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Friday, December 04, 2009

The Dog That Didn't Bark

In the Sherlock Holmes story Silver Blaze, a memorable exchange took place:

Gregory (Scotland Yard detective): "Is there any other point to which you would wish to draw my attention?"
Holmes: "To the curious incident of the dog in the night-time."
Gregory: "The dog did nothing in the night-time."
Holmes: "That was the curious incident."

Now that another uproar has ignited over the activities of a Catholic model who happily stripped down for a PETA ad and invoked John Paul II to justify it, I would like to draw your attention to the curious silence of the Catholic sex therapist/theologian Christopher West.

Why is Chris silent about a Playboy pinup's run-in with a crucifix? After all, you may remember the spring of 2008, when Mr. West went on ABC's Nightline and waxed lyrical about Hugh Hefner, the founder of Playboy. West went on to claim he saw deep historical connections between Hugh Hefner and Pope John Paul II. His comments were so effusive that ABC dubbed him a Catholic sex-therapist.

His comments were so outrageous that his own instructors publicly disowned him and warned Catholics throughout the nation to disregard him.

Pennsylvania bishops were so enamored of him that they wrote a glowing review of his work, fit for a frame on the wall of the USCCB's latest lesbian consultant. Several of the people who earn money by his antics also joined in support.

While West himself denied any skills at sex therapy, many Catholics have agreed with ABC's assessment for years. Indeed, I first recall hearing West described as "a Catholic Dr. Ruth" in 2006, while standing in the corridor of a hotel in Kiev, Ukraine, conversing with a fellow Catholic speaker at an international family conference. At the time, I was struck by how succinctly the phrase described West's work.

Thus, given his history, it isn't easy to see why West has been silent on Joanna Krupa's decision to use nudity to promote the noble cause of PETA. Why hasn't he spoken up in favor of the damsel in distress and against the outrageously puritanical attitude of Bill Donahue and the Catholic League? Hasn't West already said:
Admittedly, living in a "pornified" culture makes it difficult to see the human body as anything other than an opportunity for lust. But this is a notion we must counter as Catholics. As St. Paul said, "To the pure all things are pure, but to the impure, nothing is pure" (Titus 1:15). The human body is not inherently pornographic. The human body is inherently "theo-graphic." It is meant to reveal and proclaim the mystery of God. This is precisely why John Paul II speaks of the body as a "theology."

Those who see Michelangelo’s nudes as an occasion of lust are, as Dr. Waldstein observed, in need of a serious transformation. Catholic artists should respond to our pornographic culture not by refusing to portray the human body in its nakedness, but, by portraying it rightly so that we can reclaim the glorious theological truth of our creation as male and female. [emphasis added]
Miss Krupa herself seemed to be channeling West's thoughts when she told TV Guide, "I respect [that] everyone has his own sensitivities. But I, like many, see no clash or contradiction between a partially nude body and a cross."

Why doesn't West come out swinging with a lovely invocation of John Paul II's Love and Responsibility in Krupa's defense?
"The human body can remain nude and uncovered and preserve intact its splendor and its beauty... Nakedness as such is not to be equated with physical shamelessness... Immodesty is present only when nakedness plays a negative role with regard to the value of the person...The human body is not in itself shameful... Shamelessness (just like shame and modesty) is a function of the interior of a person."
West loves to natter on about Adam's duty to protect Eve. Why doesn't he put his mouth where his money is and defend Joanna? Certainly Miss Krupa's pictorial depiction is "theo-graphic," isn't it Chris? She is dressed as one of the famous Raphael angels, after all.

Certainly her parts are covered at least as well as anything on the ceiling or altar wall of the Sistine Chapel.

Certainly the cross stands at the very center of Krupa's artistic representation.

Certainly the cause for which the picture has been rendered - the reduction of suffering in animals - is a good one. Isn't the Catholic Church opposed to inflicting cruelty and suffering on animals?

As West has famously opined, while claiming John Paul II's support, the pornography of an image like Krupa's comes from the distortions introduced by our puritanical culture and our puritanical little minds. It is our sinfulness and lust, our concupiscence which leads us to view such a beautiful "theo-graphic" image as something inappropriate.

If only we had the mind of Chris West, we would recognize Miss Krupa for the wonderful artistry she is!
It would be a shame to run from the image she has given us - we should gaze upon it with a holy glance, make it a point of revery, contemplate the beauty of God's image portrayed on our LCD flat-screens!

Indeed, it would not even be virtuous to run from this photo, or to avert our eyes from it! To do such a thing would violate what Aquinas taught us, and what John Paul II taught us! Continence of that sort is NEVER a virtue!

Gentlemen, I put it to you, is it not the case that Miss Krupa "reclaims the glorious theological truth of our creation as male and female"? How is what Krupa doing any different from the wonderful work Hugh Hefner did in reclaiming the naked body from our nasty puritanism, (a puritanical reading of American history Hefner himself imposed on us, and West ignorantly adopted as his own, but let's ignore that for the moment and focus on the Westian meme).

But, unlike the Dominicans, whose constant preaching gave them the nickname "the hounds of God" (from the Latin phrase "domine canes", God's dogs), West's preaching has fallen to silence here. Yet why would this be? West himself has often alluded to the fact that he believes he has a God-given ministry to speak out precisely in this kind of issue.

You are a teacher anointed by God, Mr. West!
This is a wonderful teaching moment!
It would be a sin for you to remain silent, wouldn't it?
Can't you explain how this is an (in)appropriate image?
For it certainly must be one or the other...

So, Mr. West, not to put too fine a point on it, but let's quote from your favorite book of Scripture:
And God called to Adam in the garden and said to him: Where art thou?

1 comment:

Enbrethiliel said...


Very nice, Steve, as usual. =)

I just love the ending!