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Katie van Schaijik

Christopher West breaks silence; answers critics

Oct. 27, 2009, at 11:14am

There will be more to say about this response to his critics, but for now let me only highlight some of it and urge everyone to read it in full.

The pivotal question as I see it is this: What does the grace of redemption offer us in this life with regard to our disordered sexual tendencies? From there, the questions multiply: Is it possible to overcome the pull of lust within us? If not, what are we to do with our disordered desires? If so, to what degree can we be liberated from lust and how can we enter into this grace? Furthermore, what does it actually look like to live a life of ever deepening sexual redemption?

It is abundantly clear from both Catholic teaching and human experience that, so long as we are on earth, we will always have to battle with concupiscence - that disordering of our passions caused by original sin (see Catechism of the Catholic Church 405, 978, 1264, 1426). In some of my earliest lectures and tapes, I confess that I did not emphasize this important point clearly enough. The battle with concupiscence is fierce. Even the holiest saints can still recognize the pull of concupiscence within them. Yet, as John Paul II insisted, we “cannot stop at casting the ‘heart’ into a state of continual and irreversible suspicion due to the manifestations of the concupiscence of the flesh… Redemption is a truth, a reality, in the name of which man must feel himself called, and ‘called with effectiveness’” (TOB 46:4).

Many people seem to doubt this “effectiveness” and thus conclude that the freedom I hold out is beyond the realm of man’s possibilities. From one perspective, these critics are correct. “But what are the ‘concrete possibilities of man’?” John Paul II asks. “And of which man are we speaking? Of man dominated by lust or of man redeemed by Christ” (Veritatis Splendor 103)? For those dominated by lust, what I hold out is impossible. But those who enter the “effectiveness” of redemption discover “another vision of man’s possibilities” (TOB 46:6).


Scott Johnston • Oct 30, 2009 - 10:08 pm

I saw this when it came out and I think it is quite good; overall I am very pleased with it.

It is, however, unfortunate that he is choosing only to address one specific issue—that of concupiscence. Other issues raised are of a serious nature and I don’t think can simply be scooped up tidily under this one specific response. It is good that West acknowledged a defect in regard to the way he spoke about concupiscence in his early talks. And it is also good that he does not make a claim to being the sole or the best interpreter of JPII’s TOB.

In regard to the specific content of what he did say, I do have one critique. West still seems too willing to be loose with his use of terms. Sometimes he uses, “liberation from concupiscence”; at others he speaks of being free from the “domination of concupiscence.”

The latter is a much better, and more accurate, way of putting it. West seems to take his cue from JPII in sometimes using the more compact phraseology, “liberation from concupiscence” in place of the more accurate usage. But I wish he would not do this.

Even great thinkers such as JPII do not always use language consistently in a manner that best represents their ideas to a contemporary audience. Simply because JPII tends to use various phrases to represent the same idea does not mean it is a good method to replicate this lack of consistency. West would do well to discipline his use of language so that when he speaks of this topic he does not use the vague and very potentially misleading phrase, “liberation from concupiscence,” (even though JPII used it—assuming this is not primarily a translation issue). Instead he should always speak of becoming free from the “domination of concupiscence.”

This may seem like nitpicking, but I see it as very significant. A person hearing simply, “liberation from concupiscence,” can be greatly mislead and might conceive of the interplay of grace and nature in a manner that is extremely problematic. It does not take much to inadvertently lead someone down a very warped path when it comes to this subject.

Lauretta • Oct 31, 2009 - 11:06 pm

Scott,

My concern with your position would be that CW would no longer be presenting JPII’s TOB but his own sanitized version.  If we believe that TOB is true, then don’t we need to teach TOB, as it was given to us?

One of the things that I have found interesting in all of this discussion and controversy about concupiscence is that basically people are saying that the Church teaches that everyone must have mastery over sexual concupiscence except for married people and there is no way that they can ever be free from it.  Think about it.  Single people and religious who are teachers, for example, are expected to have relationships with those of the opposite sex, sometimes quite intimate if the student has a need, and yet are expected to be in total control of any attraction that may arise.  Priests are expected to counsel women about all manner of issues and be in control of any desires that may manifest themselves from the relationship.  Any physical reaction is a mortal sin.

