Katie van Schaijik

Christopher West breaks silence; answers critics (3)

Oct. 27, 2009, at 1:14am

The 3rd part of the comment thread of the previous post can be found in the comment section below.

Steve B • Nov 7, 2009 - 2:52 pm


Your closing comment,

“It [TOB] is so much more than just about sex, as we define the term, but who we are as persons made in the image and likeness of God.”

struck a resonant chord for me wrt the litany of problems that I see in how TOB seems to be “promoted” by Christopher West.

One fundamental question I have (and it is directly related to the foundational principal on which The Personalist Project was founded) is this:

Why isn’t this teaching instead called “Theology of the PERSON ”?

Sorry that what follows is a bit of a rant, but I just was unable to be any more succinct.

The focus upon the human body should be merely an aspect of what is the “true” theology of human personhood; but, in my opinion CW and others who promote TOB seem to focus FAR too much on the human body itself, and FAR too little on the myriad of the other marvelous dimensions of the human person - particularly, on the myriad of dimensions even in which our sexuality which goes WAY beyond even our own bodies.  Perhaps CW does this much better in his actual TOB talks (I haven’t listened to one in probably over 15 years), but for whatever reasons he doesn’t seem to promote it much in what I have heard/read lately, if at all….

Here’s a telling observation that I just made, which I think will shed some light on the “problem” with how TOB seems to be promoted, particularly by CW.  I just finished listening for the 3rd time to CW’s talk given to TPP in June of 2008, and you know what was COMPLETELY missing from his talk?  NOT EVEN ONE TIME in his nearly 1 hour talk to TPP did CW mention the word “prayer”.  Sure, he mentioned the 3 phases of the journey of faith (purgative/illuminative/unitive); but, to not mention prayer (even in passing) was in my view an utterly glaring deficiency of his talk.  For a listener who doesn’t/didn’t already have a good personal prayer life, how would they know HOW to progress in the spiritual life???

In my view, the focus upon promoting a personal prayer life amongst the faithful MUST be done first and foremost, as well as hand-in-hand, with properly promoting the “Theology of the Person”. 

In his recent “The Theology of the Body Debate: The Pivotal Question” commentary on his web site, CW seems to think that an improved prayer life will be the result of being exposed to the TOB (see 2nd paragraph under his section “Mature Purity”); I contend that what is more needed is to promote personal prayer first (many Catholics don’t really know what a personal prayer life is).  Then, for most “normal people”, the spiritual light bulb will truly turn on and they will finally grasp that the fulfillment of our personhood comes primarily through our prayerful & personal relationship with God - and how establishing that will ultimately lead us into more fruitful relationships with others.

Granted, CW and other TOB advocates are primarily addressing the over-indulgence in the sexual realm out there in the secular culture, and the horrific impact that it has had even upon Christian believers.  So, in a sense, TOB advocates are merely addressing the worst aspect of our culture’s erroneous focus upon personhood.  However, I honestly believe that CW (and probably many other TOB advocates/promoters as well) is capitalizing upon the fact that “sex sells” (I don’t know whether it is a conscious decision or not) - and that seems more than a little bit disingenuous to me…. 

But, for CW to assertively promote (before emphasizing the much more basic need for a personal prayer life) that we need to “come to an ever greater awareness of the gratuitous beauty of the human body, of masculinity and femininity” goes just TOO far.  The human body is essentially just a symbol of the beauty of the entire human person (except in the biological sense, wrt procreation); sometimes, CWs emphasis seems to be more than a little too focused upon the symbol and not nearly enough on the other much more important aspects of personhood - as CW himself cautioned the audience in his TBB talk (at the 28:20 mark), we must “beware of false summits.”  In my view, excessive focus & emphasis upon the human body is DEFINITELY a false summit of what should be a more holistic “Theology of the Person” emphasis.  That is definitely how Dr. DvH emphasized his teachings on personhood after all.

