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Monday, June 28, 2010

Covering Their Tracks

So, what's up with Chris West's Theology of the Body Institute?
Strange things are going on there.

  1. Archbishop Chaput quietly disappears from the list of episcopal advisors - no announcement, no fanfare, just POOF! and he's gone. The man who was responsible for West's first (inappropriate) imprimatur and upon whose reputation Chris West built his own reputation is suddenly and mysteriously out of the picture. Why did he leave?
  2. Chris West himself takes the trouble of setting up the first national conference sponsored by his TOB Institute, but then suddenly takes a six-month "sabbatical," timed in such a way that he can't show up at his own first national conference. Can anyone imagine why a publicity-hound like Chris West would set himself up for that kind of hole in his own speaking schedule? It defies belief.
  3. And now the URL has been dropped, with a new URL substituted - Why on earth would anyone throw away Google pagerank on an existing URL? After all, when an URL is dropped, Google not only resets your pagerank to ZERO, it erases all the cached pages to your domain, so you can't access the old content anymore.... Hmmm... And the old URL seems to have expired three weeks before West went on "sabbatical." ... Hmmm.....

Like the Stalinists of old, Matt Pinto, Chris West and the gang at the TOB Institute seem to be in the process of re-writing at least some of their history.

Stay tuned.
I'm sure this gets MUCH more interesting in the next few months.


Anonymous said...

It’s possible that Chris West is finally listening to his critics and cleaning up his act. Let’s hope that’s the case.

Steve Kellmeyer said...

That would be nice, wouldn't it?

I'm interested in seeing how he plans to correct the understanding of the tens of thousands who have given him millions of dollars.

Chaput left very quietly.

Why would the key archbishop in his story disappear right when he's "cleaning up" his act? You would think he would want to be involved in that, wouldn't you?

They're quietly sanitizing their site. What got scrubbed?

Why all the secrecy? Wouldn't it be a lot more honest and effective to publicly acknowledge error and publicly correct the error?

The only reason you would do this all very quietly is because you want to keep the revenue stream. You change, but hope no one really notices so you can you keep raking in the bucks.

Somehow, I don't find that method of "cleaning up his act" very comforting.

Anonymous said...

That’s true. I would also hope he also does some correcting where it needs to be so as to not mislead anyone else. I myself started studying TOB through his books, which from what I understand were much better than his live talks.

I’m not in tune as far as how much Archbishop Chaput was involved with his live talks, but if his imprimatur was for a specific book, which one did you feel was inappropriate?

Steve Kellmeyer said...

The first edition of Good News About Sex and Marriage had what was essentially an endorsement of anal sex. Sodomy has always been condemned by the Catholic Church.
West worked for Chaput at the time, or had just recently left employment, so Chaput's censor librorum didn't look very closely at the text.

Janet Smith et. al., have since tried to argue that anal foreplay was acceptable to the Church, but they've never produced any evidence to support that position.

When you ask them for evidence, they just say they read it somewhere in the Fathers, or they had a friend who read it, or their great-uncle's second cousin on the their mother's side once heard from a very good butcher that this was the case. It would be laughable if it weren't a mortal sin.

If you read my other stuff on West, you'll discover he has endorsed at least one New Age nut, explicitly contradicted Aquinas and JP II, etc. He's a mess.

Anonymous said...

I did not know this. So the newer editions quietly took this out? This must have been missed; I would have my doubts that this is something Archbishop Chaput would endorse. So far the material I read (“Introduction to Theology of the Body”) has not turned up any red flags, but now I will be sure to read things more closely.

As far as the anal foreplay, I think I’ve heard the argument (from lay persons) that so long as it ends with conjugal relations, that it is acceptable. But I don’t buy that. Is there any church documents that gets this specific?

Steve Kellmeyer said...

Yes, it was in the first edition, but that whole section was re-written for the second edition.

Chaput never pulled the imprimatur, of course. That would have embarrassed him. Bishops don't like to be embarrassed. Much better to quietly change the teaching and ignore the damage done to the faithful who bought the first edition.

Believe me, Chaput knew about it. At the least, he had dozens of people write him about it and the whole thing was subsequently discussed in Catholic blog sites in which Janet Smith, Michael Waldstein, etc., took part.

Oh, yes.
He knew.

