The "Playboy Philosophy" may have been verbose but it was fascinating, especially if you were thirteen. Hefner painted a grim picture of the sexual landscape of early-sixties America. America was, we learned, dominated by Puritanism. Books were censored. A few jurisdictions banned, or purported to ban, the sale of contraceptives. Archaic laws against oral sex were on the books in many states, and married couples were hauled off in chains for violating them. Puritanical prosecutors and judges lay in wait to punish anyone venturing to engage in sex that was not of the approved sort. With hindsight, this was an odd perspective on the America of that era, but it described our junior high schools pretty well, and we bought it.Now, read Chris West's take on Hugh Hefner below. Notice how he simply transcribes Hefner's false rendition of American society. Hooked by the uncritical delight of a schoolboy, he swallowed Hefner's perspective hook, line and sinker:
While railing against the Puritanism of present-day America, Hefner described the world that was struggling to be born. A world where sexual gratification was available to everyone (at least everyone who could afford a car and a stereo), and freely consenting girls would be standing on every street corner. We know now it didn't quite turn out that way, but at the time, it sounded good to us...
When asked why he started Playboy magazine, Hefner said it was -a personal response to the hurt and hypocrisy of our Puritan heritage.- Hefner elaborates: "Our family was ...Puritan in a very real sense.... Never hugged. Oh, no. There was absolutely no hugging or kissing in my family. There was a point in time when my mother, later in life, apologized to me for not being able to show affection. That was, of course, the way I’d been raised. I said to her, ‘Mom, ...because of the things you weren’t able to do, it set me on a course that changed my life and the world.’ When I talk about the hurt and hypocrisy in some of our values - our sexual values - it comes from the fact that I didn’t get hugged a lot as a kid" (interview with Cathleen Falsani, somareview.com).Catholics should agree?
When I first read this I wanted to weep for this man.... We as Catholics actually agree - or should agree - with Hugh Hefner’s diagnosis of the disease of puritanism.
With Hugh Hefner???
Hefner was and is a pornographer.
That is, Hefner was and is a liar.
As a professional liar, Hefner understood that in order to make his pornography acceptable, he had to be the underdog. He had to be in titanic struggle against overwhelming odds, a David against a Goliath. Males who wanted to see naked, sexually available woman, but knew they shouldn't, needed a rationale for opening the pages of his magazine. Hefner gave them one. He invented the idea of a puritanical America.
To a junior-high school student whose grasp of America history is as good as his grasp on the virtue of continence, the David-vs.-Goliath meme provides a good philosophical rationale for checking out the centerfold's feminine fundamentals. Not that teenage boys need such rationale, but it's nice to know there is one.
For those teenage boys who read the Playboy articles so that they could maintain a pretense of intellectual motivation, Hefner's concepts were as necessary as the centerfold. Let's go back to the political analysis for a moment:
... It turned out that we weren't the only ones who absorbed and internalized the Playboy Philosophy. As the years went by, it became harder and harder to find much in America that could be described as Puritanical. Even in the junior high schools. By the early 1970s, there was probably no proposition that commanded more universal assent than "two consenting adults." The key moment was probably 1965, when the Supreme Court ruled in Griswold v. Connecticut that a state could not constitutionally ban the sale and use of contraceptives. It was in Griswold that the Court first discerned a "right of privacy" in the Constitution. Justice Douglas wrote: "[S]pecific guarantees in the Bill of Rights have penumbras, formed by emanations from those guarantees that help give them life and substance."Now, notice. This essay is not written by a bunch of religious people with an ax to grind. In fact, near the end of the essay, the authors state, "Understand that we haven't really changed our minds about the "consenting adults" principle since our junior high school days."
To repeat, none of the authors at the Claremont Institute have ever heard of Chris West. But as political analysts, they do have an adult grasp of American history. And they find people who buy into Hugh Hefner's version of American history to be juvenile at best.