Other things which bother me about the way in which TOB is promoted by CW are:

1) He de-emphasizes FAR too much the dangers of concupiscence - in many respects, CW merely gives it “lip service” - just barely enough emphasis to be sure that the TOB message sounds “orthodox enough” to folks who are somewhat skeptical.  CW’s recent “response” on his web site falls far short of a “mea culpa” in this regard - his focus clearly remains on promoting the “positive” elements of TOB, and he seems to show little indication of intending to make any significant changes for the future in how he plans to promote TOB.

2) He de-emphasizes the impact of sin in our world, in our families, and in our personal lives (IMO, the same pitfall that the Church as a whole has unfortunately fallen into since Vatican II).  To his credit, CW in his TPP talk did quite appropriately and commendably state that we all need to get to the point in our spiritual lives where “sin becomes repulsive to us” (29:45 mark).  However, at other places in his talk, CW undermines this point to an appreciable degree by saying things like “good is everywhere we look!” (43:30 mark) and “we can find God in everything; we can commune in/through Him in all things; created things cease to be a danger for us as they once were” (52:15 mark). NEITHER of these statements are remotely close to being accurate where grossly sinful behavior exists, especially in those things & places where sin is actually promoted (e.g. a red-light district in Amsterdam)....

CW was also recently a guest on Catholic Answers (Nov. 2, 2009), and I highly recommend anyone to listen to that archived broadcast on  In it, he does promote that prayer is critical to developing a proper emphasis in promoting the TOB teaching (35:50 mark).  CW also did state that a holistic education/teaching on human personhood is truly necessary also (42:00 mark). 

However, in that same show CW also said that “the body is the revelation of the person.”  I can’t say with enough emphasis how STRONGLY I disagree with that statement.  The human body is NOT at the core of who we are as persons, nor how we truly reveal ourselves; the body is merely the most powerful and instrumental way in which we can intimately SHARE the depth of who we are as a person with another.

CW also said in his recent Catholic Answers visit that “A lot of us are raised with such an emphasis on the dangers of sexuality - the ‘not yet’ aspect of our redemption - that we haven’t yet balanced it out properly with ‘the already’ of our redemption” (10:13 mark).  I contend that he is promoting TOB in a way which shifts the focus on human sexuality FAR too much in the opposite direction from the “puritanical”, which itself results in a non-balanced and incomplete view of human sexuality.

CW stated in his TBB talk that in the illuminative stage “we begin to see reality more and more as God made it to be” (26:15 mark).  That is absolutely true.  However, we ALSO need to see reality AS IT REALLY IS - i.e. the fallen state of our world, with sin being so rampant in it.  CW’s promotion of TOB seems to me to do VERY little in that regard….

The beauty of the Catholic faith is that it is a “both/and” system of belief.  Explaining better the traditional Catholic teachings on the reasons WHY the Church has taught against the dangers and errors of sexual sin as She has (including the errors of participating in unnatural sexual acts as “foreplay”!), IN ADDITION TO the beauty of the recent TOB teachings of Pope John Paul II, plus a FULLER elucidation on the myriad of beautiful dimensions of human personhood, are the ONLY ways that a comprehensive, balanced, and fully correct presentation of human personhood can ultimately be made.

Enough of my rant today.  Thanks Katie and Jules for the forum to do so!  ;-)

Take care, and God bless,

Steve B
Plano, TX

Scott Johnston • Nov 7, 2009 - 3:17 pm

There is no argument from me in opposition to how dramatically significant TOB can be for people. Hope I haven’t seemed to imply otherwise.

I simply mention that as great as it is, it is not necessarily critical for every Catholic to learn TOB in order to be able to embrace a transformed, virtue-oriented, body-respecting view of human sexuality. That being said, I would encourage anyone to study it. But the basic sacramental (created things as signs), Christ-imitating (love is to wholly give oneself in sacrifice), and virtue-based (empowered by grace for a new life) Catholic vision of life that underlies it can be acquired apart from specific exposure to TOB.

