent look and mature purity.

    As far as quoting Casti Connubii is concerned, Lauretta, I recall your having issues with its teaching on the marriage debt obliging in justice and in charity (#25). Perhaps it would be best to give a link to the entire conversation so that others can decide for themselves whose points were answered and whose were not (sorry for the long URL):

    http://js-kit.com/api/static/pop_comments?ref=http%3A%2F%2Famericanpapist.com%2F2009%2F05%2Fchristopher-wests-ideas-on-sexuality.html&title=American%20Papist%3A%20Not%20Your%20Average%20Catholic!%3A%20Alice%20von%20Hildebrand%20takes%20Christopher%20West%20to%20task&path=%2F5683537120818029051&standalone=no&scoring=yes&backwards=no&sort=date&thread=yes&permalink=http%3A%2F%2Fjs-kit.com%2Fapi%2Fstatic%2Fpop_comments%3Fref%3Dhttp%253A%252F%252Famericanpapist.com%252F2009%252F05%252Fchristopher-wests-ideas-on-sexuality.html%26path%3D%252F5683537120818029051&skin=echo&smiles=no&editable=yes&thread-title=Echo&popup-title=Echo&page-title=American%20Papist%3A%20Not%20Your%20Average%20Catholic!%3A%20Alice%20von%20Hildebrand%20takes%20Christop

    (go to page 15 and search for "dcs"; Lauretta is "lrs55")

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  12. Hi, Wade, I will respond to the last of your comments first. My point in showing that link was that if a person only read that account of the story, one would not know that the bishop refused to be alone. It says nothing about that. Mr. West could be totally innocent in his presentation of that story if that were his source. I know Fr. Geiger was quite harsh about Mr. West using Christopher Derrick as a source for the phallic candle comment, stating that Mr. Derrick didn't say that. On doing a search, however, I did find that Mr. Derrick did talk about this in one of his essays. My point being that we need to know Mr. West's sources before condemning him--he may be quite innocent and not distorting anything at all.

    My point in bringing up my blue collar background is to bring out the fact that I don't know all of the details about every aspect of the history of the faith. I can only take what someone has given to me at the level I can understand and apply it and look for it in the world. For example, Ms. Eden's comments about the grace of the sacrament of marriage transforming a couple. Sure that is theoreticaly possible but is that the lived experience? Not in my world on the whole, unfortunately. I would say that it was not what the past few popes saw either or they would have never written Casti Connubii or Humanae Vitae or Love and Responsibility or TOB. If married couples were quietly being transformed and living their lives with joy, their example would have been a compelling reason for other couples to do what they were doing and the teaching would have been unnecessary. I have talked with a number of pre-Vatican II couples and that was not the case, however, for many of them. I have talked with wives who were told wrong things in the confessional about this subject, they talked about their struggles with the rhythm method and some were quite resentful of the Church's teaching. Some would go so far as to quietly encourage their children to ignore the Church's teaching--since it was bound to change soon--and contracept.

    As far as the authoritative nature of TOB, according to Michael Waldstein, since Pope John Paul II presented them at Wednesday audiences they have "a certain primacy of place in the ordinary magisterium of the Bishop of Rome as pastor of the universal Church." The issue with saints and older teachings as well, is that we have to put them in the proper context due to their cultural setting. We can see an evolution in thought on many things concerning the faith so that what was said in the past is no longer valid. Didn't the early Church only offer confession once after baptism? What was said about it then would not apply today. Could seem like contradictions but are really just a deepening of the understanding of the sacrament. I think that is what is going on today with the subject of sexuality.

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  13. The terminology issue may apply even in the phallic candle issue. I have almost no familiarity with Mr. West's presentation of this imagery, so I am speaking from ignorance of his intent but I will present a plausible meaning using a different definition of the term phallic than most use. Most people define phallic as meaning phallus. That is true but there is another meaning, that of the male generative capacity. If we take that second meaning and apply it to the paschal candle, then it would mean that what is happening in that ritual is that the priest holding the candle representing Christ is giving life to the water in the font--womb. Yes, we can make this into a coital reference but we don't have to. Christ's conception was the case of his mother's womb being made fertile by the generative capacity of God but it was not coital. Neither is the spiritual life that is mediated to us by our spiritual fathers, the priests. Is that not the reason we call God father and priests father because they are giving us life? The same with the term impregnate. Yes, Mr. West is probably using the term to be provocative but when you listen to the sense in which he uses it, it means infuse, not the reproductive definition.

    Regarding the engaged couples, I do believe that is like telling everyone that they can never go into bars just because an alcoholic may have trouble there. This is not a big issue for everyone. Some have so firm a commitment to chastity because of their love for God and respect for themselves and others that they are truly not tempted to any degree. Not all people are dominated by lust--even as young people.

    OK I will end this thesis now. It is very early in the morning so please excuse any "foggy" explanations and know that my brain is probably not functioning at quite full capacity--which is not too "clear" during the best of times! God bless.

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  14. I once asked Christopher about his methodology and he had an interesting response. I thought his use of quotations from different sources didn't seem to have a good feel for the different kinds of documents (each written with different levels of authority) and then they are smashed together.

    So, I asked him if he ever considered the different audiences, different levels of authority, and the different contexts for which they were written when he put them all together. He told me that was a job for those who are in the academic field, and a good job for someone to do, but that it wasn't something he was worried about.

    I tell this story not to implicate Christopher in being careless with his sources or to say that his way of teaching TOB is bad (It might have flaws, but the fruit is great). I tell this story to show that I believe Christopher has the best of intentions and has limited his presentations to reach as wide an audience as possible. He has tried to filter the TOB to reach those who won't pick up JPII's original documents. In doing so he has made some good decisions and some not so good ones. But, our reaction to his mistakes should be a reflection on us first, then Christopher.

    What has become all too frequent in this debate is the desire from each camp to "win" and I think that is quite a shame. The desire to prove someone wrong means we have not been humble enough in seeking the one who is Truth itself - Jesus Christ. Only in Him will we find The One Truth and if we have to be right all the time, we will not find the truth of the matter.

    This isn't to say we can't disagree or dialogue, but I ask everyone to continue to examine their motives.

    Why do you want to be a part of this dialogue?
    What is the goal?
    Where does the truth lie?
    Have I made mistakes?
    What do I need to change?
    Am I assuming the best intentions of others?
    Am I being charitable?
    Do I want to win?

    "Win and argument, lose a soul" - Fulton Sheen
    Peace.

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  15. I know Fr. Geiger was quite harsh about Mr. West using Christopher Derrick as a source for the phallic candle comment, stating that Mr. Derrick didn't say that.

    I don't think Fr. Angelo Mary was harsh, but interested readers can read his essay for themselves and make up their own minds:
    http://dawneden.blogspot.com/2009/06/virgo-redacta-christopher-west-and.html

    My point being that we need to know Mr. West's sources before condemning him--he may be quite innocent and not distorting anything at all.

    Then West needs to cite his sources and in context. The reason that Fr. Angelo Mary did not realize that Derrick taught the "phallacy" of the Easter Candle is that West did not cite him in context.

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  16. Marcel's questions should be seriously asked by everyone here. Before I went on retreat, I was asking myself these questions and decided to withdraw fro the dialogue. I had a change of heart afterwards, but I am taking care to continue to ask myself these questions repeatedly, and I may once again withdraw from this dialogue. If you have not asked yourself these questions yet - West critics and West supporters - do so now.

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  18. Hi Lauretta,

    Even if I had read only that account of the story, I would not have come to the conclusion West did. Why? Because my faith as a whole (what I have learned from both the “post-conciliar” and “pre-conciliar” sources) tells me that even once we have achieved “virtuous purity”, we should still not allow our gaze to linger on a woman. We should still practice “custody of the eyes”. West’s problem is that he was not properly rooted enough in the Tradition to be able to come to that conclusion. However, when one divorces TOB from what came before it, it is easy enough to make that mistake in reading this particular version of the story.

    We do need to know “Mr. West’s sources”. And we also need to know the sources Mr. West does “Not” use. I think this is where my concern is – what has he “Not” referenced (Pius XII, St. Francis de Sales, etc.).

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  19. Ms. Eden’s point in bringing that up was a response to Mr. West’s comment that nothing happens at the wedding when a couple makes vows. Mr. West was not intending to teach heresy, and I know what he was getting at (the point he was trying to make was correct), but he was irresponsible in his language, and in this case, it resulted in the teaching of heresy, which is dangerous. He should have afterwards issued the caveat that “yes, we do receive grace. But if you have not opened yourself up to that grace, if you have not formed your will in such a way you are prepared to cooperate with that grace, then it will do little or even no good!” I do not think I could ever teach what he did without issuing that caveat – my awareness of the power of sacramental grace is too strong. West, on the other hand, as Eden stated, sometimes has somewhat of a “semi-pelagian” mentality – it is all about the “work ‘we’ do” to overcome “concupiscence”. Hence why he sometimes de-emphasizes or even forgets about grace.

    Although I respect Dr. Waldstein’s expertise in the area of Theology of the Body, I am not sure I would place it as high as he would. I would agree that it has "a certain primacy of place in the ordinary magisterium of the Bishop of Rome as pastor of the universal Church." However, most of what is in the “ordinary magisterium” are things that the Church has already taught authoritatively. Theology of the Body contains what the Church has already taught regarding marriage and sexuality, although the Pope probes certain things a bit deeper. I think what the Pope says in TOB is true. However, it also has some deficiencies and omissions, meaning we cannot isolate it from other sources and must always buttress it with other documents in our Tradition.