Married people, however, are told that it is basically impossible for sexual concupiscence to be overcome.  For many years wives were told that they had to be agreeable to their spouses’ desires no matter what the circumstances.

It seems to me that the Church labeling things such as masturbation and fornication and adultery as objectively evil and mortal sins is in essence stating that we have to gain mastery over sexual concupiscence.  If we can’t gain mastery over sexual concupiscence I don’t see how we can function effectively in the world.  We can’t always be running in fear from those of the opposite sex or we cannot be effective teachers or doctors or co-workers or anything else that requires interaction with other people.

I have not understood why we are told that we have to master our concupiscence in every other area except for the sexual realm.  Who has ever been told that they are incapable of mastering over-eating or drinking or whatever other disorder one may develop?  It seems to me that what happens in all of these other areas is that someone develops ways in which these disorders can be dealt with and corrected.  I’m thinking of AA, Weight Watchers, etc.  Is not TOB that in the sexual realm?  It seems to me that it is.

Tim • Nov 1, 2009 - 8:44 pm

Lauretta,

To your first point…“If we believe that TOB is true, then don’t we need to teach TOB, as it was given to us?”  I think we all agree it should be but not everyone believes CW is doing that.  Many at least believe he is in need of some correction. That’s what the discussion has been about.

To your second point…“One of the things that I have found interesting in all of this discussion and controversy about concupiscence is that basically people are saying that the Church teaches that everyone must have mastery over sexual concupiscence except for married people…”  Did I miss something?  I don’t recall that being argued by anyone.  I think we all know we’re all called to holiness, to perfection.

And then there’s “I have not understood why we are told that we have to master our concupiscence in every other area except for the sexual realm.”  I’ve seen no one say that we should “master” all areas except the sexual.  Again, did I miss something?

I think we all believe we can be free from the “domination of concupiscence.”  But do you believe we can “master” our concupiscence, sexual and otherwise, and have “liberation from concupiscence” or is it something we will always battle in this world to some degree.  I think we need to be precise with our words sometimes to be clear.

Katie van Schaijik • Nov 1, 2009 - 9:18 pm

Lauretta wrote:
“My concern with your position would be that CW would no longer be presenting JPII’s TOB but his own sanitized version.  If we believe that TOB is true, then don’t we need to teach TOB, as it was given to us?”

I can’t think that adjusting the Pope’s vocabulary to forestall confusion should be thought of as “sanitizing”.  Nor, no matter how essentially true and valid we find TOB to be, are we obliged to hand it on exactly as we received it.  It is not the Creed.  Every true Catholic thinker/teacher/preacher is aware that he speaks of things that are too high and deep and mysterious to be captured perfectly in human language.  And he also knows that if he cares about his message being received, he must adapt it in a measure to his audience.  (I don’t speak of adapting doctrine, but mode of teaching.)

I think too much anxiety about avoiding confusion and speaking very exactly (whether it comes from CW’s critics or defenders) DOES hinder our witness in the world.  We move and work too cautiously, instead of with a spirit of freedom, confidence and strength—like the saints.

Lauretta • Nov 2, 2009 - 7:51 pm

Tim and Katie,

In response to point one, I was speaking about Scott’s statement that CW should not use the term “liberation from concupiscence” even tho JPII himself used the term himself several times.  What if JPII said what he meant and meant what he said?  What if liberation from concupiscence is an important part of TOB and we weaken it by not talking about it clearly?

Concerning point two, several people who were criticizing CW said that we are not going to overcome sexual concupiscence but in very rare cases.  Alice von Hildebrand calls sex dangerous in her critique (I can give you a link if you would like) and here is a quote from Prof. Schindler: 

My response is that concupiscence dwells “objectively” in the body, and continues its “objective” presence in the body throughout the course of our infralapsarian existence; and that we should expect holiness to “trump” temptations or disordered tendencies in the area of sexuality exactly as often as we should expect holiness to “trump” the reality of having to undergo death.

Am I misunderstanding him or is he saying that we cannot overcome concupiscence in this area with grace?