I wish we had texts of any of St. Dominic’s preaching (there are none). He, of course, preached against the Albigensian heresy, a twisting of Christianity that does not see the body as a part of God’s good plan for creation. He must have offered a corrective somehow to this negative view of the body. And he was especially reputed for his purity. A good number of his initial converts back to the true faith were women. And, interestingly, the first official religious community started by St. Dominic was what became the first community of Dominican nuns. The friars preachers were officially established several years later. Somehow he must have communicated a vision of God’s providence that offered a healing, holistic incorporation of the human body into it.

Scott Johnston • Nov 7, 2009 - 3:21 pm

Lauretta, I will make a meager attempt later; probably post on it tomorrow. God bless your rafter raising!

Steve B • Nov 7, 2009 - 4:58 pm

Just a brief follow-up….

In a nutshell, what I was trying to convey in my “rant” above is that TOB is far too much focusing merely on the SYMPTOM of the underlying diseased understanding of human PERSONHOOD that the culture as a whole has (and FAR too many Catholics and Christians have as well).

Getting to the root of that erroneous understanding of personhood, rather than dealing with the horrible symptoms and consequences of it, is what I think is more desperately needed today.

I don’t have a problem with CW and others using the emphasis on the human body as a way to “pack in the crowds”. 

However, once the audience has been garnered, the message REALLY needs to be more extensively about the “Theology of the PERSON ” rather than of the human body per se….

Take care, and God bless,

Steve B
Plano, TX

Lauretta • Nov 8, 2009 - 1:05 am


I really don’t relish trying to answer your very valid and deep questions personally because I have not kept up with my study of TOB the last three years and so am a little rusty at the task right now.  I would like to encourage you to read CW’s “Theology of the Body Explained” because the prologue has a beautiful in depth answer to your question about why a theology of the body.  I will just give you a few comments that may be of some help.

JPII makes a statement that is kind of the core of his teaching.  He states that:  “The body, in fact, and it alone, is capable of making visible what is invisible:  the spiritual and divine.  It was created to transfer into the visible reality of the world, the mystery hidden since time immemorial in God, and thus to be a sign of it.”

This makes a lot of sense if one thinks about it.  Everything that we know about God we have received through a human body.  The Old Testament was given to us through human words, spoken and written. Then Christ came in a body to grace us with the fullness of revelation.  God chose to redeem us using a human body and in that act showed us the fullness of His love for us.

Unfortunately, however, much of human history has had man distorting the understanding of the body. We have discounted it as useless, we have distorted its meaning and labelled it as evil as in Manicheism, we have misused it as a recreational toy, etc. Today we are in desperate need to understand the sacredness of the body and its importance in our lives as Christians.

Concerning CW’s lack of discussion about prayer, I don’t believe that prayer is a topic that is frequently brought up by JPII in this particular teaching.  I just checked in the latest translation of TOB (that I am aware of) in its index of words and phrases and prayer is not listed.  I agree that prayer is essential in the Christian life but I also know that we need to understand what we need to pray for and about.  My husband is a deeply prayerful person and has even had a few mystical types of experiences, reads the Bible regularly but was still unable to make serious progress in certain areas of his life until he began to learn about TOB and got some really sound, strong spiritual direction in Confession.

I think that your comment about TOB promoters using the fact that “sex sells” is totally off base.  The reason that many, many people find TOB compelling is that they are longing for love, in its true sense, and have not found it, even within their marriages.  They are hurt and wounded and long to be loved for the unique persons that they are and long to be able to love others but find all of that unattainable.  TOB provides a pathway, that if followed, can bring satisfaction to those longings.

You are upset about the discussion of the beauty of the human body and masculinity and femininity but it is necessary to understand all of this in the proper context.  We are created in the image and likeness of God.  Who is God?  God is love.  What is love?  Love is making a total gift of self to another.  That is what masculinity and femininity reveal, the giving and receiving of love. Because of that, the human body is beautiful since it is revealing, in a sense, God.  Also, if we can say that a flower or a bird or a rainbow is beautiful, why can we not also say that the human body is beautiful?  After all, it is also God’s creation, which I believe He called VERY good.