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  20. This is a statement I find problematic: “The issue with saints and older teachings as well, is that we have to put them in the proper context due to their cultural setting. We can see an evolution in thought on many things concerning the faith so that what was said in the past is no longer valid.” I will allow you to revise this statement a little later in the day! I know what you are getting at, but what you are basically saying here is that the spiritual classics are heavily “outdated”. But I have read “Dark Night of the Soul” by St. John of the Cross, “Interior Castle” by St. Teresa of Avila, “Story of a Soul” by St. Therese of Lisieux, “Introduction to the Devout Life” by St. Francis de Sales, and “Imitation of Christ” by Thomas a Kempis, and I can only think of four places where this might apply – two in “Imitation” and two in “Devout Life”.

    Also, the opposite is true as well – our own culture might negatively effect our view of matters. Like I said in my critique of West, our Catholic Faith is getting “over-sexualized” because our culture is “over-sexualized”, and we are trying so hard to “reach out” to this secular world that we are “sexualizing” our Faith inordinately.

    You ask, “Didn't the early Church only offer confession once after baptism?” True, there has been a “development” in our understanding of confession. No doubt, Theology of the Body has helped us deepen our understanding of marriage. However, it is also true that over time, “barnacles” collect on the ship that need to be stripped off. For a period of time in the Church, Holy Communion used to be received once or twice a year, and for some, only twice in a lifetime (First Communion and Viaticum). But it wasn’t that way in the “early church” – around the same time they were only allowing confession once after baptism, they were also encouraging everyone to receive Holy Communion every week, and almost everyone did. These barnacles began to be “scraped off” the Church by Pope Pius X.

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  21. Regarding the “phallic symbol”, the problem is that West is identifying the actual candle itself to be a symbol of the penis. “Just as the candle is plunged into the font to give new life, so is the penis plunged into the vagina to impregnate a woman”.

    Regarding “the engaged couples”, I would refer you to David Delaney’s article on Cosmos-Liturgy-Sex. He does a top-notch job addressing this. We can’t keep putting ourselves in the occasion of sin and staying there for lengthy periods of time because we might “think” we are epitome of purity. As St. Paul says, “let everyone who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall”.

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  22. Regarding the “phallic symbol”, the problem is that West is identifying the actual candle itself to be a symbol of the penis. “Just as the candle is plunged into the font to give new life, so is the penis plunged into the vagina to impregnate a woman”.

    I would have to say that not only is this a vulgar way of looking at the blessing of the Easter water, it is also a rather vulgar way of looking at the marital act.

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  23. Lots to comment on here. I will start with the first last since it is easier.

    dcs, the way that you described the marriage debt in the exchange you referenced above is much more vulgar for me than the sentences Wade quoted. I have no problem at all with marriage debt as described in Casti Connubii but your explanation strips the individual of dignity and turns them into a mere object of use, which JPII says is the exact opposite of love. Maybe I will be excommunicated, but I will not agree that someone who is filled with disordered sexual desire can demand intercourse from his spouse whenever he wants leading to children being born to a woman who may be physically and emotionally incapable of caring for them properly.

    Concerning the engaged couple, Wade, are you saying that occasions of sin are the same for everyone? Can something not be an occasion of sin for some but not for others? You could put me in a bar all day long and I will not get drunk but an alcoholic might be tempted beyond belief in the same bar. I was an atheist as a teen, coming from a family of non-believers, but I was quite capable of being alone with a boy without it being an occasion of sin for me. The boy on the other hand...! Anyhow, I think we need to be careful that we do not become "masters of suspicion" as JPII mentions.

    I think that the idea of custody of the eyes was fine in days past. I do not see how it can be lived out in the world today. Men and women have to work side by side at desks, etc. all day long. I don't see how you are going to work intimately with a woman and not look at her. What about being a teacher in a high school? Your classroom will be filled with immodestly dressed girls who may be only a few years younger than you. How can you teach without looking at them and standing near them at some point to help with a problem?

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  24. Concerning the grace of the sacrament of marriage, it can be difficult even for those who are very open to grace. My husband struggled for years and was a very faithful Catholic. It was not until he finally got good counsel in confession and began listening to Mr. West that he had the tools to allow the grace to work. The transformation was remarkable and very quick but years of confession without good counsel and at least weekly communion were not what he needed in his particular case. We had been married for over 20 years and struggling with this issue that began when he was a young boy. I believe for alcoholics the Church is very much in favor of AA groups to help people overcome their addiction and not to rely only on the sacraments. Same with emotional and psychological issues. Sometimes we need counseling and medication above the faithful reception of the sacraments. I have heard Catholic psychiatrists and psychologists talk about this saying they have treated daily communicants who were striving to live a holy life but still needed additional help. And often the patients felt huge guilt because they thought that they were not holy because they were suffering from whatever the issue was and needed to pray and receive the sacraments more. God often mediates his grace through other people as well as through the sacraments. We need to be careful to not refuse the man in the lifeboat while expecting divine intervention directly.

    I believe that those barnacles on the ship you referenced are real and I think they can accumulate rapidly in this area of human relationships. As the Pope mentioned in Dignity and Vocation of Woman I believe, many men have an almost innate mysogeny(sp?) which needs to be looked for and corrected when necessary--especially in our understanding of the relationship between man and woman. Much of what I hear many Catholics say sounds much more Protestant than Catholic to me. Cardinal George stated that in the US we all think as Protestants--even Catholics. Makes me reflect on my ways of thinking to make sure I have not accumulated some of those barnacles from the culture around me.

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  25. the way that you described the marriage debt in the exchange you referenced above is much more vulgar for me than the sentences Wade quoted.

    This is one of the things that leads me to be so pessimistic that the gulf between West's defenders and his critics can be bridged. Describing the marital embrace as the penis being plunged into the vagina is not only vulgar but depersonalized. The teaching of the moralists on the marriage debt, on the other hand, is dispassionate, yes, and hence depersonalized, but it is not vulgar. And if you can't see the self-sacrificing love in rendering the debt to your spouse even when you would rather not, then I am really at a loss for how to respond.

    I will not agree that someone who is filled with disordered sexual desire can demand intercourse from his spouse whenever he wants leading to children being born to a woman who may be physically and emotionally incapable of caring for them properly.

    Who said anything about disordered sexual desire? A man's desire for his wife, and hers for him, is ordered, not disordered. And no, I don't think one spouse has the right to question the other on whether his (or her) desires are ordered when the marriage debt is requested. It is sad that you turn this teaching into a feminist caricature of men demanding sex from their wives and those wives having so many children that they're unable to care for them.

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  26. dcs, you and I are going to disagree about this forever because when you read something you are predisposed to read into it what you think it is saying and when I read the same thing I hear something totally different. We could use the services of a mediator but it would have to be someone who is unbiased in this discussion.

    In the order of the spiritual life, the man is to be the spiritual head. That means he is to be the first to sacrifice himself for his spouse. That is true in the sexual realm as well. He is to make sure that his request is for the benefit of his spouse and not for his own desires or needs. A woman knows if she is being loved for herself or being used as an object for her spouse. If she is being used a wall comes between them and their whole relationship suffers and, of course, she will not FEEL like being intimate. Who would if they knew they were merely an object of use.

    By the way I am not a feminist and never have been. I was offended at 18 when a cousin accused me of that because I was going to college and it is no less irritating to me today to have that accusation leveled at me.

    You act as though disordered sexual desire would be an anomaly. I believe that the studies are showing that well over 50% of Catholic men are involved in pornography to one degree or another. Every one of those men is disordered and has no idea of the dignity of the person. His sexuality is disordered. So I am not speaking of some rare instance but something that over 50% of couples are dealing with.

    The Church has been speaking out for a number of years about this issue. Casti Connubii, Humanae Vitae, TOB, The Truth and Meaning of Sexuality, etc. are all stressing the need to possess self-sacrificing love and not objectifying the spouse in marriage. We have a 50% divorce rate so obviously something is not going well.

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  27. In the order of the spiritual life, the man is to be the spiritual head. That means he is to be the first to sacrifice himself for his spouse.

    Yes, that is true, although in the case of the marriage debt neither the husband nor the wife is the "head" -- each has rights to the other's body and each is obligated to fulfill the other's reasonable request for the debt.

    That is true in the sexual realm as well.

    Actually, I don't think it is. Men and women are equal in what you call the sexual realm. It is the one area in marriage where the wife has authority over the husband and where he must submit to her (as she to him).

    He is to make sure that his request is for the benefit of his spouse and not for his own desires or needs.

    Who teaches this? Can you cite this teaching?

    It seems to me that what you are describing is what you imagine to be the Catholic ideal.

    By the way I am not a feminist and never have been.

    I did not say that you were a feminist (if you were, you certainly would not say that the man is the spiritual head of the family), I said that your understanding of the marriage debt is a feminist caricature.

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  28. He is to make sure that his request is for the benefit of his spouse and not for his own desires or needs.

    Who teaches this? Can you cite this teaching?

    From Casti Connubii:

    This conjugal faith, however, which is most aptly called by St. Augustine the "faith of chastity" blooms more freely, more beautifully and more nobly, when it is rooted in that more excellent soil, the love of husband and wife which pervades all the duties of married life and holds pride of place in Christian marriage. For matrimonial faith demands that husband and wife be joined in an especially holy and pure love, not as adulterers love each other, but as Christ loved the Church. This precept the Apostle laid down when he said: "Husbands, love your wives as Christ also loved the Church,"[24] that Church which of a truth He embraced with a boundless love not for the sake of His own advantage, but seeking only the good of His Spouse.[25] The love, then, of which We are speaking is not that based on the passing lust of the moment nor does it consist in pleasing words only, but in the deep attachment of the heart which is expressed in action, since love is proved by deeds.[26] This outward expression of love in the home demands not only mutual help but must go further; must have as its primary purpose that man and wife help each other day by day in forming and perfecting themselves in the interior life, so that through their partnership in life they may advance ever more and more in virtue, and above all that they may grow in true love toward God and their neighbor, on which indeed "dependeth the whole Law and the Prophets."[27] For all men of every condition, in whatever honorable walk of life they may be, can and ought to imitate that most perfect example of holiness placed before man by God, namely Christ Our Lord, and by God's grace to arrive at the summit of perfection, as is proved by the example set us of many saints.

