If you are interested, there is a debate over Christopher West's approach to Theology of the Body. As I have stated previously, I count Christopher as a friend, even though I don't agree with him on everything. Also, while I have been critical of Dawn's thesis, I believe she had good intentions behind it and several good points, even while I disagree with her on some major ones.
One of the things I have found in this debate is that neither "side" likes to admit when the other "side" has a good point. This doesn't help further the debate. A lot of it has become a "he-said / she-said" affair, which means people are defensive, walls go up, and some are trying to win.
Fulton Sheen once said, "Win and argument. Lose a soul." The participants in this debate should keep this in mind.
With this in mind - Janet Smith has written a response to Dawn Eden's thesis (pdf download here). There are a few good points and a few not-so-good ones. A few of my thoughts are interspersed within the quotes below. My thoughts are in Red.
A few snips:
I have communicated some of my concerns to Eden, but that dialogue did not end well. I am glad she did this directly with Dawn. This is part of the problem with the whole debate - Christopher hasn't been a part of it yet and it is public. It should have been done in private first, then brought out in the open. The scandal that has come from the whole debate is driving some people away from a wonderful teaching. I fear some people have taken a mere glance at her thesis, and since they are predisposed to accept her conclusions, they are dazzled by the number of quotations and footnotes into thinking that she has provided a worthy critique West’s work. Here, I would like to invite those who are using Eden’s thesis as the foundation of their rejection of West to test her claims. Go to the sources that she cites and see if her representation of West’s views is accurate. I think they will discover that Eden regularly distorts what West says. I agree that her footnoting, quoting, and sources need a lot of work. I also agree that she distorts what Christopher actually says. But, Eden still has a few good points that need to be considered, even if the thesis isn't the greatest academic work. Fortunately, they will also discover an author much worth reading, that is, West. When Eden’s work exhibits the care that West’s does, and when she exhibits his fairness, humility and docility, There is no need to comment on her humility. she will have a great deal to offer the Church.Another:
Eden herself may not yet be enough of an expert on the Theology of the Body to be publicly critiquing the work of an author whose writings and presentations have been favorably reviewed both by bishops and top scholars. Maybe she doesn't know the TOB as well as many others, but I don't think that this should take her out of the debate.More:
Violating the “hermeneutic of continuity” is what Eden considers to be the most serious flaw in West’s work. Oddly, she does not set aside any specific portion of her thesis to defend this charge. Her most direct engagement of the issue of “hermeneutic of continuity” is in her presentation of the first of ten “themes” she finds in West’s work, a section of only two pages at most. She states the theme in this way: “The Theology of the Body is an all-encompassing theology that requires theologians and religious educators to recontextualize ‘everything’ about Christian faith and life” (ET, 11). She explains further by stating, “It isn’t just about sex and marriage;” it is a “revolution” that “will lead to a dramatic development of thinking about the Creed.” (Eden notes that this quotation came from George Weigel’s Witness to Hope, 343). There is a striking set of words linked here: “all-encompassing,” “recontextualize,” “everything,” “revolution,” and “dramatic development.” Eden bombards her readers with words that she seems to believe will shock them. Surely, there can be no hermeneutic of continuity if such radical claims are being made.One more:
But does West say such things and, if so, where, and what does he mean? The merit of Eden’s thesis over against some of the other pieces against him is that it provides readers with sources where they can go to verify her charges. Unfortunately, as I have stated, when one goes to the sources or even reads carefully what Eden has stated, one rarely draws the same conclusions that she does. I have to agree on this point. I do not believe that there is such a radical disconnect with the Traditions of the Church as Eden proposes. I was hoping to find where West says what she states the first theme to be. Eden doesn’t lead us to any passages that state that the Theology of the Body is an “all-encompassing” theology; she only notes that West said it “isn’t just about sex and marriage.” (ET, 11) I would have thought Eden would be pleased that West says the Theology of the Body “isn’t just about sex and marriage,” because elsewhere she accuses him of presenting the Theology of the Body as though it were only about sex and marriage. He can’t win! I think Smith is missing the point. Sometimes Christopher does go to far in trying to stretch the TOB. But, this teaching is new and some mistakes are bound to be made. Furthermore, he does try to sexualize things a bit much, even if it isn't as bad as what some make it out to be.
Eden maintains that West’s claim that the Theology of the Body is causing a “new sexual revolution” “implies discontinuity” (ET, 66). I suppose it might — but not a discontinuity with Church teaching. Eden fails to understand several claims West makes. He is claiming at least these three things, all defensible, in my view: 1) that those who teach Church teaching about sexuality and who use the concepts of the Theology of the Body, will present it in a more positive way than it has often been presented in the past; This is true in many respects. 2) that the teachings of the Theology of the Body have given us a much deeper understanding of the way that the body reveals truths about man and God; Also true. and 3) that if people understand and live by the teachings of the Theology of the Body, there will be a revolution in sexual conduct. Also true. None o these claims involve a “hermeneutic of discontinuity.” Here is the biggest disagreement I have with Dawn's claims. I do not see the discontinuity either. Just because a teaching is called "revolutionary" does not mean it necessarily must be a change in doctrine. It seems to me that it is implying a change in individual behavior, which is much needed today.I could go on, but I haven't the time.
Suffice it to say - I pray for more charity and more clarity regarding this debate. Please pray with me.
John Paul II pray for us!
**Sr. Marianne Lorraine Trouve' Critiques Dawn Eden's Thesis
**My Response to Dawn Eden's Thesis
**Christopher West Controversy
**Dialogue on West Continues
**Christopher West Criticized by Alice von Hildebrand
**Christopher West Interview
**More West Criticism
**Christopher West Receives Support from Bishops
**OSV on West Controversy