About concupiscence, I don’t believe that CW de-emphasizes its effect as much as he emphasizes the effect of the Redemption in assisting with concupiscence.  In listening to CW’s story about his life, he sounds like a man who has been an alcoholic and controlled by his addiction that has been able to get free from the chains of that addiction.  He glories in the freedom that he now has to relate to others in a healthy way without being overcome with unchaste thoughts and desires.  I know other men who have experienced that same gift and are extremely grateful for it.  Also, I would like to emphasize that much of what people attribute to CW is merely him quoting or paraphrasing JPII.  JPII is the one who first used the term “liberation from concupiscence”.  A quote from JPII’s audience on July 21, 1982:

  The redemption of the body, however, expresses itself not only in the resurrection as a victory over death.  It is present also in the words of Christ addressed to ‘historical’ man, both when they confirm the principle of the indissolubility of marriage as a principle coming from the Creator himself, and when—in the Sermon on the Mount—Christ invites us to overcome   concupiscence, even in the exclusively inner movements of the human heart.  About both of   these key statements one must say that they refer to human morality and have an ethical sense.    Here it is not a question of the eschatological hope of the resurrection, but of the hope of victory over sin, which can be called the hope of everyday…When it penetrates into daily life with the dimension of human morality, the redemption of the body helps man, above all, to discover the whole good in which he achieves the victory over sin and over concupiscence.

Your statement that CW de-emphasizes the effect of sin in the world I find very interesting.  I have heard many of his taped talks and in most of them he apologizes to women for the sins committed against them by men.  He mentions many examples of how people’s sins wound relationships and affect the course of the world.  I don’t have the time to go through his individual tapes to find the examples but there are many.  Of course we can find God in every created thing.  He made them all!  From listening to CW talk, it seems as though he is able to see beyond the sin to the PERSON created in the image and likeness of God, in which there is great goodness.  That is a virtue that we should all strive to attain.  I remember years ago walking one evening in downtown Calgary when some prostitutes came up to proposition my husband and all I could feel was deep sorrow for them.  That was before I knew anything of TOB—just some plain old Catholic teaching.

I will end with a quote from JPII (Wednesday Audience February 4, 1981) to answer your comment about the body being a revelation of the person:

  The Pauline ‘description’ of the human body corresponds to the reality that constitutes the body; it is thus a ‘realistic’ description.  At the same time, the description weaves into its realism a very subtle thread of evaluation that gives it a deeply evangelical, Christian value.  It is certainly possible to ‘describe’ the human body, to express its truth with the objectivity proper to the natural sciences; but such a description—with all its precision—cannot be adequate (that is, commensurate with its object), given the what is at issue is not only the body (understood as an organism in the ‘somatic’ sense) but also man who expresses himself by means of that body, and in this sense, I would say, ‘is’ that body.

Steve B • Nov 8, 2009 - 8:51 pm


Thanks SO much for your concerted effort in making what I am sure was a heart-felt reply, especially given your roofing time constraints there in Idaho!  I really do appreciate your desire to truly dialogue on this issue. 

Know that I am not challenging the TOB teaching in particular - what I am challenging, instead, is what I consider to be the somewhat distorted way in which Christopher West promotes it….

“I would like to encourage you to read CW’s ‘Theology of the Body Explained’ because the prologue has a beautiful in depth answer to your question about why a theology of the body.”


I will look into reading CW’s book, especially since it has been such a VERY long time since I have actually read any “official” TOB teaching of his.  Thank you for the book recommendation.

I agree wholeheartedly with what you quoted from Pope JPII that:

“The body, in fact, and it alone, is capable of making visible what is invisible:  the spiritual and divine.”

Since we humans can’t communicate telepathically yet (well, at least us men can’t - LOL!), we have no other means of sharing who we are as persons except via our bodies.