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  29. @Lauretta, I am not sure how what you have quoted applies to the marriage debt. If the husband's request for the debt must be for the benefit of his wife, as you say, then how can one call it a debt at all? You are basically reducing the debt, which is a mutual one, to the wife's rights. Yet this would seem to be belied by the subsequent paragraphs in Casti Connubii. Are there any moral theologians, contemporaneous with Pius XI, who agree with your interpretation of the marriage debt?

    Ideally, no, the husband would not request the debt when he knows his wife doesn't feel like it. But we fall short of the Christian ideal often and the sexual realm is no different. Confessors used to be taught to remind men to be moderate and women to be generous. It seems to me that what you are suggesting is that men be moderate, but women generous only insofar as they feel like being generous.

    The marriage debt is called a "debt" because it is something that is owed. St. Paul likens refusal of the debt to fraud (1 Cor 7:5), and states plainly that each spouse has authority over the other's body (1 Cor 7:4). That is simply the teaching of the Church.

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  30. I am not saying occasions of sin are the same for everyone. But I would also say that every engaged couple do have “occasions of sin”. Let’s take the “most pure” engaged couple you have ever known, Lauretta. Would you say it is “not” a “near occasion of sin” for them to sleep in the same bed together for nights on end, to stand naked before each other and gaze on each other with the “pure gaze of love” for lengthy periods of time, etc.? I do not think these can “ever” be anything but “occasions of sin”, and I cannot see a single Saint giving the ‘okay’ for this. If you really do believe this is okay, let me know, and we’ll maybe get a priest or one of our bishops to subject that question to the Magisterium (the CDF). I doubt they would agree with you on that one.

    I am not tempted by alcohol either, nor are most people, but I am tempted by sexual desire. Everyone is tempted by sexual desire (except the very rare case of those who are “hormone-neutral” – a biological defect), and it is the most powerful desire in man (except perhaps the desire for food/drink). That is why going to a bar is not a near occasion of getting drunk for most, but why standing naked in front of your fiancée or a beautiful woman is always a near occasion of sin for everyone (except for a few extremely rare examples in the lives of the saints, such as St. Thomas Aquinas).

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  31. Here is another problematic statement, and it is why West’s presentations concern me: “I think that the idea of custody of the eyes was fine in days past.” Once again, I would ask you to rephrase this statement.

    I do know what you are getting at, though. There are more “occasions of sin” today because women are in general so immodestly dressed, and it is almost impossible to avoid. I would encourage you to read the latest article at “Cosmos-Liturgy-Sex” (it is short and easy to understand) and read the comments and let me know what you think. Dr. David Delaney, Sr. Lorraine, and Myself are all discussing this right now.

    But I must say, Lauretta, you have me racking my brain! I will probably have to think about this further and be more attentive to this in my own experience. However, my initial reaction is to disagree with you and agree with Dr. David Delaney, who says no matter how pure we become, we must still practice custody of the eyes. “Purity” will enable us hopefully to see a woman as a person when we first look upon her, but we are then required to look away as we should not “tempt grace”. It’s funny that you posted this just today because I encountered this in the bus today. An immodestly dressed attractive woman boarded the bus. I was tempted to look and did briefly, but then looked away. I could still see her out of the corner of my eye, but I found that it was safe for me to do so.

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  32. I think a man can have an image of a woman safely “in his view” (even though it can still an occasion of sin because the man is tempted to look), but I do not think it is ever a good idea for him to “look directly upon her glory”, so to speak. Christ is “veiled” in the Eucharist, because if we were to see Him as He is, we would explode since we cannot handle His glory. It is the same with a woman. For a teacher who has attractive young ladies in his classroom, as long as he is not looking directly at them, he should be fine. Also, I think often times men who are more pure, although their initial reaction when seeing a woman is “lust” and “arousal”, can “settle himself down”, “re-focus”, and thus see her more as a “person”. In that case, a man can end up accidentally looking at her and not have to worry. However, he should not stare, and must be careful not to look at certain parts of her body but rather look her in the eyes or focus so strongly on her face that he pays little attention to her body. I don’t agree with Fr. Loya that we should “eye her up”, so to speak, that we should look at her buttocks, then her breasts, and part-by-part examine the woman and admire her as a reflection of God rather than an object of use.

    Also, you must remember another thing: where sin abounds, grace abounds all the more. A man will find himself easier to resist the temptation to lust when at those places where he cannot avoid but seeing immodest women, but the grace will not be working as powerfully when he is in a large warehouse with a single immodest woman sitting in the corner.

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  33. “Grace alone” is not sufficient just as “Work alone” [practicing virtue] is not sufficient. So if your husband was simply receiving Confession and Communion but not “working” at it, then of course grace would have been “insufficient”. But good counsel and good teachings inspired him and moved his “will” in such a way that he found the motivation to practice those virtues and grow his “spiritual” muscles. It is always “both/and” with the Church, not “either/or”. We need “counselling”, “medication”, AND the “sacraments”. A priest in Steubenville used to get after some of the students in his homilies. He used to say, “you guys think if you just spend enough time in prayer here and receive the sacraments enough you’ll just overcome your sins. Well it doesn’t happen that way. You have to do the ‘WORK’ necessary to build virtue.”

    I agree with Lauretta that in the spiritual life, man should be the first to sacrifice for his spouse, and that since sexual union is a part of marriage, he should be the first to sacrifice himself in this area too. dcs, I do not believe you can say there is a “difference” in the marriage debt. Think about it: there are all kinds of requests that must be “mutually obliged”. Are you saying that if the husband asked his wife to pass the salt and pepper she would be obliged, but if the wife asked the husband to pass it he is not? Or vice versa?

    Three things. (1) If a man is using a woman, and her walls come up, then he will not be as satisfied because he wants to please her too, and he is not as pleased if she is not pleased. (2) If he is being selfish to the point she does not want to render the “marriage debt”, then I would say withholding sex is only going to make things worse. (3) If he is being selfish to the point she does not want to render the “marriage debt”, they obviously have some serious problems outside the bedroom that need to be addressed before the fact that she doesn’t want to have sex with him.

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  34. Lorraine and dcs, I think I can see the point you are both trying to make. I think I am wondering the same thing that dcs is probably wondering: namely, where does one draw the line when it comes to whether a woman is “justified” in refusing the “marriage debt” because she perceives (or “knows”) she is “being used”? Some women may draw the line here, some there, and some may draw the line at a certain point or shift that line from time to time for reasons other than the ones you outline, Lauretta. For instance, maybe a woman does not want to because she is tired, so then she can say to herself, “well, he didn’t take the garbage out like I asked him, so I’ll give him a day to think about that, and then make love to him tomorrow if he still wants to”. Like dcs, I would like to know where the Magisterium has given the woman “permission” to refuse the marriage debt in the case that a man is being selfish. You cite pornography. If a man looks at pornography from time to time, how long does the Magisterium “permit” the wife to “withhold” the marriage debt after his last viewing? Nowhere in your quote from Casti Connubi does it say, “wives have the right to deny the marriage debt if their husbands are being selfish”. On the other hand, if a husband is being selfish, I am not so sure I wouldn’t agree with Lauretta. Anyway, there is no directive from the Magisterium which allows this, and that is dcs’s problem.

    What I see here, and correct me if I am wrong, Lauretta, is another disagreement due to one Catholic being heavily rooted in the pre-conciliar sources (dcs) and the other Catholic not being heavily rooted in said sources (Lauretta). I think that is what this whole Theology of the Body debate boils down to, and that is why I am beginning to say that this debate is the perfect example and greatest manifestation of the Traditionalist-Conservative divide (I hate using those terms, but for lack of a better phrase ...)

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  35. dcs, the passage I quoted matters because immediately after what I quoted the document says this:

    By this same love it is necessary that all the other rights and duties of the marriage state be regulated as the words of the Apostle: "Let the husband render the debt to the wife, and the wife also in like manner to the husband,"(28) express not only a law of justice but of charity.

    "By this same love" is key. What love is he talking about that is to regulate the debt that husbands and wives owe each other? This love:

    "Husbands, love your wives as Christ also loved the Church,"[24] that Church which of a truth He embraced with a boundless love not for the sake of His own advantage, but seeking only the good of His Spouse.

    Did you read that last sentence? Seeking only the good of his spouse. That is what husbands are called to in marriage.

    He goes on to state that we are all to strive to attain holiness:

    For all men of every condition, in whatever honorable walk of life they may be, can and ought to imitate that most perfect example of holiness placed before man by God, namely Christ Our Lord, and by God's grace to arrive at the summit of perfection.

    He says we can imitate that most perfect example of holiness, Christ, who sought only the good of his spouse.

    As I said earlier you read into the writing what you want it to say. I don't see how it can be much clearer that what Pius XI said and John Paul II expounded on this same idea even more in TOB, both of whom are using the writing of St. Paul in Ephesians to flesh out what was said in Corinthians. I believe Corinthians was written before Ephesians so it is very likely that people were misunderstanding what St. Paul was trying to say in Corinthians and he had to clarify it with his letter to the Ephesians.

    Also, if a man loves a woman as he is called to in Scripture--as Christ loves the Church--a woman will be generous. She will be overwhelmed by this love and respond accordingly. But the husband is the spiritual head, he sets the tone of the relationship. If he is not loving as Christ did, the wife will not respond with generous love.

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  36. Thanks for the great comments, Wade. On the issue of custody of the eyes, I think that what needs to happen in our culture today is that we need to tweak the definition just a bit. I, nor anyone in TOB that I am aware, is saying that you randomly stare at someone with no control over what you are doing. Custody of the eyes is necessary--not to not look but to control how we look. We need to be always conscious of our looking and train ourselves to look as Christ looked, seeing the dignity of the person.

