Kathi B. • Aug 26, 2009 - 1:32 am

These comments are telling: “for those who understand TOB”; “if we truly understood what that meant”—- that would be a major problem with presenting nude images of our Blessed Mother & Christ at any age or stage.  How many Catholics fall into these categories? Don’t we need to have regard/charity for the millions who aren’t formed w/regards to TOB? 

RE: interesting factoid regarding the sexuality of breasts.  I was reading about an anthropologist in Africa. She said that the African men could not understand American men’s fixation on breasts - those are for children!  It was the female thigh that they found enticing.

Lauretta • Aug 26, 2009 - 10:59 am

Hi Katie,

Thanks for the questions.  I did not mean to imply that we should necessarily go out and replace all of our images of Jesus and Mary with nudes but that if we understood correctly what their nudity means, we would not be offended if we saw it.

As I was thinking about it, however, I thought of several things that we do as Catholics that are quite offensive to millions of people.  Our use of statues many perceive as a breaking of one of the Commandments.  Our praying of the rosary is deemed to be vain repetition which is spoken against in Scripture.  And, then, probably the most problematic of all, the crucifix itself.  To non-Christians, it is obscene that we hang an instrument of torture and death on our walls and around our necks.  Try to think of that without the knowledge that Christianity brings to it.  It seems pretty unbelievable that anyone would ever do it.

For myself, it was years before I began to appreciate nudes in art.  I was offended by them frankly.  I have a friend who was teaching Greek literature to a few high school students and the text books she used had some photos of nude statues on the cover.  She took stickers and covered all of the genitalia on every book before she gave them to the students.

I guess what I am trying to say is that if something is true and beautiful, I don’t know if we should not portray it because some won’t understand it.  We would be greatly impoverished if we took out everything from our faith that others don’t understand.

Concerning breast-feeding, I was reading on a secular web site about the subject and they were quite adamant that it was not a sexual thing and placed the blame for that perception on our culture—citing the comments from an anthropologist as well.  My daughter said that her friends have told her that their husbands perceive a nursing breast to be quite different than when it is exposed in a different manner.  I also double-checked with my husband and he assured me that he is quite aware of the difference between sexual attraction and the attraction of a breast-feeding mother and child!

Bill Drennen • Aug 26, 2009 - 9:39 am

Well everyone knows that American men set the standard! African men I have to place down a lower tier along with European men in the awareness scale (excluding Jules, of course).

Seriously, I think in these observations men are speaking in a much more narrow definition of sexual interest then I am speaking of. Breasts express the very essence of womanhood and are inherently sexually beautiful. I contend that any man who fails to recognize this is truly blind.

One can claim they do not prefer Mozart but only by betraying their ignorance. The beauty of Mozart is objective and universal. Failure of appreciation is only due to an inability to see the truth.

Katie van Schaijik • Aug 26, 2009 - 12:56 pm

In that broad sense, Bill, “sexually beautiful” would be entirely unproblematic.  We had been speaking of breasts as “sexually arousing”—so that men who are concerned about staying chaste should avoid seeing them.  And, by implication, women should take care to be extremely discrete when nursing their babies.
I do think there is a very large element of cultural conditioning at play here.
Personally, I cannot wish American men were as indifferent to the beauty of breasts as the African men mentioned above.  But I do regret the unfamiliarity with nursing that makes it difficult for so many American men to see breasts as anything BUT “sex objects.”

Bill Drennen • Aug 26, 2009 - 1:32 pm

yes we agree, but I painted with a broad brush on purpose because the difficulty is that it is not so easy to differentiate between beautiful and arousing sexually for men. So I think the key is to see, not the “object” but the person and in this way our natural interest (which again painting with a broad brush I will call arousal)in the beautiful we experience becomes an experience of the person and is pure.

In theory this is anyway, not saying I am so good at it. I may be one who needs to turn away but it’s still helpful to understand how it is supposed to work, the goal being purity in relation to beauty and not hiding from it.

frangelo • Aug 26, 2009 - 8:20 pm

Very fruitful discussion.  I would just like to repeat for good measure, if I may that all these considerations about breastfeeding are perfectly legitimate.  I think the bottom line is that one should not assume anything about anyone’s response to a woman breastfeeding.  It certainly is not prudery for a man to look away from a woman breastfeeding if he finds her semi-nakedness sexually arousing.