To focus on just one disordered desire and one closely related to the sexual sphere—that of food.  Yes, we are expected to master our concupiscence toward food.  Some insurance companies are penalizing those who are obese and some companies will not hire you if you are too overweight.  They are expecting, and demanding, that you master concupiscence in this area.

I have no disordered desire for drink or drugs.  Can I not therefore be said to have mastered concupiscence in these areas?  I know of people who have no disordered desire for food in the way that I do, can they not be said to have mastered concupiscence toward food?  I have a fried who was nearly 100 pounds overweight but has lost it and kept it off for several years now.  I would say that she has mastered her concupiscence in this area.  She can eat in restaurants and go to the grocery store without having extreme anxiety over possibly eating uncontrollably.

Maybe what we are having is a misunderstanding of terminology.  I define liberation as it is used here as the ability to live my life without constant fear of being tempted to the point of falling every time I am confronted with whatever I have had a disordered desire for.  Say, in an extreme case, an alcoholic who has mastered his disorder to the degree that he can be with others who are drinking without being tempted himself, or, in a perfect scenario, to be able to take a drink himself and not overindulge.

I truly believe that it is possible to, with grace, master sexual concupiscence to the point that we do not use our spouses as objects for our own satisfaction, that we can be with those of the opposite sex and not be tempted to sin with them, to see immodestly dressed people and not be aroused by them, etc.  This, of course, can only happen if our hearts are transformed and we can begin to see others as God sees them and not as objects, but I do believe this is possible.

Katie van Schaijik • Nov 2, 2009 - 8:58 pm

“What if JPII said what he meant and meant what he said?  What if liberation from concupiscence is an important part of TOB and we weaken it by not talking about it clearly?”

To me what is clear is that when JP II used the term “liberation from concupiscence” he did NOT mean absolute liberation.  He did NOT mean that we are no longer subject to temptation, that we don’t have to be vigilant.  He meant the same thing he meant when he wrote “liberation from the domination of concupiscence.”  CW clarified in his statement that (pace some of his critics) he agrees with the Pope on that point, while acknowledging that he failed to emphasize it enough in his early writings and presentations.

“Concerning point two, several people who were criticizing CW said that we are not going to overcome sexual concupiscence but in very rare cases. Alice von Hildebrand calls sex dangerous in her critique (I can give you a link if you would like)”

I think this is mainly a matter of misunderstanding and miscommunication.  I know AvH well enough to know that her concern is to show that because of its unique role in human life, its unique power and depth, and its unique potential for misuse, sex “as such” is dangerous.  But she would not claim (I am sure) that spouses should beware of sexual relations because they can only rarely manage to overcome concupiscence.  She has said to me many times about the conjugal union: “Do you realize, it’s a sacrament?”  She wants to the spouses to live their conjugal lives “in front of God”, with profound reverence, and with a kind of holy fear and trembling over the mystery of it all.  In this I think she and CW are in large agreement with one another.

Prof. Schindler’s point I find inscrutable.

AvH (again I am sure from many years of close friendship with her and study of her husband’s thought) would reject the analogy between sex and appetites for food and drink, which cannot compare with the significance of sex in our moral and spiritual lives.  At the same time, I think she would agree with CW and JP II that persons CAN be “liberated from the domination of concupiscence”, and that this is the simple aim of Christian living, viz. “Transformation in Christ.”

“I truly believe that it is possible to, with grace, master sexual concupiscence to the point that we do not use our spouses as objects for our own satisfaction, that we can be with those of the opposite sex and not be tempted to sin with them, to see immodestly dressed people and not be aroused by them, etc.”

Here I agree with you whole-heartedly, Lauretta.  I will go so far as to say that I think anyone who DOESN’T believe this has not understood the mind of the Church on human sexuality.

Tim • Nov 2, 2009 - 10:11 pm

Katie you wrote “To me what is clear is that when JP II used the term ‘liberation from concupiscence’ he did NOT mean absolute liberation.  He did NOT mean that we are no longer subject to temptation, that we don’t have to be vigilant.  He meant the same thing he meant when he wrote ‘liberation from the domination of concupiscence.’  CW clarified in his statement that (pace some of his critics) he agrees with the Pope on that point, while acknowledging that he failed to emphasize it enough in his early writings and presentations.”