However, what I am railing against wrt to how CW promotes the TOB teaching is not WHAT he promotes per se, but HOW he promotes it.  My challenge is that as he PROMOTES the TOB (i.e. outside of his actual or “official” teachings of it), to me he seems to be:

1)  over-emphasizing the human body, especially the sexual dimension of it,

2)  under-emphasizing the beauty and the mystery of femininity & masculinity,

3)  de-emphasizing the utterly serious impact of concupiscence on the human person,

4)  de-emphasizes the horrific negative impact that ALL sin (even venial sin) has for us personally and collectively (both in the Church, and for all of humanity).

“I think that your comment about TOB promoters using the fact that “sex sells” is totally off base.”


Well, here we may just have to agree to disagree….

However, what I would contend is a clear-cut example of “sex sells” and (1) above comes directly from the talk that CW gave to TPP back in June 2008 - namely, when toward the end of his talk when he devotes SO much time and emphasis (and sometimes, in nearly-graphic ways) upon the sexual innuendo of the Hawaiian tour guide and “the coconut” story.  I mean, c’mon, I could even HEAR people gigling at the some of CW’s excessively-sexual innuendo & commentary.  CW could have EASILY conveyed the “beauty” of his Hawaiian tour guide without all the details of the crude and juvenile sexual innuendo.  CW needs to much more carefully promote the dignity of persons w/o succumbing to such crass and juvenile language and depictions….

Have you ever read any of Dr. DvH’s books on sexuality?  I have yet to read his “In Defense of Purity” book yet (it’s on my list of his books to add to my library), but in his other books he ALWAYS speaks of the sexual realm with utter dignity and the utmost reverence .  That reveals to me that there is a HUGE chasm between how CW promotes the TOB and how Dr. DvH would have promoted it if he were given the opportunity (and probably why his widow Dr. AvH objects to those kinds of CW’s promotional methods for the TOB).  CW, on the contrary, portrays human sexuality FAR too readily with crude and seemingly juvenile depictions.  And for what reason?  I think because he knows that “sex sells” and because he’s also trying to make it “entertaining”.  Both are VERY poor promotional methods in my estimation, which do not truly help the TOB cause.

“Today we are in desperate need to understand the sacredness of the body and its importance in our lives as Christians.”

I have NO argument whatsoever with you on that!

One of my own “soapbox issues” with the Catholic Church in particular is that She has utterly absconded Her duty to teach this very thing (and much of our faith) since Vatican II.  How often do most Catholics hear anything close to solid teaching of the faith, like TOB, from the pulpit?  Almost never!!!  We shouldn’t HAVE to search out this kind of catechesis all of our own effort!!!

“We are created in the image and likeness of God.  Who is God?  God is love.  What is love?  Love is making a total gift of self to another.  That is what masculinity and femininity reveal, the giving and receiving of love. Because of that, the human body is beautiful since it is revealing, in a sense, God.”


Again, you are preaching to the choir - I completely agree with you here.  But, what I don’t agree with is the “unveiling” of the beauty and mystery of femininity and masculinity, which I believe CW much-too-frequently does as he promotes the TOB teaching - e.g. the “coconut story”, the Pascal candle as a phallic image, the literal unveiling of the Blessed Mother, etc.

“Your statement that CW de-emphasizes the effect of sin in the world I find very interesting.  I have heard many of his taped talks and in most of them he apologizes to women for the sins committed against them by men.”

Again, perhaps in his “official” capacity of teaching the TOB, CW does this.  But, he certainly doesn’t when he promotes TOB. 

Why would he feel compelled in his TPP talk to emphasize Hawaiian coconut sexual innuendo, instead of maintaining a more focused perspective on how sexual sins have DEEPLY hurt women and humanity as a whole, as he does in his TOB talks?  Either he’s doing that out of extremely poor judgment, or else he’s at least subconsciously tapping into the fact that “sex sells”.

Perhaps CW feels “compelled” to use more crass and juvenile methods of promoting the TOB to the general public?  If we do ALL have such “longings of the heart” to find our inherent goodness as God created each of us (as the Catholic Church teaches we DO, via the natural law), then CW’s resorting to such crass methods seem to me to be instead a rather de-personalizing way to do so….