Lauretta • Aug 26, 2009 - 9:23 pm

I’m sure that you have all heard quite enough from me but I would like to add a comment about this topic and the whole issue of sexual attraction.  It is very true that one is not necessarily a prude if one is aroused by the sight of any part of the body of someone of the opposite sex.  I would like to posit, however, that it is possible, through prayer and an honest examination of oneself, to gain mastery over this to a greater degree than one currently experiences.  I say this in all charity and mean no judgment on anyone.  I only bring it up because being aroused by the opposite sex when it is not your spouse is a barrier that can often prevent one from helping someone in need.  If you have to distance yourself from someone because of this excessive attraction, you cannot be present for that person in the way that they may need.  There are times when we are hurting and need the counsel or comfort from another and if we have not mastered our sexual desires, we cannot often offer that counsel or comfort.

As a woman, it has been a source of great sadness, and at times frustration, to find so few men capable of true friendship.  I enjoy men’s company, talking and joking with them, but there are so few, married or single, Christian or not, who have enough mastery of self to not inappropriate and unsolicited advances.  This is what TOB has helped us to see as a beautiful possibility and, in my husband’s case a reality.  He is so appreciative of the freedom he now has in this area—freedom to be a friend to women and to help them in their time of need.  A beautiful grace if we seek and strive for it.

frangelo • Aug 26, 2009 - 9:31 pm


I agree that self-mastery, a more exalted view of sexuality and spontaneous and personal charity for everyone, including someone on might find sexually arousing, should be the goal of chastity education.

Bill Drennen • Aug 27, 2009 - 1:35 pm

It is not only for the sake of the other but more fundamentally for the sake of ourselves that we must learn this. Imagine, if you will, our perspective as men, we find ourselves as mere mortals walking this world inhabited by goddesses of beauty and seek friendship with them?

I am blessed in my case that one of the most beautiful of these has given herself to me for the last 20 years so that I may begin my feeble steps towards a worthiness to be in such company!

Lauretta • Aug 27, 2009 - 2:50 pm

That is very true, Bill.  My husband will attest to that necessity for one’s own well being.  This was something that he struggled with for years and felt a lot of guilt and shame personally and it affected our relationship as well.  It was not until he received very forthright and concrete counsel from a confessor and began to read CW’s work that he was able to make progress in this area.  He is so grateful to CW for showing him that attraction and arousal are not things to be ashamed of but possibly—depending on the situation—something merely in need of purification through God’s grace.  He made the comment this morning as well that for him the mastery of self that was the most difficult was in his own home.

I believe that this is such a difficult thing for men today since our culture proclaims so powerfully that no self control is necessary.  Masturbation is promoted as a healthy thing—even by such reputable people as Dr. Dobson, fornication is promoted for the young, contraception is promoted for married couples and those who follow the Church’s teaching are susceptible to feeling deprived or burdened in relation to those who are contracepting.  Not to mention the lack of modesty that is everywhere they look!  I do have great compassion for men striving in this area and will be one of their most faithful advocates!

Katie van Schaijik • Aug 27, 2009 - 8:31 am

I agree with your last line, Father, though with this qualification:
I think it would not be wrong to detect or an element of prudery in a culture that conditions men to respond that way, or to wish that it were not so, or to claim that if a man’s self-mastery were what it ought to be and can be under grace, it would not be so (granting fully that a given man who finds himself having to look away may be farther along in self-mastery than another given man who doesn’t have to look away because he happens to be less sensitive.)  Would you agree?

frangelo • Aug 27, 2009 - 9:22 am

I believe that the real reactions of individual men are generally beyond outside analysis, and it would seem to me that a personalist approach would be to presume the best.

I also believe that various reactions, including, sometimes, the reaction of men to women breastfeeding can be prudish, but, no, I would not assume that the one who sees no need to look away is generally further along in self-mastery. I don’t think we can know that about individual persons, generally.