I wonder if the clarification has been sufficient although I’m sure you’d place the “blame” more on the shoulders of the listeners.  Having heard other West followers say the same type of things as Lauretta makes me think the clarifications are, at least, lacking.

“Must we always be precise and elaborate enough in our every word to eliminate all possible misunderstanding?” Obviously precision is sometimes very necessary lest we lead people to believe we can have absolute liberation from concupiscence.

“Anyone who listens to CW, hears the isolated phrase ‘liberation from concupiscence’, and uses it claim that CW thinks that we are safe from temptation, is someone not paying attention, or not very bright, or warped already, or bearing ill will.”  Well, not everyone is very bright hence the need to have people like CW explain to us what JPII meant. Some are warped.  I remember on a previous thread the charge that many are “damaged” sexually one way or another.  Some may be bearing ill will.  I have another option…maybe they’ve formed their opinions from earlier tapes and cd’s and haven’t heard the clarifications.  Or again, maybe the clarifications haven’t been strong enough.

Katie van Schaijik • Nov 2, 2009 - 11:08 pm

My point is that CW and all teachers of the faith, if we hope to be effective (i.e. fruitful) in our work, have to be content to be misunderstood.  We’re responsible for communicating faithfully what we have seen and understood.  We are not responsible to ensure that no one misunderstands us. 
If we discover from feedback that we have been unclear, we ought to clarify our meaning.  If we discover our teaching has been faulty, we ought to make course corrections.  This is exactly what CW has done. 
No Catholic teacher or preacher is bound to say nothing that obtuse or demented people or resentment-laden detractors might mis-apprehend.  If we were, we would make no headway in the world.
JP II’s TOB is ground-breaking.  It is (IMO) genuine development of doctrine.  It is not surprising that its coming entails some confusion on the part of the faithful.

Lauretta • Nov 2, 2009 - 10:12 pm

I guess that I never looked at the term liberation as something to be viewed as absolute.  I usually connect it more along the lines of a country being liberated.  The domination is over but of course you don’t dissolve your army because circumstances in the future often change your situation.

For me to be liberated from concupiscence means that I no longer have to be constantly on guard, fearful of any encounter lest I fall into sin.  I have the peace of knowing that with God I am in control of this area of my life and it does not control me.  Granted this must be a humble acknowledgment of victory and one cannot assume that a temptation will never arise that I might succumb to but that overall, I can be at peace within myself about this.

An example, I think, would be that of a couple dating or engaged.  If the couple has mastery over sexual concupiscence, they needn’t make sure that every moment spent together is in public and “supervised” so to speak.  They know that they can trust themselves to be alone together and not sin.

I made the correlation between sexual concupiscence and concupiscence for food because they are both things that are necessary for life so the desire for them both is strong.  Some spiritual writers say that they stem from the same source.

The last statement with which you agree is one I have heard many people in the Church disagree.  I spoke with a very prominent promoter of NFP one time over the phone about the possibility of NFP being used without serious reason to limit family size and he laughed and said that most of us have too much lust for that to be an issue.  Many chastity speakers talk as though it is impossible for couples to be alone together and not sin.  Many Christian parents think the same thing.

I think it is these attitudes that CW is trying to confront and dispute.  If we struggle seriously with these things, we need to acknowledge that we have a disorder that needs to be treated and prayerfully seek God’s grace to overcome it.  But first we need to KNOW that this disorder can be overcome.  That is why, I believe, we need to hear that liberation and mastery over sexual concupiscence is possible.

Tim • Nov 2, 2009 - 10:25 pm

“I guess that I never looked at the term liberation as something to be viewed as absolute.  I usually connect it more along the lines of a country being liberated.  The domination is over but of course you don’t dissolve your army because circumstances in the future often change your situation.”

I’m glad you clarified that point that you don’t believe in absolute liberation although your analogy has me a little puzzled.  I guess no analogy is perfect though.  I’ll think about it some more.

Katie van Schaijik • Nov 2, 2009 - 11:18 pm

Lauretta, what a great analogy!  You are exactly right.

About the analogy between sexual desire and the appetite for food, let me to quote the opening lines of DvH’s beautiful book (published in 1930!) “In Defense of Purity”.