Griswold was pure Hefner, in the sense that it dealt with one of those outrageous, archaic laws that were regularly castigated in the Playboy PhilosophyThis is the Puritanism that Chris West is fighting? The puritanical attitudes that West selflessly saves all of us from? Where on earth did Chris West get the idea that America is Puritan? Apart from Playboy's philosophy columns, what evidence does he have that it was Puritan at any point since about 1750? Yet, is this not the Chris West meme? Does he not continually decry the fact that America was (or worse, is) a grim placed dominated by Puritanism, an America from which he saves "countless" - countless, I tell you - countless couples? (we know it's true because neither he nor his supporters ever actually bother to count them).
In reality, the State of Connecticut made no effort to interfere with the use of contraceptives; the statute was on the books but was not enforced. Griswold was commenced by a group of students at Yale who conceived the lawsuit as a class project....
Recall again Chris West's mantra on Nightline: "Hugh Hefner is my muse... I see historical connections between Hugh Hefner and John Paul II."
Even the New York Times recognizes the essential difference between a Hugh Hefner supporter and a Hugh Hefner detractor:
As a cultural force, however, Mr. Hefner still divides the country — 56 years after Playboy’s first issue. To his supporters, he is the great sexual liberator who helped free Americans from Puritanism and neurosis. To his detractors, including many feminists and social conservatives, he helped set in motion a revolution in sexual attitudes that have objectified and victimized countless women and promoted an immoral, whatever-feels-good approach to life.... He recently filmed a Guitar Hero commercial, holding the pipe he gave up after a suffering a small stroke in 1985. (emphasis added)Read West's words again. On which side of the New York Times' line does Christopher West fall? When even the pagans recognize that Hefner was bloviating, to what extent must we accept his ideological step-child's musings on historical themes?
The point Christopher made—but which wasn’t included in the Nightline piece—was that, as Catholics, we agree with Hugh Hefner’s diagnosis of the disease (i.e., a puritanical rejection of the body and sexuality is utterly contrary to Catholic faith), but we radically disagree with his cure. Christopher told the Nightline correspondent that the Theology of the Body is the true cure for the disease that Hefner diagnosed. These distinctions were lost in the seven-minute piece that ABC aired. Indeed, Nightline made it sound as if West considered Hefner a "hero" of his, which he certainly never said.West didn't say Hef was his hero. He did say Hef was his muse. The New York Times almost precisely defines the Chris West meme: Mr. Hefner is to be applauded for helping "free Americans from Puritanism and neurosis." Chris West insists Hugh Hefner diagnosed the disease - Hef, not Christ, not the Pope, but Hugh Hefner is the physician who made the correct diagnosis. Hefner is the first person to spring to Chris West's mind when viewing the "Puritan" landscape he sees, a landscape he sees through Hefner's glasses. Indeed, to an aspiring rock star like Chris West, Hugh Hefner, the Guitar Hero advocate, embodies every hormonal teenage boy's dream. His philosophy, his take on history, is worth musing upon.
The Catholic Faith is the Truth, with a capital 'T.' To the extent that any fact of life is mis-represented, it is not Catholic. So, not only are distortions of theological facts to be avoided, but so are distortions of history.
So, let us make a quick summary of major Westian distortions:
Christopher West distorts the story of the bishops and the prostitute in order to promote his own version of Catholic theology.
Christopher West distorts the writings of St. Louis de Montfort in order to promote his own version of Catholic theology.
Christopher West directly contradicts Aquinas on the question of whether continence is a virtue.
Christopher West directly contradicts John Paul II himself, as he speaks in the TOB audiences, on the question of whether continence is a virtue.
For our spiritual edification and delight, Christopher West promotes a liar who pretended to be a Carmelite mystic and who brands Christianity "Christo-fascism."
I have heard, with my own ears, Christopher West say in a public talk, "When it comes to sexuality, the Catholic Church's understanding is about at the level of a teenager."
Now we see laid out even by the pagans, even by pagans who have never heard of Chris West, that West's version of history is just absurd, held only by acolytes of Hugh Hefner.
The worst heresies were created by men who adhered closely to Catholic doctrine in most of what they did. But these heretics, influenced by the age in which they lived, insisted that the Catholic Faith change, even if just a small bit, to accommodate their own distorted understanding of the facts.
Look at the Hefner/West version of history.
Then look at an historian's version of history.
Which will you buy into?