I understand what you are saying and probably agree more with you than is reflected here; however, while I do think prudery is a problem, I also think we are giving it too much credit.

I do not know this (perhaps others can verify), but I would assume that the paucity of breastfeeding women in American up to late, has had little if nothing to do with prudery, but with the convenience of bottle feeding.  I would also submit that it is a lack a familiarity of the average man, more than anything else, that makes the prospect of watching a woman breastfeeding alluring in an arousing way. 

In terms of the way religious men react to this, very often they are countering years of habitual lustful thoughts and looks within a culture that has no conscience for such things and in which women are taught to expose themselves continually.  Yes, this can lead to exaggeration and excessive fear and a lack of spontaneous self-mastery, but I do not think the answer to the problem is another form of reactionism, which is contrived and assumes to see prudery where there are other explanations.

I believe that catechesis and prayer, and yes, including a enthusiastic examination of TOB along with all the Church’s teaching on marriage and sexuality within the framework of a hermeneutic of continuity (not discontinuity) will help men find a balance.  But I do not believe that telling men that they are not very advanced if they intuit the need to look away, or encouraging them to constantly examine themselves on the way they react to various occasions, or contriving solutions like looking at oneself naked or learning to be comfortable with Maria Lactans will be the solution because they are based on an assumption which is false, namely, that such reactions are by definition prudery.

I think this is important because while we contrive to organize ourselves against a shame which is disordered and which hides a subtle preoccupation with lust, we run the risk of stamping out that beautiful, humble and wholesome shame which is directed toward the good of the person, the mystery of personhood and the true “mysticism” of sexuality.  In my opinion this seems to be totally underestimated by the presentation of West.

Katie van Schaijik • Aug 27, 2009 - 10:02 am

Dear Father, with respect, I believe you misread my last comment, or at least parts of it.  I agree that the real reactions of individual men are generally beyond analysis.  That’s why I framed the issue in terms of general culture.  In my parenthesis I tried to make clear that I realize that a given man who looks away may be further along in self-mastery than one who, from insensitivity, doesn’t need to look away. 
My earlier point was rather a man (be he ever so naturally libidinous) who has achieved PERFECT self-mastery would not need to look away.  I believe this, and it is I think at least part of the truth behind Lauretta’s position (which I share to a large degree.)  In other words, I can lament prudishness and/or “unchecked passion” in our society without accusing particular men of being guilty of it in a given case because they choose to avert their eyes from a nursing mother.  And I can also look forward to the day when a better society-wide respect for the beauty and dignity and meaningfulness of the maternal body does not have such an effect on men—NOT because they are insensitive to its beauty, but because, as Bill said, they see and revere it in right relation to everything else.
Further, I am not so concerned with the CAUSE of the paucity of breast-feeding in American culture as with the effect it has had in preventing so many men from being able to be around it without awkwardness and/or impurity.  Among other things, that state of affairs adds to the difficulties and burdens of modern day motherhood.  I’ve nursed 5 babies and I know whereof I speak.

frangelo • Aug 27, 2009 - 10:24 am


I see your point.  I apologize for my misreading.  I would generally agree that there is largely an imbalance in modern society and that where prudery exists it is usually a reaction against our pornified culture.

Perhaps we are splitting hairs; however, I am not sure that perfect self-mastery is achievable, except is rare instances.  The sexual impulse is a complex, spontaneous and extraordinarily volatile thing.  For instance, you may have a man who is very much in control of himself and who is able with relative ease to sublimate his own natural reactions to women by means of his high regard for them and by means of his spirituality.  But sometimes, for such a man, it is not only or even principally the way a woman may be dressed or exposed that becomes an issue.  It might be precisely because of his high regard for her, or because he perceives her as virtuous or modest that he becomes aroused.

And I am not suggesting that such a man have no contact with such a woman.  I only suggest that the interior and unresolved tension that exists in such a situation is neither prudery, nor necessarily a deficit in the redemption of the body.  It is simply the state of homo viator.