“It is impossible to understand the virtue of human purity without first considering briefly the distinctive character and unique position of sex in human nature.  Among the activities and appetites of the human body, sex occupies a unique position.  When we consider eating, drinking, and sleep—indeed, bodily pleasure as a whole—we find this entire province of human experience characterized by a lack of depth…
Sex, on the other hand, contrasted with the other departments of bodily experience, is ESSENTIALLY deep.  Every manifestation of sex produces an effect which transcends the physical sphere and, in a fashion quite unlike the other bodily desires, involves the soul deeply in its passion.”

It was this insight of DvH’s (among related others) that made his work a pre-cursor to TOB.

I, too, have heard the kinds of things you have heard from many teachers and preachers.  I can only say again that—sincere and well-meaning as they may be—I think they have not yet understood the mind of the Church as it has developed in recent decades.

Tim • Nov 3, 2009 - 12:31 am

Given DvH’s quote and that we have no absolute mastery over concupiscence, in addition for the need to be vigilant, where then does the topic of modesty and discretion come in?  Wouldn’t it be important to talk on these as well?  It would seem prudent lest we go too far the other direction. The issues of prudery and puritanism permeates CW’s teachings but where’s the line between prudery and modesty?  Some people I’ve met have a hard time knowing since he never speaks on modesty.  And oh how common it is to see one throw out the term “prude” to those who have discomfort with some things CW says.

Fr. Angelo had a wonderful article articulating his point on this.

http://maryvictrix.wordpress.com/2009...

Katie van Schaijik • Nov 3, 2009 - 12:47 am

This is a good challenge, Tim.  I’ll try to do it some justice tomorrow.

Lauretta • Nov 3, 2009 - 1:00 am

The first tape series that I heard from CW—done in the 90’s, I believe—has a section in which he mentions that he talked with his then fiance about clothing styles and the fact that some of her clothing choices might be viewed improperly by some males.  I think that modesty in dress is something that he has mentioned in just about every taped talk of his that I have heard.

Lauretta • Nov 3, 2009 - 10:55 am

I skimmed the article by Fr. Angelo and one of the things he mentioned was a “holy” bashfulness.  The first thing that came to my mind was whether, since they were naked without shame, Adam and Eve were not holy before Original Sin.  Also, are native peoples immodest because they wear little or no clothing in their villages?

How does one determine what is modest?  One gentleman I debated extensively on these issues says that for women to wear clothing below the knee is necessary for modesty.  Obviously Dr. AvH does not agree with that assessment since I have seen her knees on numerous occasions on EWTN programs!  Fr. Angelo considers breast-feeding in public as immodest while admitting that in other cultures it is done extensively.

Was St. Francis immodest when he ran naked through the streets?

I recall several years ago spending a couple of weeks in Venezuela living with a family
with whom we had become acquainted.  One day we went around town and I wore an outfit that came to my knees—trying to keep cool since it was extremely hot there in August!  I noticed that my hostess changed her clothing and wore a pair of shorter pants as well.  When we went walking I noticed that not another woman had short pants on—they were all full length.  However, they were extremely tight!  On the beach, their attire was little different from what we have in America.  But I did notice that in public women always wore long pants no matter the temperature.  I was probably considered there to be immodestly dressed.

From what I remember of TOB, CW style, modesty is necessary when there is the danger of being used.  He states that a model posing naked for artists is not immodest, nor are married people who are naked before each other.  He says that Adam and Eve before the Fall were modest in their nakedness because they had no fear of being used by another.

It seems to me that we would have to admit that modesty is a very subjective thing and varies extensively among cultures and times.  Would not the standard for modesty be that which was given us in the beginning by God?  I would think that anything else would be a human construct and the result of sin, not holiness.

Tim • Nov 3, 2009 - 11:40 am

Interesting because I’ve never heard him speak about modesty.  And I remember in a tape I recently listened to he said he never spoke on it.( I don’t know what year it was recorded.) His reason seemed to be that it wasn’t necessary- that it would take care of itself with a proper understanding of TOB.

I agree modesty is subjective and varies among cultures and times. That does not mean therefore all things go. Or does it?