You are right not to buy the idea that anal foreplay is acceptable because NO Church document says such a thing is permissible. Even the defenders themselves admit this. See, for instance:

As for how explicit the confessional manuals, they actually got rather explicit. We are supposed to be clear on our mortal sins, so confessors had to be clear about what constituted mortal sin. But none of them said anal foreplay was ok.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the link. This Healy guy really dug himself into a hole. I’m not a scholar of any sort, but even I could spot the serious flaws in his comments. I’m surprised that he teaches in Franciscan University; isn’t this the same school Scott Hahn teaches? I guess it’s tough to weed out the not so orthodox professors. I equally surprised Janet Smith’s stance on this issue. Generally I like her writings a lot and usually recommend her talks to the folks going through RCIA. But, as you mentioned, she may be drinking the kool-aid much too heavily when it comes to West.

Thanks for this post. I probably won’t recommend West until he cleans up his past writings. Any recommendations on some good orthodox reading on theology of the body?

Steve Kellmeyer said...

I no longer make TOB recommendations because its a shibboleth, and most of the stuff out there isn't worth the time. TOB is a lot more useless than people think.

JP II bloviated a lot in those TOB audiences. George Weigel, the man who made such a big deal about TOB, was and is a sycophant who used the access he was given to JP II to become "respected." The more of Weigel I read and hear, the less I respect.

You're much better off just studying the Fathers and Doctors of the Church. Read the writings of the saints. JP II was a nice man and all, but when it comes to TOB, there isn't really much "there" there.

bleusmon said...


I’m forced to conclude you either are a first-rate liar or simply a fool who runs his mouth to hide his ignorance.

The URL is ACTIVE (and its “replacement” points to the original URL). If you doubt it then enter the “old” URL into Google’s search field, sans the "http://www." pre-fix. The 65,800 results is the total of fully-indexed pages in Google’s database – what one would expect from an established website. No URL was dropped, no pagerank was lost, and the old content still pulls up on the “old” URL.

Now, try it with your so-called "substitute." We get 87 results – typical of an ancillary effort that hasn't yet fully begun but points as intended to the fully functional main URL.

Gee, Stevieo! What happened to your theory, boy wonder? Did you out and out lie? Or do you not know what you’re talking about? Personally, I’m torn.

As for Chaput, did you call his office to ask or does it better fit your agenda to engage in free-fall speculation like you do so often at your phony Catholic news site? Why do you fail to mention there are 10 bishops remaining on that page? Sure, he’s got a rep for orthodoxy but not so much with the fisheaters and angelqueen folks you play to now (respectable people, BTW, even though we disagree at times). Now, if several bishops had left TOBI then you'd have a trend to highlight, but you want to make an issue of one? You don't have an agenda, do you, Steveo?

You call West a publicity hound without citation other than his success, as contrasted to your own. I've heard the man admit things that require real humility from anyone. You persist in calling him "Chris" even though he goes by "Christopher." Perhaps it’s laziness but in light of your relentless attacks it is fair to say using "Chris" is a dig at West; a way of denigrating his person and disrespecting him from a safe distance (btw, Steveo, how's it feel?).

There is so much I could add here but I KNOW I'd exceed my word limit, so I'll close with this.

You openly and directly disparage TOB, stating there isn't really much "there" there. You describe John Paul II in his TOB audiences as "bloviating." You insult thousands by claiming "TOB is a lot more useless than people think." I thought only liberals presumed they were far brighter than the rest of us, but I see that poison has infected my Church from the right side as well.

But Stevie, baby, didn't you once make a go of selling yourself as an impresario of TOB? I swear that a couple years back I stumbled upon a bunch of sound files available for download (dirt free, too!) on TOB by Stevie boy Kellmeyer. A book or two, also, right? I've seen various attempts to market yourself as a published TOB authority.

The fact is, Stevie wonder, your behavior and attitude show all the characteristics of a man so irrationally jealous of Christopher West that you can't stomach any outward signs of his success. Back when you were still trying to hustle the world with your ideas about TOB nobody cared. Now that you've given up and surrendered to that reality, the world still doesn't care and worse, still hasn't noticed.

Well, some of us HAVE noticed your shameless self-promotion at bridegroom press where nearly all your "picks" are authored by you. However, it’s your "catholic" faux news site where your penchant for stretching the truth is repeatedly strewn across the page. I even recall seeing your shameless self-promotion at Father Z's blog.