In any case, I admit that I agree with you and Lauretta more than in this context I am able or willing to express.  The reason is because I think it necessary to defend that other kind of shame of which Josef spoke, and to point out what I think are West’s contrived attacks on prudery.

I guess I am less inclined to speculate on what a better world in this regard might look like, though I am sure it would be more modest, more respectful, more joyful, more spontaneous less scrupulous, less fearful and less guilty.

Lauretta • Aug 27, 2009 - 2:53 pm

Thank you very much, Father for your honesty.

frangelo • Aug 27, 2009 - 3:01 pm


You are most welcome.

Katie van Schaijik • Aug 29, 2009 - 10:19 am

“where prudery exists it is usually a reaction against our pornified culture.”

Here we don’t agree.  I think prudery or prudishness clearly pre-dated our pornographic culture.  It masquerades as modesty (which is NOT to suggest that there is no such thing as true modesty.)  It is really and truly present today and really and truly is doing harm, really and truly is hindering Catholic couples from living their married vocation in all its plentitude, really and truly is weakening our witness in the world, etc.  I would not go as far as CW seems to go in suggesting that pornography is nothing other than a response to prudishness. (There’s too much of it to be found elsewhere in the world.)  Nor would I think for a minute that its “evil” is on a par with the evils of promiscuity.  But I DO agree with CW (as I shall try to show in my forthcoming reply to your article) that debased and out-of-control sexuality IS, often, the result of negative views of sexuality coupled with repression, and that the key to the cure for the malaise we now suffer is restoring a right understanding of the beauty and goodness of sexuality in the Catholic vision—especially by showing how it is related to our vocation as dignity as persons called to give ourselves in love.

Perfection of virtue must be achievable under grace, since it is commanded of us.  But I’m sure we agree that it would be a terrible mistake ever on this earth to be confident that we’ve achieved it, or ever to imagine we are beyond the reach of temptation.
I guess I see “homo viator” and “deficit in the redemption of the body” as more or less the same thing.

With your last line, I sympathize completely.  Maranatha.

frangelo • Aug 29, 2009 - 3:05 pm


Perhaps I should not have used the word “usually.”  I don’t know if the comparison is accurate.  I really don’t disagree with anything you have said.

Essentially what I meant is that often times those who are most prudish are not the one’s who have lived chastely and modestly their whole life, but those who carry a great deal of baggage and either are living double lives or are still struggling against lust in a very burdened way.

Are there times when prudery is the cause of sexual sins?  I am sure that it is not uncommon; however, I would suggest that the cause and effect relationship is reciprocal and very often the prudery is the result of an interior struggle that may be Manichean or Jansenist, or it may just be, as I think it very often is, scrupulosity and a bit of spiritual pompousness.

Yes, the problem has always existed.  In my last post on the subject, to which you linked, I showed that historically even before the sexual revolution there was awareness of the problem and approaches to the solution similar to that of TOB.

My reason for this tenacity, is not to disagree with anything you just wrote, but to caution against contrived arguments, artificial crusades and the assertion that TOB is really about a new and holy fixation on sexuality. 

I am afraid I have to fight for the veil.  It cannot be surrendered no matter how sex-saturated our society is.  Their is merit to that shame which is really just humility.  There is nothing wrong with it.  I should not be disparaged, and I think we loose a great deal if we discount it.

frangelo • Aug 26, 2009 - 2:53 pm


I accidentally hit the link to stop email notification in the last message I opened.  I hope by commenting again with the notification box checked that correct my mistake.

Katie van Schaijik • Aug 26, 2009 - 3:41 pm

Did it work?

frangelo • Aug 26, 2009 - 4:04 pm

Yes, Thank you.

I will jump in here later, when I get a chance.

Rhett Segall • Aug 26, 2009 - 10:30 pm

I thought the following quote from Fr. Andrew Greely, sociologist and theologian, relevant to the discussion.  Greely does not give the source of his assertion but I think he is a careful writer. The copyright is 1973.