“Would not the standard for modesty be that which was given us in the beginning by God?  I would think that anything else would be a human construct and the result of sin, not holiness. ”  Could you elaborate because the “standard” was nakedness, no?

I have heard there are some, or have been, in the name of TOB, that practice various degrees of Christian nudity even to the level of a “naked” Mass. Is it possible, in your opinion, that this is within the realm of modesty? In our country?

Maybe this is an extreme example but at least we’ll have some kind of line to start off with.

Katie van Schaijik • Nov 3, 2009 - 1:23 pm

About vH’s term “holy bashfulness”: it’s not a very satisfying one.  Alice von Hildebrand mentioned to me several times this summer that she wishes we could come up with another.  It’s meant to capture an entirely positive sense of “shame”—one clearly recognized by JP II, but perhaps more fully developed in DvH.  It is a form of shame that is concerned not with protecting myself from objectification, but rather with a kind of awe-filled consciousness of special depth, intimacy, and sacredness.
 
It’s hard for us to imagine Adam and Eve’s state of mind before the Fall—what it meant to have perfect innocence.  But we know that it is an unattainable state in a post-fallen world.  Christian chastity and purity are different from original innocence.  Nor is the difference an entirely negative, regrettable one.  (“O happy fault”.)  Mysteriously, redemption (incomplete as it remains until the end) has exalted our sexuality, along with everything else human.

Lauretta • Nov 4, 2009 - 10:52 am

I have heard there are some, or have been, in the name of TOB, that practice various degrees of Christian nudity even to the level of a “naked” Mass. Is it possible, in your opinion, that this is within the realm of modesty? In our country?

I will begin with this comment, Tim, since it is the easiest!  No, I don’t think that this is a good idea in our country even if those attending were so thoroughly redeemed that they could understand correctly what they were participating in.  This leaves too much room for misinterpretation and scandal among the millions that would not understand.

I haven’t much time these days to ponder and study to give good replies so these are ideas that have come to me in the few minutes that I have had free to think about this.  We are building a house with our daughter and son-in-law and trying to beat the weather in Idaho, so not much free time!

Now on to the topic of modesty.  As for nakedness being the standard for modesty, what I mean is that in the beginning, at the creation of man, it was modest to be naked.  This is because before Original Sin, Adam and Eve had no reason to fear being used by the other and they could be totally open to the other.  I think they had great appreciation for each other’s sexuality and its marital meaning and that is why Adam cried with such joy, “At last this is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh!”

As far as the great dignity and sacredness of our bodies requiring that they be covered, I’m not so sure about that—in the fullness of truth, not in the lie-filled world in which we live, at any rate.  I believe that JPII called the Sistine Chapel the “sanctuary of the theology of the body” and had many of the loincloths which had been added after the original painting to be removed during the chapel’s restoration.  Much of our greatest art is of the naked human body.  What other sacred thing do we cover in this way?

I was thinking about the Eucharist in a period of sleeplessness last night.  When we want to honor the Eucharist in a special way we have exposition and processions.  It seems to me that the reception of Communion is a very intimate experience as well—some of our saints were in ecstasy for long periods of time after receiving Communion and yet that is done in a very public, communal way.

I have heard many people state that they are offended by CW telling people that they should stand in front of a mirror and learn to see what is truly there rather than recoil in shame.  To me that would be a good way to start understanding the language of the body—with our own bodies.  We should be able to look at ourselves and stop seeing our bodies in a Puritanical or pornified (how do you like my word?!) way and see it as God designed it to be—a revelation of Himself who is Love which is a total gift of self.  That is what we should see when we look in the mirror, not our wrinkles and sags and bags and imperfections!  We should then strive to see the same thing in our family members’ bodies and appreciate the great gifts that our bodies are.  Every woman’s body is an icon of receptivity—to life and to God—and every man’s body is an icon of the gift of life and self to another.  Our bodies reveal God to us just as every thing in creation, but they do it in a much more profound and glorified way.  We need to learn to see that revelation!

These are my own reflections so please do not judge TOB by what I am saying here.  This is what I have come to understand by studying this subject.  I could be all wrong!

