Sunday, July 25, 2010

Von Hildebrand criticizes West's cult of the body

Alice von Hildebrant provides substantial food for thought and fuel for the fire in her recent essay, "Dietrich von Hildebrand, Catholic Philosopher, and Christopher West, Modern Enthusiast:Two Very Different Approaches to Love, Marriage and Sex" (CNA, July 21, 2010) [archived here].

[Hat tip to D.]


Anon said...

I have not been really following Chris West's book, or attributed controversies. Putting that aspect of the article aside, I found great interest in this article.

Sheldon said...

I second "Anon's" opinion. Forget the controversy over West's work: Alice von Hildebrand's article is fascinating as a historically and philosophically informed assessment of contemporary attitudes toward sex and love, which, if you ask me, are pretty shallow.

JM said...


Anonymous said...

Sadly, I am familiar with Chris West's work. I'm also familiar with Alice con Hildebrand's work on this issue. When I have a little time I plan to read the article to see if its the same one that I read before. Chris West's influence is one of the reasons I do not donate to EWTN. I do buy some of their products and listen to some programs.


Deacon Keith said...

those who criticize Christopher West never tell us if they have read and studied Pope John Paul II's sermons on the Theology of the Body. It seems to me that Hildebrand was more interested to promote her husband than Pope John Paul II. She seems to pick isolated comments out of context from Christopher West to try to unjustly destroy him. All that Christopher West does is try to help us understand the Pope's sermons and he always gives a disclaimer that he could be wrong. My question to Hildebrand is, leave Christopher West alone for a second, what do you think about Pope John Paul II's Wednesday Audiences between 1979-1984 which he himself called the Theology of the Body? Have you even read the pope's sermons?

Sheldon said...

Deacon Keith,

I think there are many among West's critics who have read with appreciation John Paul II's Wednesday general audience addresses that form the collective text of his Theology of the Body. Among these critics, it doesn't seem to me that what is generally found deficient in West's approach is his attempt to related the Pope's work to contemporary audiences, but his departure from John Paul's cautious and respectful treatment of sex toward one, at times, that tends to sound in perhaps unguarded moments, more like a hip theology of hedonistic self-indulgence. I know there are warnings in West against this very thing; but there are also transgressions against this very thing. I'm not sure that West's disclaimer that he "could be wrong" does it for me.

If Alice seems to be "promoting her husband," this surely is far from being an end in itself. Dietrich has written extensively on sex, purity, and marriage, and if his ideas have merit, why shouldn't they be "promoted"? On the other hand, what could be said about what West is promoting? I don't see Alice pulling down mega bucks from speaking tours or earning major royalties from her writing.

I respect much of what West has written. This doesn't prevent me from having grave doubts about some of the things he says, however; and I don't think there is any way that his work could be identified simply as an "exposition" of John Paul II's Theology of the Body, as thought no definitive "spin" were added.

AspieCatholic girl said...

Deacon Keith, Alice Von Hildebrand does not criticize Pope John Paul II anywhere in her article. Also, the specific things she does criticize West for, are things that Pope John Paul II was not "guilty" of. She doesn't criticize the work of Pope John Paul II, she doesn't criticize West for attempting to promote the late Pontiff's work, she only criticizes West for some details in regards to how he does that.

Sheldon, and Anon at 1:10 pm I love your first comments.