  “The central symbol of Christianity is the combination of the cross and resurrection.  Jesus who died now lives. How can that symbol possibly shed any light on the complexities and ambiguities of human sexual relationships?
    I am afraid that one must say that it ought to be obvious how the cross and resurrection are pertinent to human sexuality. That it is not obvious comments not on the ineffectiveness of the symbol but on our own prudery and fear.  The Christians of early Rome, who transferred the pagan spring fertility rite of plunging the candle into water, had no such difficulties. They knew that the lighted candle represented the penis and that water represented a vagina and a womb; and they knew, too, that their pagan friends and neighbors performed this rite in order to guarantee the fertility of their fields, their animals, and their wives. The early Christians thought that when Christ rose from the dead, he consummated his union with his bride, the church.  If the resurrection looked like a sexual symbol then, and does not look like one to us, the reason, perhaps, is that they had a much clearer realization than we do that life presumes fertility.” (Andrew Greely: Sexual Intimacy, 1973, pp. 194-195)

    Whether Greely is right about the early Christians’ perspective on the Easter Ritual, I have my doubts. Seeing the Easter Ritual along the lines of the pagan perspective does violence, I believe, to the sursum corda of the Liturgy and distorts what DvH would call the immanent logos of the situation. By the same token, in presenting sex in such a crass manner it harms our human sensitivity to its mystery. Along the lines of phenomenology I think the only proof for this is the inherent clarity of the assertions.

Lauretta • Aug 27, 2009 - 1:07 pm

How interesting!  Thanks for sharing this.  It would certainly be nice if someone would show the sources for this from the early Christian tradition.  I found his statement that people in the past had a much clearer realization that life presumes fertility.  An understanding that we immersed in this culture of death that we have sadly lost.

Josef Seifert • Aug 26, 2009 - 11:22 pm

frangelo • Aug 27, 2009 - 2:57 pm

Is anyone aware that Father Andrew Greeley is a writer of soft-core pornography?  I find it really rich that he is commenting on “prudery and fear.”

He is also a fairly well-known dissenter.  He claims to be a sociologist, not a theologian, which is true enough.  But, for example, when he discusses contraception, he gives all the sociological reasons why Catholics do not believe and few, if any, of the theological reasons why they should and concludes by saying that the bishops

Don’t seem to comprehend that if you still have the appeal of warm and intense community you may be able to recapture your credibility when you try to teach sexual ethics.  However, if you are an eithical teacher without a community that listens, are you still Catholic (The Catholic Myth 105)

Greeley, it seems would be more concerned about whether statistics show that the faithful want and are helped by phallic symbols than whether they are part of God’s revelation.  I don’t want this to an ad hominem attack; however, since all we have to gone on is his word, I think his track record counts.

And isn’t interesting that again, as always, no sources are given for this very “obvious” and supposedly ancient teaching?

Rhett Segall • Aug 28, 2009 - 9:03 am

I’ve read some of Greely’s novels and do not see them as “soft porn”. I think Greely has an eroticism in his novels. By that I mean an emphasis on sexual love, not lustful desire. He uses this sexual love as a metaphor for God’s passoniate interest in human beings.
Be that as it may, my point was that the sexual imagery of the paschal candle was promoted way before CW and I used Fr. Greely as an example. I also stated I find the imagery distorting the richer spiritual imagery of the Easter Liturgy.

Katie van Schaijik • Aug 29, 2009 - 10:25 am

I haven’t read any of his books, so perhaps I am out of bounds even mentioning that I am with Fr. Angelo on this one.  CAN it be fitting for a priest to write detailed “sex scenes”?  In any case, anyone who accepts contraception has, ipso facto (if that’s the word I want), a distorted understanding of human sexuality.

Rhett Segall • Aug 29, 2009 - 5:41 pm

It is a wonder that Greely writes the novels he does. But then the Song of Songs, surely erotic literature, is a wonder. So is Ezekiel chapter 16.
However, I think neither the Song of Songs nor Ezekiel 16 is pornographic and both are perfectly appropriate in context.

I am reminder here of a story I think connected with the painter Jean Ingres.The story may be apocryphal, but the point is on target:
Ingres was painting a nude who was perfectly unself conscious. Suddenly from the balcony above it became evident there were some people staring. The model became very embarassed and immediately covered herself. The onlooker presence changed the meaning of the occasion which was immediately intuited by the model.