Katie van Schaijik • Nov 4, 2009 - 11:37 am

“I have heard there are some, or have been, in the name of TOB, that practice various degrees of Christian nudity even to the level of a “naked” Mass. Is it possible, in your opinion, that this is within the realm of modesty? In our country?”

In my opinion this would be a grotesque distortion of TOB, and an unjustifiable practice for Christians.

About “holy bashfulness”, the key is that it is about sacredness, mystery and intimacy—i.e. more than simply dignity.

More later.  I am working out a longer thought on modesty.

Tim • Nov 4, 2009 - 2:43 pm

So is your primary objection to a naked Mass that of scandal due to those who would not understand? Would a private Mass be within the realm of possibility for those “thoroughly redeemed?”  When one takes into account other things you say it becomes unclear.  Such as “As far as the great dignity and sacredness of our bodies requiring that they be covered, I’m not so sure about that” and the example of the Sistine Chapel with “Much of our greatest art is of the naked human body.  What other sacred thing do we cover in this way?”  (Also, there’s the comment about “exposing” the Eucharist but I don’t know what you meant by that exactly) Are these not arguments FOR the possibility of such a Mass?

The part about standing in front of the mirror…why are things usually worded that one either sees things properly or “recoils in shame.”  One accepts CW’s interpretation OR one’s a prude or full of shame, accepts a naked crucifix OR one’s a prude, etc. 

But beyond that, what do you mean by “understanding the language of the body”  and is it necessary to look at oneself in the mirror naked to come to that understanding? And how does one look at one’s body in a Puritanical way other than the most extreme examples?  I’m thinking along the lines of your “average” Christian. I’m sorry for all the questions but you throw these terms out there and I’d like to be clear on their meaning.

I know you don’t have much time so when it’s convenient.  I pray you beat the weather.

Tim • Nov 4, 2009 - 2:47 pm

I know you’re working on a thought (and I need to run too)and maybe the answer to this is forthcoming but what makes it a “grotesque distortion of TOB, and an unjustifiable practice for Christians” if people can be thoroughly redeemed.

Katie van Schaijik • Nov 4, 2009 - 3:54 pm

Tim, you seem to be confusing me with Lauretta.  I agree with her on many things, but I’m dialoguing with her too on others, and am, after all, my own person. :)  I know very little of CW’s work, so when I defend TOB I do it according to what I have learned through study of JP II and von Hildebrand plus my own reflection and moral experience. 

As I see it, the very notion of “a private nude Mass for those who are ‘thoroughly redeemed’” is risible—a travesty and an affront, revealing in those engaging in it either some perversion or some serious confusion.  It seems to me a kind of religious and moral insanity.

I leave open the possibility, though, that in HEAVEN we may not wear clothing.  In “The Great Divorce” (if memory serves), C.S. Lewis depicts some of the heavenly beings encountered by the protagonist as clothed and others not, showing at the same time that the difference is unimportant there.  Once we HAVE been thoroughly redeemed, then it seems that bodily adornment would be just that—adornment.  The question of modesty will have become moot.

The aim of TOB (in so far as it touches the question of sexuality) is the transformation of the erotic urge to use and be used by others into authentic, reciprocal, life-giving love and communion.  It is NOT about techniques for overcoming shame (which is not to say that in certain cases such techniques might not have legitimate therapeutic uses.)

Tim • Nov 4, 2009 - 5:46 pm

No confusion, Katie.  I just replied in the wrong place.  Sorry.  But at least I learned a new word today- risible.  Thanks.

Steve B • Nov 7, 2009 - 3:25 pm

Hi Katie,

Do you know which book/writing of Dr. DvH and/or Dr. AvH was this term “holy bashfulness” used?

In Dr. DvH’s book “The Devastated Vineyard”, on pages 28-29 (in reference to what he wrote previously in his book “In Defense of Purity”) he uses the term “noble shame.”  Is this the same concept as “holy bashfulness”?

It seems to me that you and Dr. AvH are trying to turn this term into one which sounds more “positive”.  That, IMO, is a consistent trend in the Church since Vatican II (which IMO isn’t by any means essential to successfully promoting the faith), aimed primarily to be more receptive to modern culture.

Perhaps another way to term this would be “holy modesty”?  But, then that term today is far too often deemed as “negative” also, which typifies the sad state of affairs in our modern era….