The complete lack of CW’s focus upon personal prayer is a show-stopper for me on embracing TOB, at least as he promotes it.  Yes, I agree with you that we do need to know WHAT to pray for (wake up Catholic Bishops!!!) , but that doesn’t detract from my point at all that CW and other TOB advocates MUST make BOTH of those things more explicitly clear in their TOB teachings….

Again, I do appreciate virtually all of what you advocate above wrt the TOB, and I will make the effort to read CW’s book that you recommend, so as to address some of the finer points I may not yet fully comprehend.  I do agree with both you, CW, and Pope JPII that the dignity of EACH person ALWAYS needs to be promoted and protected.

Lastly, however, I DON’T agree with you, JP II, nor CW that “good is everywhere we look!”  Cancer, natural disasters, and sexual decadence explicitly emphasize the opposite - that REAL evils ABOUND in our fallen world.  A serious shot of REALITY emphasis is desperately needed both by CW’s promotion of TOB, and by the Catholic Church too since Vatican II (btw, I am STILL a devoted Catholic).  This gross imbalance of pointing out the evil vs. the good in our world desperately needs to be corrected ASAP by TOB advocates and also by the Catholic Church.

However, I still stand by my assertion that what CW emphasizes in his promotion of the TOB definitely needs some re-vamping and/or the rectifying of some seriously misguided promotional methods. 

But, in conclusion, I still say that CW’s recent web site commentary “The Theology of the Body Debate: The Pivotal Question” gives me no indication whatsoever that he has ANY serious plans to do so.  THAT is my skeptical conclusion from his web site “response”.

Take care, and God bless,

Steve B
Plano, TX

Katie van Schaijik • Nov 8, 2009 - 9:46 pm

Just back home from a lovely weekend in Steubenville visiting our daughter, Rose, who turns 18 today.

Steve asked the good question:

“Why isn’t this teaching instead called “Theology of the PERSON ”?”

My answer is because it isn’t the Theology of the Person, it the Theology of the Body.  JP II’s Theology of the Body is deeply informed and permeated by his philosophical personalism, but in this series of essays he was particularly concerned with the body and what it reveals about the nature and dignity of persons.

Steve goes on: “The focus upon the human body should be merely an aspect of what is the “true” theology of human personhood;”

Well, so it is. Who is saying it is anything else?  Christopher West does not set himself up as pope or priest or theologian or catechist.  He is nothing more and nothing other than a popularizer of a particular aspect of John Paul II’s legacy, which he has found to be a particularly powerful mode of appeal to our generation.

“However, I honestly believe that CW (and probably many other TOB advocates/promoters as well) is capitalizing upon the fact that “sex sells” (I don’t know whether it is a conscious decision or not) - and that seems more than a little bit disingenuous to me…”

There are two possible interpretations here, one of which is entirely benign and even more than benign, it is Christian seriousness pure and simple.  If CW sees that our society is particularly obsessed with sex and also particularly suffering and wounded in the area of sex, then there is nothing wrong with his deliberately speaking right to that.  Jules once pointed me to a passage in Augustine, which of course I can’t now find, where he talked about even going to the circus or using whatever appeal or fascination he could find to win a hearing from the crowd for the Gospel of Christ.

“in that same show CW also said that “the body is the revelation of the person.””

This is straight out of JP II and a point with which DvH agrees.  The body reveals the person and the personal vocation; every portion of it “bespeaks” the person.  This insight is very closely tied to the incarnational principle so basic to our faith.  It entails no claim whatsoever that the body is the “core” of the person.  And (a key personalist point) the body/soul relation is emphatically NOT one of instrumentalization.  We do not USE our bodies, as JP II said.  Rather, “in a certain sense” we ARE our bodies. 
In saying this the Pope does not deny that our souls are the deeper and nobler part of our being, but rather that the union between the body and soul is so intimate that our body is in an important way inseparable from our identity as a given individual.

Steven, on the whole, I cannot help thinking you misjudge CW.  That you impute notions and motives to him that are not his.