    If we take scripture seriously, looking with desire or lust is adultery, a sin against the commandments. If that is where your heart is, if you have not gained mastery over that disorder, the merest glance is going to spark lust and you will have sinned. However, if you have trained your heart to see purely you will be able to look at someone, appreciate their beauty but not lust. You won't have to live in fear of them or yourself. My husband said that was one of the most freeing things for him--to learn that to appreciate someone's beauty was not a sin. He said that the best thing for him to do if he thinks he might have a disordered thought is to go up to the person and engage them in conversation. That immediately causes him to perceive them as a person and quells any temptation to use her as an object.

    This issue of custody of the eyes does not help within marriage itself. If one's heart is so disordered that a mere look at a woman incites lust, how is he going to live together with a woman and not abuse her? How is he going to be able to love her as St. Paul, Casti Connubii, Humanae Vitae and TOB say she is to be loved? It is vital to recognize the dignity, the image of God, in every person, male, female, spouse, child, etc. The inability to look at a woman in public without disordered desire to me is a sign that the heart is not seeing rightly and that heart will not see or treat anyone that I mentioned rightly.

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  37. To answer your question about the marriage debt, I will have to get personal. In my husband's and my situation, our problem stemmed from a habit that began when my husband was very young. His body became accustomed to this habit and he brought it in to our marriage. The habit was what motivated our moments of intimacy, not love. I began to feel used and unloved and resentful and began speaking to him about it. He was truly remorseful and wanted to change. He is a very faithful Catholic and went to the sacraments regularly but because of the long-term habit, was absolved from any responsibility by his confessors. It was not until an OD priest at a retreat told him in no uncertain terms what was allowed, no matter what, that he was able to make a firm purpose of amendment. Then we heard Christopher West and he heard a man talk about overcoming this disorder and how he went about it and, poof, in no time his disorder was righted. He can now look at women and not lust, he does not use me in that manner any longer, and he has little patience with men who will not listen to this truth! My husband was in his forties when this happened so he had lived with the problem for a long time. Some have questioned if he just has low libido and he assures me that his libido is quite fine but that he is now in control of it rather that it controlling him.

    Many couples that we have talked with suffer from this problem. Most as a matter of fact. We so forget that each person is created in the image of God. Would we look at or treat God in that way? What did Christ say to St. Paul--why are your persecuting me--when Paul was persecuting Christians. We are treating Christ this way when we treat other people that way. One day we are all going to see the fullness of our actions before God. Do we really want to have to admit to that?

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  39. Excellent insights, Lauretta. I very much appreciate you taking the time to continue to contribute to this discussion. Thank you also for sharing from personal experience.

    I think that "custody of the eyes" has long been understood as merely "turning away", and that this needs to be corrected. "Custody of the eyes" can simply be looking a woman in the eyes and focusing there so as to take focus off her sexual qualities. It can be a "re-focusing" rather than a "turning away". Sometimes, however, it can still be a "turning-away".

    So for your husband, engaging women in conversation is a case of "re-focusing". However, there may be times where he may still have to "turn away", because there are times where this "re-focusing" may not be effective due to the volatile nature of the passions. It sometimes depends on the situation.

    I still disagree with Fr. Loya's suggestion that we look at a woman's buttocks, then her breasts, etc., and admire these parts of her body as that which reflects God's beauty. I do not believe a man can ever do this without lusting or putting himself in danger of lusting. I am guessing, Lauretta, that when your husband engages women in conversation, he is not doing as Fr. Loya suggests. I do not think you would be too pleased either if he practiced Fr. Loya's advice.

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  40. dcs, I do not believe you can say there is a “difference” in the marriage debt. Think about it: there are all kinds of requests that must be “mutually obliged”. Are you saying that if the husband asked his wife to pass the salt and pepper she would be obliged, but if the wife asked the husband to pass it he is not? Or vice versa?

    Could you perhaps give an example that's not so ridiculous? The difference in the marriage debt is that the husband is obliged to submit to his wife, whereas she is obliged to submit to him in everything including the marriage debt, as St. Paul writes in Ephesians 5 and Pius XI confirms in Casti Connubii #26. I don't think table manners, or the lack thereof, fall under this teaching. The marriage debt is different because it is the one area in marriage where the husband and wife are absolutely equal in authority.

    Like dcs, I would like to know where the Magisterium has given the woman “permission” to refuse the marriage debt in the case that a man is being selfish.

    Fr. Jone, for example, teaches that a wife is justified in refusing if the husband is intoxicated, or if he refuses to support her and the children (as opposed to trying to find a job, but not being able to), or if the husband is sexually diseased, or if she is convalescing after giving birth, etc. A spouse can also sever the conjugal life upon finding out about the other spouse's adultery. (Once the conjugal life is re-started, as it were, then the right to end the conjugal life also ends.) However, he points out that the ordinary hardships of marriage and the bringing up of children do not excuse spouses from rendering the debt. Now, refusal to render the debt is not always a grave sin, in cases of immoderate requests the refusal might be a venial sin or no sin at all. However, both spouses are obligated to fulfill a reasonable request for the debt (an unreasonable request would likely fall into one of the categories above), and the obligation is especially grave if the requesting spouse is in danger of incontinence.

    "By this same love" is key. What love is he talking about that is to regulate the debt that husbands and wives owe each other?

    I believe he is talking about the paragraph immediately preceding (#24):

    "24. This mutual molding of husband and wife, this determined effort to perfect each other, can in a very real sense, as the Roman Catechism teaches, be said to be the chief reason and purpose of matrimony, provided matrimony be looked at not in the restricted sense as instituted for the proper conception and education of the child, but more widely as the blending of life as a whole and the mutual interchange and sharing thereof."

    So the marriage debt is a mutual obligation and one that binds both in justice and in charity. That is, the spouse who refuses a reasonable request for the debt sins against both justice and charity.

    Also, if a man loves a woman as he is called to in Scripture--as Christ loves the Church--a woman will be generous. She will be overwhelmed by this love and respond accordingly. But the husband is the spiritual head, he sets the tone of the relationship. If he is not loving as Christ did, the wife will not respond with generous love.

    I hate to break it to you, but just as some men are not moderate, some women are not generous. You are laying all the responsibility for the success of the conjugal life upon the husband. And at the risk of sounding like a whining husband, that simply isn't fair.

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  41. Some have questioned if he just has low libido and he assures me that his libido is quite fine but that he is now in control of it rather that it controlling him.

    I think there is a difference between one's libido being "fine" and one's libido being that of (say) a 25 year-old man. Testosterone levels in men begin to decline around age 25.

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  42. I discussed this conversation with my husband and he wanted to know why you both seem to think that you know what he is seeing and thinking. He said that if he chose to lust he would lust but he chooses not to lust. He said that he is quite capable of looking at a woman for an extended period of time and not lusting. He said that if a naked woman was trying to seduce him he may have some difficulty but he might not either. He said that you are free to choose to reject the redemption that can be had in this area but he is very grateful that he was made aware that self-mastery in this area is possible.

    I have to wonder why you, dcs, would accept what Fr. Jones says but you quibble about what a pope says on these issues. Fr. Jones can very easily be wrong you know. It is much less plausible that a pope speaking at a Wednesday audience is going to be teaching error. I learned pretty early in my Catholic life that what people told me was Church teaching was not always the case. Limbo for unbaptized babies for instance. It is mere theological speculation that was passed off as doctrinal. I heard for years about the necessity of the wife being submissive but then I finally read the rest of the sentence. That part of the sentence was never brought up. I see more and more examples of the misogyny that Pope John Paul II mentioned especially among those who claim to be orthodox and traditional. It reminds me a lot of protestants and their jansenist views.

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  43. But for reasons Dr. Delaney described, it would not be wise for your husband to look at a woman for an extended period of time.

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  44. He said that if he chose to lust he would lust but he chooses not to lust. He said that he is quite capable of looking at a woman for an extended period of time and not lusting. He said that if a naked woman was trying to seduce him he may have some difficulty but he might not either. He said that you are free to choose to reject the redemption that can be had in this area but he is very grateful that he was made aware that self-mastery in this area is possible.

    The logical conclusion your husband is suggesting is that he has returned to original innocence. Because of concupiscence, one really can't choose not to sin. If your husband has been granted a special grace, that is a miracle, and we should not expect the same thing to happen to others.

    One might also wonder if the man who has achieved total mastery in this area has achieved mastery in other areas as well. If so, then he has been granted a very special grace that only a very few of the saints have been granted; if not, then it raises the question of why sins of impurity are so different from other sins that they can be so utterly defeated while other sins cannot.

    I have to wonder why you, dcs, would accept what Fr. Jones says but you quibble about what a pope says on these issues.

    Because I don't see where you have shown that the Pope contradicts Fr. Jone (or any other moral theologian who teaches the same thing).

    I learned pretty early in my Catholic life that what people told me was Church teaching was not always the case. Limbo for unbaptized babies for instance. It is mere theological speculation that was passed off as doctrinal.

    Actually, Limbo is much more than theological speculation. Pope Pius VI, in Auctorem Fidei, censured the opinion of the Jansenists who held that Limbo was a "Pelagian fable." So Limbo might be more properly termed a doctrine that wasn't explicitly defined. What we do know is (a) that those who die in Original Sin only go to hell and that (b) we know of no way other than Baptism that Original Sin is remitted in infants. Limbo is a solution to this dilemma; since God is merciful, He would not permit a person who had committed no personal sin to suffer the punishments of hell. There is much more that could be said on this matter; for more information (I don't want to clog up the combox with a discussion that is tangential at best), I suggest you read Fr. Brian Harrison's article, "Could Limbo Be 'Abolished'?":
    http://www.seattlecatholic.com/a051207.html

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  45. I heard for years about the necessity of the wife being submissive but then I finally read the rest of the sentence. That part of the sentence was never brought up.