Best regards, and God bless,

Steve B
Plano, TX

Scott Johnston • Nov 4, 2009 - 7:23 pm

“Prof. Schindler’s point I find inscrutable.”

Dear Katie, please read my personal blog post at
http://tinyurl.com/o6c4jb

I claim that after reading this you will no longer find his point inscrutable. Please let me know if I am wrong.

Here is a key section that coordinates with Schindler’s passage:

Concupiscence, not in itself the same as sin, is a result of the loss of the preternatural gifts (see above)—not a result of the loss of supernatural gifts. This loss is a consequence of original sin. Sanctifying grace (regained by Baptism and then strengthened by prayer, the sacraments, and charity) restores the loss of the supernatural gift of God’s life to man’s soul. However, sanctifying grace does not restore the preternatural gifts. Man still suffers. He still dies a physical death. And, he is tempted to sin because of concupiscence.

But please see the entire post.

Here is Schindler’s obscure passage with some comments of my own [but please see my blog post first]

My response is that concupiscence dwells “objectively” in the body [as it is a consequence of the loss of the preternatural gifts after the Fall], and continues its “objective” presence in the body throughout the course of our infralapsarian existence; and that we should expect holiness [a supernatural gift brought about by sanctifying grace; a different category of gift than preternatural gifts which were not restored by Christ] to “trump” temptations or disordered tendencies in the area of sexuality [which, again, are a result of the loss of preternatural gifts which were not restored by grace] exactly as often as we should expect holiness to “trump” the reality of having to undergo death. [holiness flows from the supernatural gift of sanctifying grace and it restores the supernatural gift that was originally lost in the Fall; holiness does not restore gifts of a different category; bodily death results from the loss of the preternatural gifts which we will not regain until the general resurrection, gifts which included bodily immortality as well as freedom from concupiscence]

Scott Johnston • Nov 4, 2009 - 4:41 pm

“I have not understood why we are told that we have to master our concupiscence in every other area except for the sexual realm.” . . . “Is not TOB that in the sexual realm?”

Lauretta, with qualification, yes. But it is not the whole solution all by itself. The inappropriate attitude that you mention toward sexual temptations within married life is not helpful for leading married persons to increase in grace and grow in sanctity together. TOB is one aspect of the corrective to this.

Another aspect is simply much better basic catechesis on the fundamentals of the Catholic faith and Catholic spiritual life. This should include the very important reorientation of Catholic moral theology toward a virtue based understanding of the moral sphere undertaken by Fr. Pinckaers, OP, and others following him. This is to pull us away from the degeneration into legalism and nominalism that had crept into the practice of the faith in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the negative effects of which you describe.

So, correcting the legalistic, externally focused moral attitude you mention was a project begun quite a while before TOB came on the scene. One problem with what seems to be somewhat of a TOB subculture is that it tends to see itself as the only thing positive going on in the Church as far as presenting the moral teaching of the Church in a better and more understandable light. This not the case. TOB is a very helpful component of a larger endeavor of renewing the health and attractiveness of the moral teaching of the Church.

Also, Lauretta, from your comment above I’m not sure you are clear on what concupiscence is and is not in the way the Church uses that term (and I wouldn’t fault you for this as it is something rarely taught anymore at the parish level; and if it is, rarely taught well). Luther himself had a very serious fundamental misunderstanding of concupiscence. It was one of the keys that led him to revolt against the Church.

Please permit me to suggest that you take a look at my personal blog post
at http://tinyurl.com/q4t3ff

I think if you read this it should clear up any further questions you may still have about my view of West’s approach to concupiscence. If not, please ask!

If you would like more of the background theology laying the groundwork for understanding concupiscence, please also see
http://tinyurl.com/o6c4jb

God bless!

Lauretta • Nov 6, 2009 - 10:15 am

I forgot to tell you that I went to your blog post and read it quickly.  It was very good.  Thank you so much.  I want to reread it and will go to the other link when I have a few minutes to spare.  The roof must go on, you know!

Scott Johnston • Nov 7, 2009 - 7:44 am

Thanks for the feedback, Lauretta! I appreciate it.

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