But I honor you for sharing your views so forthrightly.  If this is ranting, the world could use more of it.

Katie van Schaijik • Nov 8, 2009 - 9:48 pm

Let me ask you this, Scott:
Do you see TOB as an authentic development of doctrine, viz. as containing something new (though of course implicitly present already in the gospel of Christ)?

Katie van Schaijik • Nov 8, 2009 - 10:16 pm

This comment box is getting a bit unwieldy, isn’t it?  I am working on a new post on modesty, coming soon I hope.  Maybe we can restart there.

Meanwhile, in reply again to Steve:
I am in enthusiastic agreement with you that personalism in toto and not merely TOB is urgently needed in our culture.  I agree with you, too, that unless TOB is COMPLEMENTED by a deepening grasp of JP II’s wider personalism, it will tend to go astray.  Maybe we could draw an analogy with the charismatic renewal here?  Where its graces were followed up with a deeper-delving into the treasury of the Church and her patrimony, it bore untold fruit.  But where it failed in that respect, it drifted into heterodoxy and general flakiness.

But intend to “pack the crowds” sells CW short, IMO.  He’s not just trying to draw them in with some clever sales technique.  He’s addressing them in the area of their greatest need.

Lauretta • Nov 9, 2009 - 1:34 am

We have used CW’s tapes for both marriage prep and to teach people about TOB and, at times, I have mentioned CW’s earthiness to people before they have watched the tapes to give them a heads up about the material.  We have almost never had anyone express dismay over his style and most people said they liked it.  Some men don’t like his aggressive way of confronting the issue of lust but most women seem to respond quite well to his teaching. 

One thing I think that happens for many people who have lived secular lives is that CW’s method makes them comfortable and they trust him because he seems like one of them.  I worry that if we speak in too lofty a manner with terminology and content, it will cause those whose lives have not been at all holy to feel such shame that they cannot hear the message that is being delivered.  CW is very honest about his life and people appreciate that since they have often been living lives worse than what CW describes.

Concerning goodness being everywhere, of course it is—God who is absolute goodness is everywhere even in the most difficult of scenarios.  My husband had cancer at 24, went through 10 months of horrible chemo which caused him to become sterile causing us to be able to have only one child when all I ever wanted to do was to be a mother.  Sounds pretty terrible doesn’t it?  We wouldn’t trade any of it because we would not be where we are today in our faith without those challenges.

Some of the complaints about CW’s teaching which aren’t original with him are getting rather tedious.  Here is a comment from Christopher Derrick in 1981:

And when it comes to our own spring-festival of resurrection and new life, we use a sexual symbolism as blatant as anything that ever featured in an archaic fertility-rite. (I wonder how many of us notice that we’re doing so, at however exalted a level of new meaning” It’s a shade less explicit than it used to be. We still have the cosmic marriage of male candle with female water. But the priest is no longer told to breathe upon the fruitful water in the form of the Greek letter psi, the archetypal yoni. The basic symbolism remains, even so, however piously we avert our attention from its natural meaning.)

The phallic imagery is not CW’s as this shows, nor are his explanations in Good News About Sex and Marriage of what is acceptable foreplay, at least according to Janet Smith.

It seems to me that much of what you are upset with is Catholic teaching when it is expressed in more depth.  I don’t believe that TOB is really saying anything that has not been understood in the past.  However, for whatever reason, we seem to have lost some of our understanding of these things in our Catholic culture and, I believe, that JPII is just bringing a lot of this understanding back to our awareness.

I do hope that you will read the book I recommended as well as the original text of TOB as written by JPII.  I am so appreciative of this teaching and believe that it is going to be key in the future to help people stop participating in the many evils with which, you so rightly acknowledge, the world is filled.

Steve B • Nov 9, 2009 - 9:23 am


“unless TOB is COMPLEMENTED by a deepening grasp of JP II’s wider personalism, it will tend to go astray.”

BINGO!  You’re main point here is EXACTLY what I am after.