I’ve been tough on you, Stevio, but I didn't misrepresent a thing. I laid it on much thicker than I ordinarily would have except you really have had this coming, given your unrestrained vituperation against West. Again, I don't have space or time to do the job on you that you so keenly deserve but I will pray for you because you are in the grip of an interior poison.

Steve Kellmeyer said...

Take it up with ICANN. The URL is listed as having expired in March 2010. See this link.

URLs stay active after expiration for a time to give the old owner time to renew. Maybe they just failed to renew it by mistake, but if so, that's a really weak sysadmin.

Chaput left. The other bishops haven't. So? That doesn't change the fact that Chaput left.

What's in a name? A rose by any other name smells as sweet. I kind of like Steveo. Reminds me of Hawaii-Five-0. Thanks!

I did indeed used to write and give talks on TOB. Have you? My book on TOB is a Catholic bestseller, in fact. It is still listed in the sidebar of this blog. It's been used as a textbook in colleges across the United States, including Boston College and Peter Kreeft, who named it one of the best books of 2005. So?

If you don't think there are "fads" in Catholic theology, then you are very much mistaken and you have little grasp of how human beings work.

I used to think Weigel was really cool. How could he not be? He was the Pope's biographer! And I thought JP II was the greatest because I had no adult experience with any other Pope.

It's ten years later. Now I've got Benedict as a comparison to JP II, I've had more time to listen to and read Weigel, I've spent a lot more time in study of TOB, and I'm realizing that the whole thing is a house of cards.

Now, I'm considered an expert on the subject and I've fed my family for years by promoting it. I'm not making any money by trashing it. In fact, I'm having to move to do other things to make up the lost income. So why am I doing it? It's called "reflection."

As for self-promotion, absolutely I've engaged in it and still do. Anyone who runs a business does. Every Catholic author does. Father Z's site is a great place to do it. In fact, you should read what I have to say about that in Three Problems

But, for a man with a theology degree and thus few marketable skills (which describes most of the lay people in this business), what else is there to do? I've already cut my talks down to the absolute bone, and I'm moving away from authoring books, for precisely the reasons I outline in the essay. The more I see of the Catholic author industry, the more I am sure it is not a path to holiness.

The difference between people like Scott Hahn and Mark Shea on the one hand, and Chris West on the other is that West pushes a distorted understanding of Catholic theology, as even his own professors have pointed out. Read Dawn Eden's master's critique on him - it's eye-opening.

I don't wail on Hahn, and I don't wail on Shea's theology (although his personal habits are a different matter) because their theology is solid.

I wail on West because he's a modern-day heresiarch with the support of bishops - not an unusual thing in the history of the Church, but not something to be proud of or silent about either.

I'm glad you're concerned about my soul. Why do you hate West so much that you refuse to be concerned about his?

Anonymous said...

Mr. Kellmeyer, what do you mean when you compare TOB to a "house of cards"? I also have listen to your talks on this topic, which I thought were good, and noticed your book as well. Are you saying that TOB has no value to promote a clear idea of what human sexuality should be? If you do not think so highly of TOB anymore, why still promote your book where you meditate on this very subject?


Matheus F. Ticiani said...


You seem to be new here, so let me say that my understanding from reading Steveo's blog for a long time now is that he doesn't object to the Theology of the Body per se, but to the way the "Catholic Celebrity" clique in general and Christopher West in particular milk it by dumbing it down to suit the intellectual level of the middle-class Joe Sixpack.

Steveo's position as espoused by his posts and even his comments above here, from what I could gather, is just that the TOB is part of the historical Catholic theology dating back to the Church Fathers and Doctors, not the latest marketable fad.

Anonymous said...

Ticiani, Yes I'm new here; thanks for the clarification. Don't know much about Mr. Kellmeyer, but by reading the past comments above, it almost seems that he has some chip on his sholders regarding West, JPII, or TOB. Or maybe all three! I guess he is just a passionate guy, which is good; we need more passion in our faith to stir things up a little.


Steve Kellmeyer said...

Admirable summary, Matthew

Jordanes said...,, and to are all active URLs, and they all take you to the same place -- Chris West's Theology of the Body Institute website. It doesn't appear that and were dropped and replaced with Rather, it looks like the latter URL was added to the other two.

Take it up with ICANN. The URL is listed as having expired in March 2010. See this link.

It says those URLs would expire in March, not that they did expire in March and were not renewed.

Does anyone have any screen captures that show TOBInstitute is sanitising it's website?