Lauretta • Aug 29, 2009 - 8:52 am

I finally had a few minutes to read some of the sources that have been discussed here and found this one quite interesting:

Then along came the church, rejecting the cult of Venus as it actually existed, but only to correct and confirm it at a higher level. From being what Mircea Eliade calls a hierophany, Venus would now be promoted into an actual sacrament, a presence and a mode of action of the One, the Dying God or Mortal-Immortal of whom the old paganisms could only dream. Her holiness was thus to become greater, not less, and would make itself felt throughout our very incarnational, even carnal, faith and worship. A Catholic cannot recite his creeds without mentioning begetting and conception and birth. He cannot say the “Hail Mary” without mentioning the female generative tract, or the “Te Deum” with-out praising his Lord for seeing there nothing of the daemonic, nothing to abhor. 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.)

This is a quote from:

I presume Christopher Derrick is a fairly reliable source since he is an author used often by Ignatius Press.  Sure would be nice if some of these references would cite their sources but I have to admit that this phallic imagery seems to be quite well-known among numerous people in academia.

Katie van Schaijik • Aug 29, 2009 - 9:57 am

I really do think we need some credible ancient sources.  Otherwise it could turn out to be a case of everyone simply relying on what they’ve heard others say about the tradition.

frangelo • Aug 29, 2009 - 2:49 pm

I will concede the source as belonging to Christopher Derrick.  Elsewhere, I expressed doubt that even he made an explicit reference to this, as West quotes him without making reference to this passage.

Even so I would agree with Katie.  I have heard West also refer to the Easter Liturgy as a fertility rite.  I do not know the context of Derrick’s remarks; however, it is often suggested in that the our practices have been adapted from ancient cultures.  There is no question that the Church has baptized certain practices, but there is usually evidence of this from the historical record or from the teaching of the Church, though Derrick here does not seem to be suggesting that the practice was adapted from more ancient pagan customs.  Rather, he is directing our attention to similarities, which would mean he would have to be even be more dependent on patristic sources.

Lauretta • Aug 29, 2009 - 10:34 am

I understand and agree with the desire for a written source for things but can not that in a sense be a denial of Oral Tradition?  I looked up the history of the Immaculate Conception and found this:

Don’t seem to be overwhelming, explicit pronouncements in our history to support the Immaculate Conception but it was implicitly understood from the beginning. 

Also, if you were Christopher West and you read Christopher Derrick’s article (knowing him to be a reputable source) in a public forum such as America magazine with no seeming disagreements from others about Derrick’s assertions, would you necessarily research it further or would you just trust him to be reliable about this and go from there?  Particularly if you had been told the same thing from other seemingly reputable sources. 

I think we have been shown enough different current sources to assume that this was a fairly well-known idea in the Church and may be an implicit understanding that has just been passed down over the years.

And, no matter whether it is true or not, I believe that these prior very public assertions about phallic imagery should absolve CW of any blame for presenting it yet again.

Katie van Schaijik • Aug 29, 2009 - 11:27 am

Immaculate Conception is not really comparable, I think, since it is a question of doctrine, not symbolism.  In any case, it has been definitively pronounced true by the Church.
I agree, as I’ve said elsewhere, that I see nothing wrong with people passing on what they’ve heard from reputable sources.  If I read in Greg Popcak’s book that he learned of the erotic symbolism of the Easter liturgy in a theology class in seminary; if I read Janet Smith (a moral theologian teaching at a seminary) saying that she has learned from liturgists of such a tradition, if I read Christopher Derrick saying the same, etc., then I think I should not be faulted for presuming it’s true.
But, on the other hand, if the claim is challenged publicly by likewise reputable Catholic scholars, then (especially if I have a teaching capacity) I ought to go back to my sources.  If it turns out that they’re all relying on one another and no real tradition can be found, then I think I ought at the very least stop teaching that there is such a tradition.

