More TOB Discussion

By August 11, 2010Maryvictrix

Genevieve Kineke and Heidi Saxton have published in interesting conversation about Heidi’s article on Alice von Hildebrand’s critique of Christopher West.

I think Heidi goes too far in attributing the controversy to differences in background and the difference between the work of a philosopher and that of and evangelist.

For example:

The fact that AVH took such exception to CW describing TOB as “revolutionary” is a good example of the tension between ideas and finding points of connection. She interpreted “revolution” to mean a destruction of past Church teaching—which I do not believe CW believes.

Actually, from a philosophical point of view, I think that AVH has shown West to mean exactly what he says he means.  ”Revolution,” “theological time bomb” may be the terms of an evangelist, but they have implications in matters of truth. Either the philosophy and the popular message work together or they do not, and one of them must be false.  In any case, whether Heidi wants to believe that West sees TOB as a destruction of earlier Church teaching or not, both AVH, Dawn Eden and others have shown West to be innovating in ways that have no basis in the tradition.  Hence when she says the following:

There is room for both schools of thought—so long as each is willing to be led by the Spirit, with humility and openness to change. . .

I have to say that she is ignoring the evidence, humility and openness to change, notwithstanding.

I will agree that manner and content will differ to some extent between philosophers and evangelists, but the difference between AVH and West cannot be reduced to that or to differences in background.  Put bluntly, West is inventing and AVH is not.

Interestingly, Christina King has attached an irrelevant comment to the discussion in opposition to Dawn Eden, for some reason trying to distance the Theology of the Body Institute from Christopher West.  That is a tough one to sell.  I would like to know, how many of the speakers or board members of the Institute have spoken or published a critique of West’s work.  On the other hand, how many speakers and organizers at the recent conference have publically defended his teaching?

Filed under: Catholicism, Husbands, Men, Religion, Wives, Women Tagged: Christina King, Christopher West, Dawn Eden, Genevieve Kineke, Heidi Saxton, Human Sexuality, John Paul II, Theology of the Body
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Author Fr Angelo

I am Franciscan Friar of the Immaculate, and a priest for more than twenty years. I am now studying in Rome for my licentiate in Theology.

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Join the discussion 3 Comments

  • Heidi Saxton says:

    None of us writes — or thinks — in a vaccuum. All of us have a tendency — for better or worse — to interpret that which is unfamiliar through the lens of association: that is, through the experiences and beliefs of trusted sources. Mentors, if you will.

    The difficult thing about mentors is that they, too, are human. That is why taking second- and third-hand information is problematic. We cannot take unquestioningly how others interpret CW (or Dr. AVH); we need to read the original sources for ourselves.

    What I find most regrettable about this whole scenario — and my purpose in writing the article in the first place — is to point out that there is room for multiple approaches in addressing a topic as important as TOB. Those approaches may need mid-course corrections at times — and I sincerely hope that all those will come through this firestorm having learned something from the exchange.

    I acknowledge that I, too, am far from perfect. I had several individuals (including two whom I knew were more closely allied with the AVH “camp”) read my article prior to publication. It is so important that, whenever possible, we work from a presumption of charity. “For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world …”

    Let us continue to pray for one another!


    Heidi Saxton

  • Fr Angelo says:


    I appreciate your comment. I would just say that while there is much about both approaches that is commendable, that of AVH does not include substantial errors, while that of Christopher West does. This has been going on for more than a year, and still no one in West’s camp has admitted that anything substantial is in need of change.

    For example—and this is a comparatively small matter—there really was never anything behind the Paschal Candle theory. It was a puff of smoke. It has been thoroughly debunked as a complete myth, and to this date there is still no acknowledgment of that fact from the West camp.

    There is some serious need of revision and some of us are a bit weary of being called on our manners when those who cry foul do not seem to be listening. At some point when a person realizes he or she is wrong, even if that person thinks his or her critics are jerks, it is just time to admit it and make some revisions. That time arrived long ago.

    Perhaps someone like yourself might be able to get through to them. I have nothing personal against any of them.

    God bless you.

  • Heidi Saxton says:

    Dear Father:

    Thank you for your gracious response. Until Mr. West returns from sabbatical, it will not be clear what, if any, changes will be made to his presentation. Time will tell. I am confident that, to the extent actual error (as opposed to a simple difference of interpretation) is involved, TOBI would be committed to portraying faithfully the teachings of the Church. Having spoken personally to some of the personalities (apart from West) involved, I assure you that the criticisms have been heard.

    Having spent the first 30 years of my life as an evangelical Protestant, I’ve witnessed firsthand the very real, lasting damage that can be caused by those who take it upon themselves to dole out correction without the corresponding necessary humility (I’m NOT referring here primarily to Dr. AVH), I am convinced that the storm that has blown up — initiated with the best of intentions — have taken a dark turn. As Dr. VH’s supporters wait for a response, it would be a good idea to consider whether some of her more ardent “defenders” need to repent as well.

    Our ultimate goal MUST be unity. It’s what Jesus prayed for … and it must be our goal as well. “In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity.”

    God bless you!

    Heidi Saxton

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