    What part of the sentence is that? I'm not following you. The submission (or subjection) of the wife is mentioned six times in the New Testament. This law doesn't grant the husband leave to rule over his wife as if she were a child, as Pius XI explains in Casti Connubii [my emphases]:

    "26. Domestic society being confirmed, therefore, by this bond of love, there should flourish in it that "order of love," as St. Augustine calls it. This order includes both the primacy of the husband with regard to the wife and children, the ready subjection of the wife and her willing obedience, which the Apostle commends in these words: "Let women be subject to their husbands as to the Lord, because the husband is the head of the wife, and Christ is the head of the Church."

    "27. This subjection, however, does not deny or take away the liberty which fully belongs to the woman both in view of her dignity as a human person, and in view of her most noble office as wife and mother and companion; nor does it bid her obey her husband's every request if not in harmony with right reason or with the dignity due to wife; nor, in fine, does it imply that the wife should be put on a level with those persons who in law are called minors, to whom it is not customary to allow free exercise of their rights on account of their lack of mature judgment, or of their ignorance of human affairs. But it forbids that exaggerated liberty which cares not for the good of the family; it forbids that in this body which is the family, the heart be separated from the head to the great detriment of the whole body and the proximate danger of ruin. For if the man is the head, the woman is the heart, and as he occupies the chief place in ruling, so she may and ought to claim for herself the chief place in love."

    I see more and more examples of the misogyny that Pope John Paul II mentioned especially among those who claim to be orthodox and traditional. It reminds me a lot of protestants and their jansenist views.

    I agree that there are some Jansenist views among traditional Catholics. However, traditionalists are not the only Catholics who have, wittingly or no, been infected with Jansenism. For example, those who argue for a stripped-down barren vernacular liturgy have adopted some of the views of the Jansenists as articulated at the Synod of Pistoia:
    http://www.christianorder.com/features/features_2001/features_bonus_nov01.html

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  46. Um, I have to strongly disagree that it is not possible to cease sinning. Every time we go to confession don't we say something along the lines of: "I firmly resolve with the help of thy grace to sin no more and to avoid the near occasions of sin"?

    No, my husband is not perfect in every area, he overeats on occasion, sleeps more than necessary once in awhile, speaks uncharitably about others, etc. But since the area of sexuality was one in which he struggled a lot and he began to recognize that it was affecting our relationship and demeaning the dignity of other women, he wanted very much to change. For him ultimately all it took was a firm purpose of amendment that stemmed from some strong spiritual advice in the confessional and hearing another man who had succeeded.

    He knows that it is always possible to sin in this area but he chooses to see the truth about the other person and is forming a habit that is allowing this to become more and more natural to him.

    nor does it bid her obey her husband's every request if not in harmony with right reason or with the dignity due to wife

    Now this quote I would interpret,among other things, to mean that if a husband approached her with lust or without taking her well-being into account, she would not be obliged to partake of the marital act since that would be an attack on her dignity. You are picking out what you want to hear, dcs, and ignoring all of the qualifiers. It is all there in the official documents but you refuse to see the pertinent statements. What you seem to be doing is keeping the domination of men over women that came into the relationship through original sin while ignoring the Truth that came in Christ and the accompanying grace of the redemption. One cannot ignore the preceding paragraphs in Casti Connubii that define the way in which the husband is to love his spouse. All of that which is said is centered around the qualifier that the husband is to love his spouse as Christ loves the Church and laid down his life for her--self-sacrificing love without concern for himself. If the spouse doesn't have that kind of love then it will quickly degenerate into domination and lack of respect.

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  50. I have to strongly disagree that it is not possible to cease sinning.

    It is not possible without a special grace of God. In addition it is presumptuous to think that we can stop sinning as the Council of Trent teaches that one can't know with the certainty of faith that one is among the Elect (unless one receives a special revelation to that effect). In fact, we can only have moral certainty at any point in time that we're in the state of sanctifying grace. Even the just man "falls seven times, and rises again" (Proverbs 24:16).

    Every time we go to confession don't we say something along the lines of: "I firmly resolve with the help of thy grace to sin no more and to avoid the near occasions of sin"?

    The resolution not to sin does not mean that we will not sin.

    Now this quote I would interpret,among other things, to mean that if a husband approached her with lust or without taking her well-being into account, she would not be obliged to partake of the marital act since that would be an attack on her dignity.

    Who decides whether she is being approached with lust or whether her well-being is not being taken into account? If she's ill, exhausted, etc., then the request is probably not reasonable and it can be refused. On the other hand, if she's being "approached with lust" but her husband is in danger of incontinence, and the request is otherwise reasonable, then she is obliged to render the debt and her refusal would be sinful. This is part of the mutual help that spouses give to one another.

    What you seem to be doing is keeping the domination of men over women that came into the relationship through original sin while ignoring the Truth that came in Christ and the accompanying grace of the redemption.

    The Redemption does not change the natural order of marriage, as St. Paul explains and Pius XI confirms.

    One cannot ignore the preceding paragraphs in Casti Connubii that define the way in which the husband is to love his spouse.

    I'm not ignoring them.

    All of that which is said is centered around the qualifier that the husband is to love his spouse as Christ loves the Church and laid down his life for her--self-sacrificing love without concern for himself. If the spouse doesn't have that kind of love then it will quickly degenerate into domination and lack of respect.

    I think it is true, on the one hand, that if a man doesn't love his wife, then she won't respect him. On the other hand, if a woman doesn't respect her husband, then he will not love her. Again, you are laying all the responsibility for the marriage on the husband while ignoring the wife's role. Yet marriage is a mutual state and the help rendered must be mutual as well. Obedience doesn't follow love any more than love follows obedience. If my wife is disobedient then can I use that as an excuse in the confessional for why I don't love her? If not, then how can my wife use my lack of love as an excuse for her disobedience?

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  51. Lauretta and dcs, just a moderator`s note: I will be deleting the reprinting of what Dr. Smith wrote because (a) it has been written elsewhere, and (b) it takes up a lot of room in the comments. Since they were posted for dcs, I will give him the time to read them and comment on them if he so chooses, then I will delete them. Those who would like to refer to Dr. Janet Smith`s excellent comments thereafter can find them under Post 36 at http://cosmos-liturgy-sex.com/2010/10/06/concupiscence-west-schindler-debat/

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  52. Lauretta says: "Every time we go to confession don't we say something along the lines of: I firmly resolve with the help of thy grace to sin no more and to avoid the near occasions of sin"?

    Besides what dcs said, I will also add this: although it is possible (all things are possible for God), we should not expect this to happen. John Paul II went to confession every week (some sources say every day) until his death, and many of our greatest Saints went to confession weekly or even daily. So although we should continue to strive for that ideal (namely, that we will get to a point where we no longer sin), and continue to hold out that hope, we should not delude ourselves into thinking it is only a matter of time before we get to that point. We will almost assuredly never get to that point.

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  53. Lauretta, I think the problem with the marriage debt is: where do you draw the line?

    dcs and I agree that the man must love and not use his wife. But to some degree, fallen man will always use his wife to some degree and not perfectly love her. The question we are asking is: where is the line to be drawn? How does a woman know when she is being "loved enough" to render the marriage debt, and when she is being "not loved enough" to justify her refusal?

    If we were perfectly honest with ourselves and others, we could properly draw that line. However, it is just too easy for a woman to get into a state of mind where if she wants to refuse the debt because she is tired, she can rationalize that his request has enough selfishness (even if it is just a little bit of selfishness) that she can justify not rendering the debt because "he knows I am really tired, it is selfish for him to even ask, and therefore, I am justified in not rendering the debt". It too easily becomes a slipperly slope, which is why I agree with dcs when he laid out earlier on what terms the marriage debt may be refused.

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  54. "Kevin, when I spoke about a conference, I did not have in mind merely (or even primarily) the "academic elites".

    I actually had all of us who are debating this in the blogosphere in mind. That would include Fr. Angelo, as well as Ms. Eden, yourself, Sr. Lorraine, and of course Dr. Smith, Dr. Waldstein, Dr. Smith, and last but certainly not least, Christopher West. "

    Thanks for the idealism Wade, but I really am small potatoes. I'm nobody big in this discussion.

    and I would also think including me with the "experts" really sorta dilutes things. I really do handle things from a different angle in my small work. They talk about Thomism and the way he classifies things.

    I talk about the book of Sirach and how to look at things from a traditional perspective. :)

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  55. In Regards to the "marriage debt" this is why I viewed the language so troublesome for a modern audience DCS, this entire discussion you and Lauretta are having!

    One is speaking from a strict moral theology standpoint (DCS), whereas I think Lauretta is speaking from a personal standpoint.

    One has to remember, as with all "debts", that some are best not cashing in at the certain time. A husband may indeed have a "right", but he has to exercise that right properly.

    I think that's why in the actual encyclicals, you do not see marriage spoken of in a legal concept with "debts" and the like. Rather, the emphasis is on the proper actions husband and wife should be taking.

    A husband shouldn't (and indeed he would sin I'd argue) if he forced himself on his wife, or constantly badgered her until she finally "gave in." In that case, maybe the man needs to reassess his priorities, or woman if that is the case, THAT THERE IS MORE TO MARRIAGE THAN SEX.

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  56. A husband shouldn't (and indeed he would sin I'd argue) if he forced himself on his wife, or constantly badgered her until she finally "gave in." In that case, maybe the man needs to reassess his priorities, or woman if that is the case, THAT THERE IS MORE TO MARRIAGE THAN SEX.

    On the other hand, if a man is badgering his wife for sex, maybe she needs to ask herself if there is a reason why and whether her refusal is justified.