Lauretta • Aug 29, 2009 - 2:07 pm

The reason I posted the link about the Immaculate Conception was to show that it really doesn’t take a lot of written accounts for the Church to still proclaim something as true.  As the reference noted, some of the understanding was only implicitly mentioned but the implicit references were still considered valid as justifications for the teaching.

I am very ignorant of history—of the world and of the Church—but I was wondering if most of the people in the early Church had some knowledge of Greek mythology and rituals, when they saw the ritual of the Paschal candle and the Baptismal water, they may have automatically applied that analogy to the act.  Then there would not have been a need to write about it because everyone knew what it meant already.  Some of the people such as Christopher Derrick certainly seem to imply that.

frangelo • Aug 29, 2009 - 3:18 pm


Actually, there is plenty of patristic testimony for the Immaculate Conception, though, of course the term is not used.  St. Augustine says, for example, that sin should never be mentioned in connection with the Blessed Virgin.  In the East “All Holy” is used in reference to Her quite frequently.  Furthermore, the Church argues that the doctrine is fundamentally scriptural (cf. Genesis 3:15 and Luke 1:28).

None of this is true of the candle invention.

As I mentioned before, the notes of Newman are helpful here.  Consistency with the original type is essential, as well as internal logic with the ancient tradition, and an intimation of the development already present at an early stage.  In other words, if something just appears suddenly on the horizon in the 21st century it is not a development of doctrine.  In this case, in particular, it certainly is not comparable to the case of the Immaculate Conception.

frangelo • Aug 30, 2009 - 7:17 am

I’d like to thank Katie for this fruitful discussion.  I think I have gone the distance on this one. 

I will just conclude by saying that I believe West should give more credit for the natural and wholesome shame which seeks to veil that which is holy rather than expose it continuously.  I would hope West would not continue to confuse that virtuous intuition with prudery.  The best way to counter real instances of prudery is to make sure we don’t engage in reactionary measures.

In addition, I hope that the question of whether John Paul II mandated a holy fascination with the body and sexuality is resolved on the basis of a real analysis of the corpus of TOB in the context of tradition and not merely by means of one man’s interpretation of John Paul II’s writings.

More than that I wish Christopher West well and further success in his mission.  I am sure a man with his talents and insights can continue to popularize the Church’s teaching on chastity, while contextualizing his presentation more consistently with the tradition.

I look forward to commenting here on the Linde again.  Thanks everyone for your contributions.

Lauretta • Aug 30, 2009 - 9:54 am


I’m sorry that you are leaving this posting.  Your comments have been most interesting and fruitful.  I wanted to comment on this assessment you gave:

“Essentially what I meant is that often times those who are most prudish are not the one’s who have lived chastely and modestly their whole life, but those who carry a great deal of baggage and either are living double lives or are still struggling against lust in a very burdened way.

Are there times when prudery is the cause of sexual sins?  I am sure that it is not uncommon; however, I would suggest that the cause and effect relationship is reciprocal and very often the prudery is the result of an interior struggle that may be Manichean or Jansenist, or it may just be, as I think it very often is, scrupulosity and a bit of spiritual pompousness.”

I agree wholeheartedly with this.  That has been my husband’s and my experience, as well, with presenting CW’s material.  I have been surprised at those who seemed to have an innocence and purity about them listen to his talks and very calmly assess and ponder them, coming back to the discussion with very profound insights.

The most reactionary were those who, as you said, had a lot of baggage and were still struggling with lust, etc.  I was surprised because I thought it would be the opposite and that those who were truly pure would be uncomfortable while those more “experienced” so to speak would be more comfortable with the teaching!  I learned not to try to pre-judge people and their responses!

Thanks so much for your time and insight.

frangelo • Aug 30, 2009 - 11:23 am


This is the last time, really, that I will post.  What you said is not at all what I meant.  Reaction against overexposed sexuality is not prudery.  Period.

We really do not know what people have in their past, because most people are not inclined to share those things.  If we think we know who is really pure and who is not, then that is a problem.  A large part of my argument is that West and others assume to know much more than they really do.

God bless you.

addy • Jan 13, 2010 - 8:13 am

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