CW himself has said before - “more, there’s always more!” - and that applies SO much to what he is teaching.

What he has spoken about with TOB seems to me to fall SO far short of promoting human personhood than what is truly needed today. 

I’ve just been trying to reiterate that he needs to recognize that the world needs SO much more than merely a TOB - that it desperately needs a Theology of the Person.  Isn’t THAT the ultimate goal of The Personalist Project???

If you disagree with me in my assertion that at least part of what CW intends is to “pack the crowds”, then why did he revert to using a completely unnecessary & titillating depiction of his Hawaiian tour guide in his talk to TPP last year? 

To use depictions like that, and to make a concerted effort to do so, while completely ignoring to mention at all the utter need for personal prayer, to me it shows the glaring shortfalls in his TOB approach….

When you say “He’s addressing them in the area of their greatest need.” - you are absolutely right.  However, as I said before, he is addressing merely the SYMPTOM of their diseased understanding of Personhood, and is not getting to the core of the problem.  He’s immediately addressing the sickness and wounds of the “patients” who have been infected by the perversions of our culture - TOB is a spiritual “triage” I guess I would say. 

But, with CW’s particular way of presenting TOB, he’s not necessarily giving his audience quite enough spiritual “food” to set them on the right course to a truly healthy spiritual lifestyle. 

I am asserting that only by promoting personal prayer, and by delving more MUCH more into the more profound aspects of human personhood, can the needed “food” for the spiritual journey be conveyed as effectively as possible.

Sometime later today, I’ll post further comments to Lauretta below….

Take care, and God bless,

Steve B
Plano, TX

Orson Presence • Nov 1, 2009 - 4:40 pm

Off topic, I’m afraid, but would this be the Schaan or Triesenberg Linde?

Katie van Schaijik • Nov 1, 2009 - 6:03 pm

We were sort of meaning to capture the essence and convivial atmosphere of both those establishments.  Why do you ask?  Have you been there?  Were you ever a student at the IAP?

Orson Presence • Nov 1, 2009 - 6:13 pm

Yes, I was there. And both Lindes were wonderful places. Although I must admit, I had a preference for the Triesenberg Linde over the Schaan one. Loved the spaghetti carbonara in the Schaan Linde though.

Hey Katie, Mikal here, hope you and Jules are well! Stumbled across you through Linkedin!

Katie van Schaijik • Nov 1, 2009 - 6:19 pm

The Triesenberg Linde was much friendlier and more charming.  What great times we had there!  And what fun to hear from you after all these years, Mikal.  I hope you’ll drop in often.

Katie van Schaijik • Nov 9, 2009 - 10:09 am

I believe it must be in In Defense of Purity.  But I think he uses it elsewhere too.  And I think you are right, yes, that “noble shame” and “holy bashfulness” are both means of expressing the same moral truth.
But we are certainly not trying to “turn a term” into something positive in the sense you seem to mean (though perhaps I misunderstand you.) 
DvH was a profound and sensitive thinker intent on elucidating reality as he found it.  And he found in the general phenomenon of “shame” a KIND of shame that was entirely positive, for which he preferred that a different term be used.  He wanted a different term to be used not because he wanted people to “think positively” (!), but because he thought the difference between what he meant by “shame” and what he meant by “holy bashfulness” was too great for them to be signified under the same term without confusion.
“Holy modesty” is somewhat different from “holy bashfulness”, which refers to an inward experience or spontaneous response to value.

Katie van Schaijik • Nov 9, 2009 - 10:13 am

O dear.  The comment box is apparently overloaded.  Now when we try to post a reply mid-thread, it shows up here below.  Steve, the comment just above was meant to be reply to a question you posted much further up.  I’ll open a new Linde thread.  Let’s try to continue the discussion there.

Jules van Schaijik • Nov 9, 2009 - 10:24 am

I’ve noticed the problem. I don’t think it has anything to do with overload, however. In any case, I’ll try to fix it asap.

Meanwhile, since Katie opened a new thread (, I’ll close this one for commenting.

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