    I agree that it would be better if men always recognized when their wives weren't interested and didn't request the debt during those times (if only all men could be so continent! :)). At the same time, wouldn't it also be better for women to recognize when their husbands would like to engage in the marital embrace and not put them in the position of asking.

    In Regards to the "marriage debt" this is why I viewed the language so troublesome for a modern audience DCS

    I frankly think it's an issue of formation. I can tell you on a personal level that between talks with the priest who married my wife and me, pre-Cana classes (a whole day's worth), and regular confession that I have rarely heard it suggested that the husband and wife have these marriage rights. (Now here we might have an issue with modern language because we moderns tend to think of "rights" as absolutes, but I digress.) My wife never learned it in 16 years of Catholic school (and one of her college courses was called "Christian Marriage"!). So laypeople are left to their own devices here. I don't know if it's an issue of "prudery" (not wanting to talk about the icky stuff) or that folks just don't believe these old teachings any more -- I tend to think the latter since there was plenty of talk about NFP in pre-Cana (and we later took an NFP course as well, now that I think about it).

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  57. I think that's why in the actual encyclicals, you do not see marriage spoken of in a legal concept with "debts" and the like. Rather, the emphasis is on the proper actions husband and wife should be taking.

    Yes, a moral manual would lay out the bare minimum, while an encyclical would be more of an exhortation to lift one's spiritual life higher than the bare minimum. Yet Pius XI still mentions the debt in Casti Connubii (#25); perhaps he had the foresight to see how this teaching would be obscured in the decades to follow. We often hear that Paul VI was prophetic in the predictions he made in Humanae Vitae; perhaps his predecessor of happy memory also had a bit of a gift in this regard.

    One is speaking from a strict moral theology standpoint (DCS), whereas I think Lauretta is speaking from a personal standpoint.

    The thing about personal standpoints is that ultimately they are only anecdotes. I am not trying to dismiss Lauretta's experience; clearly she and her husband have worked out a formula that works in their marriage while still obeying the teaching of the Church; however, it does not follow that what works for them will work for everyone else, or even anyone else. Again, this does not mean that they should not dispense advice; advice can be helpful; it only means that there is no guarantee that their advice will work for another married couple. We should not be so prideful to think that we've got this whole thing called marriage figured out and that what we've done will work for everyone else. My wife and I have three children and they are as different from one another as children can be. So different strategies are needed to deal with them. I imagine the same is true for married couples -- adults tend to be even more different from one another than children are from their peers. Ultimately, then, while Lauretta and her husband have had a good experience in applying West's interpretation of TOB in their marriage, it does not follow that other married couples will have the same experience. Maybe some will, maybe some won't. Maybe some couples are better not knowing about TOB at all (after all, married couples got by for thousands of years without it).

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  58. Thanks, Kevin, for the comments. I would only say that my position might be considered more of a personalist viewpoint, small variation but meaning quite a different thing. Looking at things not from an objective, legalistic viewpoint but from a subjective, lived experience. Not my own personal experience but the compilation and sythesis of what I have seen and heard from many married couples.

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  59. Both "personalism" and "the objective, legalistic viewpoint" are necessary. We need to combine Lauretta's statements with those of dcs and Kevin in order to keep the balance. Personalism without Thomism is dangerous, just as Thomism alone is dangerous.

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  60. I don't think that one can necessarily put the "objective, legalistic" viewpoint in opposition to the "personalist" one. After all, priests who refer to the moral manuals have long experience in confession. And the conclusions made by the moral manuals were not arrived at by some abstract Aristotelian process (i.e., by pure thought apart from experience). I am also not sure that the truly "personalist" (if by "personalism" we mean the school of philosophy that influenced Pope John Paul II) viewpoint is subjective.

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  61. Lauretta,

    I don't really call it "personalist" as opposed to DCS' "legalism." That's an unfair characterization.

    I for one in a sense understand what you are saying. but I think DCS makes great points. For women who say they want men to be more romantic, you make it sound as if a man and a wife have to go over a checklist before engaging in marital relations.

    While I freely confess to having no clue what this romance nonsense is (lol), it certainly isn't this.

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  62. I reposted your comments for reference.

    1. Regarding assault on dignity, yes that should be our primary concern. However, a secondary concern will ‘always’ be that we want to keep ourselves from the occasion of sin and from lusting.

    2. My hypothetical situation about a man viewing pornography is not a “straw man”. A “straw man” is when one attributes a particular position to someone when that someone does not actually hold that position. I was not attributing a “position” to anyone. What I was trying to do was get you to answer this question: “Lauretta, is the man of ‘mature purity’ able to stare indefinitely at a woman without lusting?” This is an important question, because it answers the main issue we are discussing, namely: “must a man of ‘mature purity’ continue to practice custody of the eyes at least ‘in part’ because if he does not he might be tempted and end up lusting?”

    NB: Content Warning: sensitive issues.

    3a. Regarding attraction to one’s sister or other family members. First of all, just as your husband would “NEVER” look upon a woman who was trying to incite lust, so I would likewise “NEVER” look upon my sister naked. Would you say that you are “setting up a straw man” just as much by asking about “lusting after one’s sister?” I wouldn’t say this is a straw man. Such hypothetical questions are important.

    3b. I don’t think it takes a “deep disorder” to lust after one’s sister. If one’s sister dressed and danced erotically, her brother, if he were to watch, may be aroused. Now, that does not mean he would want to commit incest (I am trying to be as delicate as I can be). However, his arousal might lead him to abuse himself or at least weaken his will and thus make him more susceptible to sexual sin with someone else or himself at a future time/date.

    3c. Granted, men are normally not attracted “in that way” to their sisters. They do not feel any sort of sexual attraction. Then again, I am not attracted “in that way” to many women. But I am still attracted “in that way” to ‘some’. And we are created this way. So it is a difficult thing, almost ‘practically’ impossible, to see “everybody” as a “sister”.

    NB: Content warning: Ends here

    4. You say: “Sometimes I get the impression that some think that it is impossible to look at a beautiful(in your eyes) woman and not have disordered thoughts.”

    (a) It is not impossible. It happens a lot to me. But it does not ‘always’ happen with me. Hence the need to continue to exercise ‘custody of the eyes’. (b) Just because it is “not impossible” doesn’t mean it will happen to all of us if we would but only listen to a few of West’s lectures and commit to Daily Mass and Weekly Confession. Most of the Saints did not even get to this stage. What makes us think that we will? Do you believe, Lauretta, that the Saints couldn’t get there because “they did not have TOB”, but because “we have TOB”, we can attain a level of purity that exceeds theirs?

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  63. 2. I don't know why this is an issue since a man of mature purity would never do this. First, he would not stare, he would look long enough to acknowledge her as a person, appreciate in a chaste way the beauty he sees there and either go on to something else or engage her in conversation if that is necessary. Staring to me is something that you do when you are inordinately curious or attracted to something or you are distracted, thinking about something else and not even really seeing what you are looking at.

    3. Concerning sisters. From the stories I have heard when this has actually happened, the brother is usually angry, hurt and ashamed. Most often his reaction is to grab her and remove her from the situation in which she is degrading herself as quickly as possible. Have never heard of it leading to arousal.

    c. I'm not sure what you mean by "in that way". If you are talking about arousal, that's one thing but if you are talking about being attracted to the sexual value of the woman that is another thing. Being attracted to the sexual value of someone of the opposite sex is normal. I believe it is a prerequisite for entering most seminaries from what I have heard. This was a fact that was very freeing for my husband. He was feeling so much guilt that he noticed another woman, thinking that because he was married, it was wrong. He has been able to notice and appreciate women in a chaste way for almost ten years not. This is a man who watched XXX movies all during his teen years. I would say that is a pretty good testament to grace and knowledge. The grace alone was not sufficient--he had to order his thinking rightly before he experienced this freedom.

    If we read the Holy Father's talks on the Song of Songs, I believe that he is saying that we must first see the other as sister before we can, in a healthy way, see her as bride. The reverse would be true also.

    Also, Wade, when did continence come to mean narrowly custody of the eyes which means looking away? My Catholic Encyclopedia says that "continence is various degrees of restraint exercised in the area of sexual pleasure." It also says that it is "less complete its control than temperance in which the passions are perfectly subordinated to intelligence."

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  64. Oops, that one sentence should say for ten years now, instead of for ten years not. Someday I may learn to proofread!

    Now concerning the saints. I believe that just because some of the saints did not master all of the virtues well does not mean that it cannot be done. I have heard that St. Jerome(is that right) had quite a bad temper and that St. Teresa could speak quite uncharitably to people. Doesn't mean that we shouldn't strive to master those things ourselves.

    Also, I think we need to take into account development in many areas. Take for instance slavery. Was there anything in the New Testament condemning slavery? I can't remember it. And didn't some saints have slaves? Yet today we look at slavery as a terrible affront against people's dignity. Is that a break with Church Tradition or drawing us deeper into the fullness of Truth? I don't see why this issue could not be the same. Maybe we are being drawn into a more virtuous way of relating to each other as man and woman, going from continence to temperance. This would do nothing but prepare us more fully for the Wedding Feast in heaven. Just a thought.

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  65. Lauretta,

    2. I will drop this hypothetical scenario. But I think you answered my question by what you said. You basically acknowledge that men of "mature purity" must still at times exercise "custody of the eyes".

    3c. I am speaking about sexual arousal. But I would say that if a man begins to experience sexual arousal, he should stop looking at whoever he is looking at, or stop thinking about whoever he is thinking about.

    x. We are first to see a woman as a "sister" before a "bride". But that never happens "perfectly". It is rare that a husband will go through his entire marriage without ever lusting after his wife. Even the most pure husbands will have his moments where he lusts - the only one who did not was St. Joseph.

    The definition you cite is not contrary to practicing "custody of the eyes". Practicing custody of the eyes is one of "many" ways to practice "continence". Please refer also to Sr. Lorraine's article on the "two meanings of continence".

    x. Regarding the Saints, you are basically saying that "the development of doctrine" which is TOB


    The problem with your example of "development" is that "development of doctrine" usually does not come along with "new ways of becoming holy". The dogma of the Immaculate Conception did not give us a greater "understanding" of "how" to be holy. The implication is that the Apostles did not have the opportunity to be as holy as us.

    The other problem is that John Paul II's TOB did not come up with something "new" or "groundbreaking" when he called us from "continence" to "temperance". Thomas Aquinas 800 years ago taught about going from "continence" to "temperance" and encouraged us to do so. Sr. Lorraine wrote an article about this recently.

    By the way, do you mind copying and pasting your last two paragraphs to Cosmos-Liturgy-Sex, or do you mind if I copy and paste it and post my response there as well? I appreciate you coming back to my blog, but this part of our exchange, I think, is quite relevant there.

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  66. 2. Yes, Wade, I believe I have always acknowledged the necessity of custody of the eyes, just not always that this custody needs to be a turning away. It can be a deliberate choice to fully see the person and not just their sexual value.

    3c. I think one needs to be careful here. Repression is not the way to go, according to JPII. He says, "Chastity is not a blind inhibition of...physical impulses such that they are pushed down into the subconscious where they await an opportunity to explode." If chastity is practiced only in this way, it does indeed create the danger of such 'explosions'."(page 170 Love and Responsibility) We are heading in a healthier direction if we don't recoil in fear from these reactions, but acknowledge that they are disordered and prayerfully seek to order the feelings as God designed them to be.

    x. You are right about a spouse not being able to go through all of married life without experiencing lust. What is harmful is when it becomes habitual and even worse, denied to be that which it is and demanded as a right. The wounds go deep, Wade, when a spouse is approached the majority of the time as a means of release for the mate rather than as a person who is loved for himself or herself. This happens a lot in our culture because the culture has so bombarded us with a vulgar view of sexuality and most of us are not taught how to deal with this bombardment in a healthy way.

    I believe that you are terming what I said a development of doctrine--I did not say that. I said a deepening, and as you so rightly mentioned, St. Thomas spoke of this 800 years ago. I believe, however, that we lost sight of this truth for awhile, particularly in those areas where Protestantism gained a deep hold. Their thinking is quite skewed in regards to most things physical, and spiritual as well since they by and large deny the efficaciousness of grace.

    I was told once that the teachings of St. Thomas on the emotions was repressed in the Church for quite some time, leaving a void that was not adequately filled by other teaching. Don't know if that is true since I am not a scholar of Church history but I found it interesting. I think that what JPII did was to bring back to our attention much that was already said but lost for a time and also rephrased it in a way that is more acceptable to our subjectivistic(is that a word?) culture.

    Your comment about being holier than the Apostles reminded me of a bizarre "apparition" that my mother-in-law was exposed to several years ago. Pretty crazy! No, I don't believe that we are going to be holier than the saints and apostles but I believe that holiness is practiced in different ways in different times, mostly due to cultural influences. Culture affects us a lot, even when we don't want it to. And things that work in religious life are not necessarily going to work for those of us out in the world with families. I believe that is one of the weaknesses of our canonization process--there are very few married saints. Not because some of the laity aren't holy but because there is no one to promote their cause as there is in religious orders.

    I would probably prefer to leave our discussion here but if you really want, you can repost it. I think we have a ways to go in our discussion.

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  67. Lauretta, I would agree with most of what you say here. The only thing I would disagree with is the idea that "men of mature purity" should never "turn their gaze" from a beautiful or scantily-clad woman. I do not find this position anywhere in the Catholic Tradition. If you can cite a Church Father or Doctor who teaches this, please refer me to a quotation.

    You are very knowledgeable and insightful, Lauretta. I have been very impressed with many of your points, and you have sure had me crunching my brain a lot!

    I won't re-post those portions on C-L-S.

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  68. @Lauretta,

    Would you mind giving the whole quote from Love and Responsibility in context? It seems to me that Pope John Paul II is saying that chastity should not merely be understood this way, but there is a positive element to chastity in addition to the negative element. For example, he states later that:

    "This (mistaken) view of chastity explains the common inference that it is a purely negative virtue. Chastity, in this view, is one long ‘no’. Whereas it is above all the ‘yes’ of which certain ‘no’s’ are the consequence."

    So the pure man who sees a woman will turn away not simply because he fears lust, but because he sees her as a person and to gaze at her depersonalizes her and turns her into an object. So if we think of chastity merely as the exterior act of turning away, then we put ourselves in danger of the "explosions" of incontinence; the exterior act must be accompanied by an interior act. As I pointed out on C-S-L, we must observe both the letter of the law (as enunciated in Sir 9:8-9, "Turn away thy face from a woman dressed up, and gaze not about upon another's beauty. For many have perished by the beauty of a woman, and hereby lust is enkindled as a fire") as well as its spirit (seeing the beautiful woman as a person, and not looking at her except as necessary). It does not at all seem to me that the Pope's writings give us permission to gaze at people's bodies.

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  69. I am so not happy. I was in the middle of a long response to all of you and my computer automatically shut down and threw my comments out into cyberspace somewhere!

    Anyhow, thanks Wade, for the kind comments. You do the same for me. I agree that it may, on rare occasions be necessary to immediately look away for someone of mature purity but that would be the exception rather than the rule. Temperance is, as St. Thomas says, a virtue that gives one peace when faced with these temptations, rather than anxiety.

    Dcs, I think this whole thing can be boiled down to what JPII says somewhere--that one who sees and lusts is revealing what is in his heart, lust, and that is a disorder. This is something that needs healing and in the past most were advised to repress this reaction in one way or another. This has proven to not be healthy, as JPII noted in the quote I gave and as a psychiatrist, Dr. Conrad Baars, spoke about at length as well.

    What I hear being said by TOB people is that our lustful thoughts need to be redeemed, not repressed. This is done primarily by training oneself, through prayer, to see the fullness of the other person, their dignity and worth. To see them as God sees. If we strive to see that way, we then won't see a woman's BODY, we will see a person and if she is pleasing to the eye, will appreciate that beauty without desiring to possess it. This training in virtue will, as St. Thomas says bring about peace and tranquility and not anxiety when faced with situations of potential temptation because one will not be tempted, by and large, and if one feels a slight temptation, it is easy to overcome because one has formed the habit of calmly redeeming one's thoughts from the temptation to use the other.

    When we look at another, we won't see a body, we will see a person, created in the dignity and likeness of God, a child of God much beloved by him. We will see the other as God sees them, something the Catechism tells us is possible to do.

    This will give us the ability to go to the beach, or the mall, or wherever and not have to worry every moment about where our eyes are focused. We can watch everyone on the beach with a disinterested glance and not be tempted every moment. If one or two people happen to be the source of a strong attraction, the heart is trained to immediately order this attraction properly and it will not become an issue.

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  70. This has proven to not be healthy, as JPII noted in the quote I gave and as a psychiatrist, Dr. Conrad Baars, spoke about at length as well.

    My point is that I don't think the Pope is saying what you think he's saying. He says that the "yes" of chastity has certain "no"s as a consequence. He doesn't speak solely of purity of intention; the purity of intention must be accompanied by a purity of act. It is not enough simply to turn away; likewise it is not enough to continue to look while claiming to have purity of the heart.

    What I hear being said by TOB people is that our lustful thoughts need to be redeemed, not repressed.

    To the extent that they mean by this that we should continue to look at people's bodies, I do not think that they are teaching in accordance with the late Pope or with the mind of the Church.

    I don't see how one can argue that pornography is intrinsically an affront to human dignity on the one hand, and then claim that one can continue to gaze at scantily clad people in order to see their dignity on the other hand. It is because one sees a person's dignity that one will not continue to look.

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  71. This is twice now. I was in the middle of another comment and something happened. Arrrgggghhh!

    Several have asked how women know if their husbands are coming to them in lust. This is something that cannot necessarily be explained but it is something that is intuited after awhile. When one lives intimately with another, you begin to read their actions and know their underlying cause. Even you unemotional men can come to tell our moods at times!!

    I am going to tell you a silly story to try to help understand our position. Imagine that you have a good friend who, after you've known each other for a while, begins to ask you out for a beer two or three times a week. You notice that he starts asking you regularly for $50--almost every time you get together. This happens week after week, year after year. Do you suppose that you might begin to feel used after awhile and maybe even begin to resent the guy?

    This is what happens when a man has not mastered his lust. After a time a woman comes to understand that she is a means for her husband's release rather than someone who is loved. This hurts deeply since it is such an attack against her dignity. She can begin to feel resentful toward her spouse and a wall develops. Sometimes it manifests itself in a lot of headaches at night, if you know what I mean.

    That is why I am so adamant about the need for men to master their lust in their hearts toward others. If you have lust, disordered desire, toward others, you will have it most likely in your relationship with your wife as well. Love is meant to be a gift of self, not a taking to satisfy one's own wants or needs. And, since men by nature, are often not very self-reflective, they often need to have it pointed out to them. Too often, however, women, especially Christian women, are trained to not confront their spouses, especially in these areas so the relationship continues to deteriorate rather than becoming a deepening love and devotion to the other.

    This is why my husband and I are big supporters of TOB, because we hear in this teaching, the solution to the core of many marriages' difficulties. We don't know how to love each other in healthy ways, both physically and emotionally. JPII saw this and went about developing a teaching that could help bring us into right relationship with one another. So, I am not so much a West fan as I am a promoter of TOB and its healing effects in marriage.

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  72. I realized after posting, that my use of the term confront might be misunderstood. I mean it in this sense:

    Face up to and deal with (a problem or difficult situation

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  73. @Lauretta, has it occurred to you that a wife might consider her husband coming to her under normal circumstances as being lustful? Is it not possible that she could "feel" "unloved" and "used" even though that isn't the case? Lust requires intent, so if men need to have it pointed out to them then they are not lusting.

    I do not think that one should equate the marriage debt with someone constantly borrowing money. The husband and the wife have marriage rights, and those rights have corresponding duties. To equate a husband asking for sex with a man asking for money is to view the marital act as some sort of privilege, something women deign to do with their husbands when they're feeling up to it.

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  74. Greetings Wade. I loved your post and am grateful for your poise and calm unlike some of the other critics online that only seek the destruction of anything “westian”. I myself am just a simple lay person who only has time to read so much, but from what I have read and seen of Mr. West’s presentations, I certainly do not see anything that would be considered as “damaging” to our faith to the extent that it supports heretical deviations from Church teaching.

    In fact some of the things that are of greatest concern from Dawn Eden and others are things that generally went over my head and did not give much thought to when I came across them on my own. Certainly the Pascal candle comment did seem to be of a weird analogy, but again I quickly scrapped that comment and went on with the presentation. But in re-reading some of the critique I can see how there may have been misunderstandings on both ends that need to be fine tuned and clarified. In light of all that have been said so far, would you recommend not to use any of West’s materials when it comes to TOB?

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  75. Thank you for your kind words, Anon.

    This is going to sound strange, but I think part of the problem with Mr. West's presentations is that they are "orthodox". Sometimes, if things are not technically "heretical", people will conclude that this means there is nothing problematic or misleading or dangerous in the presentations, and that is not true.

    Regarding West's materials, I think they are still valuable. But they need to be "balanced" and at times "corrected". I would recommended (and still do recommend) West to "some"" (not all), but I issue caveats. I will say, "West has some deficiencies in his teaching on 'mature purity' and 'custody of the eyes', he focuses too much on sexual union, he omits some things regarding celibacy", etc. If you issue the proper caveats, I would say yes, ujse and recommend him. However, if the one using or recommending him is not aware of the problems in West's presentations so that he cannot issue the proper caveats, then no, I do not think such a person should recommend or use him.

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  76. For all readers: I recommend Dr. David Delaney's article "including" the combox discussion for an excellent exchange between the "two sides" regarding this "Theology of the Body Controversy". It can be found here: http://cosmos-liturgy-sex.com/2010/10/06/concupiscence-west-schindler-debat/

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  77. Yes Wade, I also agree. I think sometimes people forget that just because something carries a "Nihil Obstat" and "Imprimatur" that it somehow makes the author infallible, which I’m sure most faithful Catholics don’t think it does. Any Catholic author, especially when it deals with faith and morals, should be seen with a critical eye. By the way I also like your suggestion that when disagreements arise, such as what we see here regarding TOB, it would best for a “sit-down” of some sorts and hatch things out with charity and love in mind. After all, we are all on the same team and should seek the best for one another, which is heaven.
    In the past I have recommended West’s “Introduction to Theology of the Body” and in the future will add some caveats as necessary. It might be a good idea to supplement other authors as well to help keep a “balance”. Two books come to mind, “Three to get Married” by Fulton Sheen and “Live giving Love” by Kimberly Hahn. Any other books you know about that might help?

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  78. I really wish, Anon, that we could organize some conference and get those from both sides of this discussion to agree to attend. I am not sure how practical or successful it would be, but at the very least it could not hurt, in my opinion.

    It is never good to rely strictly on one source. Absolutely, West should be read or listened to in conjunction with other sources. Sheen's book is an excellent recommendation.

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  79. Oh, dcs, I wasn't equating the two, I was just trying to give an example of how a man could feel used to try to help you understand how a woman could feel used in marriage.

    The primary duty we have as spouses is to love one another as Christ loves--with a sacrifice of self for the other. I would like to end my discussion with a few quotes from the Catechism:

    God who created man out of love also calls him to love--the fundamental and innate vocation of every human being. For man is created in the image and likeness of God who is himself love. Since God created him man and woman, their mutual love becomes an image of the absolute and unfailing love with which God loves man. It is good, very good, in the Creator's eyes.

    Every man experiences evil around him and within himself. This experience makes itself felt in the relationships between man and woman. Their union has always been threatened by discord, a spirit of domination, infidelity, jealousy, and conflicts that can escalate into hatred and separation.

    According to faith the disorder we notice so painfully does not stem from the nature of man and woman, nor from the nature of their relations, but from sin. As a break with God, the first sin had for its first consequence the rupture of the original communion between man and woman. Their relations were distorted by mutual recrimination; their mutual attraction, the Creator's own gift, changed into a relationship of domination and lust; ...

    Nevertheless, the order of creation persists, though seriously disturbed. To heal the wounds of sin, man and woman need the help of the grace that God in his infinite mercy never refuses them. Without his help man and woman cannot achieve the union of their lives for which God created them in the beginning.

    After the fall, marriage helps to overcome self-absorption, egoism, pursuit of one's own pleasure, and to open oneself to the other, to mutual aid and to self-giving.

    The law given to Moses aims at protecting the wife from arbitrary domination by the husband, even though according to the Lord's words it still carries traces of man's hardness of heart which was the reason Moses permitted men to divorce their wives.

    The books of Ruth and Tobit bear moving witness to an elevated sense of marriage and to the fidelity and tenderness of spouses. Tradition has always seen in the Song of Solomon a unique expression of human love, insofar as it is a reflection of God's love.

    By coming to restore the original order of creation disturbed by sin, Christ himself gives the strength and grace to live marriage in the new dimension of the Reign of God. It is by following Christ, renouncing themselves, and taking up their crosses that spouses will be able to receive the original meaning of marriage and live it with the help of Christ.

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  80. Oh, dcs, I wasn't equating the two, I was just trying to give an example of how a man could feel used to try to help you understand how a woman could feel used in marriage.

    The problem is that it is not a good analogy. A better analogy would be where someone feels "used" because another person to whom he owes money continually asks him to pay it back. That is, he feels "used" when one whom he owes a debt asks him to pay the debt. As a matter of justice he should not feel "used" in that situation. Might he "feel" used anyway? Yes, but he has no right to feel used. The debt holder might be uncharitable or immoderate in his requests, but is he outside his rights?

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  81. Has anyone read the book, "The Catholic Church on Marital Intercourse" by Robert Obach? It is a history on the Church's thinking on this subject. It looks rather interesting but I have no knowledge of the book or the author. Any thoughts?

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  82. I found the most wonderful article explaining John Paul II's ideas. It was written by a woman who knew him personally. I hope you will take the time to read it. It is beautiful.

    http://www.lifesitenews.com/ldn/2010_docs/Wanda_Poltawska.pdf

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  83. Re: Obach's book - There is a preview available on Google Books. I can tell from the Table of Contents that it is not something that I would be predisposed to read -- he seems to take the view that the Popes, starting with Pius XII, did away with the "negative" view of marital relations that had prevailed in the Church up to that time.

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  84. In other words, dcs, Obach "divorces" TOB from the Catholic Tradition. That is precisely my issue with today's TOB presenters - for the most part they do the same.

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  85. I was mainly concerned with whether or not what he said was historically accurate, and, if not, the sources that would refute what he had to say.

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  86. Wade, that is what I am trying to sift through, was it a change from Church Tradition or merely from the prevailing thought of the day? Most of the sources he cites are not magisterial, they are theologians, canon lawyers, saints and an occasional bishop. None of those, even combined together, comprise magisterial, that is official, teaching.

    I know there has been a development in the primary means and ends of marriage over the last 100 years. I think it is somewhat like the issue of the death penalty. In the past the death penalty was allowed because that was the only way to protect society. Now, our prison systems, when used properly, are perfectly capable of protecting us from criminals hence the modification of the Church's position on the death penalty. Does not forbid the practice but stresses that it is unnecessary in life today. A lot of people don't accept that but it is official--it's in the Catechism, a sure norm for teaching the faith.

    Most of this stuff, the death penalty, slavery, marriage, are being tweaked, it seems to me, to correspond more fully to the dignity of the person. It seems to me that this awareness of the dignity of the person was enhanced with the advent of abortion, and is causing us to rethink a lot of things. But that is purely my opinion.

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  87. There has certainly been some development. The question is, "how much development has there been?" I think some things have been "tweaked". But when I listen to some people who have studied TOB, their understandings of post-conciliar teaching on sex and marriage goes beyond mere "tweaking". There are some things they believe which contradict Catholic Tradition. Like I said, I have heard from many, many Catholics that "celibacy is not superior to marriage". But that is heresy - something anyone heavily immersed in our Catholic Tradition knows instinctually. There are many other examples.

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  88. I think a discussion of the Catholic teaching on the death penalty is outside the scope of this thread, but I will say this: the efficacy of modern prison systems in keeping people safe is a matter of prudential judgment. It is not a doctrinal definition that is closed for debate. A friend of mine once pointed out that prison guards and even other prisoners also have to be protected from violent offenders. In addition I would add that so-called "Supermax" prisons and their ilk are less in keeping with human dignity, in my opinion, than the death penalty! I don't think that there is so much a change in the Church's teaching on the death penalty as a shift in emphasis. The right of society to redress the wrong caused to the moral order is not emphasized. The fact that the death penalty expiates the sin of the man who accepts it is not emphasized. I could go on, but I think you get the idea and I don't want to go down a rabbit hole.

    Now, again, I have not read Obach's book but I think it is possible that he overstates the "negative" view of marital act that was taken by some Fathers and Doctors of the Church. I do not think St. Thomas's view, for example, is wholly negative. For example, he states that the one who engages in the marital act to prevent fornication in his spouse does not sin, while the one who engages in it to prevent fornication in himself does. I take this to mean that one who engages in the marital act solely as a remedy for concupiscence, and not for procreative or unitive purposes, commits sin.

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